The original AppleWorks was one of the first integrated office suites for personal computers, featuring a word processor, spreadsheet, and database merged into a single program. It was written by Rupert Lissner and released in 1984 by Apple for the Apple II family of computers. Apple had previously published Lissner's QuickFile, a database program that closely resembled what became the AppleWorks database module. An Apple III version of AppleWorks, which used the same file formats, was dubbed III E-Z Pieces and marketed by Haba Systems. Wary of stepping on the toes of its third-party developers, including its own popular AppleWriter word processing application, Apple barely promoted the product at all. AppleWorks nevertheless debuted at #2 on the Softalk's monthly bestseller list and quickly became the best-selling software package on any computer, ousting even Lotus 1-2-3 from the top of the industry-wide sales charts. Apple released version 2.0 in 1986, and then a year later the program was published by Apple's new software subsidiary Claris. Claris upgraded AppleWorks to version 3.0 in 1989, then turned its attention to producing Macintosh and Windows software, letting AppleWorks languish. Claris did, however, finally agree to license the AppleWorks trademark to Quality Computers, which released AppleWorks 4.0 in 1993 and AppleWorks 5.0 in 1994. In the mid 1980s, many companies provided "add ons" to AppleWorks. One of the most successful was the TimeOut series from Beagle Bros. Several of the TimeOut developers were involved in developing AppleWorks 3.0 and later, and AppleWorks eventually incorporated numerous TimeOut functions.
In 1988, Claris acquired an integrated package called GS Works from StyleWare and renamed it AppleWorks GS, bringing the AppleWorks brand to the 16-bit Apple IIgs, though no code from the 8-bit Apple II version was used. In addition to the word processing, database, and spreadsheet functions, AppleWorks GS also included telecommunications, page layout and graphics modules. Only one version of AppleWorks GS was ever published, although a vaporware update was rumored to be "just short of completion" for a long time. The 8-bit AppleWorks is sometimes known as "AppleWorks Classic" in order to differentiate it from AppleWorks GS as well as the later product for Macintosh and Windows of the same name. The term "Classic" in this context does not refer to the Classic compatibility environment in Mac OS X.