Le Petit Larousse 2001 CD-ROM.
Paris, France: Larousse and Havas Interactive France.
Reviewed by Françoise Herrmann

If you are a fan of Le Petit Larousse Illustré, a French monolingual dictionary and encyclopedia with marvelous illustrations, you will delight in knowing that this institutional giant is now available on CD-ROM: "The first of the century. Landmarks for a world in motion!" (as the subtitle of the CD-ROM specifies). Initially, and in echo to the deletion of the term "Illustré" [Illustrated] from the title of the CD-ROM, you will perhaps miss the crisp and colorful pages of the print mode with its laser sharp graphics, and truly wondrous figures, plates and diagrams that enliven each page and clarify the meanings of terms. However, you can also trust Havas Interactive France, the software developers, to supply you with a set of innovative and outstanding features that are unique to the new medium of the CD-ROM, and that will assist you in unprecedented ways.

Le Petit Larousse 2001 CD-ROM requires the following minimal configuration: a Penthium 133 microprocessor with 32 MB of RAM, Windows 95/98/2000 or NT 4.0, a CD-ROM, a 1 MB video card, a sound card compatible with Sound Blaster 16, and a modem for connection to the Internet. Using a standard installation wizard three different kinds of installations are available: minimal, partial and complete. These installation options are useful since depending on the amount of memory available on your hard-disk (and there may be very little with storage of all your other digital dictionaries) you can choose to install a version that will either work directly from your hard-disk, or with the CD-ROM spinning in its drive. Once the application has been installed, you can use it in pop-up mode by clicking on the Larousse task bar icon, directly after highlighting a search word in an application such as Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint; or you can open Le Petit Larousse 2001 application from the Windows Start Menu, and type your searches into the application.

Minimal configuration requirements that include both sound and video cards, and a connection to the Internet have no doubt already alerted you to some of the special media specific features of this application. However, prior to reviewing these special and wonderful new highlights, there is one super feature that has been incorporated in this application that warrants announcement: navigation of the Le Petit Larousse 2001 CD-ROM is completely hypertext-enabled.

Hypertext-enabled navigation is design modularity and flexibility. It means that, finally, you can simply double-click on any obscure or unknown word of a definition to bring up an embedded definition of that term. And, unlike boxed Russian dolls where eventually there are no more dolls to open, this hypertext function allows for an infinite number of double-clicks within each definition, and across definitions. For example, assuming you are looking up the definition of the term "Polka" and the definition indicates that this is a popular form of dance in the "Bohème" [Bohemia] region, you will perhaps be clueless as to where the "Bohème" [Bohemia] region might be located in the world. You can then double-click on the term "Bohème" [Bohemia] in the "Polka" definition to call up its definition, which will succinctly inform you that this a region of Czechoslovakia, and in greater detail also supply you with a history of this region. This process may be repeated endlessly; for all terms in the embedded definition, and all of the terms in subsequently embedded definitions. Hence, this feature alone defies the linearity of print modes, and you will love using it for all the ease of clarification, flexibility of manipulation, and page-flipping economy it supplies, upon one double-click.

Even if the term "Illustré" [Illustrated] no longer appears in the title of the CD-ROM, the immediately visible and fabulous graphics of the printed Petit Larousse Illustré have not disappeared altogether. In fact, the transformation to which these have been submitted is sophisticated. Le Petit Larousse 2001 CD-ROM supplies the same (though in lesser quantity) beautiful maps, photos, flags and drawings, familiar in the print version, and in addition supplies a sound library, video animations and links to the World Wide Web. These media components, functioning to clarify and illustrate the meanings of dictionary terms, appear indexed by their corresponding icons when a dictionary entry is called up. And otherwise they are listed for separate search and perusal in the media search module of the application. Thus for example, when you call up in the dictionary search mode a definition of the term "planète" [planet], this term will be displayed with its dictionary definitions, and two media icons: a drawing and a video icon for viewing and playing of the linked media contents, functioning to further define the term. When you click on the media icons, these are displayed next to the article entry in a split screen.

Alternatively, you may consult the media content separately in the media search mode. This media search mode contains lists of terms that have been indexed according to the different medias (photos, flags, maps, videos, sounds, drawings, internet sites and even a combined media listing). Thus, for example in the sound search mode, rather than pronunciation of dictionary terms, you will find a library of animal and music sounds. For example, you will perhaps want to hear the striking difference between the sounds of various string instruments, such as the banjo, the sitar, the mandolin and the guitar. Or you may need to discover the differences between bird calls, such as those of a "tourterelle" [turtledove], a "pinson" [chaffinch] , a "rouge-gorge" [robin], and a "rossignol" [nightingale]. By entering the name of the instrument or the bird, a sound file will play so that you can hear the differences, and sometimes a drawing is also displayed so that you can both see and hear the differences. Further, you can be certain that the quality of the digital sounds bear striking resemblance to actually occurring ones. (By way of anecdote, my usually lethargic cat, RockStar, slept soundly through all the crickets, owls and rhino sounds, whereas he headed like a lightening bolt directly to the door, perhaps thinking "Lunch!", when the garden variety "alouette" [lark] and "roitelet" [wren] bird call sounds played.).

Additionally, you will perhaps be both enchanted and illuminated by the short (30 to 60 second) animated video definitions of terms. In the dictionary search mode, terms appear indexed with their corresponding video icons. For example, when you call up the term "magnétoscope" [video recorder] the term appears with its definition, and two icons: a video icon for viewing of the video definition, and a drawing icon for viewing a still visual definition of the workings of the video recorder. And again separately, in the video search mode, these short video definitions may be accessed directly. Thus, for example in the video search mode you will find short video animated definitions for various organ functions such as those of the heart, the ear and muscles. You will find these animated definitions strikingly similar, on a visual level, to the visual still definitions in the print mode, with an additional outstanding increase in clarification supplied by animation and sound. Consequently, it is only regrettable in general that so few video definitions (20 in total) are included, no doubt because of memory capacity restrictions. All of the useful manufacturing and process diagrams of the printed version, some of which appear as drawings in the CD-ROM, are particularly well suited to animation, and could only further enhance the quality and usefulness of the tool. Similarly, the quantum list of composers included in the corpus of the dictionary could only be enhanced with corresponding sound files to illustrate types of musical compositions, compared to the restricted list of mega famous classical composers, currently available (though here again limits on musical composition files are perhaps due to exorbitant licensing rights).

Add still more to the media content of Le Petit Larousse 2001 CD-ROM in the form of links to the World Wide Web for 2000 terms, and both the visual and encyclopedic dimensions of the printed Petit Larousse have been deeply transformed.

Beyond the super modularity of word searching, and the new transformed treatment of graphics in the multiple media module, Le Petit Larousse 2001 CD-ROM also incorporates a series of search processing tools. These allow the user to collect and regroup articles in user defined files using the notepad icon that is displayed for each dictionary definition; or conversely, to search for articles and definitions by theme or topic (either user-defined or pre-set). Thus, for example if you are translating for the wine industry and want to familiarize yourself with the extensive information concerning winemaking that is included in the corpus of the Le Petit Larousse 2001, you can define a "wine" topic search, regroup and annotate all the articles that you find, including media definitions, whether animated or still.

No edition of Le Petit Larousse, whether digitized or not, would ever be complete without its famed "pink section" containing lists of proverbs and quotes, which you will find separately listed. Add to this, a conjugate function that supplies for every verb searched a display of all of the forms. And abundantly sprinkle the whole application with the enchanting allure of a slick interface coupled with magnificent access speed, and you will have completed this tour of Le Petit Larousse 2001 CD-ROM.

Le Petit Larousse 2001 CD-ROM with its fully hypertext-enabled navigation system; its expanded and transformed treatment of graphics that includes an extra sound library, and outstanding video animations; and its thematic search processing tools, offers a wonderful new digital dictionary tool for translators. Page-flipping economy and flexibility, expansion and increases in the clarity of media definitions (with sound and video), topped with convenient search processing functions, are the new useful features you will discover in Le Petit Larousse 2001 CD-ROM - in addition to all that you have come to expect from this small institutional giant in terms of fine, accurate, rigorous and complete lexicography. Enjoy!