For most Mac users, the $79 AppleWorks probably didn’t cost anything. AppleWorks comes free with each new eMac, iMac, and iBook. At version 6.2.9 (for Mac OS X) the multi-function application hasn’t seen a major upgrade since version 6.0 in 2000. The upgrade to a carbon version for Mac OS X was the last substantial version change.
So, AppleWorks is old, in need of an overhaul, ancient by today’s standards, and needs to be replaced by an Apple version of Microsoft’s Office. Stat! Why is this thing still around?
It works. In true Mac-like functionality, AppleWorks gets the job done for many Mac users throughout the world. While AppleWorks isn’t Office and doesn’t pretend to be, it provides competitive functionality in an elegant, inexpensive package that’s both easy to use, has a gentle learning curve to more complex features, and runs on both Mac and Windows.
First, let’s take a look at what AppleWorks does, does well, why it’s such a value, and why many Mac users hate it and pine away for AppleOffice X, or something similar (many Mac users just want something better than Office at the same price as AppleWorks; near free).
AppleWorks combines six core desktop capabilities into one application; with a near seamless mixing of word processing, page layout, painting, presentations, vector graphics, spreadsheet, database. All the pieces work together on screen so a document page can have text, spreadsheet information, database information, digital photos, images, sound, movies, graphics, charts, tables.
Amazingly, all those pieces come together and work well without having to purchase or learn many different applications. The presentation component isn’t Keynote and it’s not Microsoft PowerPoint. However, it works quite well and incorporates Apple’s typical blitz of graphics, movies, animation, text, and transitions.
Of course, compatibility with Microsoft Office in the business world is table stakes for any kind of productivity package, and it’s here where AppleWorks begins to show its age.
You can share Word and Excel documents with a converter that reads and writes both formats. However, Word is so complex these days that maintaining full document compatibility in AppleWorks is a near impossibility.
I’m convinced Microsoft throws twenty-eleven features into the machine just to keep others from creating any kind of competing utility. So, Excel documents don’t always translate into AppleWorks. Word documents cannot always be read by AppleWorks.
Compatibility with the rest of the world has a price (Microsoft requests that you pay more money and buy Office).
Schools love AppleWorks. In one very elegantly done application, educators can teach (and use themselves) the basics of desktop computing; word processing, spreadsheet, graphics, presentation, database, and incorporate all the photos, music, and video generated by Apple’s iLife apps.
The corporate world generally has no need for AppleWorks as it’s not sufficiently compatible with office.
SoHo is a different story. After all, for the small business operator, functionality, cost, capability, and ease-of-use often come ahead of “compatibility” with Microsoft Office.
AppleWorks shines for the Small Office, Home Office that needs to get things done and isn’t worried about sharing documents with the rest of the world (except paper). For SoHo, AppleWorks is a godsend.
So why do so many Mac publications look forward to an AppleWorks replacement? What’s Apple doing by not doing anything new with AppleWorks for years? Is Apple preparing a Cupertino version of Microsoft Office; the “Word and Excel” killer?
Regardless the speculation that publications thrive on, AppleWorks is here now. It’s fast and works well on all Macs (OS 9, OS X, G3, G4, G5). It runs on Windows, too, and files between Mac and PCs are fully compatible (mostly).
If cost is an object, AppleWorks may be the sleeper bargain of the 21st century (well, not really; but that phrase just had a nice ring to it). If you’re paranoid and sure that you’ve got to have full Microsoft Office compatibility, AppleWorks isn’t your answer, but you’ll pay through the nose (or by the seat) year after year.
Is there a valid reason why many Mac users “hate” AppleWorks. Based on conversations with my publishing Mac buddies, a number of reasons surface.
1 – no full Microsoft Office compatibility
2 – limited feature set (although full integration is better than Office)
3 – it hasn’t been freakin’ updated in years
That must mean Apple is working on their own version of an “Office” suite, right? Probably. For now, Apple needs Microsoft Office. A true-blue, red-blooded, dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft bashers need something to rag on, and something hope for.
Office satisfies the former and a replacement for AppleWorks satisfies the latter.
What’s your AppleWorks story? Do you use it? Which component is the best (word processing, page layout, spreadsheet, etc.)? Which is the worst? Do you want Apple to create a version of Office for the Mac?
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