Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 89 / OCTOBER 1987 / PAGE 58

IBM Personal Computing

Donald B. Trivette

Bookshelf On A Disc

Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.

That quote, and scores of others, are attributed to Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth-century English writer of dictionaries. Using Microsoft's new product, Bookshelf, I know where I can retrieve quotations—By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight (Emerson)—on almost any subject. I can also look in its thesauras for alternate choices, and can check the spelling of retrieve in its dictionary.

Bookshelf is a reference library consisting of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, Roget's Thesaurus, The American Heritage Dictionary, The Chicago Manual of Style, The World Almanac and Book of Facts, a U.S. zip-code directory, and a word-usage manual; the contents of all these books, and a few other goodies, are recorded on a disc that's identical in appearance to the audio compact disc that holds an hour of Billy Joel's music. In printed form, these books take more than a foot of shelf space; in electronic form they occupy less than 40 percent of the disc's capacity. There's plenty of room for Microsoft to add new reference works to the disc, and that is indeed the intention. Expect an encyclopedia in some future version and perhaps a directory of toll-free telephone numbers.

In order to run Bookshelf, you'll need a CD-ROM player, which attaches to your computer like an extra disk drive. In fact, that's just how it works. My Sony CD 100 drive is configured as drive D: on my IBM PC. The Bookshelf installation software has an option allowing you to install a Sony, Philips, Hitachi, or Amdek CD-ROM player. Currently, Bookshelf is in computer stores in two versions: about $300 for the product itself, and packaged along with an Amdek CD ROM drive for $1,300.

Using Bookshelf is easy, and as much fun as using any of the other pop-up resident products that are so popular for IBM PCs. Once installed and activated by the AUTOEXEC.BAT, Bookshelf is called by pressing the left shift and ALT keys. This causes a menu bar to appear with 12 choices at the top of the screen: Thesaurus, Dictionary, Spell, Usage, Manual, Almanac, Quote, BIS, ZIP, Forms, Options, Help. Using the cursor keys to highlight a choice and then pressing Enter selects a reference work.

Zipping Around

Let's look at the zip-code directory. First, a window appears on the screen over the top of the letter or document you're editing. The window contains boxes for you to enter a street or post office box number, a city, and a state. Once the state is entered, the Bookshelf search software, called a retrieval engine, goes to work on the files located on the CD-ROM disc. In the case of zip codes, there's a separate file for each state; the file contains the names and zip codes for each city and town, and in towns where there are multiple zip codes, there's a street directory complete with house numbers, where appropriate. Entering 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC, causes the zip code, 20006, to display on the screen faster than President Reagan vetoes tax hikes. The zip-code directory software has a special address parser that will automatically extract a street, city, and state when the cursor is left one space beyond the state name. When used in this mode, the zip code is automatically inserted at the proper place.

For this and the other features to work correctly, the program must have an intimate knowledge of your word-processing software and how it works. Bookshelf was designed and tested to be compatible with Bank Street Writer, Displaywrite, Easy Writer, Microsoft Word, MultiMate, New Word, PC-Write, Perfect Writer, pfs:Write, Super Writer, Volkswriter, WordPerfect, WordStar, and XYWrite III. Support for other popular word processors will likely be added in the future, but even if your favorite isn't listed, you can still use Bookshelf either from within your program or from DOS—you just may not be able to take advantage of cut-and-paste and automatic parsing features.

Vincy, Vinchy

Selecting Quote (from Bartlett's Quotations) causes Bookshelf to display a pull-down menu offering three choices: Search, Table of Contents, and General Index. The search screen, which appears over the document you're editing, has three boxes similar to the zip-code locator. In these you type not an address, but rather the term or terms defining the quotation. Want to know who said what about spelling? Type the word spell in the first box and press enter (the other boxes may be used to narrow the scope of a search). The first lines of five quotations appear. By highlighting with the cursor, you can zoom in on an entire quote. In this case, the third quote is one from Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad, Chapter 19: "They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce."

Bookshelf is a product that will significantly affect the way we use computers. It has dozens of features I'd like to describe, but I get paid to write only 1000 words. I keep telling my editor what Samuel Johnson said: No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.