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In 1981, Microsoft hired Charles Simonyi, the primary developer of Bravo, the first GUI word processor, which was developed at Xerox PARC Simonyi started work on a word processor called Multi-Tool Word and soon hired Richard Brodie, a former Xerox intern, who became the primary software engine.

Microsoft Word 5.0 for DOS. Versions 1.0 to 4.0 had a similar user interface.

Microsoft announced Multi-Tool Word for Xenix and MS-DOS in 1983. Its name was soon simplified to Microsoft Word. 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. Unlike most MS-DOS programs at the time, Microsoft Word was designed to be used with a mouse, and it was able to display some formatting, such as bold, italic, and underlined text, although it could not render fonts. It was not initially popular, since its user interface was different from the leading word processor at the time, WordStar. However, Microsoft steadily improved the product, releasing versions 2.0 through 5.0 over the next six years.

In 1985, Microsoft ported Word to the Macintosh. This was made easier by the fact that Word for DOS had been designed for use with high-resolution displays and laser printers, even though none were yet available to the general public. Following the precedents of LisaWrite and MacWrite, Word for Mac added true WYSIWYG features. After its release, Word for Mac’s sales were higher than its MS-DOS counterpart for at least four years.

The second release of Word for Macintosh, shipped in 1987, was named Word 3.0 to synchronize its version number with Word for DOS; this was Microsoft’s first attempt to synchronize version numbers across platforms. Word 3.0 included numerous internal enhancements and new features, including the first implementation of the Rich Text Format (RTF) specification, but was plagued with bugs. Within a few months Word 3.0 was superseded by a more stable Word 3.01, which was mailed free to all registered users of 3.0. After MacWrite, Word for Mac never had any serious rivals on the Mac. Word 5.1 for the Macintosh, released in 1992, was a very popular word processor owing to its elegance, relative ease of use and feature set. Many users say its the best version of Word for Mac ever created.

In 1986, an agreement between Atari and Microsoft brought Word to the Atari ST under the name Microsoft Write. The Atari ST version was a port of Word 1.05 for the Apple Macintosh and was never updated.

The first version of Word for Windows was released in 1989. With the release of Windows 3.0 the following year, sales began to pick up and Microsoft soon became the market leader for word processors for IBM PC-compatible computers. In 1991, Microsoft capitalized on Word for Windows’ increasing popularity by releasing a version of Word for DOS, version 5.5, that replaced its unique user interface with an interface similar to a Windows application. When Microsoft became aware of the Year 2000 problem, it made Microsoft Word 5.5 for DOS available for download free. As of February 2012, it is still available for download from Microsoft’s web site. In 1991, Microsoft embarked on a project code-named Pyramid to completely rewrite Microsoft Word from the ground up. Both the Windows and Mac versions would start from the same code base. 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. Instead, the next versions of Word for Windows and Mac, dubbed version 6.0, both started from the code base of Word for Windows 2.0.

With the release of Word 6.0 in 1993, Microsoft again attempted to synchronize the version numbers and coordinate product naming across platforms, this time across DOS, Macintosh, and Windows (this was the last version of Word for DOS). It introduced AutoCorrect, which automatically fixed certain typing errors, and AutoFormat, which could reformat many parts of a document at once. While the Windows version received favorable reviews (e.g.,), the Macintosh version was widely derided. Many accused it of being slow, clumsy and memory intensive, and its user interface differed significantly from Word 5.1. In response to user requests, Microsoft was forced to offer Word 5 again, after it had been discontinued. Subsequent versions of Word for Macintosh are no longer ported versions of Word for Windows.


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