|The website of the Oxford English
You can use your computer as a reference
library, by using appropriate CD-roms, DVDs or websites.
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.
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
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 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.