My favorite office suite: Apple Works 6

Apple Works 6Today I’d like to post about my favorite office suite which I still use up to this day, even though it has long since discontinued: Apple Works, formerly known as ClarisWorks. Apple had renamed the office suite after reintegrating its subsidiary Claris into Apple. If you’re interested in early days of ClarisWorks and how it all came about, check out this episode of the Mac Folklore Radio.

Apple Works 6 was originally released in 2002 and came as a carbonized application, which means it’ll run on Mac OS 9 as well, though I seem to remember that only the OS X version could apply all the latest updates.

Apple Works 6 features a colorful interface which is so much different from the “serious” greyish Microsoft Office style. Remember, those were the days when Apple was innovative! Apple Works 6 comes with a word processor, a drawing program, a painting program, a spreadsheet program and a database program. Basically, everything you and me will probably ever need.

And that was exactly what the makers had in mind when they developed it. You and me. There are not tons of functions that no real person is ever going to use as in other office suites. There is no cluttered interface. Apple Works 6 filled a gap in the office market, the gap between simple text editors and heavily overloaded suites like Microsoft Office.

On startup, Apple Works asks you about your plans using easy-to-grasp icons (yes, that’s German)

I also find Apple Works 6 to work great on just any older PowerPC hardware, starting from old G3 computers. A while ago I had an iMac G3 in for repairs. It was a 400 Mhz model with 10.4.11 installed (what else?) and while Office 2004 took really long to boot up and wasn’t that responsive, Apple Works 6 worked like a charm.

Word processor of Apple Works 6What made me pick Apple Works 6 over Microsoft Office was compatibility with the popular Microsoft formats .doc (documents) and .xls (spreadsheet). So no problem opening files from friends and co-workers. I don’t think there is a way to open the new .docx files in Apple Works 6,  unless someone wrote a hack or something. Anyone knowing anything about it?

Anyway, as I said in my introduction, Apple Works has been discontinued officially since August 2007. Apple failed to provide an adequate replacement with iWork and has yet to come up with a true successor. However, the official support website is still online.

I will continue to use Apple Works 6 for as long as my PowerPC Macs are running. I am no office suite geek. I just want a program that ‘works’ for me. Apple Works 6 does that.

If you care to take a look yourself, the Macintosh Garden has Apple Works 6 available in all different languages.

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21 Responses to My favorite office suite: Apple Works 6

  1. Really enjoyed your AppleWorks 6 post: I use it to crack open CW4 files from old world Mac days, among other things.
    Years ago I once stumped the PC support team where I used to work, by asking for their default X-modem settings on an office PC for a back-to-back file transfer with an RS 232 serial cable. At the time, I was in the habit of using the ClarisWorks communications module with preset session settings to transfer files from an Amstrad notepad. So I didn’t see why I shouldn’t do the same to upload to a simple PC. Ended up transferring to my work Mac [a IIci, then] and copying the file to a PC-formatted floppy. Windows? Industry standard? Don’t make me laugh!

  2. Appleworks is, albeit long in the tooth, a fantastic package. It’s a shame that Apple dropped it, considering it started as Claris Works. On a G4 it was pretty damn fast and unlike Microsoft’s Port of Word et al, it actually worked and was stable (for some reason Word 2004 crashes all the time…. yes ALL the TIME!- on any mac, with tiger and with or without updates).

    • Peter says:

      You asked what I imagine Nebraska might look like:
      Would it have the kind of endless corn belt landscape that could have been a setting for the Wizard of Oz, but Dorothy preferred Kansas?
      Maybe Frank L Baum’s original tin man was a bit wooden and later turned up as a support act for Johnny Carson? What is it with all this dummy stuff, anyway? Maybe Eddie should write you a cameo piece…
      The place is about as central in middle America as it is possible to be, so maybe the railroad was an escape route, sorry, migration corridor for people going west.

      • Barbara Carlson says:

        evocative description — NE gets a pretty bum rap as a scenic place, but “oceans” of prairie grasses were so daunting to pioneers who looked across the Missouri on their way West and said, nope, not today — it took 40 YEARS to settle the place. thanks B.

      • Barbara Carlson says:

        Eddie??? Edgar Allan Woolf? the co-screen writer?

      • Peter says:

        Hi Barbara,
        sorry to break the thread by cross-posting down page. When he was entertaining troops in the 1940s, Johnny Carson’s had a ventriloquist’s dummy by the name of Eddie. So I made the connection with Nebraska by Dummies, which I figured would gain greater dummy credibility if a Nebraskan celebrity dummy made a guest appearance with a bit of foreword thinking, so to speak.
        After all, it will say any words you choose to put in its mouth, which makes it useful as a literary device. Or is Eddie just too arcane? I thought you could montaqe a proscenium arch around a map of Nebraska with a ventriloquist’s dummy and the preface format is done for you.

      • Barbara Carlson says:

        very clever, but the book’s premise is not that Nebraskans are dummies but non-Nebraskans know little or nothing about the state, but may use our email exchange?

      • Peter says:

        Never suggested that dummies were stupid: they may be wooden, but they usually get the best lines in any ventriloquism act because they are a blank canvas for the performer. So I say interview Eddie and run it as the preface. After all, the dummy can be candid and it is taken for humour. Eddie would tell you what it was like to work with a Lincoln alumnus and what Lincoln was like in those days.

  3. KS says:

    Appleworks rocks for so many reasons-small ‘footprint’, loads quick, templates are great, and the drawing program is super ez to use. AW 6 has been by main ‘go-to’ for at least 10 years…iWorks does not fill the bill in the same way.

  4. I have a MAC OSX 10.4.11 Tiger system and bought Appleworks 6 to compose text for a my fifth book. I was told I could save my file as a PDF, but cannot find it under SAVE AS. My last book I transferred onto (I think) MAC word, THEN into InDesign (422 pages with 150 illustrations — The Pocket Lint Chronicles) and then made a PDF. Worked great!

    But I want to keep it simpler this time with maybe NO illustrations.

    I see that Apple’s Pages require MAC 10.7.4 min. but if I upgrade my 10.4 I will not be able to open my Appleworks 6 to transfer it! Short of printing it out and have those hard-copies xeroxed by a print shop, what can I do?

    What a shame Apple has made it an orphan.

    Any ideas?

    • Peter says:

      Hi Barbara,
      When they said “save as PDF”, they should have said “print to a PDF”. Since version 10, the Mac operating system uses its print menu to generate a PDF from any text and/or picture file using the output from pretty much any application that works with text or pictures.
      When you have a file open, go to the print menu and select the page range you want to appear in your PDF file. (The default value will probably be all the pages.) Then look at the bottom left hand corner of the print menu box and you will see a pull-down menu labelled “PDF”
      Click the triangle to access the menu and take the first option, which is “Save as a PDF.” You can play with the other options another time, but for now your Mac is going to ask you to save a plain, ordinary PDF file instead of printing the same page(s) on a piece of paper. You’ve probably already got a destination folder that you already use for working documents, so give your PDF file a name (“Fred” is quick) and save it with the rest of your work.
      Now for the clever bit that might help you with producing your book. From the File menu at the top of the screen, go to “Page settings…” and open the pull-down menu labelled paper size. Depending on your default printer, you will be offered the page sizes that the printer already knows about. But wait! The very last menu option is “Manage Custom Sizes…” This will let you persuade Apple Works to generate a real-world book-size page, either parked in the middle of an A4 sheet or as a PDF for your printshop.
      Apple Works may not have the full repertoire of a layout program, but it has a lot of useful stuff. Just bear in mind that it predates the widespread adoption of UTF font coding: this is what allows you to generate accented letters that read the same for Macs and PCs in a joined-up networking world, for instance. It was the migration to UTF coding and web 2 applications that isolated old world Mac software and machines which were otherwise front line players in their day (the 8600 and 9600 were stable workhorses back then. Well, on vanilla 8.6, at least.)
      A word of warning about fonts in PDFs, though. More recent fonts (Postscript and Truetype) are made with outlines that the computer draws and fills in to print your page. If you still have any fonts from the days of 8.6 and earlier (“Old World Mac”), there were some bitmap fonts that rendered correctly on screen but lacked any outline information to generate letter shapes when printing to PDF.
      In the absence of the right kind of font information, the Mac saves a PDF file using a default font: Courier. This happened to me once with a 20,000 word booklet. I remember that printing pages on paper worked for some reason, but the subsequent monospaced Courier version of the PDF was a hair puller!

      • Thanks so much for the prompt and detailed reply. I know about FONTS (the devil’s spawn so I use what is available to me, which is enough). I also followed your advice and saved my Appleworks file to a PDF. Thanks! I can now proceed with confidence and dignity!

        By the way, if you’re not doing anything right now, could you answer an O/T question for me?
        What do you know about Nebraska? If you are from there, what is THE best thing about the state we non-Nebraskans don’t know. If you aren’t, what DO you know? (without resorting to Google, please! I’ll explain later.)

        If anyone else on this thread would like to chime in, please feel free!

      • Peter says:

        Glad to know you got your PDF sorted out. Did you spot the bit about page sizes? You might be able to do your book to scale right there in AppleWorks with live page numbers and other trimmings, such as footnotes, ready to go. Put a test file through your printshop or book printer before committing to this barnstorming, entry-level system though! Above all, keep it all simple and don’t drop in spreadsheet frames or other AppleWorks-specific features like cross references to content in other files, like database output. PostScript probably likes to have everything in one place before your page gets PDF’ed.
        Oh, and if you contemplate dropping in any pictures, AppleWorks appears to support RGB or CMYK for TIFF files but no transparency in any imported graphics. (PNG is supported, which is RGB-only, but the image is displayed in a bounding box). I got a test page out using these file formats_HOWEVER_ I’ve only tried this in a user-friendly Mac environment and I’ve not taken a PDF out of the box and thrown it to the ravening Wintel wolves.
        As to Nebraska, I know nothing but the name of the state. But then I live in the UK and my travel is limited to continental Europe. So instead of consulting Google, I asked my daughter if there was a Nebraskan connection in any of the TV that she watches. She tells me that there’s a character in the Big Bang Theory who is supposed to come from Nebraska, but that’s about as far as it goes. Sorry, I’m just the wrong side of the pond.

  5. Thanks for the tips! Very thorough.
    As to your daughter’s knowledge of Nebraska — yes.

    Penny from TV’s The Big Bang Theory comes from Nebraska. When Sheldon is determining which State to move to after a burglary, he stands pondering in front of a big map of the States. Penny asks if he’s considered Nebraska?
    “You’re from Nebraska,” he says.
    She beams, “Born and bred!”
    Exactly,” and puts a big red X over the entire state. One wonders if he got miuch blow-back from his Nebraska fans.

    I’m writing a book on Nebraska — can’t give out any more info, but you’ll be notified when it’s in print form. You will be in it! Thanks for playing along.

    My husband is from UK and thinks Nebraska is hiding something…it’s flying much too low under the radar. There is a theory on-line that Penny is a spy…

    I tell him Nebraska was the inspiration for, and home of, the Witness Protection Program. 😀
    He laughs and can’t disprove it.

    Happy Boxing Day!

  6. Peter Rogers says:

    Hi everyone!

    Just to nail my colours to the mast, and say that I am a long time user of AppleWorks. I do have Office 2008, Pages, Numbers etc. but never use them – Why?

    Because I find that AppleWorks is like a comfy old pair old slippers. I know where I can find everything, it will do exactly what I need, and still holds its own. It’s compatible with all my old documents, so there is no need to worry about having to convert documents. If I want to send someone a document I can convert it into a pdf and voila, it doesn’t matter what platform they have – it can be read on whatever!

    Even after using Apple Works (when it was then called Claris Works) for 20 years or so, I’m still surprised to find new things it can do (particularly in complex spreadsheet formulas), and there is no other programme that has the seamless integrity to combine word processing, spreadsheets, pictures and painting all within a single drawing frame!

    At the moment, I’m designing a database (on AW) for a publishing company, and would love to correspond with other power users of this still formidable and powerful app.

    Peter, UK
    Same-grade, don’t Upgrade…..

  7. S.H. Chan, Hong Kong says:

    Hi, I dear all
    I am an Apple Works user too for long long time. It still work great on my Mac with OSX 10.6.8. But not any more on OSX 10.8 as I recently bought a MacBook Air. Tooooo BAD.
    Some say the iWork could handle the Apple Works file. Is it true? But still, Apple Works is simple & reliable.

    • Peter Rogers, UK says:

      As far as I am aware, iWork can handle word process docs (using Pages) – but as for page layout, embedded spread sheets and pictures, who knows?
      Numbers is claimed to handle AW spreadsheets, but then again, whether it can carry over all the whistles and bells that can with be used within an AW SS is debatable (like big red arrows to point out important cells!).
      Keynote is supposed to be able to import AW presentations, but then again? (incidentally, has anyone ever used the AW presentations tool?)
      Now the cruncher…
      Let’s assume that all of the above is actually possible, and everything goes across just fine – This is a ONE WAY trip you’re going to take. Forget any chance of saving your modified document back into AW format. The best you might be able to do is to save it as an ascii text file, or tab delimited SS file and then import back into AW, with all the reformatting needed afterwards!
      Best advice – run your Intel Mac on Snow Leopard (where possible) which will still allow AW to run without problems.
      Incidentally, the best thing I ever brought for AW was the T&B Enhancement Pack which gives it loads more features and formulas, and just makes things a little easier. Let me know if you would like a personal review on just how it can bring AW6 into 2013….
      SAMEGRADE – Don’t Upgrade….

  8. Hi again,
    Am working on my book, BUT I am having trouble with Appleworks 6 in that
    it occasionally won’t save.

    It says it has, but when I open the file, corrections, additions
    and yesterday 4 pages (done at the end of the day) were missing! I had to reconstruct them today.

    I have only gotten a box a few times to tell me to save, as I usually “save” every few paragraphs.
    Once today I made some changes and SAVED. Made another change and looked at the SAVE in the pulldown
    menu and it was greyed out, although I had made changes!

    Until today I was working on an alias — then saving it. Would that be my problem?

    I have saved what I’ve done today (up to page 54) as a pdf. As well as a cwk. I made no alias.
    I usually save each day I work on the book — SAVE AS — BOOK – feb 15.cwk etc. making a new file.
    I save it on two EX hard drives.

    I am not having save problems on other .cwk files

    Is 54 pages too much for a file?

    Any thoughts?


    • Peter says:

      Hi Barbara,
      File size is unlikely to be a problem until you start running out of disk space. (Harder to do in a word processing environment.) Likewise, using an alias is straightforward practice: just think of the alias as a little piece of virtual string that is attached to one (and only one) file, folder, application, whatever. Pull the string and reel in your (original) file like a fish on the end of a line. The saved as file is a new entity, no strings attached.
      Your problem may actually be version control, because you say that you save your work file as a date stamped backup every so often. If you do save as before you do a save, all your unsaved writing and editing gets saved into a completely new file, so when you go back to the original file, yup, there’s nothing to save. Retracing your steps might help to find the missing edits.
      If you can automate your backups, you may find it easier to keep track of the version you want to be working on at any time. It depends on what feels comfortable. (I use a different application for the writing bit, which manages backups but knows nothing about layout.) What matters is keeping the number of places to look for your work to a manageable minimum.
      There are plenty of options, from AppleScript for barnstormers (simple*, cost-effective and powerful home-brewed file processing), through to dedicated backup applications (variable relevance), passing by folder and file synchronising apps (some of which are basically applications written in AppleScript ) on the way.
      It would help to document whatever solution you adopt, just to help to embed the structure in your mind or if you need to unravel things later on.
      The thing about backups is that more is only better if you know what you have saved. Limiting the number of versions in play at one time prevents undergrowth building up in your filing system. Sooner or later, it’s worth automating what is otherwise a fairly boring and repetitive mission critical task. Exactly how you do it is a wide open choice, so do what feels most comfortable. That’s the main reason we use Macs. There are more options and a degree of flexibility.

      Hey, there may be a Mac User Group (MUG) in Nebraska with a version control expert or a Nebraskan AppleScripting guru. How cool would that be, to commission version control scripting from the place that you’re writing about? Just make sure that whoever writes the code DOCUMENTS it for real world users, though! (“Read the manual” is often easier to say than do: well-written documentation is essential if you want to get anything done.)

      Hope this helps,


      *your Mac is using AppleScript all the time to do basic tasks and to pass jobs from one application to another (that’s pretty much what the Finder does). Your operating system is already using it out of the can and it simply works. It’s a mindset thing rather than a learning curve. You need to be comfortable with having real power over your Mac. With a clear idea of what you want to achieve, you can write simple scripts or adapt the variables in existing canned scripts. It is possible to cannibalise existing scripts and live off the land (that’s how most people learn it). But if you’ve got a book to write, then you’ll probably have other things on your mind…

      • Barbara Carlson says:

        Retracing your steps might help to find the missing edits. I did this first. No joy.

        > you say that you save your work file as a date stamped backup every > so often >

        I just rename the file to the present date. So I have past versions I can refer to.

        I am comfortable with saving on my HD plus two external HDs (several times a day).

        I will just be very careful to make sure I have my recent writing SAVED. I will check that

        my external HDs have it locked in before I quit the main one I’m working on. Hope this works.

        thanks for your help.

        There is a MUG in Nebraska but I don’t plan to do any commission control version scripting

        (even if I knew what that was), but I’m sure it would be VERY cool. My nephew IT geek

        would be impressed I even knew the term. 🙂


        So – what do you imagine Nebraska to look like — the dumber the answer the better!

        The book is after all, called Nebraska By Dummies. 🙂 see flyer.

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