ClarisWorks for Windows. (integrated software) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Phillip Morgan
Although "works" packages are often referred to as integrated software, their combined applications usually operate independently of one another, offering data compatibility but little or no true integration of features. ClarisWorks for Windows, however, defies this integration misnomer.
You can, for example, draw a graphic in your database reports or create a spreadsheet in a word-processing document. You still create files specific to one of four application environments--word processor, database, spreadsheet, and desktop publishing--but ClarisWorks' integration allows you to easily create and edit graphic, text, or spreadsheet objects in any kind of document.
This is similar to the Object Linking and Embedding (OLE 1.0) capability of programs like Microsoft Works, but it's better because you can edit ClarisWorks objects in place. Editing with OLE 1.0 loads the object and its parent program in a separate window, forcing you to make changes outside your main document. With ClarisWorks, you make your changes without ever leaving your document window. If all this sounds rather technical and bothersome, then ClarisWorks is your program; it allows you to create and edit objects without even knowing what an object is.
With programs like Word and Lotus 1-2-3, it's not uncommon to discover new features after months or years of use. Such complexity can be intimidating if you don't need it. Two advantages of integrated packages are that you don't pay for frills and you don't have to work around them. ClarisWorks is a set of essential productivity tools capable of meeting most personal, academic, or small-business needs. Claris hasn't tried to reinvent the word processor, database, spreadsheet, or desktop publishing program, but it has put them together in a way that's more logical and effective than with similar packages. You get an appropriate set of features with a minimum of buttons, submenus, and dialog boxes. This streamlined packaging results from the omission of many redundancies that larger programs offer, such as having a toolbar button and a menu command that do the same thing.
ClarisWorks uses a true WYSIWYG edit screen, eliminating the need for a print-preview mode. You can zoom the view from 3 to 3200 percent, and you can edit your documents while displaying margins, headers, and footers. Other notable features include 100 functions to calculate or manipulate data in databases and spreadsheets; a spelling checker for all four environments that lets you easily create, import, and maintain custom dictionaries; and a bookmark for quickly leafing through records in your database.
Next to feature integration, ClarisWorks' graphics application is what really sets the package apart from other integrated programs. There are seven drawing tools, with line and fill palettes of 81 colors and 64 patterns. You can draw lines of any point size, with or without arrowheads, and menu options let you flip, rotate, group, ungroup, and align objects and text. These and other features add up to give you a basic but very capable structured drawing and desktop publishing program.
Unfortunately, there are some features missing that even a basic desktop publishing program shouldn't be without: text wrap, graphic cropping, and movable guides or rulers. With a little ingenuity, you can compensate for the lack of these features, but their absence can be frustrating, even if you do only occasional desktop publishing. There are a few other features missing from the package, such as word count, drag-and-drop text editing, and special character insertion. Claris says some of these features will be included in the next release.
Compatibility should never be a problem with ClarisWorks. It imports and exports most popular file formats, though its only exportable graphics formats are Windows Metafile and Macintosh PICT. You can share files transparently with the Macintosh version of ClarisWorks 1.0.
At less than 4MB for a full installation, ClarisWorks is a good choice for a notebook or laptop. It's an excellent program for anyone who needs basic word-processing, spreadsheet, database, and layout capabilities without the host of complex features that accompany expensive, specialized, full-blown applications.