ClarisWorks 5 the 'workhorse' of choice
Claris Works always has been my preferred 'workhorse' of choice for many reasons and the latest version - ClarisWorks 5, or ClarisWorks Office - simply confirms and enhances my faith.
Nearly anyone who works with a computer processes words, many access a database, quite a few need spreadsheet capabilities, and a handful would like to produce a few simple graphics.
All of this is possible with Claris Works and it can be done on both the Macintosh and the Windows platforms.
The latest version of Claris Works is Internet and Web-optimised for powerful integration into the networking environment.
Another little addition is the speed increase.
I always liked Claris Works but in the older versions getting a word count on a small document took a long time. Now it is almost instantaneous.
Claris has brought out Works for both the Mac and Windows 95 platforms, but the versions are not identical.
This is because the Mac version supports Apple's WorldScript II, a system-level set of tools that makes it possible to mix languages in a single document.
Microsoft and Sun Microsystems have boasted Unicode compliance with many of their products, but Unicode is still not enough to satisfy the needs of those who want multilingual support.
After many years of working hard to get it right, Apple is almost there.
The difficulties are enormous and not easy for only one firm to do. Claris, by supporting WorldScript II, has made it easier to mix languages in a computer.
In all other respects, the Windows version and the Mac version seem to perform in an identical manner.
The Windows version was able to open a Microsoft Office 97 Word document the Mac version could not.
This, presumably, is a matter of updating the translation files on the Mac when they are made available.
The spreadsheet and database functions always have been strong in Claris without being overwhelming.
The full set of applications takes up 40 megabytes of hard disk space, so it is not an enormous application suite.
If there is a fault in Claris Works it would be the communications tool. A few years ago, many people needed a simple tool that could help them log on to a text-based e-mail system. Today, that is becoming less important.
With software such as Eudora, Netscape and even Claris' Emailer, it is becoming less important.
I suppose if you find yourself needing a quite basic program for access to a simple BBS or e-mail system, it could be useful.
Even so, the software does not support Ymodem or Zmodem and that means you can only use Xmodem for binary transfers and that is something most would do well to avoid.
The biggest new features are the Web-enabled links and HTML support. It is difficult to imagine anyone not wanting instant and unobtrusive access to the Internet today.
Claris cannot do much for making it instant - that is up to your modem and Internet service provider connection - it can help with making it unobtrusive, though.
Version 5 has a customisable button bar at the top of the screen that offers instant access to most of its functions. One of those buttons has a globe that automatically will launch your browser.
Within the word-processor, it is possible at the click of a mouse to create a link to the Internet. You simply highlight some text and then click on a button. It will prompt you for the URL and that is it.
Once again, the Mac version allows you to highlight text in any language.
I wrote pingguo diannao, meaning Apple computer, and was able to create a link to the Apple Web page. Clicking on it brought up Netscape and it jumped straight to the Apple homepage.
With 175 customisable business documents ready to be used, Claris Works Office is ready for business.
It is a tremendous application on any platform, but it really shows its class when you want to mix languages.
For those who have been complaining that Microsoft Office takes up hundreds of megabytes of disk space for functions never used, this could be the perfect answer.
PROS AND CONS Product: ClarisWorks Office Platform: Mac OS, Windows 95 Price: HK$772 (Mac and PC versions both on CD-ROM, licence is only for one) Tested on: PowerMac 8500, Dell Dimension XPS H266 Pros: small, snappy, complete Cons: some file formats not yet supported and communications program not really needed