Microsoft Word

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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 suite.

Microsoft Word XP features a number of improvements over earlier Word packages.
Microsoft Word XP features a number of improvements over earlier Word packages.

Microsoft Word owes a lot to Bravo, the original GUI Word Processor developed at Xerox PARC. Bravo's creator Charles Simonyi left PARC to work for Microsoft in 1981.

Word was the first popular word processor for the IBM PC that used a graphic display mode to show typeface markups such as bold and italics directly on the screen while editing (WYSIWYG). Previous word processors, such as WordStar and WordPerfect, used simple text-only display with markup codes on the screen or sometimes, at the most, alternate colors.

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 although a proper desktop publishing program is obviously better at these tasks. Word also comes with rudimentary drawing tools which allow the drawing of simple diagrams or business graphics. See How to draw a diagram with Microsoft Word for a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the drawing tools to produce simple diagrams.

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 OpenOffice (see the article on word processor for other competitors). Most of this interoperability is achieved through reverse engineering since documentation of the file format from Microsoft is sporadic and incomplete. 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. The DOC format of Word 97 was publicly documented by Microsoft, but later versions have been kept secret. Lately Microsoft has stated that they will move towards an XML-based file format for their office applications, which is hithereto only available in "professional" editions of the software. 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. Because of this, users having Microsoft Word installed should refrain from having it configured to open Microsoft Word documents received — by email or otherwise — from untrusted sources. In this case also, a minimum precaution is to have anti-virus software installed in order to avoid being infected by such a virus or acting as a source of infection. The first virus known to affect Microsoft Word documents was called the Concept virus, and it first appeared on a CD that was published by Microsoft.


Versions for Microsoft 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 XP, also known as Word 2002 or Word 10
  • 2003 Word 2003, also known as Word 11 but officially titled Microsoft Office Word 2003

Versions for SCO UNIX include:

External links