Barron’s Book Study Notes
Barron’s Book Study Notes (Corel CD Home) is essentially a conversion to CD-ROM of selected volumes from the Barron’s Book Notes series. There are study guides for 101 classic literary works written by 65 different American and European authors. You get a plot summary and analyses of theme, structure, and characters of about 150 pages for each book or play (the actual works themselves are not included on the disc). These synopses are informative, well-written, and enlightening, and frequently invaluable to the scrambling student. The programcould use a little polish in the aesthetics department; the text is limited to one generic font, icons are simple and repetitive, and video clips and illustrations are eyesores (the good news is there aren’t many of them). All of the index, search and other content management features fit into one-third of the screen – on the left side – while whatever analysis you select appears on the right. In this configuration, the on-screen text is rather small, making for difficult reading; fortunately, the indexes can be made to disappear, making the text about 50% larger. Unfortunately, the instructions fail to point this out, and neither of our two reviewers realized that re-sizing was available until each had spent more than an hour working with the program. Technically, the program runs very well: searches for titles and keywords are returned quickly, and Corel built in the gizmos necessary to take advantage of Windows 95 features like right-clicking, bookmarked highlighting, note-taking linked to Word Pad. There is also a cool implementation of the American Heritage Concise Dictionary. Although the multimedia treatment is not especially artful, and the search capability is limited to words that actually appear in the text, rather than more general concepts, Barron’s Book Study Notes packs a lot of information onto one disc. It’s a good example of shovelware in its most useful form.
– September 1996