So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Microsoft Works Suite 2006
- Broad range of apps, Cheap
- Nothing of note
Home PC users looking for a low-cost alternative to Microsoft Office will find Works Suite 2006 a capable option, and its extras would make it a bargain at twice the price.
Price$ 169.95 (AUD)
We checked out a shipping version of Microsoft's home-user-centric Works Suite 2006. For $169.95 it includes the same four apps as the existing $100 Works 8 bundle (a plain-jane word processor, Excel-compatible spreadsheet, a basic database, and a calendar program), plus a few additional applications I found particularly useful.
Works Suite 2006's "extra" apps include Word 2002, the Digital Image Standard 2006 image editor, Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2006, and Microsoft Money 2005 Standard. These four apps cost well over $240 separately, so from the start it's clear that this suite is a good deal.
The core Works 8 apps appear to be identical to the versions in previous releases. However, the suite's inclusion of Word 2002 makes the Works word processor superfluous. The best aspect of the Works spreadsheet is its ability to open and save files in Excel's ".xls" file format. You won't find Excel's support for formulas and sorting/formatting options, though. Like the other Works apps, the database uses its own proprietary file format; it lacks Access's relational capabilities. The Works calendar is a breeze to use, and its ongoing support for the iCalendar standard simplifies sharing your calendars via the Internet.
The new Digital Image Standard 2006 image editor is a welcome addition, replacing Microsoft's lame PictureIt imaging app. You can use its Digital Image Library to manage (but not edit) video files and assign ratings, keywords, and labels to your pictures. Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2006 is the only app here to receive a design makeover since the previous edition. It has a cleaner interface with fewer items on each page and a more prominent search box. Online updates are free (through October 2006), and the company says that it adds new content about every 10 days.
Finally, Money Standard 2005 includes the ability to work with your banking providers and get your account balances and transactions from multiple bank accounts, and a feature for automatic spending analysis, so you can track your spending. You can even track GST on purchases, frequent flyer points and other loyalty schemes.
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