Overall Rating: 4 stars
Ease of Use: A
Product Support: A
Company: Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399. Phone: (800) 642-7676; Internet: www.microsoft.com/student.
Price: $49.95—Single copy. Volume discounts are available for schools, colleges, and libraries. The school version can be set up for online access.
Audience: Microsoft Student 2008 is intended for teachers and students in middle school and higher grades. The program includes material that could be of use to nearly anyone using Microsoft Office.
Format: DVD or online download: multimedia and Internet components. The program works best when used with Microsoft Office, but includes a number of useful programs that can be used without Office.
Minimum System Requirements: For Windows systems only.
The basic system requirements are a multimedia computer with a Pentium 600 MHz processor (1 GHz or higher recommended), Windows XP Service Pack 2, 250 MB RAM (512 MB or more recommended), 1.9 MB of available hard drive space (Encarta Kids requires an additional 430 MB of hard drive space). Other features, some of which are optional, require up to 2.5 GB or more of hard drive space.
Also needed is a DVD-ROM drive, a mouse or other pointing device, and a 16-bit sound card with speakers or headphones. The display requires a high-color capable or better video card with a minimum 800x600 resolution (1024x768 recommended).
The required supporting programs include Adobe Shockwave and Adobe Flash Player, as well as Windows Media Player. Some program features are intended for use with Microsoft Office XP, Office 2003, or the 2007 Microsoft Office system (all of which are available separately).
Internet access is required for online features such as Math Online Help, Encarta updates, Web links, Weather and Radio Links, and Encarta Premium Online. These features require a 28.8 Kbps or faster modem (DSL preferred) and an Internet connection.
Description: Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2008 offers a number of programs and other features, including the excellent Encarta Premium 2008 with Encarta Kids for younger students, Microsoft Math, Learning Essentials, Foreign Language Tools, and book summaries. Microsoft Office is not required to use most of these programs, although Learning Essentials is intended for use with Office.
Installation: Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2008 is a large program with many components, some of which have varying requirements for proper operation. Some, such as Windows .NET technology, are automatically installed if not already present. Others, such as Adobe Shockwave and Flash Player and Windows Media Player, may need to be installed separately. With that caveat, installation is relatively easy if the directions are followed. Installation Rating: A
Content/Features: This package offers an array of components, each with a variety of resources.
The Encarta Premium 2008 encyclopedia offers more than 60,000 articles, 23,000 illustrations, 800 videos and interactive multimedia components, thousands of sound clips and maps, and links to more than 25,000 selected Web sites. Also included are a dictionary, thesaurus, worldwide maps, an interactive atlas, two- and three-dimensional tours of historical subjects, and Encarta Kids for students from seven to 12 years of age. The program can be installed on individual workstations or may be accessed online.
Microsoft Math provides a number of tools and tutorials designed to help students learn concepts from basic math through algebra and trigonometry, including logarithms and exponents. The program’s tools include an onscreen graphing calculator that works as well as an expensive handheld device.
Equation Solver gives step-by-step instructions for solving entered equations. Also included are: Triangle Solver, an Equation Library, and a Unit Conversion Tool (length, area, volume, weight, temperature, and pressure). If more help is needed, the program provides free access to HotMath, a Web site that offers help in solving the problems contained in most U.S. math texts.
Microsoft Learning Essentials is the one component of this package designed specifically for use with parts of Microsoft Office, including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. The program provides step-by-step writing tips, tutorials, style guides, and pre-formatted report and presentation templates. These are excellent materials for helping students get properly prepared to start writing.
The Foreign Language Tools program provides a full-featured translation dictionary for use with the Spanish, French, German, and Italian languages. This component even conjugates verbs! Learning Essentials works with this feature, opening Microsoft Office tools designed for foreign language students, including templates and other assignment aids.
In addition, Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2008 offers more than a thousand summaries of most commonly studied literary works. These summaries help middle school through college students understand many required readings.
All in all, Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2008 is an outstanding, powerful, and useful product. That said, I have a couple of reservations. First, parents or schools considering a purchase need to remember the size and scope of the product. Easy use requires powerful computers with very specific supporting programs and fast Internet access. Potential buyers need to be sure all is available before purchase.
In addition, this is not a product that will be overly useful to motivate students who may not otherwise be interested in studying or preparing reports. It is definitely for students who are already motivated or willing to put in some extra work to produce quality school projects. For them, this is a wonderful tool. Content/Features Rating: A
Ease of Use: Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2008 is a large collection of programs; learning to use the entire package can be fairly complicated. The process will be easier for experienced computer users. All of the programs are fully documented; some are quite intuitive.
Considering the amount of material involved, this package is relatively easy to learn to use. Teachers and parents should be prepared to help, however, especially with younger students. Ease of Use Rating: A
Product Support: Technical support for all Microsoft products is available online at http://support.Microsoft.com. The site addresses some possible problems and provides information for phone, email, or online contact. Product Support Rating: A
Recommendation: Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium 2008 is an excellent resource. I recommend it for nearly any situation in which hard-working students are prepared to invest the effort, whether they are using Office or not.
This package is great for home, middle school, high school, or college use. It is not a product that would benefit remedial, indifferent, or challenged students. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Charles Doe, Media Specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Hastings, MI.