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Microsoft Works Suite 2003 contains six quality Microsoft programs (and the version I am reviewing today all of them on one single DVD-ROM)—Including the full version of Microsoft Word and Streets and Trips 2002—Integrated into one great affordable package. Your whole family will have fun and be more productive accomplishing projects for home, school, and community.
What's new for 2003?
Works Suite has always been a great software collection, and Works Suite 2003 has been improved to offer even more value:
products in one box
Installation and Settings
As I mentioned a little earlier, the Works Suite 2003 edition comes on just a single DVD-ROM unless you purchase the CD version in which I believe there are 6 CD's inside the box. There are options from which you can choose what products in the Works Suite that you would like to install, so you can mix and match which parts of the suite you think you will make use of. The bad side of this is that it doesn't do it the easy way, you have to install each suite member one at a time, as the installation doesn't allow you to do a one off install. I have installed the DVD edition on my Laptop.
Working With Works
I guess there is no doubt that most of us home users don't really need the full Microsoft Office Suite to do our work or general letters and documents with, especially with Microsoft Office still being overpriced and out of the reach of a lot of people. The Works Suite tries to combine what Microsoft thinks most home users out there will need, and at a much smaller price than the office pack. Works packs in a word processor, database, spreadsheet, appointment and calendar options all in to one easy to use interface called the Task Launcher. Most of these programs are cut down versions of ones from the Office Suite, like the spreadsheet program is a lesser version of Microsoft Excel, it can open Excel worksheets but not workbooks, but that isn't to say it doesn't do the job, it does and does it well.
The database module offers a number of easy to use features such as "Easy Calc" which helps you learn how to create formulas and how to work with easy to use charts, create worksheets etc you can maintain up to 32,000 database records, enter data with form or list views, and create reports and mailings.
There is also a good Calendar built into Works 2003, where you can copy your Works address book, calendar, and schedule information to your PDA (Pocket PC or Palm-based device). Categorize appointments by person or type on your calendar and set reminders for upcoming appointments on your calendar. The contact list is nothing fancy, but it allows you to use mail merge if you want to.
Encarta has been added to the Work Suite, but I won't go into full detail of the encyclopedia, but if you want to read more about it you can check out my review of the latest version right here. Encarta 2003 is a very easy-to-use reference program, you can access more than 38,000 up-to-date articles, plus photos and illustrations, hundreds of videos, animations, and audios. Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2003 is an excellent program, especially for family use, so it is the perfect accompaniment to the Works Suite. The only downside of Encarta with the Works Suite is that you have to have the DVD in the drive if you want to view it. The suite also contains Microsoft Picture It Photo 7.0, which provides the home user with some powerful photo-editing tools and built-in wizards that make it easy to improve photos. The program also includes a bunch of templates for photo cards, calendars, labels, flyers, and more. It does just about everything a home user would need a photo program to do.
Next up we have Microsoft Word, this is identical to the one that ships with Office XP, which yet again you can read all about right here. But the downside here is that unlike all of the other suite programs, this isn't downsized, don't get me wrong...Word 2002 is an excellent word processor, probably the best there currently is, but most home users are unlikely to make use of some of the more advanced features that are in Word, and with the interface of Word being quite advanced, this may confuse a number of users. This is even stranger when you consider that Microsoft Works already comes with a useful word processor itself, which is a kind of reduced version of Word, but it is no longer available to use via the suite task launcher. In saying that, if a user gets more advanced or feels they want to delve deeper into word processing, the advanced features are there if they want to use them.
Another annoyance is that it requires you to activate Word, something that seems ridiculous when you consider that no other part of Works needs to be activated, if they are going to add activation, at least require it to be done at the start of the Works installation, not a few days after installing and first loading up Microsoft Word 2002.
Next we have possibly the best part of the whole suite, Microsoft Money 2003 where you can balance your checkbook, pay bills, bank online, create a budget, reduce your debt, manage investments, plan for the future, simplify taxes, and organize your finances—all in one place—while receiving personalized financial guidance.
The only bad point about Money 2003 is that it can take a while to setup, but if you plan to work with it, the best time to do it is during a free weekend, there are features that are missing from the standard version that are available in the deluxe edition that could be useful even for the home user but just about everything you will need is here. There are differences between the US and UK versions (I have both), not just currency but also file formats so they don't work together if you ever decided to use money files overseas, also the introduction and setup for the US version is done via a voice over, thankfully the UK version doesn't have that "Feature".
Next up we have what is possibly the worst part of the package, Microsoft Streets and Trips (Or Autoroute for those of us in the UK). While it does everything it is supposed to do, which is to be a one mapping solution that delivers a comprehensive array of maps, points of interest, routes, driving directions and Pocket PC compatibility all in one. So what is wrong with it? nothing really, its just that most us us would now use the internet to check up on where places are, the best routes etc. It is a useful tool but not as good as the rest of the suite in my opinion. In saying this, there are going to be quite a few people who don't want to use the internet, or would find it more convenient to use a mapping program via the computer, and in all fairness I would possibly find it easier to do this too!
So how is this whole suite blended together, well it uses the excellent Works "Task Launcher", the home page as it is called shows up all of your appointments via the calendar, it lets you create your own projects or choose templates from various members of the Works Suite to let you create letters, gift tags, shopping lists, music CD lists, DVD lists etc, there are well over 400 templates to choose from.
Works Suite 2003 does just about everything it set out to do, it is a product suite aimed at users who don't want to worry about the advanced features of Office or cannot afford to spend that kind of money on something for their PC. There are a few downsides, Word doesn't need to be here, it should be replaced by the Works word processor and perhaps a better home product such as Publisher would be better suited in its place. If you have the separate programs such as Word or Money 2003 already, then just purchase Works 2003 and not the Suite as there isn't anything here in addition to those that you are likely to need. So overall a good package, with just some small faults but nothing to knock it down.