The history of Microsoft Word as it enters its 40s in 2023 is fascinating and full of changes and evolutions. That is why this must have the prominence it deserves and do a small journey through its history with some key points that cannot be overlooked.
As everyone knows, he is one of the software most popular in the world. This was not always the case, and despite competing with a host of word processors over the decades, Word has stood the test of time and is now more powerful than ever.
Going back to its beginnings, in 1983 Microsoft announced its intention to create a word processor for the IBM PC. Back then, the available word processors were quite limited and most were specific to a particular platform or operating system.
Microsoft saw an opportunity to create a word processing tool that was easier to use and could be used across different platforms.
The first word processor developed by Microsoft was Multi Tool Word (MTS), released in 1984. This program had basic formatting and text editing options. In 1985, the company released Word 1.0, the first version of Word as it is known today. This version was available only for the Macintosh and featured more advanced editing and formatting options.
“It’s a story of constant innovation, with new features and enhancements added over the years to make document formatting and editing easier and more effective”explains Gabriela Mantero, AI Specialist at Microsoft.
Windows 3.0 in 1990 was essential to the success of Word
Windows 3.0 was a revolutionary operating system at the time, as it offered a graphical user interface that allowed users to interact with the computer in an easier and more intuitive way. This meant that applications of software they also had to be compatible with the Windows interface, which presented a great opportunity for Word.
Before 1990, applications of software they were designed to be used on text-based operating systems, which made their use complicated and limited. With Windows 3.0, developers of software they were able to design applications with a more intuitive graphical user interface, completely changing all scenarios.
“The release of Windows 3.0 in 1990 was absolutely the key to the success of Microsoft Word at the time, making it easier to use and more accessible to any type of user”adds the expert.
Microsoft Word was one of the first applications to take advantage of this opportunity, and it was designed specifically for this operating system. It had an improved graphical user interface, which allowed users to work with documents in a way that was never seen before and very easy.
In addition, Word integrated seamlessly with other Office applications, such as Excel and PowerPoint, allowing users to work on multiple documents at the same time and easily switch between them.
The success of Windows 3.0 also meant that more computers were sold with the operating system preinstalled, which meant that more people had access to Word. This allowed it to become one of the most popular word processing applications in the world. After all this, the rest was already filmed.
“The new version of Word already included some key features such as automatic text correction and in 1991, Microsoft Word 5.0 was released with an improved user interface and the ability to view the document in ‘Preview’ mode. Also included was the ‘Find and Replace’ function to find and replace text throughout the document”, comments Gabriela Montero.
The tragic life of Clippy, the world’s most hated virtual assistant
If you talk about Word and its history, mention Clippy. This was the user interface agent that shipped with Microsoft Office starting in 1997. It remains arguably the best known and most hated assistant in the history of computing.
The official name of the program was Office Assistant, but the clip was the default avatar and few people changed it. In fact, almost all of the first websites that offered instructions on how to use the package of software Microsoft they contained instructions on how to disable their functionality.
It was born to help users with tasks like spell checking and image insertion, but it often appeared uninvited and offered unsolicited suggestions, distracting them from their work and wasting their time.
Also, Clippy’s design as an animated clip with googly eyes and a smile for a flag made him seem more like a child’s toy than a useful productivity tool. This was also the reason for ridicule and criticism from users.
“Even though Clippy wasn’t the most useful feature in Word, it didn’t bother me as much as some other people. In fact, it was fun to play around with at times and see the different animations. Still, whatever you think, it’s been one of the most useful features. Word’s iconic and controversialadds the expert.
As more and more users complained about Clippy, Microsoft eventually removed the character in later versions of Word. Although many have come to miss it as a nostalgic symbol of ’90s technology, its intrusiveness at work is still remembered as one of the worst features of computer software from that era.
And the time has come to take the big leap: the cloud
There was a new version of Word every three years. Many of these updates added new features as well as user controls, as mentioned before, but It was in 2011 that Microsoft decided that it was going to start providing access to its Office products, including Word, as a service.
The platform, known as Office 365, was one of the first major applications to adopt the cloud model of software as a service that almost all platforms offer today.
Both Word and the rest of the Office programs such as Excel, PowerPoint or OneNote, among others, can now be run completely through a browser, and it even allows you to access the files that you are creating at any time through the ‘cloud’ of Microsoft called OneDrive.
Originally aimed only at business users, The new versions of Microsoft Office 365 have expanded the catalog by creating specific packages to adapt to the needs of certain types of users.
What does the future hold for this iconic tool?
Microsoft Word it will continue to evolve to adapt to changing user needs and new technologies. Some of the features that could be seen in the future include further integration with artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will allow Word to suggest corrections and improvements in real time.
It is already known that Microsoft is currently working to include the capabilities of ChatGPT and GPT-4 in different programs that make up the Office packagespecifically, in tools such as Word, Excel, Outlook or Powerpoint.
“ChatGPT could be used to provide real-time typing suggestions, offering grammar and spelling alternatives to improve the quality of documents”adds Gabriela Montero.
Word is also likely to be further integrated with other applications in the suite room like Teams and OneDrive, enabling smoother collaboration and a more unified user experience.
Other features that could be added in the future include greater compatibility with mobile devices and improved cloud functionality, allowing users to access their documents from anywhere, anytime.
Microsoft Word in a nutshell was born as a response to the need for an easy-to-use and accessible word processor for different platforms. Over the years, it has evolved into an essential tool for creating and editing text documents.
Today this product is used by more than 1 billion people around the world, Microsoft is one of the companies software largest and most important in the world and Word is by far the most important word processor on the market today.