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A Review of the CD "Microsoft Complete Gardening" by John Carr
January 1, 2000

***** A personal review*****

After double clicking on the maple leaf icon you are greeted with soft swing music and a screen with five options: Regional Garden Tours

Techniques and Advice
Media Garden
Plant Encyclopedia
Plant Problems

Each section has some strong points and some weaknesses.

Unfortunately, I found that the weaknesses outweighed the strengths.

The garden tours were nice but not very enlightening. The techniques and advice were excellent for beginners, but just okay for more advanced gardeners. The media garden has some good points. You move through three media areas clicking on any of several points of interest.

The plant encyclopedia gives both the biological name and the common name of each plant and other detail, but it is only nice to have, unless your a student. The plant pictures have good colour but lack the multiple veiws necessary to truly see what the plant has to offer. Plant problems were, by necessity, limited. The CD's producers could give only typical problems for some areas of the United States, North America is just too demanding.

The CD's strong points include:

  • easy access to the glossary;
  • closed-captioning for the videos;
  • useful information on some gardening applications;
  • terrific colours, (of course your equipment will play a part here);
  • the ability to turn the music off;
  • help for the new gardener;
  • planting zones extend into Canada, Calgary and Edmonton are listed;
  • the "List Maker."
  • and....the ability to turn the music off;

The weak points were:

  • slowness, I have a 4X CD ROM and found I waited for long periods while nothing happened;
  • the glossary mechanism is slow and cumbersome;
  • the amount of memory needed to run the program. (My 16 MB Ram was not enough at times.)
  • the elementary nature of much of the information;
  • the emphasis on narration and still photos, especially in the "Regional Garden Tours;"
  • the excessive amounts of reading;

The "Techniques and Advice" section has a great deal of information.

Not all of it is useful for all gardeners, but there is something for most of us to learn or to reinforce our hunches. There are eight sections:

  1. Help for New Gardeners (good)
  2. Growing Conditions (okay)
  3. Garden Design (lacking)
  4. Keeping Your Garden Healthy (good and bad)
  5. Working with Plants (okay)
  6. About Lawns (some good ideas)
  7. Low Maintenance Gardening (most was obvious, but some good ideas were presented)
  8. Container Gardening (boring, no good ideas for making your own containers, lots of reading)

I found that the amount reading necessary to, for example, learn how to stake annuals was tedious. At the end I was directed to the section on perennials to view a short clip on staking a plant. I would have found the information fast in a book and a few will sketched pictures would have given as much direction as the film clip. New gardeners have the most to gain by using this CD. They have to work hard to get what they want, but most of the information is helpful.

"List Maker" and "Plant Selector" were interesting components. You can create and print lists for shopping, reminders, bookmarks within the CD, and plant lists. The plant lists are effectively presented. Using "Plant Selector," you identify your requirements, such as category, annuals, trees, etc., Sun or shade, water requirements, plant colour, season, height, and your region, and "List Maker" does the rest. There are over 3,700 lists on the CD to match the combinations you request. Plants from absinthe to zucchini are listed and many of the varieties available at our local garden centre are included. This system's effectiveness year after year for Albertans is questionable.

Overall the disk is colourful,, some what useful, but cumbersome. Books offer just as much for equal or less money. One section advises that you look in books to gain more insight into garden design. The disk makers should have put more samples of designs in this CD. I hope I have not given you too much to read; Microsoft did in their CD-ROM "Microsoft Complete Gardening." If you buy it, be ready to sit for long periods staring at your monitor.

System requirements include a multimedia PC with a 486/33 processor or higher, 256 colour SVGA monitor, sound card, 8 MB of RAM with Windows 95, 10 MB of hard disk space and a 2X CD-ROM.

***********The opinions are those of the writer and not***********

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