A Brief History Of Microsoft Office

Released in late 1989, Microsoft Office is over 20 years old – and counting. The original Microsoft Office was more of a marketing term than an integrated suite with a cohesive set of shared tools and features as it is today. Though it was a bundled collection of office productivity tools, the individual programs were originally standalone programs.

Microsoft Office – The Early Years

The initial version of Office consisted of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Microsoft soon bundled different applications into Standard and Pro versions of Office. These would later be expanded. For example, Office 2013 is available in Office Home & Student, Office Home & Business, Office Professional, and Office 365 Home Premium versions.

With a history of over 20 years, Microsoft Office has changed significantly. The original version of Office, which was known as Microsoft Office for Windows, went through several generations. As Microsoft overhauled its operating systems, Office was typically overhauled to match. For example, Microsoft Windows 95 was soon followed by Microsoft Office 95 which was re-designed as a 32-bit application. Windows 97, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 8 are all significant operating systems from Microsoft with major changes. Office versions, such as Office 95, Office 97, Office 2000, Office XP, Office 2007, Office 2010, and Office 2013, were released either in conjunction with or shortly before or after the operating system debuted.

Microsoft also released Office for Mac versions, typically in the year following the Windows version. For example, Mac versions include Microsoft Office 98, 2001, v.X, 2004, 2008, and 2011.


Microsoft Office Milestones

While each new version brought new features and enhancements, and in some cases, new products, the more significant milestones include Microsoft Office 97 and Microsoft Office 2007. Office 97 is notable for its new features – hundreds of them. Visually and functionally similar menus and toolbars made using Word, Excel, and other Office programs are more consistent experience. The “Office Assistant,” an animated helper shaped like a paper clip, also arrived.

Microsoft Office 2007 represented a complete redesign of Office. This version introduced the Office “ribbon” which is a large bar that spans the top of the user interface. The ribbon is broken into tabs that contain specific tools for various purposes. Though widely considered more intuitive, the ribbon replaced the familiar menu-based navigation which made it necessary for long-time Office users to adapt to a new system. The ribbon is still in use today, and many other software developers have adopted ribbon-like systems of their own. There is a large demand on Microsoft Office training as MS Office market share grows.

Microsoft Office Today

Software developers have increasingly embraced cloud-computing. With competing office productivity tools (such as the free suite of Google Docs) available online, Microsoft Office had to evolve yet again. Office 365 is a subscription-based, cloud solution built on the MS Office platform. It was originally launched in late 2010 as a private beta with a general release in June 2011. Versions are available for business and home users.

Microsoft Office is also slowly to moving to tablets and smartphones. In January 2011, Microsoft released its first official Office app, OneNote, for mobile devices. It also offers a Lync 2013 app.

Jackie Phillips is a technical writer with extensive experience in documenting software applocations and tech gadgets.