The Oxford World English Dictionary Shelf is an unqualified success. A suite of four dictionaries - The New Oxford English, The New Oxford American, The Canadian Oxford and The Australian Oxford - brought together on a single CD-Rom make this disc an invaluable reference resource for anyone interested in the English language.
World English is an ideal companion to the Oxford English Language Reference Shelf. Once installed on the hard drive, both are powered by the same innovative iFinger technology which gives the user access, with one key stroke, to The New Oxford Thesaurus of English, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and The Oxford World Encyclopedia, as well as the previously mentioned four dictionaries.
With more than half a million definitions, 2.5 million quotations, 60,000 cross-referenced entries shoehorning the new version of the OED on to two CD-Roms has been quite a feat.
Altogether, version 3 is a definite improvement on its predecessor thanks largely to some important software refinements. More precise word searches can be made and, for the first time, all the words within a headword definition can also be looked up with a single click. The new Look-Up feature gives users access to any OED headword from Office applications.
The dictionary can be trawled in any number of ways. Entering a quotation search for "Times Educ Suppl" between 1988 and 1995 will yield 24 hits including Baker Day, INSET and leaderene ("a jocular or ironic name for Margaret Thatcher"). It's also possible to display words in the chronological order of their entry into the language, 1970-1971 witnessed the first recorded usages of Bangladeshi, photofit and video.
Wildcard searches produce their own delights. Entering "*" and "mancy" will bring up a host of strange divinatory practices. How about "tyromancy": divination using cheese?
This CD-Rom version, however, is only available on the PC platform and is not networkable. All the more reason to consider the OED online subscription service, for online, surely, is where a living, growing record of the English language should be.
Moreover, with the OED's staff working towards a completely revised third edition by 2010 and simultaneously incorporating new and modernised definitions, words are pouring into the dictionary at the rate of 1,000 per quarter. These will be included in the online edition.
OED online has the same interface as the CD-Rom which means that users can overlay the same sophisticated filtering systems; quotation, date, author, text filters can all be applied.
One might reasonably have expected, however, two additional functions from such powerful software. Firstly, there's no "intellisense" word function of the sort found in word processing packages where misspelled words are detected. Enter "neccessary", for example, and you'll draw a blank.
And isn't it time that sound files were included in the dictionary? Introducing sound clips would represent a major investment in terms of time and money for the OUP but it's nothing less than such a magisterial work deserves.
Joining the OED in cyberspace is Oxford Reference Online (ORO). Launched in March this year, this is a core collection of more than 100 of the OUP's reference titles, embracing art, science, religion, politics, mythology and folklore. Also including four bi-lingual dictionaries, French, Spanish, German and Italian, ORO will be regularly updated with an additional 30 texts expected to go online in the next two years. More than 1,000 selected web links augment this very impressive knowledge base.
And if further enticement was needed, any LEA that signs up all its secondary schools to Oxford Reference Online will have its primary schools connected free of charge.
The Oxford World English Dictionary Shelf
Fitness for purpose 4
Ease of use 3
Value for money 3
OED Second Edition version 3 on CD-Rom Single user licence - pound;175; Online subs - pound;175+VAT pa (for unlimited access across the school, with no limit on the number of concurrent users)
ORO: pound;175+VAT pa (for unlimited access across the school, with no limit on the number of concurrent users)
Oxford University Press
Tel: 01536 741171
Oxford English Dictionary Online
Oxford Reference Online