Microsoft Works for Windows 3.0. (integrated software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Phillip Morgan
Integrated software packages--called works programs or entry-level suites in nineties parlance--have grown from bare-bones toolkits to all-in-one packages that are powerful enough to serve the bulk of your everyday needs. Microsoft Works for Windows 3.0 is a good example of such growth. It offers many of the best features of the latest word processors, spread-sheets, and databases, and it includes a communications application for easier and faster access to bulletin board services and other computers.
Greater integration was one of Microsoft's upgrade goals. Works' menus are consistent wherever possible, and configurable toolbars throughout let you easily arrange buttons. Features like Spell Check, Undo/Redo, and Zoom are available in the word processor, database, and spreadsheet. The database and word processor now both support Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) 2.0.
OLE allows you to access one application from within another and dynamically tie the object you create in the second application to the document in the first. These editable objects can be graphics, spreadsheets, database fields, sounds, or other types of data from OLE applications. Works now supports OLE 2.0 and two new OLE tools, WordArt and ClipArt Gallery. The program also uses OLE for drag-and-drop editing within and between documents.
Consumer research led Microsoft to add a great deal of online help to all of its products. Works 3.0 not only has more help information but also has more ways to access it. Cue Cards, for example, walk you through the many tools and templates, remaining on your screen and prompting you with step-by-step instructions while you perform a task.
An improved feature set in the word processor makes it easy to format bulleted lists, hanging indents, columns, text wraps, and mail-merge text. Graphic and object placement is easier and more accurate with the new Page Layout edit view and Zoom control. You can also place graphics or objects independently of text. However, Works' text-handling capability is still somewhat limited, and wrapping columned text around graphics can cause alignment problems.
New features give you increased control over the appearance of spreadsheets and database output. Both applications allow using multiple typefaces and sizes, fill patterns, borders, and colors. Alignment and automatic formatting features aid in positioning data and headings. The spreadsheet also includes a Paste function, for inserting one of the program's 76 function formulas, and new charting features such as 3-D rendering. An enganced Query option in the database enables you to create multiple queries, each based on up to three search criteria.
While Works is generally a good program, it has a few potential drawbacks. Expanded Help and Cue Cards, the communications module, new clip art, and enhanced OLE 2.0 support and tools have more than doubled Works' size to 14MB. Not only is the program large, but it also eats up a good deal of Windows' resources--nearly 25 percent with one small application file open. According to Microsoft, this is not out of line with other applications, but ClarisWorks--a strong competitor--seems to consume a significantly smaller percentage--around 10 percent. Its application package is similar, offering a graphics module instead of a communications module, yet it takes up less than 5MB. ClarisWorks doesn't support OLE, however, which accounts in part for its reduced demand on resources as well as its smaller size.
Works 3.0 looks and feels much like Microsoft's latest high-end programs, and it offers good file compatibility with major IBM and Macintosh applications. As an upgrade, Works gives you many of the features that might have tempted you to buy expensive stand-alone applications. Students, teachers, small-business people, and anyone else who doesn't need or want the array of options offered in fullblown applications will find Works' feature set more than adequate. The extensive help makes it a powerful program without a daunting learning curve; it's well suited to novice and casual computer users.