Copyright © 1999 by Gareth Jones
This article appeared in the Apples B.C. News newsletter.
Last updated 20 August 1999

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ClarisWorks has been rechristened as AppleWorks, even though another program shares that name. This article welcomes the new AppleWorks by remembering the original.



Robert Lissner was inspired by the Lisa computer's software to spend two years writing an "integrated" program for the Apple /// and Apple II. Haba Systems published the Apple /// version in 1984 as /// E-Z Pieces. The Apple II version was picked up by Apple and called AppleWorks.

The timing was good. AppleWorks used keys that only appeared on the Apple IIe (released 1983) and //c (1984). It also used the ProDOS operating system, which was also released in 1984. In other words, it made full use of new hardware and software. In addition, integration was being touted as the next big trend in software.

Even version 1.0 of AppleWorks was extraordinarily useful. It combined word processing, spreadsheet, and database modules. Up to 12 files could be held in memory ("on the desktop"). Information could be shared between its files, of whatever type. It could run on an Apple with just 64K of RAM. On a 128K computer, it had a generous 55K of RAM free for files.

This doesn't sound impressive by modern standards. To put it in context, AppleWorks and the 128K Macintosh were both introduced in 1984. The Mac had only two programs: a limited word processor called MacWrite and a fun painting program called MacPaint. There was no spreadsheet, no database, and no integrated program. A person could clearly do more serious work with AppleWorks.

The market agreed. By the end of its first year, AppleWorks was selling better than any other program for any platform, period, having overtaken Lotus 1-2-3 for MS-DOS.

Its success embarrassed Apple for two reasons. First, Apple has a long-standing dilemma about marketing software. If it does badly, it makes no money. If it does well, it kills developers. So, at the time, strong arguments were made within the company to stop selling software completely. Second, the company wanted the Mac to do better than the II. Careers and reputations were on the line.

Apple's internal conflict resulted in an advertising strategy that Tom Wieshaar describes in the November 1987 issue of Open-Apple magazine:

Since AppleWorks was released, ... Apple has run 26 pages of ads in A+ magazine. The word "AppleWorks" appears in those ads exactly zero times. Four of the ads show screen shots of AppleWorks... the Apple IIGS ad in the September 1987 A+ [shows a screen shot of] AppleWorks... in the gutter between the pages and is the only one of the 23 programs shown that isn't mentioned by name. This is typical of the treatment Apple's bastard child gets from its mother. Yocam, [Apple's Executive Vice-President], didn't mention it or Lissner in his birthday speech [at the 1987 AppleFest, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Apple II], and John Sculley, Apple's president, doesn't mention it or Lissner in his... book, Odyssey.

AppleWorks was what the movie industry calls a "sleeper": unpromoted but popular. Sales grew through word-of-mouth advertising. Also, hardware and software vendors flooded the market with products advertised to work with AppleWorks. Every large-capacity memory board, for example, shipped with a program to patch AppleWorks to use the extra RAM. This compensated for the lack of advertising by Apple.



AppleWorks created a standard user interface for Apple II programs. Its "filecard" interface receives its name because AppleWorks draws a filecard around each menu. Opening a sub-menu draws a partially-overlapping filecard and menu over the first, and so on, through as many levels as are necessary. A tab on each filecard, which is never obscured, displays the name of the menu. This means that the user's location in the hierarchy of menus is always clear. (See the screen shot).

AppleWorks' "Filecard" Menus

AppleWorks Screen Shot

All the menus use the "Magic Menu" standard developed in Apple's labs, meaning that each choice is numbered, and can be selected by pressing arrow keys or a number. The current selection is highlighted. Pressing "Return" executes the selection.

The user working on a document can display the menus by pressing "Escape." Going back to the document, or backing out of a selection, or going back a level in the hierarchy of menus, is also accomplished by pressing "Escape."

A difference between AppleWorks and other interfaces is that AppleWorks uses a "verb-noun" order for text editing. One selects a command, then selects what will be affected. For example, one selects "Copy Text," and then the text to copy. The Mac uses a "noun-verb" order for commands. One selects something (the noun) and then selects a command (verb). The Mac system has the advantage that one can apply many actions to a single selection. On the other hand, English uses a verb-noun order in its sentences (e.g. "I love you" instead of "I you love"), which makes AppleWorks easy to learn.

AppleWorks' interface shares many advantages with the Macintosh user interface: menu and editing commands are the same throughout the program; it uses a "desktop" and "clipboard"; and the user can always see what commands are in the program and where he is in the sequence of choices.

As you would expect of siblings, Apple's two user interfaces competed. Some Apple II programs came out that used the Macintosh interface. Publish It!, MouseWrite, and MousePaint are a few examples. However, the filecard interface appeared in programs such as Point-To-Point (telecommunications), Quicken (finance), BusinessWorks (professional accounting), Visualizer (business graphics), CrossWorks (utility), SuperWorks (AppleWorks clone for MS-DOS computers), and even some of Apple's own programs, such as its ProDOS Users' Disk, SCSI utilities, and backup program. Apple also sold a "FileCard Toolkit," so that developers could use this de-facto standard.

A year or two after AppleWorks' release, a significant part of the Apple II software market existed simply to enhance it. Some titles include SpellWorks (spell check and mail merge), MegaWorks (spell check and mail merge), ReportWorks (advanced database reports), ThinkWorks (outlines), and GraphWorks (spreadsheet graphs).



The influence of AppleWorks went beyond stand-alone programs. With the help of Robert Lissner, who kindly ran a bulletin board system to answer programmers' questions about AppleWorks, many programs were written to run within AppleWorks, as though it were an operating system instead of an application.

Three systems came out to integrate new functions within AppleWorks. Jeeves (PBI software) and PinPoint (Pinpoint Publishing) came out in 1985. They were inspired by the success of SideKick on the IBM to provide desk accessories such as a phone list, dialler, notepad, and appointment book. Pinpoint later added a spell checker and a macro recorder to its system. Beagle Bros. released Alan Bird's TimeOut system in 1987. TimeOut allows any number of enhancements, from desk accessories to full programs, to work without conflicts.

Beagle Bros. eventually released over a dozen TimeOut products, including a thesaurus and a telecommunications module. The most important was UltraMacros, a new version of an extremely capable macro language. A new user can record keystrokes with UltraMacros to automate his work. An experienced UltraMacros programmer can reshape AppleWorks with new menus, help screens, prompts, and commands.

Some TimeOut modules by Randy Brandt and Dan Verkade were published by Jem Software. When Brandt and Verkade rewrote AppleWorks a few years later, these modules became part of the core program. The same is true of another idea from Jem: small "Init" files that change AppleWorks' behaviour in some way.

While all this activity was going on, there was a cottage industry of developing patches to customize AppleWorks. Several became commercial programs, including Late Night Patches (Mark Munz), SuperPatch (John Link), and AW 3.0 Companion (Mark Munz and Randy Brandt).

These efforts to modify AppleWorks led to some grumbling. For example:

Today's AppleWorks is a mess -- of fixes, gerry-rigging, and complications. If AppleWorks is so powerful, why do you need MacroWorks, AutoWorks, SpellWorks, MoneyWorks, GraphWorks, CommWorks, ThinkWorks, and FontWorks just to make it, well, work? (Paul Statt, inCider, April 1987, pg. 18)



The time had come to build a better AppleWorks with fewer missing pieces. The "someone" who would do it, as Paul Statt correctly predicted, would not be Apple. It exhausted its motherly instincts by releasing version 1.0 in 1984, two minor updates in 1985, version 1.3 in early 1986, and version 2.0 in Sept. 1986. Even version 2.0 was not a major change. It added mail merge, a few new spreadsheet functions, and allowed larger files. The cost of this was that it was the first version to need 128K of memory.

In July 1987, Apple created Claris Corporation to develop and sell its software, including AppleWorks. AppleWorks was still undersupported: although over 50% of Claris' income came from AppleWorks, only three employees were the AppleWorks Department ("Claris Inherits a Classic" by Lisa Raleigh and Gary B. Little, A+, April 1988, pg. 39). It was also still under-advertised, as Claris released only three major ads over the years. However, Claris released one bug-fix version (2.1) and contracted out to create a major new release.

Beagle Bros. programmers Alan Bird, Randy Brandt and Rob Renstrom worked on AppleWorks 3.0 for almost a year and went beyond Claris' specifications. They made it work with more memory, made it easier to load text files and navigate through a disk, added 26 trig and financial functions to the spreadsheet, increased the maximum file sizes again, and fixed over a hundred bugs. They added a spell-checker (based on a TimeOut module) which was perfect for classrooms: it could either fix misspellings or provide a list of misspelled words for study.

In June 1989, Claris announced the new version at the National Educational Computing Conference in Boston. The reviews were excellent and sales were apparently brisk. The program had influential fans, including one of the founders of Apple Computer. According to Steve Wozniak:

Even today, after six years of the Macintosh's existence, there has yet to be an integrated program as well-rounded and intuitive as AppleWorks ... ("Sneak Preview: SmartWorks," Jeff Cable, inCider/A+, January 1991, pg. 66).

Despite AppleWorks' success, Claris showed no interest in updating it further. After a few years, AppleWorks users felt that they could say goodbye to any hope of further development.

Randy Brandt and Dan Verkade approached Claris and then Quality Computers with plans for another major revision of AppleWorks, codenamed "Quadriga." Quality could have released it as a mammoth patcher program, without Claris' permission. However, Claris eventually licensed the AppleWorks code and name, and Quality released AppleWorks 4.0 in 1993.

Many new features were TimeOut modules that finally slipped into AppleWorks' own code. For example, AppleWorks 4 incorporates Triple Desktop (which lets the user open 36 files instead of 12), Double Data (which allows 60 categories in a database instead of 30), Total Control (which provides data entry masks and filters in the database), and the UltraMacros player, though not the macro recorder. TimeOut Paint, a MacPaint lookalike, ships with it. In addition, it features a 3D spreadsheet, a relational database, three clipboards, glossaries, a splittable window in the word processor, and much else. All this could still run on a 128K computer, although barely. With more memory, however, AppleWorks 4 is a lean, efficient workhorse.

AppleWorks 4 sold well enough to justify two more upgrades by Brandt and Verkade. Version 5.0 came out in 1994 and 5.1 in 1995.

AppleWorks 5 includes an enhanced version of the full UltraMacros package, a graphical screen saver, and a print buffer.

The word processor gained an outliner, non-printing comments, bookmarks, page preview, a choice to print only odd or even pages to let you use both sides of the paper in a print job, and wildcards or special characters in "Find" commands.

The database received a "mixed mode" display (simultaneous single and multiple record display), hidden categories, and the ability to show graphics in a record. A "Find and Replace" function was added to this module. A special database called "Alarms" pops messages on the screen to remind you of appointments.

The most important new feature in the spreadsheet is cell notes (memos), although a few more functions were added as well.

To fit in the new features, AppleWorks dropped support for 5.25" disks and, for the first time, needed 256K.



AppleWorks 4.3 and 5.1 are still sold by Scantron Quality Computers. (NOTE: This was true at the time that the article was written. Apple Computer has since refused to renew their license to the program and the AppleWorks name, so new copies of AppleWorks are not available). While writing this article, I called SQC at (800) 777-3642 and ordered an upgrade to AppleWorks 5.1. As a result, I am using the latest version of AppleWorks to finish it.

Other companies provide products, support, and information for AppleWorks users. The most prominent are Beverly Cadieux's Texas II, Joe Kohn's Shareware Solutions II and Howard Katz's AppleWorks Gazette.

Beverly Cadieux publishes Texas II, a magazine and disk subscription, as well as many TimeOut applications, AppleWorks INITs, custom macros, a book on macro programming, and other products listed on her web page at An e-mail to Beverly ( got me a free trial copy of her magazine and a disk with Bev's Free Patcher, a program that allows a user to customize AppleWorks.

Joe Kohn's company Shareware Solutions II sells just about anything related to Apple II software, including a massive collection of disks from the National AppleWorks User Group. It also sells two unique TimeOut applications, the CheckWorks financial package, which resembles the Apple II version of Quicken, and TimeOut ContactsMover, which moves an AppleWorks name and address database into a file that can be used by a GS desk accessory. Check out Joe's web site at details.

Howard Katz publishes The AppleWorks Gazette, a disk subscription of macros, articles, templates, and other useful items. You can read the contents of the back issues and download a sample from

Another worthy site is Nick Heywood's "AppleWebWorks" at Use a text based browser, if you can, and you'll see that this site uses the AppleWorks interface!



It is unlikely that new versions of AppleWorks will be written. Scantron Quality Computers may not even continue to sell it, once the current stock has run out. However, new patches, fixes, and TimeOut applications will appear.

Even without new products, AppleWorks will serve for as long as you have a computer that will run it. If you do replace your Apple II, your files can migrate; ClarisWorks and MacLink Pro can read and write AppleWorks files.

AppleWorks itself can jump to a new machine, thanks to emulation programs that allow a Mac or Windows machine to run Apple II software. One specialized emulation program deserves special mention: the entire purpose of Mark Munz's Deja ][ is to run AppleWorks 5.1 on a Mac. You can read about it at

By the way, AppleWorks 5.1 is not subject to the so-called millennium bug, and will work properly until 2059. If you want to use it past that, you will need to apply a patch from Bev's Free Patcher.



One legacy of AppleWorks for Apple II computers is that it created standard file formats. Users can share AppleWorks files with almost any program on the II, and a few on other platforms.

AppleWorks' main legacy on other platforms is the entire category of compact, all-in-one programs such as Microsoft Works and ClarisWorks. The "Works" part of their names shows their origin.

The greatest legacy of AppleWorks, however, is itself. Upon the release of AppleWorks 3, programmer Randy Brandt peered into the future:

You couldn't have imagined AppleWorks being used in the 1990's, but here we are only a few months away. I think five years from now there'll be a lot of AppleWorks users. In the 21st century, there are going to be people running small businesses with AppleWorks. They'll be pounding away on those keyboards. ("Something New For Young and Old," Eric Grevstad, inCider/A+, August 1989, pg. 49).

He appears to have been right.

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