Microsoft Works Suite 2004 review: Microsoft Works Suite 2004

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.3
  • Installation and interface: 8.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Service and support: 9.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good New 2004 versions of Encarta, Money, and Streets & Trips; improved photo editor.

The Bad Standard editions of Money and Encarta not robust enough for some users; no upgrade of Word or Works from Suite 2003 edition.

The Bottom Line Microsoft Works Suite 2004 delivers quality productivity apps for families, but there's not enough new this year to make Suite 2003 users switch.

CNET Editors' Choice Feb '04

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Review summary

Bargain hunters and anyone wanting productivity apps at home will love Microsoft Works Suite 2004. It delivers two highly regarded home productivity apps--Word 2002 and Works 7.0, a personal manager complete with spreadsheets and calendars--for less than a C-note. Microsoft sweetens the deal by tossing in its newest versions of Encarta (an encyclopedia), Money (a personal finance package), Streets & Trips (mapping software), and Picture It Photo Premium (a photo editor)--all for just $84, after the $15 mail-in rebate. Unfortunately, with no upgrade of Works 7.0 or Word 2002, Works Suite 2004 isn't such a hot deal for those who already own the 2003 version.

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Works Suite 2004 features personal productivity software Works 7.0, with a handy Task Launcher that accesses Web content and other programs and templates within Works Suite.
To install Microsoft Works Suite 2004, set aside plenty of time and disk space. A full install of Works Suite 2004 requires a whopping 1.4GB of disk space, but thankfully, you can install individual components--say, Streets & Trips but not Encarta. Be prepared to swap plenty of CDs--five, to be exact--during the lengthy 30-minute setup. If you have a cavernous hard disk with plenty of free space, you can load the entire contents of Encarta and Streets & Trips on the drive, thereby avoiding the disk swapping that these applications require to access certain information.

Like Microsoft Works Suite 2003 , version 2004's centerpiece is Works 7.0, a slick, home-oriented productivity program with integrated modules for spreadsheets, calendars, and more. (Word 2002 handles word-processing chores.) Works' strength is its graphical interface. The Task Launcher makes it easy to launch one of six Works programs by selecting it from a right-hand column. The My Projects screen features dozens of templates for vacation planning, party preparation, and other home-oriented endeavors. If you select Plan A Vacation, for instance, Works loads the spreadsheet module with a ready-made travel budget template.

We'd like to see better integration among Works Suite 2004 programs, however. For instance, when you click the Address Finder tool in Task Launcher, Works launches the Web browser and goes to the MSN Maps Web site--even though you have a copy of Streets & Trips right there on your hard drive. Despite this quibble, however, Works' interface is a winner.
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Works Suite 2004 includes the Encarta Standard encyclopedia, a useful research tool for younger students.
It's easy to view Microsoft Works Suite 2004 as nothing more than yesterday's code with a fresh coat of paint. After all, its cornerstone applications, Works 7.0 and Word 2002, are carryovers from Suite 2003. But this year's model does have four new programs: Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2004, Streets & Trips 2004, Money Standard 2004, and Picture It Photo Premium 9.0. Purchased separately, these programs would total well over $100, and that's before you add in Works and Word. For home users, the bang is in the bundle.

Encarta Standard is an excellent homework tool for younger students. Version 2004 includes thousands of updated articles, more than 19,000 photos and illustrations, and links to about 29,000 Web sites hand-selected by Encarta's editorial staff. However, the Standard edition lacks advanced features that high-school and college scholars may need, such as a dictionary, a thesaurus, and additional articles and images. For those tools, you must purchase the Encarta Reference Library, which costs about $70 (before the $20 mail-in rebate).

Money Standard is a well-designed personal finance package that's handy for home-oriented tasks, including balancing your checkbook, paying bills online, and downloading financial statements. It lacks the sophisticated financial and tax-planning tools of Microsoft Money Deluxe and Premium , however, such as the ability to track investments and automatically calculate capital gains and losses.

Streets & Trips 2004 provides door-to-door driving directions and maps for 6.7 million miles of U.S. and Canadian roads. Big deal, you say? Web sites such as Yahoo and MSN Maps do the same thing--free. However, what sets Streets & Trips apart is its Global Positioning System (GPS) support (new to version 2004), which allows you to find your exact location while traveling with your GPS device. And you can download maps from Streets & Trips to Microsoft Pocket Streets, which runs on a Pocket PC.

Perhaps the biggest upgrade in Works Suite 2004 is its photo editor. Picture It Photo Premium 9.0 replaces the bare-bones Picture It Photo 7.0, which does the basics: it removes red-eye, rotates and crops images, and so on. Premium 9.0, however, does a lot more. Its new image acquisition wizard, for instance, lets you easily transfer photos from a digital camera, a scanner, a hard drive, or other sources. The program also comes with 1,500 templates for photo cards, frames, calendars, and other image-oriented home projects.
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Works Suite 2004 includes a series of step-by-step guides called Quick Tours that introduce you to each module's salient features.
We give high marks for technical support to Microsoft Works Suite 2004. When we didn't have time to complete a tech-support call, a Microsoft support person called us the next day at the number we provided during product registration--unsolicited--and asked if he could help resolve our installation issue. He answered our questions accurately and politely. Needless to say, most software vendors don't provide this level of service.

Another plus is that Works Suite 2004 comes with one year of free phone support. (The number isn't toll-free, however.) Hours are Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. PT. In addition, online support is available during the first year at no charge. Works Suite provides an overall tour, which walks you through the basic features, including the Task Launcher and My Projects interfaces, as well as one for each of the six major programs. Frankly, Works Suite is so easy to use that much of the hand-holding is unnecessary.

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Where to Buy

Microsoft Works Suite 2004

Part Number: B11-00858 Released: Sep. 9, 2003

MSRP: $99.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep. 9, 2003
  • Category office applications
  • Compatibility PC
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