Remembering AppleWorks

Once upon a time, there was AppleWorks (later ClarisWorks and then AppleWorks again), which was a really nice all-in-one office suite that included a simple database. Not as powerful as FileMaker, but still quite useful and with a GUI very similar to FileMaker.

Unfortunately, Apple decided to abandon Apple Works. They never migrated it from Carbon to Cocoa and never migrated it from PowerPC to Intel, so Mac users can’t run it on any version of macOS more recent than 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

Instead, Apple released the iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) as its replacement. One can argue whether or not this was a good idea, but conspicuously absent from this suite was any kind of database system.

Which is really a shame. I don’t think it would have cost Apple that much to include one. They could keep development relatively inexpensive by making a proper Mac GUI wrapper around a popular open source database system like SQLite, which would have been fine for people with basic requirements (e.g. those who were using AppleWorks databases), offering FileMaker as the way forward for those who require more (as they did back when AppleWorks was sold).

But wishful thinking about what might have been isn’t worth a whole lot these days.


In the 1990s, Microsoft Office, which includes Access, slaughtered Claris Works, Lotus 123, and other suites that were in the marketplace. Word Perfect’s word processor just about manages to survive, and it’s still Windows only. FileMaker lives on and continues to grow because Microsoft refused to develop database software for Macs. I think Microsoft made a big mistake here, as FileMaker has continued to thrive and eat into Access’ sales.

Both Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services have been offering Oracle and SQL options. So who knows what the future may bring if they offer consumer and small to mid sized business options?

I have vague memories that the code base of AW was a horror and that made migrating it problematic, but I may just be making that up.

IIRC, Steve Jobs didn’t initially kill AppleWorks on his return to Apple; it was renamed Claris Works and a big and very expensive effort was made to reposition it, including a makeover. A big reason for its demise was that Claris Works still wasn’t selling. The only item that was selling was FileMaker, which was only developed because MS refused to build a database app for Macs. Everything else in the suite was just not competitive.

MS Office for Macs had firmly established an enormously humongous lead. In addition to Claris Works already having earned a glaringly bad rap in the market, it would have cost a fortune and a lot of time to completely rebuild the “horror” described above. And Steve was always laser focused on delivering top of the line software and hardware. Developing a better, speedier and easier to learn productivity suite from scratch made a lot more sense. It made even more sense when he decided to give its productivity apps away for free even though it had initially cost almost nothing when compared to MS Office.

Apple probably did not include FileMaker in the free package because it was the only element that was selling, and it continued to get positive reviews in the press and it had also begun selling very well to Windows b2b and consumer users.


IIRC AppleWorks became ClarisWorks in the early 90s, long before Steve returned.

Other way around.

The name AppleWorks was first used for the Apple II platform and that product was sold from 1984 until 1995.

Claris acquired an office suite named GS Works in 1988 and renamed it AppleWorks GS, which they sold until 1989.

The Mac product, which has no code from either previous AppleWorks products, was introduced as Claris Works in 1991.

When Claris was disbanded and folded back into Apple, the product was renamed to AppleWorks, with version 5 being released in 1997.

Version 6 (2001) was ported to the Carbon architecture and required a PowerPC. This version would run on Mac OS X up to version 10.6 (on Intel Macs via Rosetta) and worked fine, even though it hadn’t seen any new updates since version 6 (and was officially end-of-lifed in 2007).

See also AppleWorks - Wikipedia


AppleWorks GS was one of the programs I used a great deal after I purchased a GS and in the education world, was more popular than Microsoft products at that time in the late 1980’s. Later on Mac, I started using ClarisWorks 3 which eventually became AppleWorks 6 which still works fine on an old PowerBook G4 as well as under emulation. So if someone still needs access and has the program, it can always run under something like VirtualBox or VMware Fusion under System 10.6 Snow Leopard.

I remember when I had two different pieces of software called AppleWorks 4! One for my Apple Ilc and one for my Macintosh. Never did get around to updating the llc version to AppleWorks 5. On my Macs I’ve never found anything better than AppleWorks for my use. For word processing I can muddle through Pages and for databases I use Numbers. If someone sends me a Microsoft Office file, I use LibraOffice to open it.

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I have fond memories of Appleworks with an Apple IIC. I even bought the 512k expanded memory (over $800!) which allowed the entire app to load into memory. As it was text based (no mouse control or graphics) it was lightening fast. I ran a business on it for several years. The IIC was a cool machine, I wish I’d kept mine but it found its way into landfill about 10 years ago. I never really used Clarisworks. I had Microsoft works for a while but moved to Filemaker pretty much as soon as I got a Mac - I think Version 2.1.

I put an Applied Engineering Z-RAM Ultra 3 card in mine giving me a whopping 1 MEGABYTE of RAM! I still have mine, but I think the Monitor IIc is dead. I also still have my Macintosh LC with an Apple IIe Card.

I wrote my doctoral thesis on my Apple IIe - took my final file over to a local sales place that was Apple centric, they let me use a printer that had an actual typewriter type wheel to it, and I was able to print out several copies to give to the review board, and they never charged me anything for it - the Apple place, not the school ;-(

Appleworks was a great program and I used it for years. Hated all the other WP of the time - clunky and difficult to work with. I also purchased a spell check that would take the file and check - ever so slowly - to assure I spellllledd things write :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

When I am digging up old AW files I use LibreOffice to rescue them and it gets it perfect so they are saved.

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The only thing I remember using much in Claris Works was the draw program, which I needed for doing simple line graphics for some of my articles and books. I think that was because they no longer had MacDraw that would run on the Mac I was using then. I found the word processor in Claris Works quite limited and most publishers couldn’t handle the files, which ruled it out for me.

Applied Engineering - that’s the one! I’m pretty sure mine topped out at a total of 768k but it made a huge difference not having to keep inserting a 5.25" floppy to access various apps. Amazing to think I paid over $800 in 1980’s money ($2200 today) for half a MB of RAM.


My Dad has stored a bunch of files in AppleWorks format (including some AppleWorks database files) that I needed to access.

I used a Snow Leopard VM using VMWare Fusion for about six months… until I found that open-source LibreOffice (Son of OpenOffice) opens them without a hitch. (Including the database files – they open as spreadsheets.)

I don’t use LibreOffice much, but I do keep it around, because when it comes to “office-like” documents, it opens damn near anything.


I’ve used LibreOffice and it has worked for some documents but not all especially if you have drawing/graphic elements in them. Basic word processing documents open fine. But if you don’t have the same fonts, you could end up with documents that are not quite what you expected so that’s why I still either run Appleworks in a VM using the fonts from the original computer they were made on or run it on my old PowerBook G4 to maintain the original look and format.


I had one of those too and many schools used that setup so you could run Mac programs but still have access to the old IIe programs like MECC products such as Oregon Trail and Number Munchers (usually on floppy disks).

I was hard pressed to stop using the final version of AppleWorks and 10.6 (Snow Leopard) on a trusty MacBook Pro 2011 until the defective GPU issue forced migration. I moved to AW after Corel WordPerfect 3.5e was no longer viable and things like LibreOffice were on the horizon. To this day I have never purchased a copy of Microsoft Office/Word for my own use.

The last version of AW had embarrassingly obvious things that were just never fixed or updated, like proportional scrollbars. Interestingly I saw similar things with FileMaker Pro for a while.

The problem with any great application from Apple is you never know when they will just quietly lose interest and leave it out in the cold with not a word (ie. QuickTime Pro, Aperture, etc.)

Silly as it may seem, I might still use AW if they had just corrected a few minor things so the UI worked with modern OSX and if Rosetta (v1) were allowed to continue. LibreOffice is nice, but no one could accuse it of being light and fast.


IMO, AW (and BeagleWorks) were the best thing since sliced bread. I believe their loss of interest and the inglorious “replacement” iWorks was a big mistake. Had they simply continued and improved it, I bet it, not the Microsoft suite, would be the most widely used today, and maybe Apples/Macs would outsell Windows PCs.

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I looked into a new version of FileMaker I think 2 years ago. I had done an application to track all popcorn ordering from district, sales, payments, prizes, bank deposit, etc. for each Cubscout Den and the whole pack. I found you can no longer get the low cost version that I think was just interpretive (not sure that is the correct word) but must get the full development version, at 4? times the cost.
For my database need (not even relational) I ended up firing up the old G4 with FileMaker (version 6?) and doing the work I needed to do, which was sending out personalized postcards printed 4 per 8.5x11 card stock…

Yes, FileMaker is expensive, and if you aren’t going to use it much, it’s definitely not worth the price.

That having been said, if you do use it, you don’t have to upgrade to every release. I have only upgraded when hardware/macOS changes left me with no choice (once when moving from 68K to PPC, then from PPC to Intel, then from 32- to 64-bit). Each time, I got close to 10 years worth of life out of my installation. So although $540 (the current price for a non-subscription installation) is a lot of money, I paid it because I expect it to last 7-10 years (until Apple drops support for Intel in macOS and I upgrade my hardware to Apple Silicon), and over time, $55-75 per year is not unreasonable for an app I use a lot, even if it’s just for myself.

(For comparison, my Microsoft 365 subscription costs $85 for 15 months, using the pricing I have been able to get from Costco.)