Microsoft Works Suite 2002
Got a gigabyte?
For a nice-and-easy office suite, Microsoft Works sure plays hard to get. The installation can take about an hour, involves five CDs, and consumes a full gigabyte--that's more than 1,000MB of hard drive space. Fortunately, you can choose exactly which components you want on your hard drive; you won't be stuck with a mapping app if you don't want it. Unfortunately, only Works 6.0 (purchased separately for $55) functions on Windows 95, and Mac users are equally out of luck.
That's a lotta software
Once you get over the endless installation, you'll find lots to love in Works Suite 2002. The Works 6.0 suite contains a spreadsheet, a simple database creator and manager, a calendar, and an address book, plus Outlook Express and IE 5.5, which are both free downloads otherwise. Add full versions of Microsoft Word 2002, Money 2002, Encarta 2002, Picture It Photo, and Streets & Trips 2002, and it packs a wallop that is hard to beat--especially for $109.
Although the core of the suite, Works 6.0, is actually two years old, it's still quite functional. For instance, you can easily share spreadsheets between Works' app and Excel 97/2000/2002. And the Works software includes some advanced features. There's an AutoFormat function, a chart builder, and a slew of ready-to-use templates for common at-home chores, such as calculating the cost of a car loan.
Works' database app, though simplistic compared to Microsoft Access, handles typical at-home and microbusiness chores, such as mail-merge lists, customer databases, and holiday card lists. And its calendar and address book functions, while no match for those of Office's Outlook or Lotus Organizer, track appointments and provide reminders. Too bad there's no wizard to simplify the process of importing existing address books into Works.
Word 2002 alone makes getting the whole Works suite worthwhile. On its own, Word 2002 costs upward of $250, and yet you can get it here, with several other apps, for less than half that. Oddly, even though Works 6.0 has its own word processor, you can't use it if you decline to install Word.
Several other tools set Works apart from its inexpensive compadres. The smart, Web-styled Task Manager in the Start menu lets you display 1 of more than 250 templates, for those who don't want to design a site from scratch. Meanwhile, the Portfolio helps organize various files and clipboard info, including images, text, and documents. It's useful for projects such as newsletters and school reports, and you won't find anything similar in Ability Office, GobeProductive, or 602Pro.
Works carries typical Microsoft tech support, meaning it's both in-depth and expensive, depending on how you use it. Online support consists of the searchable knowledge base and the well-stocked FAQs (organized and listed by Works 6.0 module). Also, you can e-mail support questions or, on a per-incident basis, pay $35 to talk to a tech rep on the phone. We're cheesed, though, about the pathetically puny documentation that comes with the suite; it barely scratches the surface of the Works spreadsheet, for instance, much less Word 2002.
Tough to beat
Let's be honest: it's hard for an alternative suite to compete with 602Pro's big-fat-zero price tag. But even at $109, Works' Microsoft Office compatibility makes it perfect for students and SOHO users who need to share files with Office-equipped coworkers. Larger businesses and those that rely on sophisticated presentations will want Office XP instead.