Say what you like about Microsoft, thereâ€™s still nothing on the market that can hold a candle to its Office productivity suite. Itâ€™s more fully featured than any other office suite out there, more widely used and it just works better than anything else.
It is, however, a pretty big investment for Mr or Mrs Average. The standard retail edition of the latest Office suite â€“ XP â€“ will set you back a hefty Â£354. Professional is even more expensive at around Â£437. And do most of us really need all of that functionality anyway? Um, Not really.
The simple fact is that most people only exploit a fraction of Microsoft Wordâ€™s full potential, never mind the rest of the applications in the suite â€“ Excel, Access, Outlook and PowerPoint. So whatâ€™s a user to do?
Well you could always do the unthinkable and break with Microsoft altogether â€“ there are plenty of decent well-priced alternatives and some excellent free packages too (Open Office comes to mind as one of the best).
But if it just has to be Microsoft your choices are more limited. In fact for some years now the best alternative has been to shell out for Microsoft Works Suite â€“ which includes the most popular application â€“ Word â€“ and a bunch of other stripped down productivity packages. Well, itâ€™s now reached its 2006 version, and Microsoft has been busy cramming even more goodies in.
Thereâ€™s far too much software in this five CD set to go into an in depth discussion of each application â€“ there are eight full-blown programs in all â€“ so Iâ€™ll start by outlining whatâ€™s included, whatâ€™s new and what isnâ€™t and then try to pick out some of each applicationâ€™s best features.
First of all, itâ€™s important to note that neither Works nor Word is updated on last yearâ€™s package. Works 8 still forms the core of the product with its basic Calendar, Database, Portfolio and Spreadsheet applications plus its enormous selection of everyday task- and project-based templates. Itâ€™s still very easy to use but donâ€™t expect a fully-fledged relational database or spreadsheet software thatâ€™s anywhere near as capable as Excel.