ClarisWorks provides plenty of choices

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 1995, 12:00am

CLARISWORKS seems to do nothing but get better all the time. It is now available on both the Windows and the Macintosh platform. The two programs are not alike because there are things that can be done on the Macintosh that simply cannot be done in Windows. For some people, ClarisWorks may well be all they need. It contains a word processor, drawing program, painting program, spreadsheet, database and communications program.

All of these are more than just basic applications, they are all almost capable of standing alone.

This does not mean that the word processor in ClarisWorks will have everything that Microsoft Word or WordPerfect has, but not many people really need everything that these heavyweight applications now provide.

Some people are bothered by the fact that every new release of Word from Microsoft gets bigger and bigger. It certainly must be asked if for everyday use one needs a word processor that nearly rivals the professional layout programs. The word processor has all the functions most people are looking for, including footnotes, headers, footers, and columns. It supports multiple fonts, of course, as well as various styles of character such as bold, italic, condensed and outline. It even has outline facilities. One of the great abilities the ClarisWorks word processor has is the ability to mix graphics and text.

If you click on the View menu and choose Show Tools, you will see a typical set of drawing tools on the left of the screen. At any time while you are entering text you may click on one of the tools - the oval, for example - and draw anywhere on the page.

You may draw below where you are typing or may even draw directly on top of what you have just entered. What Claris is doing is treating the entire page as a sheet for you to work on.

Most of the high-end word processors do not allow this.

The image will, by default, cover whatever may be underneath it. If this is not what you want, you can go to the Options menu and choose, for example, Text Wrap. This will give you several options including wrapping the text round an object of uniform shape, such as a square or rectangle, or wrapping round an object that is not regular, such as a drawing of an animal.

The ease with which this has been accomplished really makes one wonder why the big guns in the word processing business have been unable to do it as well. A click on one of the tools and the menu at the top of the screen changes to support graphics. Click on the text and the menu changes back to being a word processor. It is the epitome of elegant and useful design. The drawing and painting programs of ClarisWorks are simple but powerful. Neither of these programs will rival Adobe's Illustrator or Photoshop or Macromedia's FreeHand but will give you a great deal of freedom to create visual objects simply and quickly.

Again, the same thing can be said about the spreadsheet application.

Excel is no doubt capable of doing many more complex and sophisticated things. But if all you want to do is keep tabs on a few columns of numbers and write standard calculations, then it will do the job with ease. The communications program is also from the barebones school of design and it, too, does the job. I do have one complaint about this and that is that there is no Zmodem tool bundled with the package. The advantages of zmodem over Xmodem are so clear that I think everyone should have it.

Xmodem will allow you to send and receive binary files easily enough, but Zmodem will do the same thing without the user having to type in file names or set the process going; it is all done automatically and transparently. This would very much be in keeping with the spirit of ClarisWorks.

It is possible to go out and find a Zmodem tool for your Macintosh but it is a bit of a pain and this application is supposed to eliminate that kind of need. The database of ClarisWorks is based on the popular FileMaker Pro that Claris sells separately. If you have a need to create your own database, are not a programmer, but know what you would like, then this is the program for you.

All of the features that are to be found on the Macintosh version of ClarisWorks are, I am told, available in the Windows version. All, that is, but one.

For several years, Apple has been touting its WorldScript system that enables the Mac OS to be based in English but to support the complex writing systems of China, Japan, Korea and other countries that do not use the Roman alphabet.

I put together a little database of names using Japanese, traditional Chinese characters and simplified Chinese characters. It only took a couple of minutes to put together. Claris has supported WorldScript right from its beginnings and it has certainly paid off.

The entire product is almost perfect for those who want the ability of mixing languages. I do have one criticism. If a given field in the database is set to a Japanese or Chinese font, it seems to me the program ought to be able to switch to that input mode when the cursor is in that field. Apart from that, it is a superb product, and I look forward to an update on FileMaker Pro.