suites offer good value, but they may be more than you really need
by Alan Zisman (c) 1995 First published
in Business in
Vancouver , Issue #296 June 26, 1995 High Tech
proved to be the big sales success of the last year or two. Suites
bundle full versions of three or more programs, and are typically
sold for the price of one to two of the individual applications.
in the genre has been Microsoft Office; it bundles a word
(Word), a spreadsheet (Excel), and a presentation-graphics program
(PowerPoint), and is available in versions for Windows and the Mac.
A so-called professional version (for Windows only) adds Microsoft's
a competing product, SmartSuite, bundling the Lotus
1-2-3, Freelance, and the Approach database.
new version called Perfect Office, based on a collection of products
from Borland and WordPerfect, including WordPerfect,
Quattro Pro spreadsheet, WordPerfect Presentations, and the Paradox
database. The new version of the suite has received generally good
reviews, and has had solid sales lately.
As well as
applications, each suite includes at least a couple of smaller
personal-information managers, and more. Finally, each suite makes
an attempt to provide some integration between the applications, and
to make each seem more familiar to users through common menus,
and the like.
to make a lot of sense: companies get a bundle of software from a
single supplier, with a single interface, hopefully reducing training
time. And at a bargain price, too. As a result, suite sales have been
one of the brightest spots on the past year's software sales charts.
not be the
best strategy for every business or for every user, however. While
many businesses want to standardize the software used on company
forcing a range of software on users can cause as many problems as
it solves. Users who have learned skills with a particular piece of
software are justifiably resentful at having to relearn those skills
for another package because of a management decision to standardize.
Despite claims to the contrary, saved data from programs previously
used is not always imported with 100-per-cent accuracy. And different
programs in the same category are not totally equivalent: some jobs
may simply be more difficult to do with the spreadsheet included in the
suite than with the product formerly used. In these cases, it may make
more sense to use the "best of breed" in each category rather than
a suite from a single manufacturer.
since they've purchased a package with three, four or five programs,
they can install them on three, four or five computers--maybe put
the spreadsheet on one machine, the word processor on another, and
so forth. Uh uh--read the licence. You've purchased the right
to install all the applications on a single computer. If you
don't need all the programs on that machine, the others, legally, are
Forget about opening more than one application at a time and sharing
data between them. (In fact, this may be difficult on an eight-meg
machine.) And take a look at the hard-drive space required. Installing
all the programs in a suite can easily take 100 megs or more on your
drive. Notebook users, in particular, should think twice before
of these users,
it may be worthwhile to take a look at the new generation of integrated
software, products like Microsoft Works and Claris Works for
both Windows or Mac. For a long time, many users sneered at these
programs, regarding them as one step up from toys. And because earlier
versions often didn't allow users to import and export files in formats
usable by "real" business applications, they weren't a very viable
packages have grown up: they support a broader range of software
allowing users to work with files in Word or WordPerfect, Excel or
1-2-3 in the office, but to load them into a Works-genre program on
the road. And in a much less resource-hungry package, they provide
far more of the features users actually use most of the time.
a suite remains the best choice, but often enough that's not the case.
Take a hard look at your real requirements, and don't just buy a suite
because it looks like a lot of disks for the money.