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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Textbook of Dermatology on CD-ROM. by Thomas B. Habif, MD

  • Author(s): Haycox, Claire L., MD PhD
  • et al.
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Clinical Dermatology
Thomas B. Habif, M.D.
Mosby-Year Book, Inc., St. Louis, 1996
Cost: $179 personal; $ 699 institutional


The first two editions of Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy established this text as a leading practical reference for the diagnosis and therapy of skin disease for use by medical students, residents and practicing physicians. Its clear language, superb clinical illustrations, helpful tables and schematics, and extensive references all make it a clear choice as the recommended text for medical students rotating onto dermatology at our medical school The release of the third edition last year, solidified this excellent reputation and received favorable reviews [1]. When this latest edition was released a CD-ROM version also became available.
The CD-ROM contains the unabridged text of the print version and has almost 3000 images, or triple the number of photographs contained in the book. This review will concentrate on the additional features of the CD-ROM as compared to the print version, since I assume most readers will be familiar with the overall content.

The single compact disc runs on both Macintosh (System 7.0 or later) or Windows( (3.1 or later). Installation and start-up are straightforward. Generally the navigation is simple and intuitive: I felt confident and at ease with all features of the program after using it for about 30 minutes. For some of the more unusual features, that I will discuss below, I had to refer to the CD-ROM jewel case insert a couple of times, and there is also a detailed on-line "Help" button feature.

There are several ways of accessing the information you want: The first is a stacked Table of Contents, which follows the same chapter organization as the print version. Alternatively there is an alphabetical subject index. Finally there is a "Search" function. Using standard And/Or/Not search parameters you can search the text or formulary for your topic of interest. The search function also has a wildcard (*) feature. I think this might be particularly helpful for students when they want to read up on something, but cannot recall the exact name of the entity - we have all been there!

When you arrive at a section of text that is of interest to you, you can view the corresponding images by clicking the "Images" button. Alternatively you can click on hyperlinked text entries to open related images, tables or schematics. You can zoom in on any 'thumbnail' sized image by double-clicking on it. The additional clinical images contained on the CD-ROM have the same high quality contained in the print version and generally displayed well on my 486/66 (with an overdrive chip) with 2MB of video RAM and running Windows 95(. A "Bookmark" and a text "Highlight" feature will also be useful for students. Two features which allow one to customize the text add considerably to the value of this program for seasoned dermatologists: By attaching "Sticky" notes to the text, or making entries in the "Notebook" one can add personal pearls of wisdom or annotate with current information from the literature. Eventually one could intercalate many pieces of additional information which would customize and augment the information for ones personal needs. It is also nice that any of your own notes, or those cut and pasted from the text into the "Notebook" program can then be imported into your own word processor. An up-to-date formulary is another feature that could earn this program a permanent place on the practising dermatologists computer.

There are two other features that are aimed primarily at the student of dermatology. The first of these is called the "Lightbox". Up to ten images from anywhere in the program can be placed together in the "Lightbox" allowing a side-by-side comparison of the clinical features of different diseases. I think this will be a useful tool for students just starting to distinguish the salient features of psoriasis compared to eczema, for example. I am not so enamored with the "Diagnosis" feature. This displays a schematic of the body and a list of skin lesions. By clicking on the body region labels corresponding to where the lesions are located on the patient, and selecting the type of lesions observed, a list of possible diagnoses is generated. Double-clicking on one of the list entries then enters the text for further information on that disease. I do not think this indexed, over-simplified, approach to dermatologic diagnosis is particularly helpful. We all know that the art of dermatology is more subtle than that, and I feel that it sends the wrong message to students: If it were that easy to make a diagnosis, there would be no need for dermatologists!

In summary though, I feel this CD-ROM is excellent and represents good value. It has maintained, and with one notable exception, its additional features have expanded on the standard of excellence set by the print version. It has broad utility: It can be used by students, residents and general practitioners. Additionally, the customization features, various tables and the formulary earn it a place in the dermatologists' office.


1. Bigby M. Book Reviews, Arch Dermatol, 1996;132:1136.

by Claire L. Haycox, M.D., Ph.D.
Department of Medicine (Dermatology)
University of Washington
images © 1996 Mosby - Year Book, Inc.
text © 1997 Dermatology Online Journal