The shrink-wrap is off and the colorful, cartoon-decorated box is sitting next to the IIGS. After a brief but furious examination of the much-touted Apple Works GS, here are some quick first impressions.
It's not a total snail. One of the biggest complaints of IIGS-specific software is the creepy way it imitates the pace of a zombie. You'd think 16-bit software had died and voodoo-transformed into a shuffling, stumbling imitation of real computer applications. Though not a speed demon like its forebear, Apple Works Classic, Apple Works GS isn't as slow as many had feared. True, a professional typist can outrun the word processor's ability to display characters, but for most of us, the lag time is only barely bothersome.
There's sure a lot here. When you read about, or hear about, Apple Works GS's six modules-word processor, spreadsheet, database, graphics design, page layout, and telecommunicatioris-you can't tell how large and feature-filled the program is. Weighing in at a whopping 753K, it requires at least 1.25 megabytes of RAM. (That's what the box says; the manual says it needs only 1 megabyte, but what's 256K among friends?) Even for Apple Works veterans, there's a lot of new ground to cover. It helps that the programs use the Apple interface, with some shared pull-down menus.
Don't throw away those Apple Works disks! AppleWorks GS opens all AppleWorks word processing, spreadsheet, and database files directly. No Mickey Mouse importation process is required. This feature alone is going to make a lot of friends for Apple Works GS.
Cut and paste to make the Mac-heads envious. AppleWorks GS can have up to 14 windows open at the same time. In and of itself, that's no big deal. But one of AppleWorks GS's most impressive tricks is its ability to move data directly from one window to another. You can bypass the Clipboard by selecting data and dragging it with the mouse when you hold down the Control key. Even Macintosh software doesn't let you do that.
Nose-in-the-book time. The documentation runs almost 700 pages, and it's not enough. Apple documentation was never great, and although Claris has improved on that performance, AppleWorks GS's manuals are clearly not the last word on the program. Of the two manuals included in the package, Reference is best. But because it's organized by command, not by concept, finding things isn't always easy. Look for a rush to the bookstore when the first Apple Works GS books hit the racks.
There's more, a lot more, to Apple Works GS. We're scheduling a review of Apple Works GS for next month's COMPUTE!. Stay tuned until then.
Has Apple Lost?
Is Apple in danger of losing the all-important educationalsoftware market? Numbers, so they say, don't lie. And the numbers from the Software Publisher's Association (SPA) don't look good for the Apple II.
According to the SPA, an organization representing more than 400 software publishers, software sales figures from the first three quarters of 1988 showed the Apple II losing ground on all fronts. Compared to the same period of 1987, total sales of Apple II software were down nearly 6 percent.
One of the most telling indicators of the Apple II's future, however, is the losing battle being waged against MS-DOS in educational software. Apple II eductional software owned just 49.7 percent of the market over the first three quarters of 1988. During the same period in 1987, Apple II educational software accounted for 56.5 percent of total sales. Where did the lost sales go? MS-DOS.
The MS-DOS format accounted for 37.2 percent of educational-software sales in the first three quarters of 1988. That's up from the 30.8 percent that the format garnered in 1987. In other words, the numbers show that the fall of Apple sales corresponds with the rise of MS-DOS sales. It's nearly an even trade: Apple II sales are off 6.8 percent; MSDOS's are up 6.4 percent.
Even more worrisome are the sales figures for the third quarter of 1988. Apple and MS-DOS sales are almost neck and neck, their market shares separated by only 3.2 percent. In other words, things are getting worse.
What's so troublesome is that education is really the last bastion of Apple II strength. One of the best reasons for buying an Apple II for the home had been that the kids could use it there as well as at school. If the educational-software gold mine plays out, though, that reason will be gone.
Not all software publishers see the numbers as evil portents, though. Gary Carlston of Brøderbund Software says he can see the trend toward MS-DOS software as easily as anyone, but it doesn't mean his company is going to discard its Apple II line. "If the Apple II was going, we would be the last ones out the door. We make good money there [in the Apple II format]."
Carlston theorizes that as new software companies come into a market-the educational arena, for instance-they're less likely to develop for the top-ranked system simply because they don't want to compete with the established software publishers who have that format sewn up. And because the Apple II has long been the number 1 computer in schools, these new publishers are developing for other machines. More new non-Apple educational-software releases may then translate into more non-Apple educational-software sales.
Brøderbund's experience and outlook probably reflect much of the Apple II educational-software community: They'll stick it out with the Apple until the end (if there is one), even though they're making more money with MS-DOS. Says Carlston, "I don't know if we're looking at any rapid change, at least from our point of view, even though MS-DOS is our biggest format."
So does the Apple II line have a full future? It has to be a tossup if this downhill trend continues. What could Apple do to turn back the tide? Drop its computers' prices, especially the overpriced IIGS. When educators and parents are forced with the hard economic choice between one IIGS or two MS-DOS machines, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict the decision most people will make.
Raise your hand if you remember Breakout. OK, hands down. Boy, have you been using computers too long!
Back in the Pleistocene of personal computers, Breakout burned up more monitor phosphors than almost any other game. Simplicity itself, Breakout was a bouncing-ball-against-bricks contest of joystick dexterity and eye/ hand coordination.
Things that go around come around, and the Breakout idea has returned-sort of. Arkanoid, an Apple II and IIGS translation of a video arcade hit from the Japanese giant Taito, will peak high on the addictive-game-of-the-year chart. The game is like Breakout in that you use a moving paddle to bounce balls against bricks, but there the similarity ends. Arkanoid offers 33 different screens, each with a different configuration of bricks to erase. Some bricks vanish at a ball's first touch; others have to be hit repeatedly before they go away. And devilish gremlins float down to haunt your tactics-they always seem to be right in the way when you're trying to aim for that last brick.
Colorful capsules also drop down the screen. Catch one and you get special powers-your paddle expands, one ball multiplies into three, your paddle can suddenly fire lasers to destroy bricks long distance, and more.
The Apple II and IIGS versions are available separately: a 5¼-inch disk for the IIe/IIc and a 3½-inch disk for the IIGS (the 3½-inch disk will not work with the Apple IIc Plus). Naturally, the IIGS version wins the graphics and sound effects contest hands down. In both versions, though, the arcade action is fast and furious, something not easily found on any Apple II, making the game even more impressive. Mouse or joystick control is used to move the paddle; the mouse proves to be an excellent input device for the game.
There's no thought, no strategy needed to play Arkanoid-only fast eyes and even faster hands. Try it out if you have a spare week or two to kill.
Arkanoid is available for $29.95 from Taito, 267 West Esplanade, Suite 206, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V7M 1A5; (604) 984-3344.
One Million Sold
Claris shipped the 1 millionth copy of Apple Works during the last month of 1988, a company spokesman said.
Long sold by Apple, Apple Works was the sole Apple II program handed to Claris when the software spinoff was formed. Now, of course, Apple Works has been joined by AppleWorks GS and MultiScribe GS, products acquired in the Styleware purchase.
Only two other commercial software packages have made it past the 1 million mark: Lotus 1-2-3, the omnipresent spreadsheet for MS-DOS machines, and The Print Shop, the ever-popular printing program available for most personal computers.
Interestingly, the three 1 million sellers were introduced about the same time: 1-2-3 in 1983 and Print Shop and AppleWorks in 1984.
After nearly four years, COMPUTE!'s Apple Applications-an Apple II-specific magazine that specialized in publishing type-in programs-has published its last issue. The February 1989 issue was the magazine's 13th (for its first 2½ years, Apple Applications was published only twice a year) and included six type-in programs. Among them were two of the magazine's most powerful pieces of software-SpeedCalc, a full-featured spreadsheet, and "Powerball," a super-Breakout-style arcade game.
Back issues and backissue disks are still available direct from COMPUTE! Publications. Check the advertisement found in each issue of COMPUTE! for ordering details.
COMPUTE! magazine would like to welcome many of the readers of Apple Applications to these pages.
- Gregg Keizer