Magazine article Information Today

Summer Database Sampler from CompuServe

Magazine article Information Today

Summer Database Sampler from CompuServe

Article excerpt

It is mid-summer. The temperature is in the upper 90s. You're thinking vacation, or maybe you're already at the beach or poolside. You are also ready for some easy summer reading, some escapist fiction perhaps. You're not in the mood to read a long, dense database review that will make you think too hard. Your reviewer is not in the mood to write one.

Instead, how about something light? A short, refreshing look at some interesting databases that won't force you to rethink your information strategies. The best place to look for such low-cal fare is CompuServe. CompuServe has always had an open admissions policy for new databases. Their philosophy seems to be, "Let's put it up and see what happens." The result, hidden amidst CompuServe's sprawl of bulletin boards and software warehouses, is a potpourri of databases that you won't find anywhere else.

FUNDWATCH

Vacation or not, you still have to watch your money. One of the cheapest ways to do that online is FundWatch, a mutual funds screening service from MONEY magazine that analyzes, compares, and ranks over 1,900 mutual funds. FundWatch's thorough descriptions cover assets, expenses, major shareholdings, and portfolio breakdown by industry sector. The fund's return is given for current month, year-to-date, 1, 2, 5, and 10 years. For each period its performance is compared to other funds in its investment category and to the S&P 500. Finally, MONEY's own ratings of performance and risk are added.

The database is updated monthly. If you discover that your own portfolio isn't doing so hot, FundWatch's screening program can help you spot better performers. You can search by several criteria, including objective, performance, assets, expenses, risk, and management company. Using FundWatch is itself a shrewd financial move. The database is available at CompuServe's basic rates: subscribers who have the flat rate option pay $8.95/month for unlimited use of core services, including FundWatch; pay-as-you-go subscribers are charged $12.80/hr.

FundWatch is produced by MONEY magazine, Time & Life Bldg., Rockefeller Center, NY 10020, 212/522-1212.

AMERICAN HERITAGE ELECTRONIC DICTIONARY

If you don't have any mutual funds, you may not be interested in FundWatch, but everyone is a potential user of this next database. The American Heritage Electronic Dictionary (AHED) is the online version of a popular print and PC software desk dictionary. The contents of the online AHED, however, would hardly fit on your desk or disk; with 303,000 words, it is almost three times larger than the software edition.

AHEAD has several features that you expect in a full size dictionary, including thorough definitions, verb conjugations, usage notes, and "synonymies," which distinguish shades of meaning among groups of synonyms. AHED also has biographical and geographical entries.

AHED online doesn't have the hypetext-like features found in some software versions, but it will help you search on word stems when you aren't sure of the spelling. AHED will also help your finances because it too is available at CompuServe's basic rates.

American Heritage Electronic Dictionary is produced by Houghton Mifflin, 222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116, 617/351-3000.

PHONE*FILE

Phone*File is the online counterpart to another ubiquitous household reference tool, the telephone book white pages. This online directory is also a bit larger than the paper one you have near your phone--it lists 80 million U.S. households. It is derived from local white page directories and other public record information. …

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