It's Bill's way or the highway (MS Works 2000)
by Alan Zisman
(c) 2000. First
published in Toronto Computes,
Microsoft Works 2000
Available in three versions: standalone ($89)
Works Suite Basic (adding Money 2000 and Encarta
Works Suite 2000 (adding Word 2000, Home Publishing
It Express, and Expedia 2000 to the Basic package?$159).
For over a decade now, various versions of Microsoft
Works or ClarisWorks
(aka AppleWorks) have offered users a combination of word processor,
database, and more, without either the hardware demands or learning
of coping with all the features of the big-time office suites?features
that most of us don?t use anyway.
Such programs are widely used in schools, and are
often included with
new Mac and PC hardware?especially computers destined for home use. But
the so-called integrated programs have never gotten the respect they
from a public enamored of high-powered office suites.
I quite liked the last version from Microsoft?Works
4.5. The word processor
and spreadsheet were adequate for most users, and the database was
the high-test office suite databases, you didn?t need to be a
professional to use it. But it lacked the ability to read or save
97 or 2000 documents, and the word processor was missing the single
feature of virtually every word processor since 1995?real time spell
(Perhaps that?s why Microsoft also threw Word 97 into the widely
Home Essentials package).
So I was hopeful that the latest Microsoft Works 2000
would bring this
nice program into the modern era.
Microsoft has designed Works 2000 in sync with its
programs?Money, Home Publishing Studio, and so forth. It has concluded
that home users are task oriented?they don?t want do learn to use
but want to get jobs done.
Works 4.5 started up showing users a list of Wizards
but all it took was a click on the dialogue box tab to open a new or
file. The new version starts up with a full page Task Launcher, listing
the 250 pre-packaged tasks (up from 104 in the previous version). The
Launcher is built as a web page (and requires the Internet Explorer 5
work), with tasks as links. You can click on a link to open a blank
it?s slow and awkward. Luckily, icons to open a blank word processor
document are installed into the Start Menu.
But unlike the previous version, which was easily
customized to start
up with the New Document or Open Existing Document tab, you can?t
the default in the new version. You don?t like the default, tough!
In fact, my biggest complaint with this version is
that users simply
can?t customize it. Microsoft has simplified the toolbar and menus, in
keeping with their philosophy for home use?but at the same time, it?s
it impossible for users to shape the program to their own ends. (I
have suspected something was amiss when the Setup program lacked any
For instance, when I use Works 4.5 in schools, I like
to remove the
printer icon from the toolbar?students often get impatient waiting for
their files to print, and click the icon repeatedly. And I like to add
toolbar buttons for hard-to-find single and double-spacing. With the
version, I?m out of luck.
And that?s too bad. The Works 2000 word processor adds
spell checking I wanted, and throws in grammar checking as well, along
with better word-wrap, border, table, and column features. It opens and
saves Word and Excel documents. The database remains a joy to work
and a powerful tool for mail merges and label creation.
But with this version users have a choice of
Microsoft?s way or no way
at all. And that?s too bad. I?d rather stick with the previous
customizability, and forego features like realtime spell
since I can?t turn it off if I don?t want it.
Works 2000 remains a usable program, and the two Works
offer a lot of product for the money. But after a decade of working
Works, this is the first version that I really don?t care to use. Sorry