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ISSUE 551: The high tech office- May 16 2000

ALAN ZISMAN

AppleWorks office suite does almost all things well

A few weeks ago, we took a look at Microsoft's Works 2000, the latest incarnation of the scaled-down Office-type suite that is traditionally aimed at homes, schools, small businesses and notebook users. Such people perhaps do not need all the bells and whistles of the full-blown suites and may lack the hardware resources (or cash) to run one of the big suites.

Apple has been in the Works business even longer than Microsoft. The AppleWorks name first appeared on a popular product for the old Apple II. Since then, it's been flipped back and forth between Apple itself and Claris, a software-subsidiary. As either AppleWorks or ClarisWorks, it is found on millions of Macintosh desktops.

Like Microsoft, Apple has a brand-new version, once again under the Apple name. AppleWorks 6.0 sells for $129. Unfortunately, the lack of upgrade pricing may discourage the large number of users who got the last version bundled with their popular iMac and iBook models. The new AppleWorks sports an attractive new appearance and, more im-
portantly, adds some powerful new features that could make it a real winner.

First the eye-candy. Style seems to be all-important to the revitalized Ap-
ple, and AppleWorks is no exception. Like the company's up-
coming OSX operating system up-
grade, it offers big, colourful 3-D icons throughout. Microsoft starts its Works users off with a text-heavy listing of every possible template. But AppleWorks begins with a tidy Starting Points frame, offering the choice of various types of new document along with tabs to move to different frames.

Unlike Microsoft, which limits user-customization in its Works product, Apple allows users to customize Starting Points, adding their own pages to easily access commonly used documents. Apple also lets users
customize the tool bar, a feature Microsoft removed from its latest Works version.

All along, a big strength in AppleWorks has been how easy it is to mix and match document types. In traditional Office-type suites, or in Microsoft Works, you might need to create separate word processing, spreadsheet and database documents, then copy and paste to move data from one to the other. With AppleWorks you simply open a spreadsheet or database frame within a word processing document and work with that tool as long as you need it. As well, it includes reasonably powerful paint and drawing illustration tools. They are not on the scale of Adobe PhotoShop, but have more than enough power for the graphics needs of most casual business users.

Because you can create word-processing and paint frames within a drawing document, you end up with much of the power (and more flexibility) of a dedicated desktop publishing program. Again, it's not Quark XPress, but it's more than enough to lay out a quick brochure or poster.

AppleWorks includes a couple of new features, such as tables in word processor documents. Most word processors have had tables for years, but AppleWorks tables are easy to set up and can contain all sorts of data, including text, graphics and even QuickTime video. It's difficult to imagine a time I'll want to place a video clip in a table cell, but it's nice to know I can if the need arises.

A bigger addition is the brand new Presentation module. Once again, in keeping with the philosophy of this sort of program, it's less powerful than, say, Microsoft Office's PowerPoint. But it's quick and easy to use, and has access to all the program's graphics and charting features. And yes, you can insert video clips in your presentations, where they're more likely to be useful.

There are, however, some things missing. There's still no real-time spell-checking, something that's been common in other products for years and finally arrived in Microsoft's Works 2000. And in the real world, users exchange files. While AppleWorks 6 can read files created in older versions of that program, it's unable to read or write in Microsoft Word or other widely used file formats. The popular MacLink Plus (www.dataviz.com) gives AppleWorks the ability to open and save files in a wide range of formats and is a must-have for any AppleWorks user who doesn't live on a desert island.

Just be sure to install it after in-
stalling AppleWorks so it can hook itself into the AppleWorks menus.
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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan