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VINE VOICEon 15 April 2010
This CD gives you the content of the 2003 edition of Chambers Dictionary and a Chambvers Thesaurus. For the content, read the reviews of the corresponding books.

I'm writing this review substantially from the point of view of someone using the CD-Rom as a tool to help when solving or setting crosswords. If you have a different purpose in mind, some of the issues won't bother you.

The implementation as a CD-Rom (or a computer-based dictionary - you can copy the whole thing onto a PC) is OK but not great. You can search for words using wild-card sequences like ?ation to find cation, kation, nation and ration, or bi*ir to find bichir, bid fair, big hair and birchir. But it has the searching cock-up which many crossword "aids" share - punctuation that's ignored in crossword grids is not ignored in the search. So b???end finds you the 6-letter answers big end and bin-end, as well as bookend. You also need to be aware that the number of results from such a search is limited to 127. This means you may have to carry out "sub-searches" where you specify enough extra letters to get 126 answers or fewer. You can't choose letter ranges like A-K so this may mean tens of searches.

You also get the chance to search in the definition of a word - a Fulltext search for 'brass' will find you cornet, horn, trombone and tuba as well as 'oompah'. But this often produces less than ideal results, because the dictionary was not written with this kind of search in mind - the search described above doesn't find "trumpet" or "euphonium".

A third searching option is one for anagrams - you can find the words which are an anagram of a set of letters. This time, punctation is ignored, so you can find cart-horse as an anagram of orchestra.

You CANNOT use more than one of these three restrictions in the same search.

There are numerous minor niggles which may mean that a word you should find with a search is not found, or affect the usefulness or usability of the CD-rom in other ways. Some of these were corrected in a software update which was made available to users of the CD-Rom, but development work stopped a few years ago and CD Roms of later versions have not been produced. AT the time of writing (April 2010), it is no longer possible to sign up for the website which appeared to be a promising though rather expensive replacement for the CD Rom, so the future of electronic versions of Chambers doesn't look good. On the other hand, I use my version quite a lot, so the good side just about beats the bad.
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