Responding to increased online competition, Microsoft is to post a free version of its Encarta World English dictionary online.
The dictionary, which is identical to the CD-ROM and includes definitions, audio pronunciations of words, word origins and essays on usage, will be available from 17 April.
In addition to the dictionary, Encarta will provide integrated access to the Original Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, the Encarta Book of Quotations, the Encarta Manual of Style and Usage, the Encarta 2000 Almanac and the Microsoft Press Computer and Internet Dictionary.
Earlier this month, the venerable Oxford English Dictionary ceased publishing in a paper format and went online. However, it charges for access and is aimed less at personal users than at institutions such as universities and libraries.
Microsoft will continue to sell the CD-ROM version of its Encarta dictionary for $39.95 (about £25).