Apple lays AppleWorks to rest

End of an era

Apple’s venerable consumer application suite AppleWorks, which at one point was the industry's best-selling piece of software, beating even Lotus 1-2-3 on the PC, has finally been laid to rest at the age of 23.

Visits to AppleWorks' former URL now redirect users to Apple’s iWork '08 instead.

AppleWorks -- unveiled in 1984 for the eight-bit Apple II computer line -- was one of the first integrated suites, combining word processing, spreadsheet and database in a unified program. By 1991, it had mutated into ClarisWorks, a Macintosh collection that combined the original trio with graphics and communications tools, albeit sharing only half of the name and most of the application mix, but no code. A Windows version appeared in 1993.

As Claris focused on development and marketing of the popular FileMaker Pro database, indeed, eventually rechristening itself FileMaker Inc. in the process, the suite returned to Apple, which closed the circle and renamed it AppleWorks.

AppleWorks was ultimately updated for Mac OS X and given a crude presentation maker, but it never received a Universal binary facelift after Apple moved its machines to Intel processor. In 2005, AppleWorks was shoved into the deep shadows as iWork debuted. That suite -- originally just Pages, a word processing and page layout application, and Keynote, a presentation-making rival to Microsoft PowerPoint -- was always seen as the next AppleWorks.

When Apple introduced iWork ‘05, senior vice president of applications Sina Tamaddon said that the company was "building the successor to AppleWorks." To many, however, the boast rang false, since iWork lacked a spreadsheet, one of the key pillars of AppleWorks, or any other application suite.

That changed with iWork '08's release last week. The newest application bundled in iWork, Numbers, offers users spreadsheet calculation capabilities and visual display tools.

Apple did not hold a wake or post an obituary for AppleWorks, perhaps because while the suite is dead, its documents aren't necessarily gone. iWork '08, in fact, makes a point to import AppleWorks word processing, presentation and spreadsheet files. "If you have AppleWorks documents, you can give them a brand-new home in Numbers," Apple touts in its on-site marketing of iWork.

AppleWorks, R.I.P.

Peter Cohen of MacWorld contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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