Microsoft Work Suite 2004: Still the Best Value
Despite Corel's cheaper alternative, the Microsoft Work Suite 2004 is still one of the best value purchases for families and small industry users. The program's strong selection of applications makes spending a few extra dollars worthwhile.
The program's complete suite has applications for the whole family. There's the basic Works that combines a spreadsheet, database, appointment calendar and task-oriented launchpad interface, as well as the Word applications for the grown-ups. Additional applications are also included such as Streets & Trips 2004 for planning family outings like a vacation drive; Money Standard 2004, to help manage the family's finances, as well as some business investments; and Picture It Photo Premium 9.0 for that more polished artwork from snapshots in your digital camera.
The kids won't be left behind with the Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2004 that provides them with a head start on their homework and school projects. It includes thousands of updated articles, more than 19,000 photos and illustrations, and about 29,000 links to web sites. However, for the older kids, the application definitely lacks advanced tools such as a dictionary, a thesaurus, and additional articles and images. You still need another application for that- the Encarta Reference Library.
The Streets & Trips 2004 is excellent with a simple and easy-to-understand mapping and planning application that will help you get from one place to another. It provides door-to-door driving directions and maps for 6.7 million miles of roads in the United States and Canada. You could easily download these maps from Streets & Trips to Microsoft Pocket Streets. It even has useful features to provide you with hassle-free road trips such as calculating how far you can get from a certain location in a set amount of time. An added bonus is its Global Positioning System (GPS) support that helps you find your exact location while traveling with your GPS device. This feature sets the Works Suite 2004 apart from web sites such as Yahoo and MSN Maps.
Money Standard 2004 walks you through checkbook-balancing and budget- or expense-tracking jobs that will help you put your personal finances in order. It's very handy for home-oriented tasks such as bill payments online and downloading financial statements. However, if you're looking for in-depth assistance with investments, credit and tax management, and setting up future financial-goals, the application is short on those departments. It lacks tax-planning tools that are otherwise available in the Deluxe and Premium versions.
When it comes to photo editing, the Suite's Picture It Photo Premium 9.0 provides more features from its predecessor. Aside from the basic red-eye removal and rotation and cropping tools, it has a new image acquisition wizard that lets you transfer photos easily from its sources like the digital camera, scanner, and the hard drive, among others. It also comes with over 1,500 templates for photo cards, frames, calendars, and several image-oriented home projects.
But what really made my day was the support system provided by Microsoft for users of this application. Aside from an easy interface, the technical support is available anytime to provide users with answers to queries and problems. I even have my friend raving about an experience she had with a customer representative. The customer representative was courteous enough to return her call when she was unable to complete it the previous day. Add to that, she got her answers accurately and politely.
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