Microsoft – Works Suite 2004 review

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Some time ago we took a look at Corel’s WordPerfect Family Pack 5, a compilation of seven applications for a reasonable £65. For its comparable Works Suite 2004, Microsoft is asking twice as much and offering one less application. Yet like Corel’s product, it still offers strong value for money if you’re interested in the products included.

The most up to date inclusions are Encarta 2004, Photo Standard, Money 2004 and AutoRoute 2004. Dealing with them first then, Encarta is a terrific piece of software, and we’ve already reviewed the 2004 Premium Edition. However, it’s the Standard edition of the multimedia encyclopaedia included here, which is still very strong, albeit with less content. For instance, it includes just short of 35,000 articles compared to the 130,000 in the Premium Suite.

Autoroute 2004 is arguably the finest route planning software on the market. It undertakes the key task of getting you from A to B better than any of its competitors, while throwing in useful features such as calculating how far you can get from a certain location in a set amount of time (useful if you’re planning the odd day trip).

Money 2004 we had a little more trouble with. It’s undeniably a powerful piece of software, and if you apply yourself to it wholeheartedly, then it’ll more than likely achieve its goal of knocking your personal finances into shape. However, it’s not as friendly as we’d have liked, as we found in our review of the full Financial Suite edition. Microsoft gives you the Standard version here, which doesn’t include the likes of the tax calculation tools.

Photo Standard is better news, though. An adept image editing application, this one comes wrapped up in a friendly interface, and it’s genuinely not too tricky to produce some impressive results. The inclusion of numerous wizards and over 1,000 templates really does make it a breeze to use.

Then we move on to Works 7, which for the relatively new computer user could well be a godsend. As ever, it’s effectively a stripped down version of Microsoft Office, missing out several of the big features but covering the basic tasks of word processing, spreadsheets, database and calendar functions in friendly and effective way.

Where it falls down slightly is when it needs to interact with other applications; Works saves files in its own way which traditionally have trouble being imported elsewhere. The problem’s not quite as bad as it was, but it’s still a consideration. It’s a good job, though, that Microsoft has seen fit to include a full version of Word 2002, the last-but-one edition of its excellent word processing package, which we can envisage being used a lot more than the Works 7 equivalent.

So, should you buy Works Suite 2004? Well, if you were buying a music compilation CD, you’d more than likely make the purchase judgement on the basis of how many tracks it contains that you actually want. It’s a fair parallel to your conundrum here.

Corel’s aforementioned package undoubtedly offers better value for money, yet there are some highlights here – a full version of Word, Autoroute, Picture Standard and Encarta in particular – that could sway your decision Microsoft’s way.

Company: Microsoft

Contact: 0345 00 2000

A strong selection of applications makes Works Suite 2004 a worthy purchase for those who don't currently have any of them on their shelf. It's worth seeing if Corel's alternative would serve you as well for less, though.