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Written by Elizabeth Millard   
Wednesday, 31 July 2002 19:00
Also, become a spy.

The Encyclopedia Britannica, once a dusty series of 32 tomes on your library's shelves, now fits neatly on a single DVD. The 2002 expanded edition features a visual encyclopedia, dictionary, and world atlas. This version has improved the visual touring section, and added better search capability that allows you to do a natural-language search, filter results by media type, or browse through the encyclopedia's topics list. It works with Mac OS 8.6 or higher, and the $69.95 price drops to $49.95 after a mail-in rebate.

Click & Learn's Periodic Chart software offers the chance to learn the names and locations of the elements. Even if you spent weeks staring at your science classroom's wall chart and still didn't learn hydrogen from helium, the software promises to teach you in about three hours. Different learning methods are included, allowing you to tackle the elements alphabetically or by their numeric equivalents. When you think you've got it down, a timed test is at the ready. Three versions are available on the site: $4.95 for the seven-day "cramming" option; $19.95 for the two-month play-and-practice version; and $49.95 for the six-month, long-term retention choice.

For patriot games of a different kind, the U.S. Constitution and Government Quizzer from Fast Rabbit Software gives you a chance to prove your civics acumen. Practice flash cards and timed multiple-choice drills quiz you on various aspects of the governmental process and politics in general. The new version includes the ability to respond to voice commands through Apple's speech-recognition software. The shareware costs $9.95, and requires Mac OS 8.6 or higher.

No stage is needed for eMedia Guitar Method. Designed for players of all skill levels, the software has simplified-chord versions of songs for beginners and fuller transcriptions for experienced strummers. An animated fretboard shows fingerings in real time, so you don't need to read music to play. Added to the new version is multitrack audio, which lets you more fully explore songs by Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Heart, and the Grateful Dead. Variable-speed MIDI tracks let you set the tempo from swingin' pop tunes to downtrodden blues riffs. It's priced at $29.95; groupies and guitar not included.

If you've already got knowledge on a topic, but fear that it'll start slip-sliding away in your mind, there's Cram Session. Emulating conventional flash card sets, the software allows you to test yourself on whatever you like. Features include a large number of flash card sets; test questions that can be presented in ascending, descending or random order; questions that draw from multiple flash card sets; and an ability to test from both sides of the flash cards. Included are some standard cram topics like multiplication tables, elements, and of course, "Seinfeld" trivia. The shareware is $6.50, and works on Mac OS8 up to Mac 9.x.

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