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Microsoft Works 8 review: Microsoft Works 8

Works' word processor mimics Word's appearance, though it lacks some popular business tools, such as Track Changes revision marks for collaborative editing. The new PowerPoint viewer is great for watching presentations downloaded from the Net. But don't buy Works for the PowerPoint viewer; Microsoft gives it away for free here. Works can't edit PowerPoint files, either, further limiting its usefulness for weekend workaholics hoping to tweak Monday's sales presentation.

Works opens and saves to most popular formats, including multiple versions of Word, WordPerfect, Excel, and Lotus 1-2-3. We experienced some conversion woes, however. Works' spreadsheet, for instance, didn't retain our macros, charts, images, or pictures when opening an Excel file, and the formatting of some Word documents changed slightly (losing paragraph breaks, for example) when opened with Works.

The database feature can open Works, dBase, and text files, and it comes with various templates for residential projects, such as creating home-inventory lists. It's fine for recipe books and other simple tasks.

Considering that it's a software vendor, Microsoft provides a very generous support plan for Works 8.0, including three years of free phone and e-mail help. By comparison, many vendors of consumer software provide just one year of free telephone support. Our e-mail and phone queries were answered promptly and politely. One gripe, however: Microsoft's tech support was unable to determine why Works stripped paragraph breaks from some Word documents and not others.

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The Works tutorial, accessible via the Task Launcher, provides a clear, concise overview of the program's interface.

Microsoft's support site is filled with Works-related information, albeit mostly on older versions of the program. At review time, Works 8.0 was newly released, so there wasn't much troubleshooting advice available online. The program itself includes a brief yet helpful tutorial that explains the key elements of the Works interface.

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