Apple should open source production suite it terminated

APPLE A DAY

August 16, 2007|By DAVID ZEILER

AppleWorks 6, Apple's veteran production suite, has been officially declared "end of life." Its page on Apple's Web site now redirects visitors to the iWork suite page.

Though not surprising in view of the recent addition of the Numbers spreadsheet to iWork, it nevertheless brings a bittersweet end to a legendary program.

Introduced as ClarisWorks in 1991, the software offered an early Mac alternative to Microsoft's offerings. ClarisWorks differed from most other productivity suites in that it combined six programs - word processing, database, spreadsheet, drawing, painting and a terminal program for communications (later replaced by a presentation program) - into one integrated application. The components of Microsoft Office, by contrast, function as separate applications.

For true computing graybeards, the program's pedigree can be traced further back, to the original AppleWorks for the Apple II released in 1984. The main competition back then wasn't anything from Microsoft; it was a spreadsheet program for DOS-based PCs called Lotus 1-2-3. For a while that original version of AppleWorks was the top-selling productivity suite of its day. I bought AppleWorks 1.0 the same day I bought my Apple IIc in 1985, and later used another descendant, AppleWorks GS.

ClarisWorks was built for Mac OS 9 and its predecessors. Apple dusted off the old AppleWorks moniker for the suite in 1998, and with AppleWorks 6, released in 2000, the suite was revised so it would run in Mac OS X. Apple also sold a version of ClarisWorks/AppleWorks for Windows starting in 1993. So an eventual Windows version of the iWork suite would not be unprecedented.

While I use Microsoft Office often, I still use AppleWorks 6 occasionally. My advice to Mac users who remain attached to the program is to make sure you've upgraded to the latest version (6.2.9). You still can use it as you always have. Just because Apple has left it behind does not mean you have to. I can see some people continuing to use it a decade from now.

Some folks on the Low End Mac Web site, where Dan Knight wrote an early obituary for AppleWorks the other day, have called on Apple to make the code on abandoned programs such as AppleWorks an open source, so that interested parties could continue to update and improve it. I heartily agree. What does Apple have to lose but the goodwill of many of its oldest and most loyal customers?

Dave Zeiler blogs about Macs and other Apple products at baltimoresun.com/apple.

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