Microsoft Works 9

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Great potential bungled by Microsoft (on purpose?)

Jun 4, 2009 (Updated Jun 8, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Usability, Microsoft Works Launcher, neat collection of applications, integrates Microsoft Office 2007.

Cons:It lacks too many features, no Digital Image Standard 2006.

The Bottom Line: A trimmed down version of Microsoft Office packaged in a nice suite (Microsoft Works Launcher) is product with a lot of potential. Microsoft killed it by trimming it too much.


Pros: Usability, Microsoft Works Launcher, neat collection of applications, integrates Microsoft Office 2007.

Cons: It lacks too many features, no Digital Image Standard 2006.

The Bottom Line: A trimmed down version of Microsoft Office packaged in a nice suite (Microsoft Works Launcher) is product with a lot of potential. Microsoft killed it by trimming it too much.


Great potential bungled by Microsoft (on purpose?)
 
Microsoft Works 9.0 is essentially a simplified and trimmed down version of Microsoft Office plus a few extra minor applications. I would not recommend it to create business documents but it is potentially useful for the home and perhaps home businesses.

Microsoft Works 9.0 includes a trimmed down version of Microsoft Word called the "Works Word Processor", a trimmed down version of Microsoft Excel called the "Works Spreadsheet", a trimmed down version of Microsoft Access called the "Works Database", and a PowerPoint Viewer (read only). In addition there is a Works calendar, a Dictionary, a Works Portfolio, a Microsoft Works Launcher, and a number of templates for each program. Microsoft Works also integrates with "Digital Image Standard 2006" if you have it, as well as the Microsoft Office 2007 applications.

At work I use the full Microsoft Office Suite (Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Visio, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft InfoPath, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Access, and Microsoft Publisher). For home use I do not need the various advanced features provided by the Microsoft applications (multiple spreadsheets, advanced formulas, macros, change tracking, etc.). Therefore I did not purchase Microsoft Office for many years. I was using Word Pad, Latex (for complex documentation), and various free tools. Then I got Microsoft Works 8.0 which came free with one of my computers. I should mention that I eventually bought Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007 for my home. I also used the Microsoft Works Suite 2006 for some time. Last fall I bought new computers for the kids and they came with Microsoft Works 9.0 pre installed. In addition I bought Microsoft Works 9.0 for a couple of other computers which did not have any of the applications mentioned on them.


About Microsoft Works 9.0

Microsoft Works 9.0 is quite similar to Microsoft Works 8.0 except for the fact that it is Vista-compatible and you can use it to create and edit Microsoft Word 2007 documents. You can say that Microsoft Works 9.0 is a refresh of Microsoft Works 8.0. That is unlike previous Microsoft Works Suites which included applications like "MSN Encarta" and "Digital Image Standard 2006". What Microsoft Works 9.0 gives you is a significantly trimmed down version of Microsoft Office.

I should mention that one of the advantages of Microsoft Works is that it is easy to use and the interface is very intuitive. The Microsoft Works 9.0 Launcher assembles all applications into one nicely organized suite. From this suite you can launch the applications, take a quick tour, get help, check your calendar, and launch any of the documents that you used previously by using the history feature. The suite also contains a set of templates for each of the applications. For example, for the Microsoft Works Word Processor you can select from 36 types of templates and each type of template contains a set of templates to pick from. In total you have hundreds of choices just for this application. For example, there is an "Event Flyer" template, a "Cover Letter", a "Menu", a "Birthday Party Invitation", and much more. I think that these templates are quite neat and sometimes useful.

As mentioned, Microsoft Works also integrates with "Digital Image Standard 2006" and as well as the Microsoft Office 2007 applications, assuming you have those applications installed on your computer. They will be placed in the suite together with the other applications. If you install Microsoft Works on a computer with "Digital Image Standard 2006" on it a number of templates for "Digital Image Standard 2006" will also appear. In my opinion this is quite convenient and easy to use and understand for those who are not very computer literate. During installation you will get the option of putting a Microsoft Works icon on your desktop which makes it even easier to use. I can add that the installation is quite straightforward and you will not be asked to fill out a key ID or register the application (as with Microsoft Office). That means that you can install it on a hundred computers without any problems.

The Microsoft Works 9.0 Word Processor looks very similar to Microsoft Word 2003, except that the menus have fewer menu items and you will have fewer features. Using the Microsoft Works 9.0 Word Processor you cannot track changes, use Macros, highlight words, compare and merge documents, there is no grammar check, and the drawing tools in Microsoft Word (AutoShapes, WordArt, etc.) are not present. However, you can insert pictures and you can insert free hand paintings.

Just like WordPad the Microsoft Works 9.0 Word Processor is single document interface application so you cannot work with multiple documents from within the same instance. The "Word Count" feature will only give you the word count for the entire document, unlike Microsoft Word which allows you to do a word count on a portion of the document. The Microsoft Works 9.0 Word Processor has a spell check. Unfortunately autocorrect only corrects a small number of mistakes. However, you can expand the autocorrect list yourself.

It is very important to understand that even though the Microsoft Works 9.0 Word Processor is "compatible" with Microsoft Word you may not be able to successfully open Microsoft Word documents that were created using advanced features. The same is true if you try to copy and paste into Microsoft Works 9.0 Word from Microsoft Word. If you open up a Microsoft Word document using the Microsoft Works 9.0 Word Processor your drawings will have been removed or garbled, and tables containing rows with a different number of columns in each row will get messed up. Most of the Microsoft Word documents at my work look severely distorted when you open them up using the Microsoft Works 9.0 Word Processor. A few of the documents looks completely garbled. However, all documents that I have created with the Microsoft Works 9.0 Word Processor can be viewed and edited by Microsoft Word (if it is saved using the correct version).

You probably don't need advanced features like track changes, macros, or compare and merge documents, when you are writing a birthday invitation, a letter to Aunt Beatrice, or a review for epinions. However, you may miss features like a good auto correct, drawing tools, full featured tables, formatting options, grammar check, and a useful word count feature. So I think Microsoft has been trimming this application (and the other applications) a little bit too far.

The Works Spreadsheet allows you to create a spreadsheet, use basic formulas, and create and display charts. Sorting also works well as far as I can tell. Also in this case you don't have track changes, macros, auto shapes, word art, and other features that Microsoft Excel provides. One big difference compared to Excel is that the Microsoft Works 9.0 Spreadsheet only allows one works sheet. If you open up a Microsoft Excel document with several work sheets you will get a dialog box asking you to pick which works sheet you want to load. Another difference is that in Excel you can select multiple non connected sections of the document but in a Microsoft Works 9.0 spreadsheet you cannot do that. The Microsoft Works 9.0 spreadsheet also only allows 16,384 rows and 256 columns. I tried opening a number of Excel Spread sheets at work and it did not work very well. First of all I had to pick just one work sheet. Secondly the Works Spreadsheet failed to load several of the formulas as well as symbol names and in the end I had nothing but nonsense.

The Microsoft Works 9.0 database looks like Microsoft Access; however, it is severely trimmed down. Each database can only have one table, there is no design view, the form design tool is very basic, and you cannot link records. It creates flat databases. You cannot even read Access data base files.

The PowerPoint Viewer only lets you view PowerPoint files, you cannot edit them. However, I should say that I have been able to view every PowerPoint file that I‘ve encountered.

I think that the calendar and the contacts list are minor but useful tools. The calendar is a simple tool you can use to keep track of appointments. If you click on your contacts Microsoft Outlook will be launched with the email address filled out. There is an MSN button which displays pictures containing links to various MSN recommended places on the internet. If you click on these pictures internet explorer 6.0 is launched. Internet Explorer 6.0 and Outlook Express are included with Microsoft Works 9.0; however, they will not show up as separate applications in the task launcher.


The absence of Digital Image Standard 2006

One of the great applications that used to be included with Microsoft Works Suite 2006 was "Digital Image Standard 2006". As mentioned if you have Digital Image Standard 2006 already on your computer then Microsoft Works 9.0 will integrate it into the Microsoft Works Launcher. However, you no longer get it for free, which is a bummer. I read somewhere that one of the reasons to remove it from Microsoft Works and to discontinue it, was because Windows Vista included the "Windows Photo Gallery". This is a strange argument that I do not understand since the "Windows Photo Gallery" is absolutely useless. For example, you can only resize images if you email them and your resizing options are also very limited. Digital Image Standard 2006 on the other hand is a quite useful tool. It is not a great photo editing application; however, you can do certain useful operations extremely efficiently with it.

Digital Image Standard 2006 has probably the most efficient batch edit feature that I have ever seen. Some photo editing applications don't even have batch editing features and some photo editing applications has clumsy batch editing features. For example, you can do batch editing with Adobe Photoshop, but it is cumbersome. With Digital Image Standard you can resize, rotate, and auto fix 100's of images all at once by selecting the images (a mouse drag) and by doing a few button clicks (takes less than three seconds) you get the entire batch editing process started. If you want to edit or crop screen shots you can just drop the screen shot into an open Digital Image Standard 2006 document and then crop and edit and save it. Naturally you can do much more than that with Digital Image Standard 2006; however, those are my favorite features. The fact that they removed Digital Image Standard 2006 from the Microsoft Works suites is something I am very unhappy about


The target customer and an opportunity missed

There are a great number of people who buy Microsoft Office who does not need it. I remember a few years ago, when people kept sending me team roosters, lists of telephone numbers, and packing lists in excel files. In my opinion that is not what you use Microsoft Excel for. At the time I did not have Microsoft Excel at home (or Microsoft Works) so I asked them if it was possible for them to put the lists directly in the email message instead; or perhaps save the file as html or a text file (from Excel). Based on the answers I got it was clear that the senders had indeed used Microsoft Excel (not Microsoft Works), they did not know that you could save the files as text files or html files. They also thought it was strange that I could not open the file from my email when they could (that was after I explained that I did not have Excel). In that circle of friends it seemed like I was the only one who knew how to use Excel and I was also the only one who did not have it at home. The truth is that a lot of people who use Microsoft Office at home do not need the advanced features in Microsoft Office and they don't know much about them. For them an application like Microsoft Works would work just fine and save them money.

Unfortunately Microsoft Works is trimmed down a little bit too much to be useful even to the casual user. By removing Encarta and Digital Image Standard 2006 and not improving the other applications, Microsoft is short changing a large group of potential customers. It is possible this is done intentionally so that people would always buy Microsoft Office instead. However, the result of that will be that other competing low budget applications will gain a larger foothold into the market. In the long run Microsoft may be shooting themselves in the foot.


The way Microsoft Works 10.0 should work

For next time, I think the Microsoft Works 10.0 Word Processor should include the formatting, table, grammar check, and auto format features from Microsoft Office. Perhaps some of the drawing tools as well. The advanced features are not necessary for home use but these features will matter to the guy writing a letter. I would also like to suggest that Microsoft provides a Microsoft Word Viewer which you could choose to use to view Microsoft Word documents that has been created using advanced features. This would make it possible to view all Microsoft Word documents sent to you via email without giving the user the ability to edit them.

The Microsoft Works 10.0 Spreadsheet should include all the formulas and other basic functionality from Excel. I would not suggest including the ability to edit multiple spreadsheets, however, I would suggest the inclusion of a Microsoft Excel Viewer which you can electively choose to use for multiple work sheet documents. I would also suggest putting back Encarta and an updated version of Digital Image Standard 2006. Doing this would make Microsoft Works 10.0 useful and a good deal for the casual user, at the same time as it would not make it useful enough for businesses. It should not be that difficult for Microsoft to do this, after all they own the Microsoft Office code.


Final recommendation

Even though Microsoft Works 9.0 has some advantages with respect to usability and a low price, I still cannot recommend it to the home user.

Microsoft Works 9.0 could have been a great tool for those who do not need the advanced features of Microsoft Office. However, Microsoft has trimmed down the Microsoft Works too much and they have not added many features since Microsoft Works 8.0. Microsoft Works 9.0 is a disappointment.

I should add that this review was written using the Microsoft Works 9.0 Word Processor and I copied it into the epinions edit box that accepts Microsoft Word formatted text. Counting the words in the "Pros" and "Cons" and the title was a hassle I would not have had with Microsoft Word. Unfortunately the paragraphs got all messed up so I copied the text to Microsoft Word and redid it. That is when Microsoft Word pointed out 14 grammatical mistakes. So now you know that the epinions edit box does not work as well with the Microsoft Works Word Processor, and that my grammar is poor.



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