Wed. Dec 6th, 2023

Microsoft Word turns 40 in 2023, remembering old days of use, new features that were included over the years, a more than hated Clippy and doors that open towards artificial intelligence.

The history of Microsoft Word as it enters its 40s in 2023 is fascinating and full of changes and evolutions. That is why this must have the prominence it deserves and take a short tour of its history with some key points that cannot be overlooked.

As everyone already knows, it is one of the most popular software in the world. It wasn’t always this way, and despite competing with a host of word processors over the decades, Word has stood the test of time and is now more powerful than ever. 

Going back to its beginnings, in 1983 Microsoft announced its intention to create a word processor for the IBM PC. Back then, the available word processors were quite limited and most were specific to a particular  platform or operating system .

Microsoft saw an opportunity to create a word processing tool that was easier to use and could be used across different platforms.

The Microsoft Word logo through the years.
The Microsoft Word logo through the years.

The first word processor developed by Microsoft was Multi-Tool Word (MTS), released in 1984. This program had basic text editing and formatting options. In 1985, the company released Word 1.0, the first version of Word as it is known today. This version was available only for the Macintosh and featured more advanced editing and formatting options. Learn more on

“It’s a story of constant innovation, with new features and enhancements added over the years to make editing and formatting documents easier and more effective,” explains Gabriela Mantero, AI Specialist at Microsoft .


Windows 3.0 in 1990 was essential to the success of Word

Windows 3.0 was a revolutionary operating system at the time, as it offered a graphical user interface that allowed users to interact with the computer in an easier and more intuitive way. This meant that software applications also had to be compatible with the Windows interface, which presented a great opportunity for Word.

Before 1990, software applications were designed for text-based operating systems, making their use complicated and limited. With Windows 3.0, software developers could design applications with a more intuitive graphical user interface, completely changing all scenarios.

“The release of Windows 3.0 in 1990 was absolutely key to the success of Microsoft Word at the time, making it easier to use and more accessible to any type of user,” adds the expert.

Microsoft Word was one of the first applications to take advantage of this opportunity, and it was designed specifically for this operating system. It had an improved graphical user interface, which allowed users to work with documents in a way that was never seen before and was very easy.

Additionally, Word integrated seamlessly with other Office applications such as Excel and PowerPoint, allowing users to work on multiple documents at the same time and easily switch between them.

The success of Windows 3.0 also meant that more computers were sold with the operating system pre-installed, which meant that more people had access to Word. This allowed it to become one of the most popular word-processing applications in the world. After all this, the rest was already filmed.

“The new version of Word already included some key features such as automatic text correction and in 1991, Microsoft Word 5.0 was released with an improved user interface and the ability to view the document in ‘Preview’ mode. Also included was the ‘Search and Replace’ function to find and replace text throughout the document,” says Gabriela Montero.

The tragic life of Clippy, the world’s most hated virtual assistant

If you talk about Word and its history, mention Clippy. This was the user interface agent that shipped with Microsoft Office starting in 1997. It remains arguably the best-known and most hated assistant in the history of computing.

The official name of the program was Office Assistant, but the clip was the default avatar and few people changed it. In fact, almost all of the first websites that offered instructions on how to use Microsoft’s software package contained instructions on how to disable its functionality.


It was born to help users with tasks like spell-checking and image insertion, but it often appeared uninvited and offered unsolicited suggestions, distracting them from their work and wasting their time.

By Scarlett Watson

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