Abstract: Personally, I strongly believe that itis very difficult to imagine today’s civilized world without computers andInformation Technology. Within a relative short period of time, computing hasbeen implemented in all the possible domains of activity. Technology hasdeveloped rapidly and the notions of information society and knowledge-basedsociety have become familiar. In my view, there is no doubt that the humanity’sfuture goals cannot be accomplished without a solid understanding of how to usea computer properly and of the art of computer usage. In this sense, all of uswho aim to be well informed and productive need to understand not only alimited number of specific software applications to work with, but also to havethe possibility to access valuable information about software packages of allkinds. Starting from the definition of an encyclopedia as “A book, or set ofbooks, or digital version of such, containing authoritative information about avariety of topics...” , in this paper I will try to showthat this Encyclopedia of Software Resources which I envisage will be acollection of information related to all possible software applications, veryuseful for students, for developing specific lessons/courses, for the researchcommunity, the industry, and the general public.
Key words: information society, knowledge-basedsociety, open source, computer-based learning (CBT), Web-based tutorials, softwareresources, software classification, software features, software packages,tutorials, multimedia, platform-independent tutorial, comparative approach.
NOTE: A few months ago, I sent a paper toIDPT 2006 World Conference on Integrated Design & Process Techno-logy, heldin San Diego, CA, on June 25-30. The paper , which presents a Web-basedtutorial as an example of a com-parative approach to word processing, concludesby launching the ideaof an encyclopedia of software resources. Unfortu-nately, I could noteffectively participate in the conference and therefore I did not have thechance to introduce this idea to the audience. That is why I avail myself ofthis opportunity to re-launch, with many more arguments, this project to buildan encyclopedia of software resources. The IDPT 2006 paper  is freelydownloadable from my personal website.
The Internet and a great number ofdedicated conferences, events, and summits offer a huge amount of papers aboutinformation society and knowledge-based society. I will herein mention just twoaspects:
1. “What do we mean by an “information society”?We mean one in which human capacity is expanded, built up, nourished andliberated, by giving people access to the tools and technologies they need,with the education and training to use them effectively. The hurdle here ismore political than financial. The costs of connectivity, computers and mobiletelephones can be brought down. These assets – bridges to a better life– can be made universally affordable and accessible. We must summon thewill to do it.
The information society also depends on networks.The Internet is the result of, and indeed functions as, a unique and grandcollaboration. If its benefits are to spread around the world, we must promotethe same cooperative spirit among governments, the private sector, civilsociety and international organizations.”
2. “Citizenship and governance must evolvewith a view to increasing globalization, European integration and Unionenlargement and the emergence of new forms of cultural identity and socialdialogue. Specifically, the Union will support:
- transnational comparative studies and research and the coordinated development of statistics and qualitative and quantitative indicators;
- interdisciplinary research to support the policies of Member States;
- the creation and Europe-wide use of research infra-structures and data and knowledge bases.”
Thus, from our observation of thedevelopment processes and from our day-to-day activity, the above remarks andthe information found on the Internet, we can come to the conclusion that, inthe near future, we will need a specific interdisciplinary product, based oncollaborative and comparative studies and with accessibility via networksaround the world. This product is to be a large multimedia, hypermedia or evena virtual reality software package. It will be based on quality computerprogramming and will be “consulted” through universal viewers, e.g. browsersunder any operating system. Today’s information technology with all itsingredients makes all this possible. This product’s name might be An Encyclopediaof Software Resources.
If we do research on the Internet, we canfind material that can sustain the idea of an Encyclopedia of SoftwareResources. In the following, I will mention only three of them, but I amabsolutely sure that one can find many other examples in libraries, databasesand on the Internet.
The first material is Linux SoftwareEncyclopedia by Steven K.Baum, Texas A&M University. It seems that it was last updated onMarch 8, 2001. Being very close to the idea of an Encyclopedia of SoftwareResources, some pages of this site contain:
- Programming Texts and Tutorials – a list of freely available documents (i.e. tutorials, books, guides, reference manuals, etc.) for learning how to program in various languages as well as about various Linux and UNIX related topics;
- Software Metasites (fig. 1) – a list with available software for specific application areas like Astrono-mical Software and Documentation, Biological Software and Databases, Chemical Informatics, CodEc for Economics and Econometrics, Interna-tional Cryptography, Fuzzy Logic and Neurofuzzy Software, Linear Algebra Software, Machine Learning Resources, Operating Systems Projects, Pattern Recognition and Image Processing, Seis-mological Software Library, Software Engineering Resources and many more.
Fig. 1. Software Metasites
A list with available software for specific applicationareas
The second material is the Computer UserHigh-Tech Dictionary (fig.2). Without going into detail, I will mention only that the dictionary islimited to explaining different specific IT&C terminology.
Fig. 2. The Computer User High-Tech Dictionary
The third material, which may be a futurecompetitor of an Encyclopedia of Software Resources, is Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia. Fig. 3 andfig. 4 present a general description of software and a comparison.
Fig. 3. Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia
A general description of software
The market offers a wide selection of moreand more integrated software packages. A possible classification of well known softwareresources, available around year 2000, with some of their correspondingproducts is as follows :
- Operating systems: DOS, Windows, Unix, Solaris, Linux;
Fig. 4. Wikipedia – The Free Encyclopedia
- Word processors: Word Star, WordPerfect, Word, QuarkXpress;
- Spreadsheets: Lotus 1,2,3, QuattroPro, Excel.
- Database Management Systems: dBASE, FoxPro, Access, Paradox, Oracle;
- Graphic and Presentation packages: Astound, Bravo, Asymedia, Charisma, Power Point, WordPerfect Presentations, Freelance Graphics, SmartDraw Pro, Corel Draw, Macromedia Action, Persuasion, Stanford Graphics, Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Freehand, ABC Graphics, GSP Design Works, Windows Draw;
- DeskTop Publishing software: Xpress, PageMaker, Ventura, Page Plus, Publisher, Frame Maker, Canvas, ipublish, PressWorks;
- Voice Recognition software: Voice Type Simply Speaking, Via Voice, Voice Command, Dragon Dictate, Naturaly Speaking, Voice Pad;
- Digital Video software: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe After Effects, Ulead Media Studio;
- Optical Character Recognition software: Inovatic Easy Reader, OmniPage, Recognita, TextBridge, Ocron Perceive Personal;
- Computer Aided Design software: AutoCAD, CorelCAD, Corel Visual CADD, Design CAD, Drafix CAD Pro, MicroGDS Pro;
- Browsers: Internet Explorer, Navigator, Opera, HotJava Browser;
- Remote connection software: LapLink, Carbon Copy, pcANYWHERE, CoSession Remote, ReachOut;
- Videoconference software: Captivator, Net Meeting, Intel Proshare Conferencing System, VideoLogic;
- Antivirus software: BitDefender, Dr. Solomon’s Home Guard, F-Secure Anti-Virus, IBM AntiVirus, McAfee VirusScan, Norton Antivirus, PC-cilin, VDS Pro, VET Antivirus, Sophos Antivirus;
- Visual Programming Languages: Visual J++, Java Workshop, Delphi, Optima, Power Objects, Power Builder, Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual FoxPro, Visual Café, JBuilder, Visual Age;
- Multimedia Authoring software: IconAuthor Net Edition, ToolBook II Instructor, MacroMedia Authorware, Macromedia Director, CBT Express, Click & Create, Illuminatus, Dazzler, MatchWare Media8or, Multimedia MM 200, Immedia.
I stress that the above list (completed with tablesthat contain comparative data) was “valid” for the year 2000. Since then, therehave been great advances in computer science, with Microsoft still remainingtop of the software market. Thus, Sun Microsystems has spent a lot of energyand millions of dollars on the development of Solaris operating system, Linuxand Linux-related magazines have become easily accessible, OpenOffice.org 2.0,Star Office 8.0 and many more complex software resources are available to theusers.
Starting from the possible classification of softwareresources presented in my web-based tutorial written in Romanian for Romanianstudents (published in my website), and taking into consideration the introductionand the related materials, we can conclude as shown in the ensuing section.
- refine the above classification;
- make an inventory of all the types of software existing on the market;
- elaborate a material dedicated entirely to software resources, such as Home Edition, Enterprise Edition, Professional Edition, etc.;
- organize the entire material into a classical and electronic dictionary with cross-references among keywords;
- give examples of screen captures, photos, graphics, sounds, and digital video for the software resources found and place them on one or more (HD)-DVDs, Blue Ray or holographic storage media;
- provide tutorials – comparative approach about basic functions explained in common, natural language;
- place the whole material and the examples in university intranets and libraries so that all members of the community can access them at any time; part of it may even become an open source;
- provide the electronic version with a complex local search engine;
- if developed for the intranet/Internet, introduce the following types of pages: Home page, Index pages, Content pages, Study pages, and Evaluation pages;
- provide ways to complete the material with new topics (a kind of Wikipedia);
- publish the book and the high-capacity storage media as The Encyclopedia of Software Resources.