In fact, there’s so much
information and so many software programs that it kind of makes
you want to crawl under a rock and hide, huh?
But don’t – you just might learn something that will help make
your life and work easier. By buying "combined" computer
programs, everything will flow or link together easily.
A couple of years ago, some software vendors began selling computer
programs that were bundled together as a suite. In the past two
years, suite software has become some of the biggest-selling computer
programs in the software industry. Each program in a suite can
work with other programs in the suite, which provides a lot of
advantages over using individual programs.
- Suites typically combine a full-featured word processor, spreadsheet,
data base, communications program and drawing or paint program.
- These programs all share a unified look and feel with consistent
icons and menus.
- The integrated applications generally don’t have as many features
as the stand-alone versions, but they provide plenty of functionality
for the small-business person.
- They’re considerably less expensive than their stand-alone
Get it Together
Let’s look at the individual parts of a suite:
- Word processors are one of the earliest personal-computer
applications. They allow you to create written documents on the
screen, edit the document, change the typeface (font), cut and
paste text and pictures, check the spelling and many other things
– all before you print the page. Word processors have proven to
be a powerful tool for the individual user by allowing the user
to exercise much control over the printed document without requiring
the user to develop extremely specialized skills.
- Spreadsheets are programs that started out as electronic
ledgers and developed into much more. With a spreadsheet, a business
owner can keep track of expenses and receivables, forecast sales,
print invoices and all sorts of other things. Formulas can be
embedded in spreadsheet cells, and many mathematical and statistical
functions are commonly supported.
- A data base is a large collection of information on
a particular subject that’s organized to let you search and retrieve
any part of it quickly. All data bases require a similar set of
building blocks. The smallest block is called a "field,"
and it contains a single piece of information, like a house number.
When you group several fields together, you get a "record."
A record could contain a field for the address, a field for the
street name and one for the zip code. This record would then constitute
an address, and when you group together several records, you have
a "table" of addresses. For any size business, data
bases are a great way to keep track of customer information.
- Communication programs refer to programs that allow you
to communicate with other computers in the office or over phone
lines. Different types of communication programs can receive a
fax, connect you to the Internet or answer your phone. Other communication
programs can send and receive electronic mail (e-mail) in the
office or around the world.
- Drawing and paint programs allow you to create electronic
images or use images other people have created, like a company
logo or trademark.
The Price You Pay
How big of a computer do you need to run these? How much will
a suite cost? If you’ve bought a computer in the last couple years,
there’s a good chance you had a suite included with your computer.
The four most popular packages available for an IBM compatible
PC (at about $100 each) are ClarisWorks from Claris, Microsoft
Works from Microsoft, PerfectWorks from Novell and GreatWorks
from Symantec. For Windows 3.1, each of these requires at least
4 megabytes of ram, except for GreatWorks, which only requires
If you need a more heavy-duty suite, then look at Microsoft Office,
Wordperfect’s PerfectOffice, Lotus SmartSuite or Borland Office.
These packages will provide greater functionality, but they’ll
cost more (in the $400- to $500-retail range).
A Sweet Deal
Suites can be very useful for the small-business owner since everything
flows or links together easily. Plus, you don’t have to be an
expert to get great results. And, because these programs are usually
less expensive than purchasing each type of software separately,
you may find suites to be a sweet deal.