13 August 2007

Eulogy for ClarisWorks

In 1987, Apple Computer created a spin-off company called Claris to separate their application software from their hardware & operating-system business. In 1990, Claris acquired a “productivity suite” (written by former Claris employees) which was released in 1991 as ClarisWorks. ClarisWorks was a single application that included word processing, spreadsheets, painting & drawing, database, & a terminal emulator. ClarisWorks became a really great application. It may never have been able to compete feature-for-feature with Microsoft Office, but it probably did everything that 90% or more of Office users really needed. And was easier to use. Around 1996, the ClarisWorks team either left or were recruited by Microsoft. (Microsoft needed some decent Mac developers to fix the mess that Microsoft Office for the Mac had become, as well as making the Mac version of Internet Explorer—for a time—the premier Mac web browser.) ClarisWorks never recovered. Apple eventually gave it the AppleWorks name (from an old productivity suite for the Apple ][) & bundled it with every Mac. It really started to show its age, though, & never got a proper revamp for Mac OS X. Now that iWork ’08 is out, it looks like AppleWorks days are numbered. On the positive side, this is better than letting it continue to rot. On the negative side, Macs will no longer come with a bundled productivity suite, but just a demo of iWork. While I like OpenOffice.org/NeoOffice, they don’t offer the kind of user experience a great Mac application needs. IWorks lacks the drawing component of ClarisWorks & OpenOffice.org, which I use quite a bit. Still, it is a great package & quite affordable.

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