Microsoft Works Suite 2006
If you like Microsoft software and have light home-computing needs, you should enjoy Microsoft's Works Suite 2006. Its six bundled programs can help you organize photos, plan trips, inventory household items, and manage your finances, among other things. It's easy to zip between these tasks, though the initial layout of the suite is neither inviting nor intuitive, and you'll need to sacrifice vast chunks of PC memory at installation time. For more advanced tasks, you'll need to upgrade to theThe family-oriented Microsoft Works Suite 2006 is six programs in one: Digital Image Suite Standard 2006, or to more recent versions of each app in the suite. Works Suite will fill the bill, though, for many household users who have basic computing needs and want to buy a bunch of tools at once. , Streets and Trips Essentials 2006, Money Standard 2006, , and Encarta 2006 Standard. The recommended Express Full installation took about an hour on our Windows XP test machine; you can also install the program on Windows 98 (Second Edition), Me, 2000 (SP4), or XP (Home or Professional). A typical installation consumes 1,520MB, but the complete installation requires a whopping 3.1GB minimum of disk space.
Once you open Works 2006, the Calendar tab dominates the screen with white space; we'd appreciate if you could import a picture of your own here. Five big buttons (Home, Templates, Programs, Projects, and History) line the top of the page, but these definitions can be fuzzy. For example, why do Birthday Card templates appear under the Programs button in the Word section and under the Templates button in the Card and Crafts section? A handy Quick Launch sidebar displays icons for five of the bundled programs and two Works 8 features: the faux-Excel spreadsheet and the database. To access the suite on the go, you can synchronize Works Suite with your Palm or Windows CE device.
Since Microsoft doesn't offer an upgrade discount, users of Works 2005 will probably want to pass on an upgrade--especially since the versions of Microsoft Works and Word remain the same. Still, the $99.95 Works 2006 is a bargain if you don't already have its programs, and a $20 mail-in rebate sweetens the price. Works Suite users can also receive a discounted upgrade to various flavors of Office--$239, for example, to upgrade to.