GobeProductive--as in "go be productive"--won't give Bill Gates and the rest of the Redmond crew any sleepless nights. But this Windows translation of a BeOS program offers a slick alternative to humdrum, inexpensive office suites such as 602Pro and Ability Office. Like ClarisWorks (now AppleWorks), with a single click, GobeProductive lets you add images and objects to a document. This makes the program ideal for easy desktop-publishing projects. Also, since you can install it on multiple machines, it's a great option for families who have more than one PC. But for a more complete suite with flawless Office XP integration, go for Microsoft Works instead. GobeProductive--as in "go be productive"--won't give Bill Gates and the rest of the Redmond crew any sleepless nights. But this Windows translation of a BeOS program offers a slick alternative to humdrum, inexpensive office suites such as 602Pro and Ability Office. Like ClarisWorks (now AppleWorks), with a single click, GobeProductive lets you add images and objects to a document. This makes the program ideal for easy desktop-publishing projects. Also, since you can install it on multiple machines, it's a great option for families who have more than one PC. But for a more complete suite with flawless Office XP integration, go for Microsoft Works instead.
Before you commit yourself to GobeProductive, give it a test-drive. Simply download a 14-day trial copy, which is a 12MB installation file, and install it on your PC. If you decide to keep the program, you'll have to fork over $125, which is more than Microsoft Works, Ability Office, or the free 602Pro. Even worse, GobeProductive runs only on Windows or BeOS--not on Mac or Linux. As for installation, GobeProductive installs every component on your drive (unlike Works' five-CD, pick-and-choose fest), but it takes up a paltry 20MB of drive space.
Son of ClarisWorks
If you've spent time using AppleWorks, GobeProductive may seem strangely familiar. No wonder: the team that built ClarisWorks, the precursor to AppleWorks, also created GobeProductive. Like AppleWorks--and unlike other suites--GobeProductive really is integrated. In in fact, it's one big program, rather than a bunch of apps tossed together. As a result, you can create an object--a spreadsheet, an image, or a piece of art--in one program, then transfer it into another with a click or two. Even the mighty Microsoft Office doesn't go this far. That simple approach makes GobeProductive perfect for publishing tasks: it's a breeze to create newsletters, school lab reports, small catalogs, direct mail pieces, and the like.
Share and share again
Gobe Software trumps the competition with its Family licensing agreement, which lets you install one paid copy of GobeProductive 3.0 on an unlimited number of home PCs and one at work. As a result, GobeProductive may actually cost less than Ability Suite or Works.
GobeProductive's integrated modules won't make Microsoft shake in its boots, but you'll find all the office-suite basics. The word processor offers typical text tools, applying formatting and adding footers and headers, but none of the extras that Word users might expect, such as AutoCorrect. Still, Gobe has some neat tricks, including synonyms that pop up when you right-click any word. Best of all, it's fast. In our scrolling test, GobeProductive got to the bottom of our huge Word document in 5 percent less time than Word itself (Microsoft's product took 1 minute, 26 seconds while Gobe's took 1 minute, 10 seconds).
This app's easy-to-use spreadsheet offers just 19 different chart styles, but it crunches numbers adequately as long as you don't get too fancy. You won't find any pivot tables (interactive, analytical tables), and you can't grab a table from a Web page, drop it into a cell, and have it periodically update itself, as you can with Excel. However, GobeProductive bundles an excellent vector draw program and a presentation maker--something Works, Ability Office, and 602Pro lack. Unfortunately, the slide-show maker can't open PowerPoint files, which is a major setback.
GobeProductive suffers from weak compatibility with Microsoft Office file formats. You can open and save Word and Excel files, but you'll lose formatting. Our three-page test Word document, for instance, ended up as seven pages, and its margins were completely wrong.
Webwise, this integrated app can shuffle files straight to your Web server (File > Save To Web), but the HTML conversion is substandard. When we turned a spreadsheet into a Web file, we lost formatting extras, such as bullets and other special characters.
Although this integrated program tells you to go be productive, it doesn't do enough to help you out. Gobe offers just e-mail support, and its only online help is the user manual. We waited at least two days for support responses.
We want more
We love GobeProductive's integrated approach, and we really like the Family license deal (take that, Microsoft!). But for $124.95 (as of this writing, you can get an intro price of $74.95 for an undetermined, limited time), we expect better support than this tiny company can provide. And we need better compatibility with Office files. If you spend most of your time on desktop-publishing-style projects or have a bunch of PCs you need to stock with a suite, choose GobeProductive. Otherwise, Microsoft Works and StarOffice do it better.