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Learn About Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word 6.0 (Windows 98)

Microsoft Word 2003 running on Windows XP.
Developer Microsoft
Latest release 2003 for Windows, 2004 for Mac OS X / October 2003 (Windows), May 2004 (Mac)
OS Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows
Genre Word processor
License Proprietary

Microsoft Word is a word processor program from Microsoft. It was originally written by Richard Brodie for IBM PC computers running DOS in 1983. Later versions were created for the Apple Macintosh (1984), SCO UNIX, and Microsoft Windows (1989). It became part of the Microsoft Office.


The beginning

Many concepts and ideas were brought from Bravo, the original GUI word processor developed at Xerox PARC, into Microsoft Word. Bravo's creator Charles Simonyi left PARC to work for Microsoft in 1981. Simonyi hired Brodie, who had worked with him on Bravo, away from PARC that summer.

Word's first general release was for MS-DOS computers in late 1983. It was not well received, and sales lagged behind those of rival products such as WordPerfect.

On the Macintosh, however, Word gained wide acceptance after it was released in 1985, and especially with the second major release, Word 3.01 for Macintosh, two years later (Word 3.00 was plagued with bugs and quickly superseded). Like other Mac software, Word for Mac was a true what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor.

Although MS-DOS was a character-based system, Word for DOS was the first word processor for the IBM PC that showed typeface markups such as bold and italics directly on the screen while editing, although this was not a true WYSIWYG system. Other DOS word processors, such as WordStar and WordPerfect, used simple text-only display with markup codes on the screen or sometimes, at the most, alternative colors.

However, as with most DOS software, each program had its own, often complicated, set of commands for performing functions that had to be learned (for example, in Word for DOS, a file would be saved with the sequence Escape-T-S), and as most secretaries had learned how to use WordPerfect, companies were reluctant to switch to a rival product that offered few advantages.

Word 1990 to 1995

Microsoft Word 6.0 (Windows 98) Microsoft Word 6.0 (Windows 98)

The first version of Word for Windows was released in 1989 at a price of 500 US dollars. With the release of Windows 3.0 the following year, sales began to pick up (Word 1.0 worked much better with Windows 3.0 than with previous versions). The failure of WordPerfect to produce a Windows version proved a fatal mistake. It was version 2.0 of Word, however, that firmly established Microsoft Word as the market leader.

Word on the Macintosh never had any serious rivals, although programs such as Nisus Writer provided features such as non-contiguous selection which were not added until Word 2002 in Office XP. In addition, some users complained that Word had not had a major overhaul between versions 3.01 in 1987 and version 5.0 in 1991. Word 5.1 for the Macintosh was a popular word processor due to its elegance, relative ease of use, and feature set. However, version 6.0 for the Macintosh, released 1994, was widely derided. It was the first version of Word based on a common codebase between the Windows and Mac versions; many accused it of being slow, clumsy and memory intensive. The Windows version was also numbered 6.0 to coordinate product naming across platforms (despite the fact that the previous version of Word for Windows was 2.0).

Later versions of Word have more capabilities than just word processing. The Drawing tool allows simple desktop publishing operations such as adding graphics to documents. Collaboration, document comparison, multilingual support and many other capabilities have been added over the years.

The present

Microsoft Word 2004 (Mac OS X v10.4 "Tiger") Microsoft Word 2004 (Mac OS X v10.4 "Tiger")

Microsoft Word is the dominant word processor in current use, making Word's proprietary document file format (DOC) the de facto standard which competing products must support to interoperate in an office environment. File import and export filters exist for many word processors such as AbiWord or (see the article on word processor for other competitors). Most of this interoperability is achieved through reverse engineering since documentation of the file format, while available to partners, is not openly available. The document formats of the various versions of Word change in subtle and not so subtle ways; formatting created in newer versions does not always survive when viewed in older versions of the program, nearly always because that capability does not exist in the previous version. The DOC format of Word 97 was publicly documented by Microsoft, but later versions have been kept private, available only to partners, governments and institutions. Industry rumors claim some aspects of the Word file format are at present not fully understood even by Microsoft themselves. Lately Microsoft has stated that they will move towards an XML-based file format for their office applications. Word 2003 has an XML file format as an option using a publicly documented schema called WordprocessingML, endorsed by such institutions as the Danish Government. The "professional" edition includes the ability to handle non-Microsoft schemas directly in Word. Apache Jakarta POI is an open-source Java library that aims to read and write Word's binary file format.

Like other Microsoft Office applications, Word can be highly customised using a built-in macro language (originally WordBasic, but changed to Visual Basic for Applications as of Word 97). However, this capability can also be used to embed viruses in documents, as was demonstrated by the Melissa worm. Some anti-virus software can detect and clean common macro viruses, and firewalls may prevent worms from transmitting themselves to other systems.

The first virus known to affect Microsoft Word documents was called the Concept virus, a relatively harmless virus created to demonstrate the possibility of macro virus creation.


Versions for MS-DOS include:

Versions for Apple Macintosh include:

Versions for Microsoft Windows include:

  • 1989 November Word for Windows
  • 1991 Word 2 for Windows
  • 1993 Word 6 for Windows (renumbered "6" to bring Windows version numbering in line with that of DOS version, Macintosh version and also WordPerfect, the main competing word processor at the time)
  • 1995 Word 95, also known as Word 7
  • 1997 Word 97, also known as Word 8
  • 1999 Word 2000, also known as Word 9
  • 2001 Word 2002, also known as Word 10
  • 2003 Word 2003, also known as Word 11 but officially titled Microsoft Office Word 2003

Versions for SCO UNIX include:

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Tsang, Cheryl. Microsoft: First Generation. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 0-471-33206-2.



All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).