507 words on Software
While it didn’t come pre-installed on my new iBook, a friend told me that the computer’s system DVD also included a complete encyclopaedia called World Book which hides in one of the installer packages on the DVD (along with Quicken, a nice looking e-Paper buying and reading application and demo versions of iWork and MS Office). Installing it – which daftly only works on the computer’s startup partition – fills another 1,5 GB of your hard drive and gives you the encyclopaedia, another dictionary and an atlas.
Online comments suggesting that World Book isn’t a particularly good encyclopaedia turned out to be true, particularly when considering that I have the Britannica on my hard drive and Wikipedia at my fingertips most of the time. In fact, it doesn’t even display the umlaut in Göttingen, for example. But it’s still better than not having an encyclopaedia at all.
What’s quite interesting, though, is that the World Book application seems to be a fully fledged Cocoa application that gives you many of the nice features you’ve come to expect. Sure, it looks a bit crappy with its non-standard windows, but altogether it leaves the impression that there’s a bunch of programmers working at it who try to be abreast with Apple’s latest offerings. Despite having a few nice features like time lines and a (small) number of media with links right to iTMS and making use of Mac technologies like speech recognition, I think those aren’t frequent enough to outweigh the other shortcomings.
I hadn’t noticed the company producing the World Book application, MacKiev before, but they seem to have a number of non-trivial Mac applications on their site. Their company name and the names in the about box suggests that they might be from Ukraine, although their website doesn’t give any more information on that topic.
In addition to the encyclopaedia there is also a separate dictionary application included which seems to use a dictionary different from the Oxford one Apple include with X.4. This is of course obsoleted by Apple’s dictionary which is much better integrated into the OS and offers more features such as a choice of British and American pronunciations as well as what looks like a nice and clean overall structure that allows the integration of more dictionaries.
Finally the package includes the WorldBook Atlas. It looks pretty neat with the ability to display a rotating three-dimensional Earth. But that’s about it. Everything beyond that is a joke. Even the included distance calculator doesn’t display the properly curved lines on the flat map – as even the Dashboard’s flight tracker does – but goes for ‘straight’ lines. And there seems to be no geographical information beyond the coordinates of a few cities in the application. So it’s not really worth much – as most (all?) electronic atlases are.
I doubt that I’ll actually use these applications as they aren’t good enough content and usage wise. But I found it interesting to see them and to learn that there are people programming this kind of stuff.