The software company GeoWorks is about to release GeoWorks Ensemble, a set of programs and an exciting new graphical user interface for IBM PCs and compatibles.

The product, unveiled last week at a meeting of the Boston Computer Society, is expected to be available in November. Because of its modest hardware requirements, GeoWorks will be of particular interest to people with older machines as well as budget-minded computer shoppers looking for an easy-to-use environment that runs on low-cost equipment. The product is aimed at the home and small-business markets. But even users of more-powerful machines will appreciate GeoWorks' simplicity, speed and excellent graphics.

In general, GeoWorks is similar to what already is available on the Apple Macintosh or on IBM compatibles running Microsoft Windows. You start programs by using a mouse to click on icons. Commands are issued via pull-down menus. You use the mouse to select text or graphics to be copied, deleted or moved. And data can be easily moved from one program to another. What's more, it's possible to run more than one program at a time, each in its own window, and switch from program to program with a click of the mouse. GeoWorks will have a suggested retail price of $195.

Unlike Windows, GeoWorks works on virtually any IBM PC as long as it has a hard disk, a graphic display and at least 512 kilobytes of memory. Windows requires a PC with at least 1 megabyte of memory and an Intel 286, 386 or 486 central processing unit. As a result, the majority of machines in use today are not able to run Windows.

My only complaint about GeoWorks is that it doesn't allow you to create macros, which allow you to assign keystrokes to commands. GeoWorks plans to add a macro feature to a future version.

GeoWorks starts off with a "Welcome" screen with three icons. A click on the Appliances icon takes you to an area where you can use any of four basic programs: a calculator, an address book, a personal calendar and a note pad. The Professional icon takes you to the GeoManager, with icons for eight additional programs: word processing, computer-to-computer communications, drawing, personal calendar, address book, note pad, calculator and a program to connect with America Online, an easy-to-use on-line information service.

The final icon on the Welcome screen takes you to an area where you can start regular MS-DOS programs that do not use the GeoWorks interface.

GeoWorks' word-processing program, called GeoWrite, is both easy to use and sophisticated. It compares favorably with stand-alone word processing programs that sell for more than twice the cost of the entire GeoWorks package. Like all GeoWorks programs, its typefaces can be displayed or printed at any size. Such size control, called "scaling," is an advanced feature that requires optional software on a Macintosh or Windows-based system.

The "what you see is what you get" environment displays your margins, headers, footers and page breaks. GeoWrite supports color and multiple columns on screen. You can create and store paragraph styles and ruler settings for use on subsequent documents.

Text editing is similar to what you'll find on Macintosh and Windows word processing programs. To modify text, you select it with the mouse and perform an operation such as copying it to the clipboard, deleting it or changing its appearance.

The drawing program, called GeoDraw, is reasonably sophisticated. You can use it to draw lines, circles, rectangles and other shapes in black and white or color. Any graphic created in GeoDraw can be pasted into GeoWrite or any other GeoWorks application.

The communications program, called GeoComm, is basic but it's good enough for most users who want to sign on to an on-line service like CompuServe, GEnie or MCI Mail. Another GeoWorks program is designed to sign on to America Online, which provides news, information, electronic mail and other services. America Online costs $5.95 a month plus a minimum of $5 per hour.

GeoWorks is at 2125 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, Calif. 94704. Phone: (415) 644-0883.

Readers' comments are welcomed, but the author cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Lawrence J. Magid, P.O. Box 620477, Woodside, Calif. 94062, or contact the L. Magid account on the MCI electronic mail system.