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Microsoft Works Suite 2002

Time to dust off the old 'Swiss Army Knife' metaphor again. Microsoft's Works Suite 2002 is one of those packages that, like Office or ClarisWorks of old, provides a useful collection of individual but complementary software applications.

The first question prospective purchasers are likely to ask is, "Why Works? rather than Office?" Well, price is certainly one consideration, Works being cheaper. However, the basic difference is that Works is primarily intended for home users who might not necessarily be familiar with "industrial strength" office applications. Despite, or perhaps because of its ubiquity, it's easy to forget that, without assistance, Microsoft Word can be a hostile landscape for the first-time user.

Works Suite is a set of six programs, Word, Money, Encarta, Autoroute, Picture It! and Works within the framework of a Task Launcher, an extension of the Wizard technology used in many Microsoft programs. If you're writing a letter, planning a journey, working out finances or editing a digital image, simply tell Task Launcher and it will direct you to the appropriate application.

"Hand holder" technology, as it is sometimes dismissively referred to by experienced computer users, has developed into a useful tool and can be a real aid to creativity and productivity. Documents and templates can be produced in Word, spreadsheets in Works and personal finance - accounts, bills, investments - in Money, all with the minimum of fuss. Picture It! is an impressive photo-editing program with a wide range of filters, enhancements and corrections including "red eye" and "dust and scratch removal". Also included are Autoroute - which will not only provide you with precise travelling instructions but even tell you where to eat on the way - and the excellent Encarta which surely needs no introduction.

Appointments, diary and addresses can be stored in the Works calendar and synchronised with PDAs (personal digital assistants). Works Suite allows for synchronisation with Windows CE and Palm devices.

Works Suite 2002 offers an impressive selection of tools in a supportive format that many computer users will appreciate. It really is the Swiss Army Knife of technology, and is definitely better value for money than its famous counterpart.

Hugh John

Microsoft Works Suite 2002

Fitness for purpose 4

Ease of use 4

Features 4

Design 4

Value for money 4

Available on both CD-Roms (five) and DVD for pound;119. From high street dealers; list at www.microsoft.comukhomepcworks2002buy.htm

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