The line between different types of applications has begun to gray. Word processors such as Nisus, WordPerfect, and Word now have graphics layers or modules, spreadsheets have presentation and text tools, and databases have object-oriented layouts - in the next five years we'll see more and more features added to programs so they effectively become integrated high-end works programs.
In the meantime, ClarisWorks isn't a perfect product, but it comes pretty close for a first effort. Given Claris's excellent history of upgrades and support during its short history, going in at the beginning should be worth the potential hazards of using a brand-new product.
For those in the education market, ClarisWorks is an excellent candidate for a first piece of software to go on a Macintosh. It will suffice for most K-12 uses by students and teachers. In higher education, most users will want to supplement it with other tools, but it makes an excellent choice for bundling with new computers or as a basic laboratory tool. With the introduction of QuickTime, live linked documents in ClarisWorks have intriguing possibilities for "live" reports and papers containing graphical demonstrations of the text.
In the office environment, ClarisWorks should satisfy most users who wish to produce simple memos and letters, and who need to share data between spreadsheets and databases. It's a good pick for a smallish department or one looking for lots of different functions at a small cost. ClarisWorks especially shines at mail merges. If you often create mail merges from databases of a few thousand records or less, I can't recommend ClarisWorks highly enough - it's a peach.
For home use, it's a good pick if you don't want to pay a bundle for unnecessarily high-powered software and don't trust shareware alternatives.
For PowerBook owners - especially PowerBook 100 users - it's a must. ClarisWorks does 90% of even high-end-user's work in a lean and mean disk and RAM budget.
All in all, if you're in one of the situations mentioned above, take a serious look at ClarisWorks before you buy a more expensive - and maybe unnecessarily complicated - alternative.