“Works” Was Here First
A Star Is Born
Apple’s “Promotion” Of AppleWorks
AppleWorks 3.0
Beagle Bros And Company
JEM Software
AppleWorks 4.0
AppleWorks 5.0
AppleWorks GS
The End Of AppleWorks
Beyond The Apple II


There was one program in the Apple II world that not only showed amazing staying power in a world where this year’s software hit was next year’s yawn, but went on to spawn a number of software companies and magazines that did nothing else but sell products for it. That program was AppleWorks. Originally released in 1984 by Apple Computer, it went on to become one of the best selling computer programs of all time, on any computer. Although few seem to mention the influence it had, it was evident in the number of computer programs that later come out for the IBM and Macintosh that had the “Works” name on them (Microsoft Works, ClarisWorks, Beagle Works, and others). AppleWorks was one of the first “integrated” software packages, preceded on the Apple II only by The Incredible Jack (published by Business Solutions, 1983). It put modules that performed word processing, database management, and spreadsheet calculations into a single environment, using similar commands in each module. Previous software programs specialized for each of those jobs had their own unique keyboard commands that were often very different from each other. If you went from Apple Writer to VisiCalc , or from VisiCalc to DB Master, you had to learn a completely different method of controlling the program. Furthermore, the data files created by those programs were usually not compatible with each other, making it difficult and awkward to move information directly from one program to another. AppleWorks not only created continuity between these modules, but also went a step beyond in allowing them to share data with each other via a space of memory called a “clipboard”. This clipboard was part of a larger memory area called a “desktop”, which could hold data for up to twelve different files at the same time, which made data sharing even more convenient.

AppleWorks was written by Rupert J. Lissner (who later changed his first name to “Robert”.[1]) Its earliest incarnation was in another program written by Lissner and sold by Apple, called QuickFile. QuickFile was an Apple III database program written in Pascal. It was flexible and easy to use, and Apple agreed to market it for Lissner in 1980. It was later translated into a version for the Apple IIe (also in Pascal) called QuickFile IIe. As a database program it was flexible and powerful, but somewhat slow due to the inherent limitations of the UCSD Pascal system that Apple favored at the time.

After seeing the Office System on the Lisa computer, Lissner conceived the idea of a single program that would put word processing, database, and spreadsheet capabilities together, and run on an Apple II. It was originally called Apple Pie, and he began work on it in 1982. Lissner took two years to complete his program, and did it entirely in assembly language to achieve better speed. He wrote versions of the program to work on both the Apple II and Apple III computers, making use of the same filetypes and data structures. Apple Pie files created on an Apple II could be used on an Apple III, and vice-versa.

Apple decided to market the Apple II version themselves, and called it AppleWorks. Lissner was left with the rights to the Apple III version. He sold those rights to Haba Systems, who brought it out under the name, /// E-Z Pieces. That program continued to be compatible with the Apple II version up until Claris (the software company formed by Apple in 1987) upgraded AppleWorks to version 3.0 in 1989.


When it was finally released, AppleWorks was one of the most comprehensive programs ever written for the Apple II. Although neither of the three modules were significantly more powerful than other standalone programs, they had enough power for the average computer user to do what was needed. The memory management system was the extremely flexible, eventually being able to handle not only the basic 128K on a IIe or IIc, but also several different types of memory cards used on those computers and on the IIGS. Far larger than the memory of the 64K Apple IIe on which it would run (as a minimum memory configuration), the program was smart enough to swap in or out from disk the parts it needed to carry out its various functions. Considering that it would run on a computer whose microprocessor could address only 64K of memory at one time, the power achieved by this program is remarkable. There are few other software packages ever released that have as smoothly and seamlessly made up to two megabytes of memory on an 8-bit computer appear to be one contiguous space.

AppleWorks screen shot – Photo credit: Ken Gagne

AppleWorks‘ user interface was designed with menu bars, rather than the older command line interface (such as the one used in Applesoft, Integer BASIC, and the Monitor). Apple’s own researchers had put human subjects in front of a computer keyboard to learn what was easiest to use. They designed an interface that was based on using arrow keys to move a cursor (or “bar”) to different choices in a list, and then using the return key to make the selection. They also came up with the concept of the “desktop” (represented in text rather than in graphics as on the Lisa and Macintosh), and a “clipboard” for transferring data between files. Apple shared this research with Lissner, and he went on to use it in his program design.[2]

Lissner, in his design, took the three most commonly used productivity programs used by computer users of the day, and combined them in a format that allowed consistent use of shortcut keyboard commands, as well as copy and paste between the modules.

The word processing module was given a ProDOS filetype of “AWP”.

AppleWorks word processor module – Photo credit: Ken Gagne

The spreadsheet module, with the ProDOS filetype “ASP” (Apple wisely avoided use of “ASS” as the filetype), offered the power of VisiCalc with the easy connection with the word processing and database modules.

AppleWorks spreadsheet module – Photo credit: Ken Gagne

The database module, with ProDOS filetype “ADB” was one of the most useful things in the package. It was a solid, basic database with enough power for the average user to make use of it.

AppleWorks database module – Photo credit: Ken Gagne


The marketing decisions made concerning AppleWorks have not been very clear to the outside observer over the years. At the time that AppleWorks was ready for release there was a considerable amount of company money and time being spent in trying to make the Macintosh successful in the marketplace. Those who had the most influence at Apple were not very interested in a “simple” text-based program, when the Mac and its graphic interface was the “cutting edge” in technology. Those people believed that the Mac represented the future of Apple, and were not interested in wasting time with old Apple II technology in any form.

Another problem was Apple’s past record in selling software. Tom Weishaar made these comments in the November 1987 issue of Open-Apple:

…Apple was trying very hard to get the big MS-DOS developers to work with the Macintosh. One of the reasons these developers gave for their reluctance to work on the Mac was their fear that Apple itself would compete with them – Apple, obviously, had tremendous advantages in terms of distribution and access to inside information. Apple had a reputation for developing applications software for its machines that would kill the market for similar software – Apple Writer (which was at the top of the Apple II software charts at the time) and a complete set of applications software for the Lisa being major examples. Powerful voices inside Apple wanted the company to get out of the applications software business.[3]

However, despite the concern about Apple selling AppleWorks, the decision was eventually made.

Apple’s punishment for its indiscretion was immediate – within six weeks its illegitimate child sat at the top of the Apple II best-seller list. AppleWorks achieved this without the benefits of a mother’s love– it succeeded in spite of, not because of, Apple’s meager marketing efforts in its behalf. Since AppleWorks was released, for example, 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+ 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, , didn’t mention it or Lissner in his birthday speech , and John Sculley, Apple’s president, doesn’t mention it or Lissner in his… book, Odyssey.[4]

When it first appeared on the market, AppleWorks started at number 2 on Softalk‘s top thirty list. It moved to the number one spot in Apple sales by the following month, and stayed there for a long time. By the end of 1984, AppleWorks had moved into the number one spot in monthly retail software sales for all computers, overtaking the MS-DOS best-seller Lotus 1-2-3 (a spreadsheet program derived from VisiCalc, with graphics and rudimentary word processing capabilities). Some reports estimate that it was selling thirty to forty thousand copies per month at one time.[5] But since it was not their beloved Macintosh that put an Apple program into first place, corporate Apple ignored the milestone. Since that time, though no longer in first place, AppleWorks has continued to do very well, despite an absence of advertising on the part of Apple, and despite later minimal advertising on the part of Claris.[6]


The first change to AppleWorks came with the released of version 1.1 in 1985, a modification to help overcome problems with non-Apple printers and interface cards. Later that year version 1.2 came out with the ability to use additional non-Apple hardware. Both of these relatively minor updates were made available free of charge to existing owners of the program.

Version 1.3 of AppleWorks came out in early 1986 for a $20 update fee. It provided a bit more functionality for those users who had larger capacity disk drives. Specifically, it better supported the new UniDisk 3.5 for file storage and made it possible to format disks on that device. Previous versions could load files from 3.5 disks only by specifying the ProDOS pathname; version 1.3 could access these disks with the more familiar slot and drive numbers. Also, since Apple now sold a large memory card that would plug into any free slot on the Apple IIe, this new version of AppleWorks could expand the size of the desktop to as much as 1,012K. By this time, Applied Engineering and other companies had already been doing quite well selling RAM cards for the auxiliary slot on the IIe, and had also included patches so AppleWorks could use these cards to create a larger desktop. They went further than Apple, however, in also allowing larger word processing and database files to be created.[7]

Up through the release of AppleWorks 1.3, the only changes that had been made were bug fixes and enhancements to work better with new hardware. In September 1986, along with announcements about the new Apple IIGS, Apple released version 2.0 of AppleWorks. It now required a minimum of 128K (previous versions would work with 64K, but allowed only a 10K desktop). In exchange for the greater memory requirements, it gave users a built-in ability to do mail merge, added more functions to the spreadsheet, and offered better support for memory cards than version 1.3. Furthermore, word processing, database, and spreadsheet files could be larger than in previous versions. Existing users were able to upgrade to v2.0 for $50, which included a completely new manual, a very reasonable price considering the extra abilities of this new version.[8]

July 1987 saw one change that had an impact on future distribution of AppleWorks. Apple decided to create a separate company, named “Claris”, to handle some of the popular software that they had released for their Apple II and Macintosh computers. As mentioned above, products released by Apple had a tendency to be the “kiss of death” for third-companies trying to market similar programs. After the outstanding success of AppleWorks, virtually no text-based work processors released for the Apple II made much of an impact on the market. Claris had the responsibility of handling AppleWorks, Apple Writer, and various Macintosh programs.

Claris publicized AppleWorks via only three major ads since they took the product over from Apple (of course, previously AppleWorks had received no advertising space). Their first promotion, run in 1987, stated that AppleWorks 2.0 had received a very unique upgrade – its own company. This was primarily a plug for Claris, of course.

AppleWorks Claris Porsche
AppleWorks Claris Porsche – Photo credit: Tony Diaz

The second ad was rather clever. This one had a white background with a red sports car up on blocks with its wheels missing. The caption read, “There are still some Apple II users who don’t have AppleWorks“, suggesting that working without that program was like owning a sports car without wheels.

AppleWorks Beagle Porsche Wheels
AppleWorks Beagle Porsche Wheels – Photo credit: Tony Diaz

Beagle Bros did an even cleverer follow-up to that ad, by using another double-page spread with a white background, and four tires in the same location as the blocks in Claris’ ad. Their ad read, “There are still some AppleWorks users who don’t have TimeOut“, suggesting that the sports car in the Claris ad was AppleWorks, and TimeOut was the wheels for that car. The third promotion run by Claris for the program was to announce the v3.0 upgrade in 1989. This one showed an old worn tennis shoe (representing the old version) and a new running shoe (representing the new version).

Claris released a free update of AppleWorks to version 2.1 in September 1988. This provided some bug fixes (some of which had been discovered by Beagle Bros in the process of creating the Timeout engine). These were intended to make it work better on the IIGS, plus it was supposed to support a desktop as big as eight megabytes, if that much memory was installed. However, because of the way in which desktop memory in AppleWorks was handled, this turned out instead to be a maximum of two megabytes. No further functionality was added to AppleWorks at that time.

AppleWorks 3.0

In 1988, while Claris was issuing its minor update to AppleWorks, they were making plans to do some major improvements to the program. Since they primarily had Macintosh programmers working for them, they first asked Robert Lissner, the original author. He wasn’t much interested, since he had already made good money off the program and didn’t really have the motivation for such a proposal. Claris then decided to turn to a third-party company to do the work.

The company had heard of Pinpoint Publishing and its enhancement package for AppleWorks that gave users some features that MS-DOS users had available on their computers (such as pop-up tools), and considered asking Pinpoint to do the update. In their discussions, Pinpoint expressed interest, but planned to make changes only so far as the exact specifications that Claris was requesting.

Photo credit: http://beagle.applearchives.com

Claris was keeping in touch with user groups, and at meetings when representatives from the company discussed possible enhancements to AppleWorks, most user group members told them Beagle Bros was the company to talk to about handling an update to the program. These user groups liked the Beagle TimeOut programs better than those from Pinpoint. TimeOut patched into AppleWorks in somewhat a similar fashion as those from Pinpoint. After some complicated negotiations that nearly fell through several times, Beagle finally was awarded the contract to do the AppleWorks update for Claris.

Beagle programmers Alan Bird, Randy Brandt and Rob Renstrom worked on it for almost a year, in between a few other projects that were going on at the same time. The project, code named “Spike”, was created on Macintosh II computers running the MPW (Macintosh Programmer’s Workshop) cross-assembler, primarily for the sake of speed.[9] As enthusiastic Apple II programmers who also knew AppleWorks inside and out, Beagle’s team added a lot of power Claris had not planned on in their original specifications. Occasionally they called on Lissner for help in understanding why certain parts of the code were written as they were, but all of the work came from these “Beagle Boys”. Viewing it almost as a labor of love, they went beyond what they were asked to do, and enjoyed making AppleWorks into a program that they would want to use. Randy Brandt stated, “I think it’s safe to say the AppleWorks 3.0 project yielded the worst hourly rate I’ve ever made in AppleWorks-related programming, but it did give me a lot of insight which came in handy on future projects.”[10] Additionally, they fixed over one hundred known bugs in AppleWorks 2.1.[11] Brandt also commented that a number of internal “hooks” were included in the new code, which made it easier for the later introduction of new TimeOut add-ons.

In June 1989, Claris announced the AppleWorks 3.0 upgrade at the National Educational Computing Conference in Boston. The features that were added or improved are too numerous to describe here; in brief, it added nearly all the things users had wanted the program to do. It was easier to use, it took better advantage of extra memory (going beyond the two meg limit on the IIGS), and it was easier to customize special printers to work with it. And it included a new feature that was becoming standard in many commercial word processors: A built-in spell checker. Because of these extra features, the maximum desktop size on a standard 128K Apple II was now reduced to about 40K (down from the original 55K). Also, the program now loaded from two double-sided 5.25 disks (or a single 3.5 disk), instead of the previous one double-sided 5.25 disk.

AppleWorks 3.o spell-checker – Photo credit: Ken Gagne

Apple had included registration cards with their hardware and software products for many years. Unfortunately, although they had done a good job at including those cards with everything they shipped out, they had done a somewhat less satisfactory job of actually compiling the data from those cards. Consequently, Claris really had no available information about who was and who was not a “registered” owner of AppleWorks. Part of the strategy behind the free update to version 2.1 was to attempt to recapture this data and rebuild a customer database and mailing list. However, they were not very successful with that attempt, so it was decided to take a more aggressive stance with the new 3.0 release. Claris made an initial upgrade offer of $79 for customers that owned any previous version of AppleWorks (from v1.0 to v2.1), and through A2-Central magazine they even made available a special $99 offer: Any A2-Central subscriber could get the program from Claris for that price, even if it was not possible to prove previous ownership of AppleWorks.[12] Later, owners of previous versions could still upgrade for $99 if they wanted.

After the release of AppleWorks 3.0, Claris concentrated exclusively on Macintosh products and made no plans for further in-house updates or upgrades to AppleWorks. This was unfortunate, since there were several known bugs in version 3.0 of the program, and Beagle Bros programmer Mark Munz eventually decided to release his own AppleWorks bug-patcher program into the public domain to correct these known problems. Rather than take the hint and make a v3.1 release to officially acknowledge and correct these problems, Claris’ policy was to simply wait until a customer complained about them and then to direct them to Mark’s Patcher program.


Pinpoint, 1985, Pinpoint Software
Pinpoint – Photo credit: personal

AppleWorks has been such a major influence in the Apple II world that the program has itself spawned a number of related products that act to enhance or expand its usability for different purposes. This is a reflection on the widespread penetration of the program, as well as the desire of Apple II users for more and better features.

One of the first customization features that appeared for AppleWorks was from a company that called itself Pinpoint Publishing. They had originally been called Virtual Combinatics, and had sold a program for the Apple II called Micro Cookbook. Suddenly in 1985 they burst upon the market with a new name and a significant new product. Their Pinpoint Desk Accessories was primarily an enhancement for AppleWorks, though it was also possible to install its features for use under Applesoft, and eventually Apple Writer and Word Perfect. Taking after the popularity of “pop-up desktop” programs like Sidekick for the IBM PC, Pinpoint added some similar features to AppleWorks. These features were available at any time, simply by pressing solid-apple and P (option-P on the IIGS). At this point a little “Accessories” menu would pop-up onto the screen, drawn using MouseText characters, and the desired feature was selected by moving the cursor bar up and down the list, pressing RETURN for the one you wanted (working just like AppleWorks).

Pinpoint Appointment calendar – Photo credit: personal

The accessories included Appointment Calendar; Calculator; Communications (a small terminal program for use with a modem, which could send AppleWorks word processing files or save incoming text as a WP file); Dialer (just highlight on the screen the number you wanted to call, and it would be dialed for you via the modem); GraphMerge (which allowed you to print a word processing document with all or part of a double hi-res picture included with the text); Notepad (a miniature word processor, holding up to 32 lines of text and saving notes in AppleWorks WP format); QuickLabel (take an address off the screen and place it on an envelope template for printing); and Typewriter (type and print lines one at a time). This was all very exciting at the time, multiplying the abilities of AppleWorks beyond what it was built to do. Because of disk-space requirements this was more convenient to use from a 3.5-inch disk or hard disk, but actually could be used from 5.25-inch disks without too much trouble. Eventually a spell checker was also made available to use with Pinpoint.


The next significant AppleWorks add-on appeared in June 1986. It was a product sold by Beagle Bros and called MacroWorks.[13] Written by Randy Brandt, this program patched itself into the keyboard-reading routine of AppleWorks and allowed the user to automate certain functions and assign them to a specific key on the keyboard. Previously, many of AppleWorks features were accessed by pressing either the open-apple or solid-apple (option) key together with another key (recall that the apple keys were nothing more than access to the pushbutton inputs on the joystick). For instance, open-apple and “C” (oa-C) together were used to start a “copy” function. Before MacroWorks was patched into the program, either oa-C or sa-C had the same effect. After adding this enhancement, the solid-apple keys were given their own, separate identity, offering more than double the number of functions that could be executed from the keyboard. (Pinpoint had done something similar, by taking sa-P for its own purposes).

A macro was actually a series of keystrokes that could be entered from the keyboard (similar to WPL programs for Apple Writer), but was automated so that a single keypress would activate it. For example, typing a return address could be assigned to the sequence solid-apple-A (sa-A). Or sa-S could be defined to save all the files on the desktop and quit the program. Anything that could be done manually with AppleWorks could be automated with MacroWorks, and it could even do some things that could not be easily done manually.

The idea of automating keystrokes in AppleWorks was not unique to MacroWorks; soon after, AutoWorks was released by Alan Bird of Software Touch, and Pinpoint Publishing got into the act with their product, Keyplayer. Brandt upped the ante later in 1986 with an upgrade called SuperMacroWorks, which added a few new features and was made to work specifically with the new version 2.0 of AppleWorks.

It didn’t take long for the other companies to come out with enhanced versions of their programs to work with the newer version of AppleWorks. But the most significant enhancement yet came during 1987. Beagle Bros had just undergone a change in management, as its founder Bert Kersey retired and merged his company with Software Touch. Mark Simonsen and Alan Bird, owners of Software Touch, had previously worked at Beagle before leaving to start their own company. Aside from AutoWorks, they had released enhancements such as SideSpread (which would allow a spreadsheet to be printed sideways on a dot matrix printer) and FontWorks (which allowed word processor files to be printed using different font styles and sizes, using codes embedded in the WP text). As they merged back into the Beagle fold, they brought with them plans for a series of AppleWorks add-ons and enhancement. These would be accomplished via a new core program (or “engine”, as they called it) called TimeOut.

Beagle Bros TimeOut Series – Photo credit: beagle.applearchives.com

Written by Alan Bird, TimeOut installed itself into AppleWorks and interfaced directly with Lissner’s remarkable built-in memory manager. The neat thing about TimeOut was that after the engine itself was installed, adding other modules was no more complicated than copying them over to the disk from which AppleWorks started. This addressed one of the problems with all of the other enhancement programs available; if they were not installed in the correct order, the patches would begin to step on each other, and crashes were much more likely. TimeOut provided a clearly defined protocol for adding new features to AppleWorks without this patching hassle.

The first TimeOut modules released included DeskTools, FileMaster (which allowed file copying and more), Graph (spreadsheet graphing), QuickSpell, SideSpread (update of the older Software Touch program), SuperFonts (update of FontWorks), and UltraMacros (a more powerful version of Randy Brandt’s SuperMacroWorks, using ideas from AutoWorks). More followed in subsequent years, including a thesaurus module and a full-featured telecommunications module that worked within AppleWorks.


Beagle Bros released many TimeOut enhancements that added to the longevity of AppleWorks. And they did many users a favor by making upgrades available virtually free, through a program they called “Beagle Buddies”. To updates, it was only necessary to contact a Beagle Buddy representative, provide evidence of program ownership, and, for example, UltraMacros could be updated from version 3.0 to 3.1 without charge. The down side of this service, however, was that there was no income received by Beagle for updates, making it financially difficult to pay the authors of those updates for their work. For this reason, authors like Randy Brandt (one of the AppleWorks 3.0 revision authors) had decided to start their own private companies for release of other products for AppleWorks. Brandt created a company called JEM Software, and through that company he released PathFinder, which made setting the pathname for the “Add Files” menu easier and faster to change. Although that feature was built in to AppleWorks 3.0, Brandt did not stop there. With the help of Dan Verkade, he created TotalControl, which added features to the database module to allow specific qualifications for the type of entries that could be made in new or existing records. DoubleData changed the database module so AppleWorks could handle twice as many categories per record as it was designed to do. Mr. Invoice provided the ability to produce invoice-type documents with AppleWorks, and DB Pix added graphic capability to the database, displaying single and double hi-res and Print Shop or Print Shop GS graphics. Brandt also created an update to UltraMacros 3.1, called Ultra 4.0, which added considerable power to the macro language. All of these add-on programs significantly extended the lifespan of AppleWorks.

Brandt also came up with the concept of “inits” for AppleWorks. A small patch allowed these inits to be added by searching the AW.INITS subdirectory on the startup disk. Any binary program found there with a name that started with “I.” was automatically loaded and patched in at startup time. These inits ranged from one that improved the handling of the screen print function built into AppleWorks, to other much larger applications (TotalControl was added via an init, for instance). The difference between these inits and TimeOut applications was that inits were always working, whereas TimeOut programs had to be specifically activated to work. Brandt used the same concept of simple extensions when he designed Ultra 4.0; more commands (called “dot commands”) could be added to the macro language in the same way as other inits.


Many patches were created to customize AppleWorks to do things more to a particular user’s likings. These first appeared as one to several byte patches that would be applied using Applesoft, poking the bytes to memory and then using the BASIC.SYSTEM command “BSAVE” to put them into the right place in the program. Patches were published in magazines and online to do things like changing the pitch and duration of the awful error tone in AppleWorks, to make it possible to access a disk device in slot 1 or 2 (which was ordinarily not possible), or to create more than one custom printer (not easily done in versions prior to 3.0). Other patches were published to fix various bugs in the program that were discovered. Eventually, these patches were collected into several different programs whose purpose was to streamline the process. Through JEM Software, Randy Brandt released Late Nite Patches for AppleWorks 2.0. John Link created a program called SuperPatch that he provided via online services initially, later changed it to shareware as it got more and more massive, and eventually arranged for it to be sold via Quality Computers. Written in Applesoft, John’s program made it possible to not only apply the various patches, but to also remove them neatly.

Beagle Bros came out with AW 3.0 Companion (later updated to Companion Plus) which allowed not only a large number of useful changes to be made to AppleWorks, but also included a version of Mark Munz’ Patcher program to correct some bugs that had made it into the program (and which Claris refused to fix via an upgrade). This Patcher program followed John Link’s lead by making it possible to remove most patches as easily as they were applied.


The year 1993 brought a major surprise: Another upgrade for AppleWorks. Two paths converged during that year to bring about this unexpected turn of events. Quality Computers, a mail-order business based in Michigan, had been steadily increasing in size and influence during the previous several years. They began as most such enterprises, selling software and hardware products that various companies around the country had available. One of their earliest enterprises was to sell software written by Joe Gleason, the company’s founder. They advertised prominently in the Apple II magazines that were still in print; in inCider/A+ magazine they always had the first two to four pages of available ad space. During the early 1990’s, Quality even began to distribute some hardware items of their own (usually produced by another company that allowed Quality to rebrand them under the Quality name). When Beagle Bros decided to concentrate solely on their upcoming Macintosh product, Quality Computers stepped in and purchased the rights to sell and upgrade the Beagle products, thus expanding their influence in the world of Apple II software.

Although Randy Brandt had put features into AppleWorks 3.0 in 1989 that he himself wanted, he continued to come up with new ways to enhance it. Through Beagle Bros and later through his own JEM Software he continued to create add-on tools to allow users to get more out of the program. But in the back of his mind there was always this wish that AppleWorks itself could be enhanced and fixed, to modernize it with features that many of the MS-DOS and Macintosh products on the market had incorporated since Claris released that last version of AppleWorks. Unfortunately, Claris continued to show no interest whatsoever in doing anything with AppleWorks, not even being willing to make the effort to release an update to fix known bugs in the program. AppleWorks GS, Claris’ other Apple II product, suffered from the same neglect.

In the spring of 1993, Brandt contacted Joe Gleason at Quality Computers and discussed his interest in a major upgrade to AppleWorks 3.0. Having worked on the “Spike” project to develop 3.0, Brandt knew the program inside and out, and knew exactly how he could accomplish his goals of program enhancement. The best method would be to incorporate the changes into the program source code and recompile it; but Claris still held the rights to it. Gleason was extremely interested in the proposal, and began holding discussions with Claris to see if they would be willing to license AppleWorks to Quality Computers. This would give Quality the opportunity to upgrade AppleWorks through a re-write, as well as to provide technical support in a way that had not previously been possible.

Brandt and his long-time programming associate, Dan Verkade, began working on the upgrade to AppleWorks (code-named “Quadriga”), while Gleason negotiated with Claris. Although they all hoped that it would be possible to release the finished product as AppleWorks 4.0, they recognized the possibility that Claris would not relinquish it’s death grip on the program. In that eventuality, it was determined that there would be no choice but to put it out as a large patch program. The proposed product name would be TheWorks 4.0, and in order to make use of it a customer would need to already own AppleWorks 3.0. Installing TheWorks would patch into AppleWorks and make use of what code in the program was still useful, but still give access to all the new features they wanted to include.

Many of the features included in the Quadriga project were like a “best-of” list from TimeOut modules of the past: Triple Desktop, which gave access to as many as thirty-six files at a time; UltraMacros, in the improved Ultra 4 version that JEM Software had released, in a form which allowed playback of pre-compiled macros (the compiler would be available separately); DoubleData, to increase the number of available categories in the database module from thirty to sixty; TotalControl, which further enhanced the abilities of the database; support for more printers, including newer style printers such as the Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 500; links between the database and word processor; and links between spreadsheets (similar to the “3-D” features that were currently available in MS-DOS programs like Lotus 1-2-3).

While Brandt and Verkade worked on the program code, Gleason was doing his best to convince Claris that it would be in their best interest to sell AppleWorks to Quality. As Quadriga was nearing completion, Gleason showed Claris executives that Quality was prepared to release it as a patch program, even if AppleWorks was not sold to them. Apparently Claris took this as clear evidence that Quality not only was determined to follow through on the project, but also had the ability to pull it off. Negotiations became more serious, and by late August 1993 both parties signed a contract. This contract allowed Quality to purchase (for an unspecified sum) the rights to publish AppleWorks and AppleWorks GS, and have the right to use that product name (which was actually an Apple trademark licensed to Claris).

With the legalities out of the way, the Quadriga project proceeded at full steam. They had a goal of releasing the program by October 1st, but some last minute problems delayed the actual debut of the program until November 1, 1993. As with many programs, some bugs surfaced within a week of the distribution of new revision. However, these were quickly resolved, and shipping of an updated version 4.01 resumed a week later. A version 4.02 update was expected by the end of the year to fix some other less serious problems that had been identified by early users. Compared to four years of absolute inactivity by Claris to fixing known problems in version 3.0, this was significantly improved support.[14],[15]


The response to Quality Computer’s release of AppleWorks 4.0 was quite positive, and sales were good enough that it inspired Randy Brandt and Dan Verkade to start making plans for yet another update to this productivity program. At the 1994 A2-Central Developer’s Conference in Kansas City, Brandt announced his project, which was code-named “Narnia”. After several months of beta testing, the product was released as AppleWorks 5.0 in November 1994. In the summer of 1995, Quality Computers and Brandt released a free 5.1 update to the program, intended to correct bugs that were discovered after the original 5.0 release.


AppleWorks GS screen shot – Photo credit: personal

AppleWorks is probably the most powerful integrated program ever written, in terms of speed (being text-based) and overall usability for a wide range of purposes. The one single problem that it has caused in the Apple II world is that it is so comprehensive that it literally killed the market for nearly every other text-based word processor, database, or spreadsheet program, even at a time when new such programs were being written. There was little point in creating a new text-based program in either of these categories, since AppleWorks 4.0 and 5.0 covered all those areas so comprehensively. For the majority of users on the Apple IIe, IIc, and even IIGS, AppleWorks 4.0 could meet all of their productivity software needs. And on the Apple IIGS with expanded memory, the 4.0 and 5.0 version made it possible to process and manipulate tremendous amounts of data easily.

However, what AppleWorks could not do on an Apple IIGS was to take advantage of some of the features that GS/OS made available: Easy access to foreign disk storage formats, use of outline font technology (via Pointless), access to a graphic-based work environment, the ability to switch between multiple programs (via program switchers like The Manager and Switch-It!) and many other features that IIGS users wanted. When Quality Software purchased AppleWorks from Claris, they also purchased the source code to AppleWorks GS (which was actually a re-write of an older program, GS Works, purchased by Claris from StyleWare and remodeled slightly). At the time of this transfer of code, there was much rejoicing amongst the ranks of Apple IIGS users, who were hopeful that there would be a revision to that program as well, to correct the many known bugs that it contained.

Unfortunately, as Quality Computers contracted with programmers to begin work on creation of a 2.0 version of AppleWorks GS, it was discovered that the source code was in terrible condition. Jim Merritt, who coordinated development of the Apple IIGS System 5.0 Finder, was hired to lead the project. The poor organization and woefully inadequate documentation within the source code made it very difficult to even compile the code (which had to be done under an older version of MPW, the Macintosh Programmer’s Workshop). There were sections of the undocumented source code for which Claris programmers were unable to identify a purpose, and they were unwilling to remove that code for fear that it would cause the program to completely stop working. Even when it did compile, the resultant program files were not byte-for-byte identical to AppleWorks GS v1.1 as shipped by Claris. Apparently programmers at Claris had found it necessary to compile the program in pieces, and then patch it together manually to create executable code. Merritt wrestled with the code for four months before he was able to get it even to this point.

Because of these significant roadblocks, Merritt had several other talented Apple IIGS programmers take a look at the source code, and in every situation he was told the same story: It was simply not possible to upgrade the program, and would be better to just rewrite the application from scratch. Quality Computers knew this to be an economic impossibility, considering the declining Apple IIGS market, and in July 1994 it was announced that the AppleWorks GS project had been cancelled.[16]


When Quality Computers licensed AppleWorks and AppleWorks GS in 1993, the contract specified royalties that would be owed to Claris for sales of these products. Additionally, a clause was included that specified potential penalties that Quality would owe to Claris if the products did not appear within a certain period of time. With AppleWorks it was no problem, since it was ready to go. For AppleWorks GS it was a different issue, since the code that was delivered was not in a usable condition. Potentially, Quality was liable for payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Claris if it could not deliver a 2.0 version of the program. After some further negotiation with Claris, Quality was able to get the penalty clause for AppleWorks GS dropped.[17]

In 1995, Scantron Corporation acquired Quality Computers, and changed the name to Scantron Quality Computers.  When the licensing contract with Claris expired, Scantron did not renew it.


Deja II icon
Deja II

In 1995, Randy Brandt and Mark Munz, under JEM Software, created a very focused emulator specifically for AppleWorks 5.1. This emulator would allow users of 68000 series and PowerPC Macintosh computers to run AppleWorks directly under MacOS. Code-named “Phoenix II”, and released as “Deja ][“, the program was not written to look like AppleWorks; it actually was AppleWorks, powered by a Macintosh software emulator (to translate and execute the 65c02 code) and appropriate patches to allow it to access files directly on the Macintosh HFS file system. To use the program, it was necessary to actually have the full AppleWorks 5.1 installation files.

Deja IIx icon
Deja IIx

Deja ][ could read AppleWorks files from a ProDOS formatted 3.5 inch floppy disk, and was designed to share clipboards between the Macintosh and the AppleWorks environment. Because TimeOut and Ultra 4 was built into AppleWorks 5.1, these two extension environments were fully supported. Furthermore, macro commands were created that could directly interface with the Macintosh for functions such as speaking text, dialing the modem, and so on. Originally released as a commercial program, it was reclassified as free software in 1999.

In 2006, Mark Munz began work on an update, called Deja IIx, with the intention of bringing the emulator up to date to allow it to run under the newer Mac OS X operating system. Work continues on it sporadically, and his progress can be viewed at his blog here.


  1. [1]Weishaar, Tom. “Miscellanea”, Open-Apple, Nov 1986, p. 2.74.
  2. [2]Williams, Warren, and Carlton, Steve. “AppleWorks”, The Apple II Guide, Fall 1990, pp. 36-45.
  3. [3]Weishaar, Tom. “Reality And Apple’s Vision”, Open-Apple, Nov 1987, pp. 3.73-3.74.
  4. [4]Weishaar, Tom. “Reality And Apple’s Vision”, Open-Apple, Nov 1987, pp. 3.73-3.74.
  5. [5]Brandt, Randy. “Enhancing AppleWorks” (video tape), July 1993, Quality Computers.
  6. [6]Weishaar, Tom. “Reality And Apple’s Vision”, Open-Apple, Nov 1987, pp. 3.73-3.74.
  7. [7]Weishaar, Tom. “Does Your Mother Love You?”, Open-Apple, Jan 1986, p. 1.97.
  8. [8]Weishaar, Tom. “New $999 Apple IIGS Arrives”, Open-Apple, Oct 1986, pp. 2.65-2.67.
  9. [9]Brandt, Randy. “Who’s Who In Apple II”, GEnieLamp A2, Jan 1994.
  10. [10]Brandt, Randy. email, 1991/07.
  11. [11]Brandt, Randy. A2 Roundtable, GEnie, Jun 1992, Category 13, Topic 16.
  12. [12]Weishaar, Tom. “AppleWorks 3.0 A Blockbuster”, A2-Central, Jul 1989, pp. 5.41-5.46.
  13. [13]Weishaar, Tom. “Miscellanea”, Open-Apple, Jun 1986, p. 2.33.
  14. [14]Selur, Joseph. “Taking Off The Wraps”, II Alive, July-August 1993, pp. 44-47.
  15. [15]—–. “Quadriga To Be AppleWorks 4.0”, II Alive, September-October 1993, p. 27.
  16. [16]Kindall, Jerry. “AppleWorks GS Not Arriving At All?”, GEnieLamp A2, July 1994.
  17. [17]Kindall, Jerry. “AppleWorks GS Not Arriving At All?”, GEnieLamp A2, July 1994.

8 Comments on “19-AppleWorks

  1. Still today, 2011, I use AW to make a scaled layout to build furniture. No other SW is as easy to understand, and logically to use.

  2. Pingback: Open Apple #12 (Feb 2012): Michael J Mahon, chiptune, source code, and demodulation | Open Apple

  3. In France, Appleworks GS was reverse-engineered, translated, recompiled and shown to Claris which was not interested in distributing it.

    Bréjoux, a big player in the Apple II market in France, was authorized to distribute it. Its name: BréjouxWorks.


    • Antoine, you are an amazing repository of things I didn’t know about the Apple II in Europe! Do you recall what year this was? It is unfortunate that Quality Computers didn’t have access to that source code when they attempted to update AppleWorks GS.

  4. Pingback: Keyboards, logo keys CUA and a some more history… « The Wiert Corner – irregular stream of stuff

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  6. Pingback: StyleWare, Inc. – Summer 1987 – Recruited by Tech

  7. I am using 3EZ Pieces with an Apple IIgs running Apple Works 5.1 w/o any problems

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