ISSUE 593: Zisman- March 6 2001
The high-tech office
Microsoft Works 2001
offers all the power most of us need
It seems like the whole world uses one version
or another of Microsoft Office for word processing,
spreadsheets and more. In fact, sometimes it seems that the biggest
competitors to MS Office 2000 are older versions of Office and pirated
copies of Office.
Nevertheless, I find myself continually checking out
alternatives. For instance, there's Corel Word Perfect. And IBM/Lotus's
Smartsuite. Or free downloads, such as Sun Staroffice or the
new 602Pro PC Suite (www.software602.com).
An often-overlooked alternative to the big Office
suites, surprisingly, comes from Microsoft. And Microsoft Works now has
a new version, Works 2001, aka Works 6.0.
Like the previous version, there are two packages, the
basic MS Works (about $60) and a Works Suite (about $150). Like
Appleworks, which ships with new iMacs, you'll most often find one or
the other bundled with new PCs aimed at home users.
There's a lot to like. Most of us use just a small
fraction of the capabilities of a full-blown Office suite; the Works
word processor and spreadsheet may prove to be a better fit. And these
new versions can read and save in standard Office formats. I've always
been partial to the Works database. Most of us never use databases
because products such as Office's Access, while powerful, are daunting
for mere mortals. The Works 2001 database remains an easy way to
organize information and makes it easy to use in reports, labels and
mail merges ("You, Alan Zisman, could be the next big
winner..."). There's no scaled-down version of Powerpoint, however. If
you do presentations, this isn't for you.
Like the previous version, Works uses an HTML page to
create new documents and to link to a range of premade templates.
Unlike that version, the new edition of this feature runs at a
As with the previous version, though, there are some
things I dislike. Even the basic version is pretty hefty, requiring
120-140 MB of drive space, about as much as the full-blown Office
package. And like the previous version, there's not much you can do to
customize the programs. While earlier versions of Works let me
rearrange the toolbar icons and set the program to work the way I
wanted, this version ties my hands; it's Microsoft's way or nothing.
For instance, new to Works 2001 is a Portfolio
feature, a potentially handy way to collect and organize photos and
information from Web sites and other sources for use in your documents.
But it loads itself on startup, staying onscreen at all times with no
obvious way to turn it off. While I might sometimes want to use it, I'd
like to be able to decide when, thank you! Similarly, installation
offers few choices and upgrades your browser to Internet Explorer 5.5,
want it or not.
Microsoft seems to assume that users don't want to be
overwhelmed by too many choices; I would prefer something like an
"advanced" button, allowing me to be the one to decide.
The full-blown Works Suite ships on six CDs or a DVD
disk and includes versions of virtually all of Microsoft's home
applications, requiring as much as 850 MB of drive space. In addition
to the core Works package, it includes Word 2000, which replaces Works'
own word processor. Money 2001 provides personal financial management
tools. Picture It Publishing includes basic photo-editing and
publishing capabilities, along with thousands of templates and images.
Streets and Trips includes street maps, trip planning and lists of
hotels, restaurants, campgrounds and more. The new edition adds Canada
to the territory covered and syncs with handheld Pocket Windows
devices. Encarta 2001 is the newest edition of perhaps the most widely
used CD-ROM encyclopedia. And it's all for about the same cost as
simply buying a copy of Microsoft Word.
An affordable alternative to Microsoft Office, I just
wish it wasn't so single-minded about forcing me to work its way.