Magazine article Information Today

Jacso's Cheers and Jeers for 2000

Magazine article Information Today

Jacso's Cheers and Jeers for 2000

Article excerpt

Here's a list of Web services that hit the mark--and some that missed

Web users had much to cheer about in 2000. Many respectable new services and databases were launched by small entrepreneurs, large companies, and the U.S. government. In addition, many stalwart Web sites enhanced their offerings substantially. There were also some disappointments, of course, but they're dwarfed by the goodies that await you.

CHEERS for the ...

* Best unabridged ready-reference suites--Infoplease.com and Bartleby.com. Infoplease.com enhanced the digital versions of its coveted almanacs by integrating them with the sixth edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia, the Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, and the Magellan country maps. This service stands out because of its currency, but not only within the almanacs. Infoplease.com also uniquely updates the Columbia Encyclopedia. For example, shortly after Sri Lanka's Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the world's first female prime minister, passed away last fall, her biography was updated in Infoplease Almanac's version of the Columbia Encyclopedia.

Although Bartleby.com's (http://www.bartleby.com) version of the Columbia Encyclopedia isn't updated, it deserves cheers for becoming a ready-reference powerhouse in 2000. It was the first to release the new Columbia Encyclopedia in February, 4 months before the print edition was published. In September, the American Heritage Dictionary, fourth edition, appeared on the Bartleby.com site the same day that it was released in bookstores, and includes 900 color images and the audio pronunciations of several thousand words.

Bartleby.com also recently integrated the CIA's World Factbook 2000 into its collection and has cross references from it to both the American Heritage Dictionary and the Columbia Encyclopedia (although not vice versa). It also offers the King James version of the Bible, The Oxford Shakespeare, a variety of anthologies, style manuals, three editions of Roget's Thesaurus, and a Simpson's Contemporary Quotations that nicely complements Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (Bartleby.com's first reference source). Now the company should work on its software by adding more links and better excerpts on its short results lists.

* Best Web reference utility--GuruNet (now known as Atomica). This product is a Swiss Army knife of top-notch, ready-reference sources--such as the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the family of Merriam-Webster dictionaries (general, medical, law), The Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Simpson's Contemporary Quotations, the Bible, and real-time sources that feed political and financial news related to your search topic from such aggregators as Moreover and Stockpoint--that are beautifully streamlined by GuruNet/Atomica into a coherent series of entries.

This masterpiece also shines because of its simplicity. The client software that you must download takes only 1.5 MB of hard-disk space, can be viewed in a small window that's resizable, and requires only an Internet connection (but not a browser). The name of the site was changed to Atomica in early November, and a browser-based version of GuruNet/Atomica was also launched (http://www.atomica.com), making this wonderful compendium available from any Web-connected desktop.

* Best collection of free abstracts of scholarly journal articles--ingenta. This company offers its service to all users at http://www.ingenta.com. Those who have subscriptions to the journals can also display the full articles free of charge--at least for those volumes from the past few years. ingenta's collection of more than 2,700 journals includes the most respected periodicals in many disciplines. The software is elegant and intuitive, and also offers the options to search the MEDLINE and UnCover databases from the same hub to complement the results from the ingentaJournals collection. …

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