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TidBITS#129/ClarisWorks

If you’re a power user and won’t use anything but high-end software tools or ResEdit, don’t read this review. If you have more modest needs and you’re interested in being able to use a number of different types of software packages, read on for an excellent discussion of ClarisWorks, perhaps the best of the new breed of integrated packages.

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Basic Facts

ClarisWorks requires at least System 6.0.5 and 1 MB of RAM. Under System 7, like everything else, it requires 2 MB of RAM. The manuals include installation instructions appropriate for floppy-based Macs and hard drive systems

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Integration

Works programs typically divide their functions into modules traditionally corresponding to simplified versions of high-end applications. ClarisWorks eschews the whole module idea for the concept of "document type." ClarisWorks has five basic document types: Word Processing, Graphics, Spreadsheet, Database, and Communications

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Page Layout Capabilities

The most amazing feature of ClarisWorks is the least touted in the advertising and packaging: page layout. The combination of three elements makes ClarisWorks one of the better low-end page layout buys to date on the Mac: flexible and editable views, the frames concept, and the object-oriented graphics document type. All document types and frames allow completely flexible and editable views of the document from 3.13% all the way up to 3200%

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Import/Export Features

ClarisWorks really suffers in file import and export. Using numerous translators and the XTND system, ClarisWorks can import and export a fairly impressive range of word processing and graphics documents for a low-end program

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Macros

Another plus for ClarisWorks is its simple macro feature, available in every document type. These are record-only macros; there are no scripts to save or edit via a command language

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Word Processing

The word processing tool/document type/frame is essentially a slight reworking of MacWrite II, with a few features missing and a few added. If you're unfamiliar with MacWrite II, it's a capable entry-level word processor with enough features for most people

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Graphics

The graphics layer is the only part of ClarisWorks that can be described as truly disappointing. Although it supports color fills and lines, it's otherwise a generic draw program

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Spreadsheet and Charting

In many ways, the spreadsheet document type/tool is the best part of the ClarisWorks package. The spreadsheet is a fully functional - and fairly friendly - number crunching and presentation tool

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Communications

The communications document type is only barely integrated with the rest of ClarisWorks, but it's also the closest to a state of the art application. Based on the Communications Toolbox, the communications module provides basic terminal connections and file transfer

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Learning ClarisWorks

ClarisWorks has a fantastic and easy-to-use overall feel. However, the basic frames and links concepts and a number of details require study before you can use them effectively

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What’s Not There

ClarisWorks has a most disappointing lack of System 7-savvy features - no Publish & Subscribe, no use of AppleEvents, no nothing that's not in System 6 except for balloon help

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The Bottom Line

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