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Microsoft Word is Microsoft's flagship word processing software. It was first released in 1983 under the name Multi-Tool Word for Xenix systems. Versions were later written for several other platforms including IBM PCs running DOS (1983), the Apple Macintosh (1984), SCO UNIX, OS/2 and Microsoft Windows (1989). It is a component of the Microsoft Office system; however, it is also sold as a standalone product and included in Microsoft Works Suite. Beginning with the 2003 version, the branding was revised to emphasize Word's identity as a component within the Office suite: Microsoft began calling it Microsoft Office Word instead of merely Microsoft Word. Nomenclature usage in the wild is currently in flux, with both names being commonly used. The latest release is Word 2016.


1981 - 1989

Many concepts and ideas of Word were brought from Bravo, the original GUI word processor developed at Xerox PARC. Bravo's creator Charles Simonyi left PARC to work for Microsoft in 1981. Simonyi hired Richard Brodie, who had worked with him on Bravo, away from PARC that summer. On February 1, 1983, development on what was originally named Multi-Tool Word began.

Having renamed it Microsoft Word, Microsoft released the program October 25, 1983, for the IBM PC. Free demonstration copies of the application were bundled with the November 1983 issue of PC World, making it the first program to be distributed on-disk with a magazine. However, it was not well received, and sales lagged behind those of rival products such as WordPerfect.

Word featured a concept of "What You See Is What You Get", or WYSIWYG, and was the first application with such features as the ability to display bold and italics text on an IBM PC. Word made full use of the mouse, which was so unusual at the time that Microsoft offered a bundled Word-with-Mouse package. Although MS-DOS was a character-based system, Microsoft Word was the first word processor for the IBM PC that showed actual line breaks and typeface markups such as bold and italics directly on the screen while editing, although this was not a true WYSIWYG system because available displays did not have the resolution to show actual typefaces. 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.

As with most DOS software, each program had its own, often complicated, set of commands and nomenclature for performing functions that had to be learned. For example, in Word for MS-DOS, a file would be saved with the sequence Escape-T-S: pressing Escape called up the menu box, T accessed the set of options for Transfer and S was for Save (the only similar interface belonged to Microsoft's own Multiplan spreadsheet). As most secretaries had learned how to use WordPerfect, companies were reluctant to switch to a rival product that offered few advantages. Desired features in Word such as indentation before typing (emulating the F4 feature in WordPerfect), the ability to block text to copy it before typing, instead of picking up mouse or blocking after typing, and a reliable way to have macros and other functions always replicate the same function time after time, were just some of Word's problems for production typing.

Word for Macintosh, despite the major differences in look and feel from the DOS version, was ported by Ken Shapiro with only minor changes from the DOS source code, which had been written with high-resolution displays and laser printers in mind although none were yet available to the general public. Following the introduction of LisaWrite and MacWrite, Word for Macintosh attempted to add closer WYSIWYG features into its package. After Word for Mac was released in 1985, it gained wide acceptance. There was no Word 2.0 for Macintosh; this was the first attempt to synchronize version numbers across platforms.

The second release of Word for Macintosh, named Word 3.0, was shipped in 1987. It included numerous internal enhancements and new features but was plagued with bugs. Within a few months Word 3.0 was superseded by Word 3.01, which was much more stable. All registered users of 3.0 were mailed free copies of 3.01, making this one of Microsoft's most expensive mistakes up to that time. Word 4.0, released in 1989, was a very successful and solid product.

1990 - 1995

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 for Windows 1.0 was designed for use with Windows 3.0, and its performance was poorer with the versions of Windows available when it was first released). 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.

After MacWrite, Word for 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, many users complained that major updates reliably came more than two years apart, too long for most business users at that time.

Word 5.1 for the Macintosh, released in 1992, was a popular word processor due to its elegance, relative ease of use, and feature set. However, version 6.0 for the Macintosh, released in 1994, was widely derided, unlike the Windows version. 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 equivalent Windows version was also numbered 6.0 to coordinate product naming across platforms, despite the fact that the previous version was Word for Windows 2.0.

When Microsoft became aware of the Year 2000 problem, it released the entire version of DOS port of Microsoft Word 5.5 instead of getting people to pay for the update. As of March 2007, it is still available for download from Microsoft's web site.

Word 6.0 was the second attempt to develop a common codebase version of Word. The first, code-named Pyramid, had been an attempt to completely rewrite the existing Word product. It was abandoned when it was determined that it would take the development team too long to rewrite and then catch up with all the new capabilities that could have been added in the same time without a rewrite. Proponents of Pyramid claimed it would have been faster, smaller, and more stable than the product that was eventually released for Macintosh, which was compiled using a beta version of Visual C++ 2.0 that targets the Macintosh, so many optimizations have to be turned off (the version 4.2.1 of Office is compiled using the final version), and sometimes use the Windows API simulation library included. Pyramid would have been truly cross-platform, with machine-independent application code and a small mediation layer between the application and the operating system.

More recent versions of Word for Macintosh are no longer ported versions of Word for Windows although some code is often appropriated from the Windows version for the Macintosh version.

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, translation and many other capabilities have been added over the years.

Word 97

Word 97 had the same general operating performance as later versions such as Word 2000. This was the first copy of Word featuring the "Office Assistant", which was an animated helper used in all Office programs.

Word 2007

Word 2007 includes numerous changes, including a new XML-based file format, a redesigned interface, an integrated equation editor, bibliographic management, and support for structured documents. It also has contextual tabs, which are functionality specific only to the object with focus, and many other features like Live Preview (which enables you to view the document without making any permanent changes), Mini Toolbar, Super-tooltips, Quick Access toolbar, SmartArt, etc.

Word 2010

Word 2010 introduces the Microsoft Backstage View, Ribbon customization, picture effects, and text effects.

Word 2013

Word 2016

File format

Although the familiar ".doc" extension has been used in many different versions of Word, it actually encompasses four distinct file formats:

1. Word for DOS
  2. Word for Windows 1 and 2; Word 4 and 5 for Mac
  3. Word 6 and Word 95; Word 6 for Mac
  4. Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003; Word 98, 2001, and X for Mac

The newer ".docx" extension signifies (Office Open XML) and is used by Word 2007.

Word document formats (.DOC) as of the early 2000s were a de facto standard of document file formats due to their popularity. Though usually just referred to as "Word document format", this term refers primarily to the range of formats used by default in Word version 2–2003. In addition to the default Word binary formats, there are actually a number of optional alternate file formats that Microsoft has used over the years. Rich Text Format (RTF) was an early effort to create a format for interchanging formatted text between applications. RTF remains an optional format for Word that retains most formatting and all content of the original document. Later, after HTML appeared, Word supported an HTML derivative as an additional full-fidelity roundtrip format similar to RTF, with the additional capability that the file could be viewed in a web browser. Word 2007 and 2010 uses the new Microsoft Office Open XML format as its default format, but retains the older Word 97–2003 format as an option. It also supports (for output only) PDF and XPS format.

The document formats of the various versions 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. WordArt also changed drastically in a recent version causing problems with documents that used it when moving in either direction. The DOC format's specifications are not available for public download but can be received by writing to Microsoft directly and signing an agreement. (The latest format, DOCX, is publicly documented.)

Microsoft Word 95-2003 implemented OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) to manage the structure of its file format, easily identifiable by the .doc extension. OLE behaves rather like a conventional hard drive filesystem, and is made up of several key components. Each word document is composed of so called "big blocks" which are almost always (but do not have to be) 512-byte chunks, hence a Word documents filesize will always be a multiple of 512. "Storages" are analogues of the directory on a disk drive, and point to other storages or "streams" which are similar to files on a disk. The text in a Word document is always contained in the "WordDocument" stream. The first big block in a Word document, known as the "header" block, provides important information as to the location of the major data structures in the document. "Property storages" provide metadata about the storages and streams in a .doc file, such as where it begins and its name and so forth. The "File information block" contains information about where the text in a word document starts, ends, what version of Word created the document and so forth. Needless to say, Word documents are far more complex than perhaps initially expected, perhaps necessarily, or in part to prevent third-parties designing interoperable applications.

People who do not use Microsoft Office sometimes find it difficult to use a Word document. Various solutions have been created. Since the format is a de facto standard, many word processors such as AbiWord or Writer need file import and export filters for Microsoft Word's document file format to compete. Furthermore, there is Apache Jakarta POI, which is an open-source Java library that aims to read and write Word's binary file. Most of this interoperability is achieved through reverse engineering since documentation of the Word 1.0-2003 file format, while available to partners, is not publicly released. The Word 2007-2010 file format, however, is publicly documented.

For the last 10 years Microsoft has also made available freeware viewer programs for Windows that can read Word documents without a full version of the Microsoft Word software. Microsoft has also provided converters that enable different versions of Word to import and export to older Word versions and other formats and converters for older Word versions to read documents created in newer Word formats. The whole Office product range is covered by the Office Converter Pack for Office 97–2003 and Office Compatibility Pack for Office 2000–2003 since the release of Office 2007.

The aforementioned Word format is a binary format. Microsoft has moved towards an XML-based file format for their office applications with Office 2007: Microsoft Office Open XML. This format does not conform fully to standard XML. It is, however, publicly documented as ECMA standard 376. Public documentation of the default file format is a first for Word, and makes it considerably easier, though not trivial, for competitors to interoperate. Efforts to establish it as an ISO standard are also underway. Another XML-based, public file format supported by Word 2003 is WordprocessingML.

It is possible to write plugins permitting Word to read and write formats it does not natively support.



Like other Microsoft Office documents, Word files can include advanced macros and even embedded programs. The language was originally WordBasic, but changed to Visual Basic for Applications as of Word 97. Recently .NET has become the preferred platform for Word programming.

This extensive functionality can also be used to run and propagate viruses in documents. The tendency for people to exchange Word documents via email, USB key, and floppy makes this an especially attractive vector. A prominent example is the Melissa worm, but countless others have existed in the wild. 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.[citation needed]

Layout issues

As of Word 2007 for Windows (and Word 2004 for Macintosh), the program has been unable to handle ligatures defined in TrueType fonts: those ligature glyphs with Unicode codepoints may be inserted manually, but are not recognized by Word for what they are, breaking spellchecking, while custom ligatures present in the font are not accessible at all. Other layout deficiencies of Word include the inability to set crop marks or thin spaces. Various third-party workaround utilities have been developed.[9] Similarly, combining diacritics are handled poorly: Word 2003 has "improved support", but many diacritics are still misplaced, even if a precomposed glyph is present in the font. Additionally, as of Word 2002, Word does automatic font substitution when it finds a character in a document that does not exist in the font specified. It is impossible to deactivate this, making it very difficult to spot when a glyph used is missing from the font in use.

In Word 2004 for Macintosh, complex scripts support was inferior even to Word 97, and Word does not support Apple Advanced Typography features like ligatures or glyph variants.

Bullets and numbering

Users report that Word's bulleting and numbering system is highly problematic. Particularly troublesome is Word's system for restarting numbering.


Versions for MS-DOS include:

  • 1983 November — Word 1
  • 1985 — Word 2
  • 1986 — Word 3
  • 1987 — Word 4 aka Microsoft Word 4.0 for the PC
  • 1989 — Word 5
  • 1991 — Word 5.1
  • 1991 — Word 5.5
  • 1993 — Word 6.0

Versions for the Macintosh (Mac OS and Mac OS X) include:

  • 1985 January — Word 1 for the Macintosh
  • 1987 — Word 3
  • 1989 — Word 4
  • 1991 — Word 5
  • 1993 — Word 6
  • 1998 — Word 98
  • 2000 — Word 2001, the last version compatible with Mac OS 9
  • 2001 — Word v.X, the first version for Mac OS X only
  • 2004 — Word 2004
  • 2007 — Word 2008 (Will be a Universal binary)

Versions for Microsoft Windows include:

  • 1989 November — Word for Windows 1.0 for Windows 2.x, code-named "Opus"
  • 1990 March — Word for Windows 1.1 for Windows 3.0, code-named "Bill the Cat"
  • 1983 - Word for Windows 1.0-1? for Windows 1.0x-2.x
  • 1990 June — Word for Windows 1.1a for Windows 3.x
  • 1991 — Word for Windows 2.0, code-named "Spaceman Spiff"
  • 1993 — Word for Windows 6.0, code named "T3" (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; also a 32-bit version for Windows NT only)
  • 1995 — Word 7 for Windows 95 - included in Office 95
  • 1997 — Word 97 - included in Office 97
  • 1999 — Word 2000 (version 9) included in Office 2000
  • 2001 — Word 2002 (version 10) included in Office XP
  • 2003 — Word 2003 (officially "Microsoft Office Word 2003") - (version 11) included in Office 2003
  • 2006 — Word 2007 (officially "Microsoft Office Word 2007") - (version 12) included in all Office 2007 suites; released to businesses on 30 November 2006, released worldwide to consumers on 30 January 2007
  • 2010 - Word 2010 (officially "Microsoft Word 2010") - (version 14) included in all Office 2010 suites; released worldwide consumers on 15 June 2010

Versions for SCO UNIX include:

  • Microsoft Word for UNIX Systems Release 5.1

Versions for OS/2 include:

  • 1992 Microsoft Word for OS/2 version 1.1B

Hidden features

  • Typing "=rand (n)", where n is a number between 1 and 201, generates a placeholder statement n times:
  • Word 2003 and older generate the sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." (or another default pangram in a non-English version) in older versions of Word.[11]
  • Office 2007 will generate the following text once or twice if n is 1 or 2:
"On the Insert tab, the galleries include items that are designed to coordinate with the overall look of your document. You can use these galleries to insert tables, headers, footers, lists, cover pages, and other document building blocks. When you create pictures, charts, or diagrams, they also coordinate with your current document look."
However, typing "=rand (3)" or higher will generate repetitions of the following text:0
"On the Insert tab, the galleries include items that are designed to coordinate with the overall look of your document. You can use these galleries to insert tables, headers, footers, lists, cover pages, and other document building blocks. When you create pictures, charts, or diagrams, they also coordinate with your current document look."
"You can easily change the formatting of selected text in the document text by choosing a look for the selected text from the Quick Styles gallery on the Home tab. You can also format text directly by using the other controls on the Home tab. Most controls offer a choice of using the look from the current theme or using a format that you specify directly."
"To change the overall look of your document, choose new Theme elements on the Page Layout tab. To change the looks available in the Quick Style gallery, use the Change Current Quick Style Set command. Both the Themes gallery and the Quick Styles gallery provide reset commands so that you can always restore the look of your document to the original contained in your current template."
  • Microsoft Word 97 contained a hidden pinball game.
  • On the note about the pseudo-function rand, in Office 2003 and newer the function can take two parameters (i.e. =rand(2,3)). When using this pseudo-function this way, it will create 2 sets of the same line 3 times. The maxes for this function seem to be 200 and 99 so that you cannot create more than =rand(200,99) worth of text. About 235 pages.

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