Microsoft Word Turns 40

Microsoft Word icon

First released in 1983, Microsoft Word has celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year.

The venerable word processing software was first released for MS-DOS, preceding the now ubiquitous Microsoft Windows which wasn’t launched until 1985.

Just like the mouse and the Graphical User Interface (GUI), Word was originally a Xerox product. Microsoft’s Bill Gates hired the two software developers who had worked on Xerox Bravo, the world’s first GUI word processor, licensed the technology, and Microsoft Word was born in 1983.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Forty years later, Microsoft Word is (probably) the world’s most popular word processing software.

Of course, there are alternatives, such as Apple’s Pages, Google Docs, and Apache’s OpenOffice. Yet Microsoft Word is still incredibly popular.

Important Points in the Microsoft Word Timeline

1983: Microsoft Word is released for the IBM PC. It is one of the first word processing programs to offer a graphical user interface, making it much easier to use than previous word-processing programs.

1985: Microsoft Word is released for the Macintosh. This helps to make Word even more popular, as the Macintosh was the leading computer platform of the time.

1987: Microsoft Word 3.0 launches, adding features such as spell checking, mail merge, and support for multiple fonts.

1990: Microsoft Word for Windows 2.0 is released, adding features such as tables, columns, and the important What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editing.

1995: Microsoft Word 6.0 is released, adding features such as web publishing, collaboration support, and the Office Assistant.

1997: Microsoft Word 97 is released, adding features such as XML support, voice recognition, and the AutoCorrect tool.

2003: Microsoft Word 2003 is released, adding features such as the Ribbon interface, SmartArt graphics, and the ability to create and edit PDFs.

2007: Microsoft Word 2007 is released, adding features such as the new Office Fluent user interface, LivePreview, and equations.

2010: Microsoft Word 2010 is released, adding features such as the Backstage view, the ability to co-author documents in real time, and support for multi-touch devices.

2013: Microsoft Word 2013 is released, adding features such as the new Office Reading mode, the ability to insert online videos, and support for cloud storage services such as OneDrive.

2016: Microsoft Word 2016 is released, adding features such as the Insights pane, the ability to translate documents in real time, and the ability to collaborate on documents with people who are using different versions of Word.

2021: Microsoft Word for the web is released, allowing users to create and edit Word documents in their web browser.

The Impact of Word on the World of Work

In 40 years, Word has had a massive impact on the working environment. Some of the key impacts have been:

  • Increased productivity: Microsoft’s Word has helped businesses to increase productivity by making it easier to create and edit documents. The spell checker alone helps businesses to create accurate documents with different levels of grammatical checking, such as the formal, professional, and casual settings.
  • Improved collaboration: Word has made it easier for people to collaborate on documents. Real-time co-authoring features allows multiple people to work on the same document at the same time.
  • Reduced costs: Microsoft’s Word software has helped organisations to reduce costs. One great example is being able to create and export to PDF, allowing documents to be read across multiple devices.

Overall, Word has had a profound effect on the commercial world, helping businesses to be more productive, collaborative, and able to manage their costs.

Remember Clippy?

From Microsoft Office 97 until 2003, the Office Assistant was included in the suite. In Word, by default, the Office Assistant was Clippy, an animated paperclip.

Microsoft Word's Clippy - TAP, TAP, TAP - "It looks like you're writing a letter,"

With a sound effect like metal tapping on the inside of a glass CRT screen, Clippy was famous for prompts such as:

“It looks like you’re writing a letter, would you like help?”

And then you were presented with two options; get help, or just carry on writing without assistance.

But then the animated paperclip, alongside other animated characters, got the boot in 2003.

However, in 2021 the infamous Word companion made a comeback and was included as an emoji and in a retro sticker pack in Microsoft Teams.

Word in 2023

Today, Microsoft Word is so much more than the simple word processing software it was forty years ago.

Professional teams can now collaborate on documents in real time, and Word is fully cloud-based so that users can access it from their laptops or on-the-go via their mobile devices.

Word’s spell-checking is incredibly advanced, with AI providing predictive text, and an advanced editor providing grammar inspection for styles from casual, to professional, and even formal output.

Users can dictate to the software, and there are now add-ins for ChatGPT, citations, and even professional translations.

So happy birthday Microsoft Word, life begins at 40!


PurpleJelly IT can support your business on all its Word, Microsoft Office, and Windows installations.  For more information contact us on 01252 856 230 or complete our contact form.

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