AppleWorks is not God's gift to application design (to understate), but patched up to the latest version it's stable and predictable. I know that a ~300 page novel is being written in AppleWorks, and it handles the large document with aplomb, and with no problems.
If you're crashing a lot:
1) Repair permissions (use Disk Utility);
2) If that doesn't work, trash the preferences of the offending applications as explained above;
3) Make sure you don't have faulty RAM by removing modules one at a time and trying the system without each one. Apple's RAM is good (it's Crucial RAM) but there was a report on MacInTouch of a faulty Apple RAM module (I've only seen that one, though), so it can happen;
4) Run DiskWarrior on your drive.
If that doesn't work, then something is hosed somewhere. It's hard to believe that would happen on three
machines, though. I have noticed that Macs don't fare well in the hands of PC techs, because they're too fond of mucking around down in the plumbing in order to change or fix things. You don't have to do that.