Microsoft Works has always been a stripped down version of MS Office, aimed at casual users and those with basic needs. It is most often found bundled on new PCs.

It comprises a single disc from which you can install the staple applications of Word, Spreadsheet, PowerPoint and Database. There are also a calendar and dictionary. Covering the basics of office applications, you’ll find these are all stripped-down and as a result, easier to use than their full-blown relatives. In the main, you’ll find they are also compatible with Office programs.

The interface has been heavily overhauled and is far easier to get to grips with than Office. Everything starts with the Works Task Launcher and you can either load a single application or use it to plan out a series of tasks, whether that’s get to grips with planning a holiday or working out the family budget.

On the left-hand side of the screen you’ll find the different tools on offer, while along the top you’ll find different area to explore, consisting of Templates, Programs, Projects and History. It’s easy to find exactly what you want quickly and first-time users will like it.

However, the limitations quickly become apparent, as Microsoft seem to have stripped a lot of the functionality from the tools. For instance, Word has had many of its formatting functions pared down, limiting the fonts and style of page you can layout. This is fine as long as you only want to use it for writing letters or longer documents but you won’t be able to format anything more elaborate. Label making and even mail merge is still in there, so it’s not all bad news.

Spreadsheet also suffers from strip-mining many of its more complicated functions, so won’t allow you to create multiple worksheets, for instance. There is also limited control of formulas. Database works well, as long as your needs are simple but the main problem here is that you can’t readily export it to work with other suites. This is fine as long as you’re creating something personal, like a list of your DVD collection but if you have to use it to claim on the insurance, for instance, you may find it problematic.

If Microsoft has decided that first-time users want simplicity, then it has succeeded but there isn’t enough here to warrant an upgrade from Version 8.0.

The biggest problem we have with Works 9.0 is that in this age of open-source alternatives, there is little reason here for you to actually buy it. If it comes free with a new PC, then it’s fine, but at £40 (inc. VAT), you’ll soon find yourself out-growing its limited functions and feeling frustrated.

Price when reviewed:

Microsoft Works 9.0 is a decent package if you’ve never used such applications before and on that level it has a lot to recommend. However, once you get to grips with it, there isn’t enough to keep you coming back.