Microsoft Corp., reaching out to novice computer users, has introduced three new software products aimed at home computer users and those who work in small businesses and home offices.
The new programs are Microsoft Works for Windows, Microsoft Money and Microsoft Publisher.
All three are based on Microsoft's Windows 3.0 graphical operating system, which means that while the programs are intended for novices, the novices must have computers with enough memory and processing power to run Windows. Windows must be purchased separately.
Microsoft officials said Works for Windows (list price $199.95) and Microsoft Money ($69.95) will be available at the end of this month, while Microsoft Publisher ($199.95) is expected to reach the stores by Oct. 7.
Microsoft Money is best described as a smart checkbook, useful for keeping track of checks, deposits, withdrawals, credit cards, business expenses and other simple financial records.
It will be a direct challenger to Intuit Inc.'s Quicken, which is by far the most popular personal financial software for DOS computers. A Windows version of Quicken is expected in a couple of months.
Microsoft Publisher is a rival to Spinnaker Software's PFS: First Publisher, the leading low-end DOS desktop publishing program. Microsoft Publisher will be useful for creating newsletters, fliers, brochures and simple business forms.
We'll take a closer look at Money and Publisher next week.
Works for Windows is a welcome update to Microsoft Works, a popular integrated set of programs that includes a word processor, a spreadsheet and a data base manager.
The original Works also included a communications program, but since Windows 3.0 has a decent built-in communications program of its own, called Terminal, adding one to Works for Windows would have been redundant.
Lower cost and greater ease of use are the two main reasons that small-business and home-office users might consider buying an integrated program instead of more powerful stand-alone programs.
Microsoft Word for Windows, for example, is an industrial-strength word processor that has a list price of $495 and what seems like 495 features.
The typical small-business or home-office user might use only a small number of those features.
The word processor component of Works for Windows allows users to do most common office tasks, including sending a personalized form letter to everyone on a list, mixing text and graphics on a page, what-you-see-is-what-you-get formatting and fancy type fonts, print-preview and spell-checking.
In other words, the Works user does not pay for the extra features that a small business rarely needs.
The spreadsheet component resembles Excel, Microsoft's superior financial analysis tool, but without some of the esoteric features that are of interest mainly to hard-core number crunchers.
One can still create financial tables, keep track of sales, create charts and print reports, but not in Excel's "three dimensional" work sheets.
The spreadsheet component of Works for Windows also includes a version of Microsoft Excel's innovative Tool Bar, in which a row of symbols across the top of the screen makes it easier to use some of the most popular commands and features.
Microsoft has been unable to create a fully powered data base for Windows, although it is rumored to be working on one for release early next year.
lTC The data base module in Works is relatively simple, but it allows the user to create customer lists, track inventory and do other simple record-keeping.
Microsoft has designed each Works facet to be easier to use than its big business counterpart.
"Help" features have been expanded and the commands simplified.
The most intriguing feature is Works Wizards, a set of interactive tools that essentially automates common small-business tasks.
For example, someone might wish to create a data base of business contacts, sort of an electronic address book. With a more powerful data base program, one might spend hours learning how to create mountains when a molehill would do quite nicely.
The Wizard button can create a template for an address book almost automatically. The user clicks on the Wizard, answers some standard questions and sits back while the program automatically builds the forms.
Many small business and home office workers will prefer full-powered software.
But new computer users, and those who are just beginning to automate their small businesses, may find Works for Windows better suited to their needs.
Works is also worth considering for laptop computers because of the economy of space it requires on a hard disk.
The drawback is that Windows is not particularly easy to learn, and also requires fancier hardware than regular DOS applications.
Windows requires an IBM PC or compatible with at least 1 megabyte of system memory, a hard disk, and a mouse.
Microsoft says Windows will run on a fast 80286 microprocessor, but experience suggests that a 386SX, 386, 486SX or 486 chip backed by at least four megabytes of random access memory (RAM) yields better performance.