Your computer
Reference
Homework guide
Introduction
About this guide
What is the point of homework?
When and where should you do it?
Tools you need
Essential furniture and equipment
Planning your homework
Curriculum help
Ages 6-15
Ages 15-18
Your computer
Introduction
Using your computer
Word processing
Spreadsheets and calculators
Pictures
Printing
Using the Internet
Reference
More advice
Rules to follow
How teachers can help
How parents can help
The website of the Oxford English Dictionary
The website of the Oxford English Dictionary

You can use your computer as a reference library, by using appropriate CD-roms, DVDs or websites.

Encyclopedias

Everyone seems to know about Encarta, which is a very usable all-purpose encyclopedia, but there are many alternatives, such as Hutchinson's or Compton's. Often you can get a version from an earlier year on the cover disk of a computer magazine - most of the information in it (history, maths, literature, science) will still be accurate.

Alternatively, you can go to an encyclopedia website - they may not let you have for free everything you get if you buy the CD-ROM version, but usually will let you read information. You could also try the Columbia Encyclopedia or Encyclopedia.com.

Dictionaries

The Oxford English Dictionary in print occupies many volumes and costs thousands of pounds. But you can get it on CD-ROM for a fraction - and it is far easier to use. A cheaper and far more practical idea is the Oxford Reference Shelf - which fits onto a single CD-ROM. This gives you a range of dictionaries and other reference books, each of them for a particular purpose.

Or again, you can look online. The Oxford English Dictionary has a very useful site, but a better idea is to use a dictionary portal such as Onelook or Academic Info's big list of dictionary sites.

Atlases and maps

Atlases and maps for computers are not necessarily better than maps - unless you have a huge monitor. A big printed atlas can still show you a bigger area, with a high level of detail, and you can take an Ordnance Survey map with you on a walk. What computer maps do well is to help you interact more with the information. For example, many will let you zoom in and out - moving from a view of the whole world to a view of South Africa, to individual buildings on named streets. Some maps will measure distances for you, or even work out routes for journeys. These include Multimap and the excellent GeoStar site from Shell. For a US view of things try mapquest.