Q: I recently bought a Pentium II computer that came loaded with Microsoft Works and Word 97. My problem is: Which one do I use? I want to write a book. I have lots of manuscripts to enter, including various poems and short essays that sometime in the future I'd like to be able to rearrange and edit. I don't want to start entering my work, only to find I chose the wrong program.
Q: I was recently given a 486 PC for home use and am trying to decide about the most appropriate word processing software for our family. We need a package that: 1) can be used easily by our 10-year-old, and my wife, both of whom are just beginning to learn about PCs; 2) can be used by me for at-home purposes and to transform files from work; and 3) retails for $50 to $80.
A. I'm more confused than either of you. About once a year I find a reason to switch from the latest version of Microsoft Word to Clarisworks, or vice-versa, and lately I've been using, believe it or not, the Netscape Communicator HTML editor for most of my writing.
In general, I think it pays to use the least complicated program that does the job, especially if it lets you load fewer programs. Memory overhead is lower, processor requirements slimmer, and generally the whole lash-up will tend to be faster and more stable.
Of course, there also are specific requirements. A book author probably should be using Word, since it has scads of features specifically designed for people who write books. If it seems complicated, just remember you can turn things off or customize menus and buttons to create a cleaner interface. There may be something that can be done with word processing that Word doesn't do, but I have yet to find it.
Clarisworks' great strength is its integration. It is very simple to mix graphics and text on the same page, or embed a spreadsheet with calculations in a memo. I find it much superior to Microsoft Works, though some will disagree with me.
Send questions to dolinar(at)newsday.com.