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Microsoft Word, or Microsoft Office 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 became part of the Microsoft Office suite, in which it is referred to as Microsoft Office Word, although it is still also sold as a standalone product or bundled with Microsoft Works.
Word 1981 to 1990
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 Xerox PARC to work for Microsoft in 1981. Simonyi hired Richard Brodie, who had worked with him on Bravo, away from PARC that summer. In 1982, development on what would become Multi-Tool Word began. Microsoft released the program in 1983 for Xenix systems. 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 text.
Later Microsoft renamed it Microsoft Word. Its first general release was for MS-DOS computers on May 2, 1983. 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 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, Word for DOS 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 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; the only similar interface belonged to Microsoft's own Multiplan spreadsheet), and 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, are just some of Word's problems for production typing. Numbering after a heading with a tab after the heading is also problematic. The use of user preferences would improve Microsoft Word, including the option of a static cursor, which remains on the same line and in the same place, with the text moving around it.
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. 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.
Word 1990 to 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. 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 September 2006, 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 2000 to 2004
Word document formats (.DOC) as of the early 2000s were the 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 22003. 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 uses the new Microsoft Office Open XML format as its default format, but retains the older Word 972003 format as an option. It also supports (for output only) PDF and XPS format.
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. Wordart also changed drastically in a recent version causing documents that used it to get messed up when moving in either direction. 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.
People who do not use MS Office sometimes find it difficult to use a Word document. Various solutions have been created. Since the format is the de facto standard, many word processors such as AbiWord or OpenOffice.org 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 file format, while available to partners, is not openly available.
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 MS 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 972003 and Office Compatibility Pack for Office 20002007 since the release of Office 2007.
The aforementioned Word format is a binary format. Microsoft has stated that they will move towards an XML-based file format for their office applications: Microsoft Office Open XML. 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.
It is possible for a user to write a plug-in to allow Word to understand any file format. When Microsoft was not the market leader and WordPerfect was, an SDK was developed to allow advanced users to give support to other formats. This SDK is called the WinWord Converter SDK and is still available at the Microsoft web site, though is not maintained. The "professional" edition of Word 2003 includes the ability to handle non-Microsoft XML data schemas directly in Word.
Like other Microsoft Office documents, Word files 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.
As of Word 2003 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. 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 98, and Word does not support Apple Advanced Typography features like ligatures or glyph variants. 
Word 2007, part of the Microsoft Office 2007 suite, until recently in beta, has been released to manufacturing. This release includes numerous changes, including a new XML-based file format, a redesigned interface, an integrated equation editor, bibliographic management, and support for structured documents.
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
- 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 2007 (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"
- 1990 June Word for Windows 1.1a for Windows 3.1
- 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)
- 1995 Word for Windows 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 or Word XP
- 2003 Word 2003 (officially "Microsoft Office Word 2003"), also known as Word 11
- 2006 Word 2007 (officially "Microsoft Office Word 2007"), also known as Word 12; released to businesses November 30th 2006, due for release to consumers January 30th 2007
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
Role in fighting crime
In 2005, Word became crucial in the search for and apprehension of infamous Wichita, Kansas serial killer Dennis Rader, known for decades as the anonymous BTK Killer. Rader's last known communication with Wichita media and police was a padded envelope which arrived at KSAS-TV, one of many stations in the market which Rader had contacted over the years, on February 16, 2005. A purple, 1.44-MB Memorex floppy disk was enclosed in the package along with a letter, a photocopy of the cover of a 1989 novel about a serial killer (Rules of Prey ISBN 0-425-19519-8), and a gold-colored necklace with a large medallion. Police found metadata embedded in a Microsoft Word document on the disk that pointed to a computer at Wichita's Christ Lutheran Church, and the document was marked as last modified by "Dennis." A search of the church website turned up Dennis Rader as president of the congregation council, and his arrest soon followed.
- Tsang, Cheryl. Microsoft: First Generation. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 0-471-33206-2.
- Liebowitz, Stan J. & Margolis, Stephen E. WINNERS, LOSERS & MICROSOFT: Competition and Antitrust in High Technology Oakland: Independent Institute. ISBN 0-945999-80-1.
- ^ a b c A. Allen, Roy (October 2001). Chapter 12: Microsoft in the 1980's, A History of the Personal Computer: The People and the Technology, 1st edition, Allan Publishing, 12-13. ISBN 0-9689108-0-7. Retrieved on 2006-07-04.
- ^ Cheryl Tsang (1999). Microsoft: First Generation. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-33206-2.
- ^ Rick Schaut (May 19, 2004). Anatomy of a Software Bug. MSDN Blogs. Retrieved on 2006-12-02.
- ^ The first WYSIWYG version of WordPerfect was 6.0, released in 1993: http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/wpdos/chronology.html
- ^ Free version of Microsoft Word 5.5 for DOS (EXE format). Retrieved on 2006-10-04.
- ^ Converters for Word 97. microsoft.com (2006). Retrieved on December 9, 2006.
- ^ Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 File Formats. microsoft.com (2006-11-06). Retrieved on December 9, 2006.
- ^ Such as WordSetter (shareware)
- ^ Microsoft Corporation (2006-11-6). 2007 Microsoft Office System Is Golden. Retrieved on 2006-11-25.
- List of word processors
- Comparison of word processors
- Sample Text in Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Word home page
- Word site by Word MVPs including a large FAQ collection
- The Word Object Model
- MS Word Tutorial for Beginners
- Essay on Mac Word 6.0 development by Rick Schaut
- Article about the free version of Microsoft Word 5.5 for DOS systems
- Word Refuseniks: Never Upgrade Wired article about Word 5.1 users.
- Free Word 2003 viewer from Microsoft.
- Open source alternatives to Word