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A Brief History of Microsoft Word

A Brief History of Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is one of the most popular software titles in the world. It wasn’t always so. Despite competing with a myriad of separate word processors over literal decades, Word has sustained and is now more powerful than ever. Today, we’ll take you through the history of the world’s most recognizable word processor.

Initial Development

The very first edition of Microsoft Word was created by Charles Simonyi and Richard Brodie for Microsoft’s MS-DOS operating system. Also running on the Xenix OS, the first version of word was commissioned by Bill Gates and Paul Allen after using Xerox Bravo, a word processing software developed by Simonyi and Brodie was successful on MS-DOS previously.

While initially unpopular, Microsoft’s move into a dedicated graphic user interface (GUI) with 1985’s Microsoft Windows, changed Word’s fortunes. The first GUI-enabled Word platform was released in 1990. The software quickly made up ground on Corel’s WordPerfect, which was the most popular word processor for much of the late 1980s. Since Corel failed to produce a Windows-compatible version of WordPerfect, Word was able to corner Microsoft’s market pretty quickly. It also quickly became the second most utilized word processor on Macintosh OS (behind WordPerfect). The strategy of designing software for multiple platforms led to more people using Word than any other word processing program, and has served the company well for decades.

Microsoft Office

As Microsoft Word’s popularity grew, Microsoft realized that companies were now looking to buy software titles, so in 1990 they paired Word 1.1 word processor, the Microsoft Excel 2.0 spreadsheet program, and the Microsoft PowerPoint 2.0 presentation builder. At the time it was the most comprehensive enterprise productivity suite on the market for both PC and Mac.

Initially, one of its main competitors was called Microsoft Works. Works was also a productivity suite with a word processor, spreadsheet program, and presentation software, but it was marketed to individuals. The software wasn’t as comprehensive as the ones found in the Office suite. Works ran for 17 years, but it was finally discontinued in 2007 when Microsoft started offering the Office suite at a lower price point.

With Microsoft Office adding email capabilities in July of 1991, Microsoft Office became the go-to productivity suite for the business professional. Then came a new build of Windows, Windows 3.1, which was the industry-leading OS. By outpacing its competitors with their new operating system, cache of available applications, and reasonable price point, Microsoft entrenched themselves as one of the main business software companies in the world.

Word Innovation

As Microsoft continued to develop and release industry-leading software, Microsoft Word started to gain features. No longer was there interoperability between the Macintosh versions and the Windows versions of Word. When Windows 95 launched, so did Word 95. No longer available for Macintosh, Word 95 was the first Word product to be developed exclusively for Windows.

Word 97, introduced late in 1996, added Clippit (known as Clippy). Since there were so many options that a user could select within their Office suite, Clippy helped people navigate the new toolbars and user interface. Word was also part of the first Office suite that included product activation, which would become the standard way to license software for much of the next two decades.

Word 2000 added HTML tools and the very first Internet-based collaboration features. Since there was a great deal of trepidation that software would have problems working in 2000, Microsoft was quick to release major patches, a trend that continues today. Subsequent versions of the software have made collaboration a major point of emphasis.

Word In the Cloud

There was a new version of Word every three years. Many of these updates added new features, as well as user controls. In 2011 Microsoft decided that it was going to start providing access to their Office products, including Word, as a service. The platform, known as Office 365, was one of the very first major name applications to embrace the Software as a Service cloud model that almost every platform offers today.

Originally aimed at only corporate users, new versions of Microsoft Office 365 have expanded the catalog by creating specific packages to fit certain types of users’ needs. Today, the cloud-based product is used by over a billion people worldwide and Microsoft is one of the largest and most important software companies in the world; and Word is, by far, the most important word processor on the market today.

If your business would like to learn more about the latest version of Word, and the enhanced collaboration tools provided in the Office 365 productivity suite, call the experts at Walsh IT Group today at (832) 295-1445.

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