Usually when we play Guess the OS, we’re talking about classic operating systems. This time OS refers to office suites. Here’s an article from Home Office Computing. What office suite is being discussed? See if you can guess.


Even more important than the OS on a computer are the applications that the computer runs. Without applications, all a computer does is sit there and consume electricity.

When PCs first appeared on the scene, all they came with were operating systems. You bought each application separately. If you wanted to type letters, you got a word processor. If you needed to crunch numbers, you got a spreadsheet. You bought only the software you needed.

The problem was that each discrete application was very expensive. It wasn’t unusual to pay over $400 for a word processing program or a spreadsheet. Companies like Ashton-Tate, Lotus, and WordPerfect all grew into software powerhouses on the backs of users paying top dollar for their applications.

Microsoft didn’t invent the concept of bundled software, but with Microsoft Office they successfully broke the backs of their application-focused rivals. Microsoft applications were never Number 1 in their fields, but they were almost always a solid #2. By bundling the applications, lowering the price, and then leveraging their insider knowledge of Windows 3.1 they drove almost all their competitors out of business.

Today, your main choices for office applications are:

  • Microsoft Office
  • OpenOffice
  • Lotus Symphony
  • Corel WordPerfect Office
  • Sun StarOffice

Living the suite life

The following article comes from TechRepublic’s sister site BNET. BNET includes Find Articles, which indexes thousands of business-related articles and magazines. The following article (redacted obviously) comes from Home Office Computing:

XXXXX – one of four evaluations of integrated software programs in ‘Suite Success’

Avg. Street Price: $499


XXXXX comprises ….., ……, the magnificent ….. database, …., and as a bonus, ….. . Each application features a toolbar loaded with SmartIcons that perform common tasks, which provides for a common look and feel across applications.

Word processor. XXXXX, well known for its superior frame-based layout and graphic capabilities, is beginning to get a bit long in the tooth, lacking such automation niceties as the ability to correct typos on the fly and needing sophisticated file-management features. Otherwise, it’s an intuitive word processor that rivals some entry-level desktop publishing programs when it comes to setting columns, importing graphics, and manipulating text.
Spreadsheet. Unlike its first much-maligned venture into Windows territory, the latest version of XXXXX does almost everything right. Like other XXXXX applications, its SmartIcons automate a number of common and not-so-common tasks. The solo number cruncher will appreciate the Version Manager, a scenario-management tool that lets you play a wide variety of what-if games that help forecast the future of your business.
Database. Since its initial release, XXXXX has been considered the program that gave databases a good name. Well-known for its ease of use and compatibility with other databases, XXXXX is excellent for both novices and database pros.

XXXXX works with a variety of database formats, including Access, Paradox, dBase, and FoxPro. Best of all, it lets you ignore the details associated with building a database and get right down to business.

Presentation graphics. Of all the components that make up a suite, the presentation graphics program is generally used the least–simply because most people just don’t need to prepare presentations or use graphics every day. For that reason, to be successful, presentation programs must be both easy to learn and relearn.

XXXXX pioneered the now universal concept of “click here to enter data,” and thus wins a permanent place in our hearts. And although XXXXX is certainly among the top three of presentation graphics, it still lags slightly behind more advanced products such as …

Information manager. XXXXX is the little something extra that XXXXX threw into XXXXX. It’s designed to look like a traditional paper appointment book, and it provides basic scheduling, contact management, and to-do lists.

XXXXX‘s whole philosophy is the paper metaphor: To move through the program’s modules, which include an address book, calendar, to-do list, notepad, project planner, and anniversary reminder, you click on tabs and page corners. It’s easy to customize and reorder notebooks, and XXXXX offers an autodialer and automatic rollover of unfinished tasks.

With XXXXX, XXXXX has done a terrific job in giving its applications a consistent look and feel. The use of SmartMasters enhances consistency. Lack of uniformity, however, in areas such as File Open dialog boxes and the use of the right mouse button, lessens its appeal as a suite of products, as does its limited support for OLE 2.0.

Guess the OS

OK. So you just read about a complete software package that covers the needs of most office workers. There are lot of options, but see if you can guess the OS:

Do you think you got it right?

Get the answer.

The Office Suite in question is Lotus SmartSuite. Specifically it’s Lotus SmartSuite 3.o for OS/2. You can read the full article on BNET. It appeared in the March 1995 edition of Home Office Computing.

SmartSuite was Lotus’s attempt to come up with a viable competitor to Microsoft Office. Lotus was one of the companies that got caught in the bait-and-switch maneuver that Microsoft pulled behind IBM’s back when OS/2 2.o was under development.

While telling OEMs that the future was going to be with OS/2, Microsoft was secretly working on Windows 3.0. As soon as Windows 3.0 shipped and showed the slightest bit of traction, Microsoft split with IBM. OEMs who had spent years developing OS/2 software scrambled to come up with Windows 3.0 versions of their DOS success stories.

Unfortunately it didn’t work. 123 for Windows, the centerpiece of SmartSuite, was a horrible port from OS/2 and wasn’t nearly as successful as 123 on DOS. Ami Pro was a nearly unusable word processor that wasn’t very intuitive and suffered from lag while typing.

The article here gives a glowing review of the OS/2 version. The OS/2 version was better than the Windows version, but it was the only viable office suite for OS/2, so there’s little to compare it with.

At the time of the article, the main competitor was Micrsoft Office 4.2 on Windows 3.1.  Windows 95 and Office 95 were still a few months away. By the time Windows 95 launched, OS/2’s fate was sealed.

Office 95, and especially Office 97, drove the final nails into the Lotus coffin. IBM wound up hauling off the body. IBM bought Lotus mostly to get a hold of Lotus Notes. However, it still continues to sell and support Lotus SmartSuite, currently at version 9.8. The current price is $298.

IBM also has a freeware office suite with fewer options than SmartSuite based on OpenOffice. It’s called Lotus Symphony, which was the name of one of the first DOS office suites that Lotus offered in the 80s.