Apple aims for ease of use with new AppleWorks

Apple has always been synonymous with ease of use and the most recent version of AppleWorks is no exception, according to the company.

Version 6 of AppleWorks, Apple’s multipurpose word processing, spreadsheet, database, drawing, painting and presentation package, has changed in essentially three ways. Apple has added a presentation package to AppleWorks, thus allowing users to drag and drop movies into a presentation. The company has also increased AppleWorks’ Internet integration and, true to the Apple tradition, worked to make AppleWorks’ interface even more user friendly.

“We studied the way people used AppleWorks, we took a lot of feedback off of bulletin boards and integrated a lot of the changes into the user interface,” said Bruce Hough, consulting engineer at Apple in Markham, Ont.

One of the improvements was to make document integration easier. Now if you drag a spreadsheet document into a word processing document, the tool bar icons change to match the area you are working in. If you are writing, the word processing tools appear. If you click on the spreadsheet portion of the document, spreadsheet tools appear. Though Microsoft Word also does this, its interface is not as user friendly, according to Hough.

Apple’s ultimate goal? “You don’t’ even have to think about what you are working in, the focus is on you creating the content…as opposed to how do I use [a] tool,” he said.

The new AppleWorks 6 presentation module is designed with movies in mind.

“We now have a true presentation package within AppleWorks…[documents] can actually act as the container for any QuickTime (movie) content,” Hough said.

Though a movie can’t be created with AppleWorks, any content created in programs like iMovie or Final Cut Pro can be embedded in a word processing document.

“It just makes building presentations easier and the look is more consistent for the user,” Hough added.

Realizing the path of least resistance is the path most often travelled, Apple Computer Inc. has also made thousands of photographs, design templates and clip art available on its Web site.

The 25,000 pieces of clip art are part of Apple’s goal to create tighter integration between AppleWorks and the Internet, according to Hough. Apple computers are widely used by Canadian school boards and now templates for presentations and documents can be placed on a server and accessed by anyone with a few simple clicks of the mouse.

Later this year Apple will release AppleWorks 6 for Windows 95 and 98, though this does have some analysts a little confused.

“I really can’t give you a lot of insight as to why somebody would try to take an office suite over from the Apple world to Windows,” said Roger Kay, and analyst with IDC in Framingham, Mass. “It is not as though there is any empty product space in the Windows world.”

The move is, in part, an attempt to make life in the school system a little easier and more integrated, Hough responded. The educational and consumer markets are the biggest part of Apple’s business.

“[School boards] wanted a standard platform [so] they could build their templates and everything for one package across both platforms,” he explained. Hough added that the Ministry of Education has no guarantee that any one teacher is going to be on a Mac or PC, so this just makes integration easier.

AppleWorks will handle about 80 per cent of the functions typical users want, Hough admits. “Once they get into financial modelling and graphing, they are going to want to go to Office,” he said.

Marc Paradis, director of gallery one2one in Toronto, agreed that AppleWorks is a little limited.

He said the finite number of fonts and the inability to dramatically change effects like page format limit creative ability. When he generates invitations for art openings, the ultimate work is done in a more powerful program such as Adobe Illustrator. Regardless, he said the product is easy to use.

AppleWorks 6 ships on all new iMacs and iBooks. “The fact that we ship it on every machine kind of limits the market acceptance for another works package,” Hough said.

AppleWorks 6 has an estimated retail price of $119.

Apple in Markham, Ont., is at 1-800-665-2775 or

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