Microsoft Works 9.0, best described as the ‘lite’ version of the industry standard Microsoft Office suite of software, has had a recent refresh for 2008. It offers cut-down versions of Word, Excel and Access and includes a dictionary and calendar/organiser.

The Microsoft Works 9.0 approach is much more user-friendly than Office, with a clean interface that allows you to either fire up individual applications manually or choose to work through a range of templates or projects. The selection of these is very good, and you’ll find you can work your way through a series of steps that involve using one or more of the applications supplied to perform activities such as manage a fantasy football league, plan a holiday or perform research and learn online.

Also of note is Microsoft Works 9.0's calendar and dictionary, the former of which supports multiple schedules and up to 32 individual calendars for different users.

All of this aside there’s not a lot more to Microsoft Works 9.0 aside from the cut-down Office applications themselves. We were a little disappointed by exactly how much Microsoft has streamlined their operation however, and as a result we’d expect all but the most casual of users to become frustrated at some point by the lack of control.

You’re very limited in the range of formatting options available in Word, which comprise mainly simple font and style changes. As such it pretty much restricts you to writing letters, although you will find mail merge control and the ability to create labels and envelopes, so if this is all you need to do you’ll be well provided for.

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Elsewhere, we thought Microsoft Works 9.0's Excel was similarly lightweight, with no support for multiple worksheets and limited control over formulae. The database tool is extremely simple, and integrates poorly with applications outside the Works suite, so you can expect plenty of frustration should you be looking to make this the basis of an external project.

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Microsoft Works 9.0: Specs

  • 1GHz Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon Processor (1.6GHz for Vista)
  • Windows Vista/XP/2000
  • 256MB RAM (1.5GB for Vista)
  • 470MB hard disk space (860MB for Vista)
  • 1GHz Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon Processor (1.6GHz for Vista)
  • Windows Vista/XP/2000
  • 256MB RAM (1.5GB for Vista)
  • 470MB hard disk space (860MB for Vista)

OUR VERDICT

Microsoft Works 9.0 succeeds in being simple to use and approachable to beginners, but more experienced or creative users, or those that expect to reach this level, will find the lack of power extremely restrictive. There aren’t really enough improvements in the new version to justify an upgrade, and when you put the suite alongside impressive inexpensive and open-source alternatives such as OpenOffice, it’s found sadly lacking.

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