Microsoft Monday

Today we’re taking a look at MSN Encarta, not Encarta Premium which you buy from Microsoft, but the portion of it that’s available online for free. While the complete version contains far more information, the ad-supported online version has a wealth of information that’s worth taking advantage of. If you have children in the home, it’s even better because it will be a reliable source of information for them to turn to when needed.  MSN Encarta isn’t just an encyclopedia, it’s much more so today we’ll be taking a look at all that is offered online for free.


The landing page for MSN Encarta can be found at  There you’ll find all kinds of information. They have a “Today’s Highlights” section with a variety of different articles,  a quiz of the day, and an “on this day” section where they explain something that happened on the day years ago. Additionally, they have Top Education Headlines that might give you helpful information if you’re a student or you’re thinking about going back to school.  If by chance you want to discuss and share information with others, you can do that too by following a link on their homepage to the Message Boards.

encarta homepage


encarta encyclopedia Here’s why I like Encarta’s encyclopedia. While you may not get as much information as you could from a different free source online like Wikipedia, you do get a substantial amount.  They list the people who wrote the content as well and their credentials which gives you more reassurance that the information is accurate.

Their Encyclopedia article center includes over 42,000 articles. Encarta Premium, which you pay for, consists of over 68,000 articles so while they have more, there’s still a good amount of information that you can get for free. Along with the standard encyclopedia entries, they also have historic documents, images, famous speeches, literature guides and more.

When searching for an article in the encyclopedia, you can either perform a keyword search or you can browse through each of the categories.   Once you find an article, you can easily view it and then print a “printer friendly” version. There’s also the option to email it to someone (by default, it will open up Outlook) or you can click “blog about it” and you’ll be directed to your Windows Live Space account.

Finally, another reason why I like Encarta’s Encyclopedia is that they show related items that might be of interest to you.  If you’re looking for extra related reading, you won’t have to search any further.

Dictionary and Atlas

On the Encarta website is a dictionary as well as an atlas. If you’re looking for a fancy dictionary, this isn’t it. It’s pretty basic, although they do include a Thesaurus.  Worth mentioning though is the Encarta Right-Click Dictionary which you can download for free. Once installed, you can highlight any word on a web page, right-click, and then get the definition for the word. Get more information on that here.

Also included is an Atlas which is actually pretty cool.  There are different map styles which you can choose from, although not all of the styles are available for free. If there’s something you want to search for in the World Atlas, it just takes one click.

encarta world atlas

Fun Features

A handful of fun features are available which you can find on the Encarta site for when you’re bored or looking for something stimulating to do.

Coffee Break

Under the Coffee Break section you’ll find a pop quiz, a featured quiz (right now it’s Winter Myth Quiz) and more. There’s also a whole section for Bill Nye, you know, the Science Guy? He answers questions like “is it possible to fool a lie detector test.”

Are you Smarter than an 11th Grader?

encarta smarter than 11th grader Some of you have probably seen the show, “Are you Smarter Than a 5th Grader” which gives contestants the opportunity to see if they’re smarter than a 5th grader. Here’s your chance to determine if you’re smarter than an 11th grader.  They give you SAT like quizzes to see how smart you really are.  I took the SAT Writing Quiz and I must admit, it was a little tricky.

Top 10 Lists

All kinds of lists are found on MSN Encarta from “10 Great Scientific Discoveries” to “10 Memory Tricks for students. Lists are broken down into categories including College, Brain Candy, Art, Film, Language, and Literature, History, Science and Nature, Sports and Games, and Travel and Adventure.

And More…

There’s so much to be found on Encarta’s website that there’s no way to cover it all here.  We recommend heading over there and checking it out. Who knows, you may learn something you never knew before like the word collusion means “a secret cooperation between people in order to do something illegal or underhanded (it was the word of the day).