Home productivity suites: Works Suite 2004, WordPerfect Family Pack 5

Home productivity suites from Microsoft and Corel have long been favourites with consumers keen on having all the necessary tools at less cost than full-blown office suites. The value in this year’s releases of Microsoft Works Suite 2004 and Corel’s WordPerfect Family Pack 5 will not disappoint.

Both packages deliver core productivity tools (word processor, spreadsheet and photo editor) plus reference encyclopedias (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2004, and Encyclopaedia Britannica Ready Reference 2003). Corel’s Family Pack 5 includes the company’s new version 11 releases of WordPerfect and spreadsheet app Quattro Pro.

Additional programs in each package vary: Microsoft offers Money 2004 and Word 2002, while Corel has taken the third-party route with McAfee Home VirusScan 7.0, Aladdin Systems’ Web surfing software iClean, and genealogy tool Family Tree Maker from Genealogy.com.

The other major inclusion both packages share is a photo editing tool: Microsoft’s Photo Standard 9 and Corel’s Photobook. Both do a good job as basic ‘touch-up’ style programs with wizard-driven projects to output documents such as calendars, cards and flyers.

Head to head, with quality and pricing fairly close (Microsoft $229, Corel $175), your decision on which suite to purchase will depend more on your requirements than anything else.

From a usability and looks standpoint, Microsoft wins the game with its Task Launcher — a launch pad for Works Suite programs and documents that has been designed with a bit more flair than Corel’s Task Manager.

Task Launcher opens to your ‘home page’ that consists of calendar and contacts from your Address Book (also included in Works). Tabs along the top take you to Templates (a searchable database of templates from Works programs), Programs (quick links to all Works programs), Projects (a collection of tasks and projects and a To Do list), and History (all the files and documents you’ve accessed through Works, sortable by date, program and name). Task Launcher could well become your daily starting point when firing up the PC as it also features quick accessibility to Internet Explorer and Outlook Express (see here for a screenshot).

Both suites are heavy on promoting simplicity through task-oriented templates — a feature I’m not particularly wowed with, although it may appeal to kids and newcomers to PCs.

Templates are central to WordPerfect Family Pack’s Task Manager, which jumps you straight into a choice of tasks for Finances, Household, Events, Health, Creative Projects, Education, Events and Communication. Like Works Suite’s Task Launcher, there’s also an Applications tab from where you can launch apps quickly.

The beauty of these suites is that you can access each program individually from Windows’ Programs menu and avoid the task managers if you prefer.

Due to the sheer volume of these suites (three CDs for each), set aside an hour for installation and substantial room on the hard drive (1.3GB for WordPerfect Family Pack and around 1240MB for Works Suite 2004).

Additionally, the encyclopedias of both packages can be saved to your hard drive or accessed via CD-ROM. Microsoft Works Suite includes the new 2004 Standard edition of Encarta (worth $49.95 individually). Encarta stands out as the better choice here compared to Corel’s inclusion of Encyclopaedia Britannica 2003 Ready Reference, which offers far less detail, images and multimedia. Its bland layout and lacklustre navigation compares sadly to Encarta’s intuitive design.

Overall, both suites offer significant savings compared to their office suite sib­lings and fill the home productivity niche.

In brief: Microsoft Works Suite 2004
If you’re after Microsoft Word, Money and Encarta, then you’ll find substantial savings with Works Suite 2004.
Price: $229
Vendor: Microsoft
Phone: 13 2058
URL: www.microsoft.com.au

Corel WordPerfect Family Pack 5
Productivity, antivirus and encyclopedia, plus genealogy software to boot — this package is right on the value mark.
Price: $175
Vendor: Corel
Phone: 1800 658 850
URL: www.corel.com

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