Microsoft Student 2006 is a grade-A homework helper for students ages 8 to 18. This $99 DVD features dozens of study tools for just about every subject, including math, science, writing, and foreign languages. However Student's $99 price tag is very misleading; the product requires Microsoft Office XP or 2003, full-blown productivity suites that add at least $150 to your total cost unless, of course, you already own the suite. (For example, Office 2003 Student and Teacher Edition currently sells for $100 to $139.) It's a shame that Student isn't designed for the less expensive Microsoft Works 8.0, an outstanding, if underrated, integrated program that's far more affordable. But if you don't mind paying, what Student does, it does very well.
Student 2006 consists of several modules, including a full copy of the excellent Microsoft Encarta Premium encyclopedia and limited-time access to Encarta online, which in turn requires a Microsoft Passport subscription--be sure to read the Microsoft privacy notice first. Online access to Encarta includes online access to most textbooks used in U.S. classrooms today. You can access Encarta's thousands of articles, photos, and audio and video clips in several ways, including the Encarta Kids interface (for the younger crowd) or via the Encarta Web Companion, a pop-up window that displays Encarta matches whenever you conduct a query in an online search engine such as Google. Kids and parents alike will appreciate Student's seamless integration of local and Web content. Wherever you are in Windows, a Student search window is always at your fingertips.
Many Student features hook into Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The Learning Essentials for Students module, for instance, includes tutorials for writing reports, building charts and diagrams, and so on. As you move through a lesson, Student launches the appropriate Office program--PowerPoint, for instance, to create a presentation--and provides additional menus and help columns (see screenshot) to assist. It's quite slick, although we were disappointed to see that some Student add-in menus merely direct you to features already in Office. For instance, the Report Tools menu for Word lists Styles And Formatting, Word Count, and Spelling. But you don't need Student to find these features; they are already accessible via Word's main menus. Then again, Student's French, German, and Spanish templates are great for writing papers in those languages or for adding foreign characters (Ã‚,Ã†,Ã–,ÂŒ, and so on) to English-language reports.
One of our favorite features is the graphing calculator software, a great tool for algebra, calculus, and trigonometry students. Graphically, the calculator resembles its handheld cousin, but with a significant enhancement. When you move the cursor over a calculator button, a window describes the button's function. With a handheld calculator, you'd have to comb the manual to learn these functions.
Microsoft provides Student 2006 users with generous unlimited, toll-free telephone technical support, Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., PT. E-mail responses are provided within 24 hours of your request. At the time of this review, we could not, however, find any online knowledge base help.