Atlas & Geography
Planet Earth (Macmillan Digital USA) is billed as an atlas combined with an encyclopedia. If this is true, Macmillan has found the smallest atlas and the least comprehensive encyclopedia ever created. The disc lets you choose one of six ways to look at the world: political maps, satellite maps, physical maps, thematic maps (themes include literacy rates and other population-breakdown devices), natural landscapes, and world wonders. Choose your poison and then choose from a large handful of links to related articles. World wonders, for example, is further divided into natural and man-made headings, each of which leads to about a dozen choices. A sample entry consists of a few mini-pages of History, a few mini-pages of Overview, and half a page of Tourist Tips. There are also a few pictures, and sometimes a little video. That’s about all; suddenly the “large handful” of links starts to look pretty paltry. Conventional multimedia atlas features, like the ability to zoom in on a country or play background music, fill out the package. There’s nothing wrong with Planet Earth, but there’s nothing much right with it either.
– June 1996