A Comparative Evaluation of Four Leading CD-ROM Retrieval Software Packages

Article excerpt

Over the past five years, both the number of CD-ROM products and the number of CD-ROM retrieval software packages have grown steadily. In fact, by the end of 1994 there were over 6,500 titles and 532 retrieval software packages.[1] The growth in the number of CD-ROM retrieval software packages is especially important for those individuals/organizations who have databases that they wish to publish on a CD-ROM but who do not want to develop their own retrieval software. In many ways the choice of retrieval software is critical to the final product--if the retrieval software is lacking in important features this may influence the ultimate success of the CD-ROM product and impact on the reputation of the organization selling it. Thus the purpose of this article is to evaluate the CD-ROM retrieval software packages that have the largest number of titles and that are available via leasing/co-publishing agreements. Based on this criteria and using the last three print editions of the CD-ROM Directory from TFPL, the CD-ROM retrieval software packages that will be evaluated are: CD Answer, SPIRS, KAWare2 Retrieval System, and ROMware. These packages were in the top five in terms of the number of titles using the software in the last three years (see figure 1).

While another retrieval software package, Bureau Van Dijk's, is available for lease/co-publication and has a large number of CD-ROM products associated with it, it is not evaluated here because it has only been used by Europe. Thus, in the opinion of the author, it is of lesser interest to North American readers.

Evaluation of the CD-ROM Retrieval Software Packages

Each package listed above has been evaluated using the Revised Richards-Brown CD-ROM Software Evaluation Model.[2] A brief summary of the model appears below followed by the discussion of the results of the evaluation.

Richards-Robinson CD-ROM Software Evaluation Model

The Richards-Robinson CD-ROM Software Evaluation Model was first developed in the fall of 1993. Revised based on comments from users of the model, the model is now known as the Revised Richards-Brown CD-ROM Software Evaluation Model (RRB).[3] The RRB model is divided into the following areas: top level, operational, navigational, and ergonomics. The Top Level area includes functions related to the overall searching of the database. These functions include help, browsing indexes, searching, query management, outputting records, restarting the database, changing databases, and quitting. The Operational area includes execution of tasks, interruption of tasks, and moving between menus. The Navigational area includes functions dealing with moving within records and between retrieved records. The Ergonomics area deals with the layout of screens, the use of color, and the terminology used on screens and in error messages.

Each of these four areas is subdivided into a number of criteria to which ranks have been assigned. The ranks indicate how well the software in question fulfills the function in question. For example, a package that has no help function would be given a rating of 0 while a package that has context-sensitive help would receive a 3. A low rank in a specific function indicates that the software is not very powerful with respect to this function. A high rank indicates that the software has a higher degree of performance with respect to a specific function.

A total of 100 points are available in the RRB Model and these are broken down as follows:

Top Level 80 points

Operational Level 4 points

Navigation 6 points

Ergonomics 10 points

TOTAL 100 points

Since the Top Level accounts for 80

percent of the total points, it has been broken

down further into 6 areas as follows:

User Guidance 8 points

Indexing 10 points

Search Features 37 points

General Output

Features 12 points

Record Display 10 points

Database Management 3 points

TOTAL 80 points

Once the CD-ROM software has

been evaluated, an overall assessment is

made using the following criteria:

Poor 0-49 points

Satisfactory 50-75 points

Good 76-100 points

Assessments of each section are

made using the following chart where P

stands for poor, S for satisfactory, and G

for good:

User Guidance P 0-3 S 4-6 G 7-8

Index P 0-5 S 6-8 G 9-10

Search Features P 0-18 S 19-33 G 34-37

General Output P 0-5 S 6-8 G 9-11

Record Display P 0-5 S 6-8 G 9-11

Database

Management P 0 S 1-2 G 3

Operation P 0 S 1-2 G 3-4

Navigation P 0-1 S 2-3 G 4-6

Ergonomics P 0-4 S 5-7 G 8-10

Results of the Evaluation

All of the packages received an overall rating of satisfactory (see figure 2). …