A History of Microsoft Word – The Releases of the '90's and Beyond

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Into The 90’s

In the 1990s, Microsoft Word came out with several new versions for both IBM and Mac users. Each different version that was released became much easier to use and learn. Although there had been one rival for the Mac version, MacWrite, Microsoft Word was beginning to enjoy a special market niche that allowed them to basically do what they pleased with their program and marketing. As the updates flowed out of Microsoft and users all around the world became hooked on this program in their offices, homes, and governments, Microsoft began to see the year 2000 creeping up on them and the potential problems that this could cause. So, Microsoft released the entire version of the DOS port for Microsoft Word 5.5 on its website for free. And, it’s still available for download even today on their web site.

The versions of Microsoft Word that were put out in the 1990s offered many great upgrades and perks, and most were well received. But, the most famous one that everyone remembers is the annoying little Office Assistant that would always pop up with advice for you - whether you wanted it or not.

In The New Millineum

After December 31, 1999, the changes to Microsoft Word really began. With Word 2000, Microsoft added in a clipboard that allowed users to hold several objects at once and copy and paste them to other documents. Another change was that annoying little assistant that would automatically appear at the bottom of your documents each time you tried to use it suddenly became a bit less annoying. Next came along Word 2001 and Word X. These were released together, so that users of IBM and Macs could get the same program and it would be compatible for either computer platform. Word 2001 was also sold separately from the Microsoft Office program, and Word X for Mac was the first to run only on Mac OS X.

After this version of Word for both the PC and Mac was released, it seemed that the program was on the right track. So, when Microsoft released its 2002 version, it was bundled with any new Office XP software that went out on computers or CDs all over the world. While it was the same basic program that users had come to know and love, it had one brand new feature, the “Task Pane”. This allowed users to get quicker information instead of going through a long dialog box. and allowed them to use and control some of the features that normally had to be reached by a long series of keystrokes. And, to many people’s relief, that annoying Office Assistant was finally removed for a different help system similar to what other programs offered.

The next version of Microsoft Word was released in 2003 and was simply titled Word 2003. This was also bundled with the Office programs. Since they were re-branded a bit to help put more emphasis on the Office suite of products, Microsoft Word finally became a part of the Office suite and from that point on was bundled with this suite and called Microsoft Office Word. In 2004, the new version of Microsoft Office Word for Mac was released, much to Mac users’ happiness. This new version had been cleaned up and updated almost completely from the last version that had been released. There were several areas where some vulnerabilities had been found and fixed. Even though Apple released its version of Microsoft Word for Mac at the same time, Microsoft’s version continued to be the better seller.

From there, Microsoft didn’t release a new version of Word until 2007. But this version included some major changes in the program. These changes included XML-based file formats, new interfaces, and a whole new way of managing a bibliographic area of the program. Some of the newer featured included something new called Content Control, which allowed the user to create extremely structured documents and to help put in functional tabs to help aid in the organization of the document. With this new release, the program also came out with a new file format that is called docx. Because users that have the older version could not open this type of document, Microsoft came out with a patch that would allow them to open them and change the document as needed. This patch is still available for download on the Microsoft web site. The most recent version of Microsoft Office Word is the 2008 version for Mac, which was released on January 15, 2008. This version included some major upgrades, such as being able to insert images and diagrams into documents.

In the next part of this series on the history of Microsoft Word, we will go through the different file extensions, features, flaws, and some shortcuts that every Microsoft Office Word user should know.