Microsoft Word

Last Updated: August 18, 2020

Definition - What does Microsoft Word mean?

Microsoft Word is a widely used commercial word processor designed by Microsoft. Microsoft Word is a component of the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software, but can also be purchased as a stand-alone product.

Microsoft Word was initially launched in 1983, and has since been revised numerous times. It is available for both Windows and Apple operating systems.

Microsoft Word is often called simply Word or MS Word.

Techopedia explains Microsoft Word

In 1981, Microsoft hired Charles Simonyi to develop a word-processing application. The first version was released in 1983.

Initially, MS Word was not very popular, owing to its radically different look compared to WordPerfect, the leading word processor at that time. However, Microsoft improved Word continually over the years, including a 1985 version that could run on a Mac. The second major release of Word, in 1987, included an upgrade of major features, in addition to new functionalities such as support for rich text format (RTF).

In 1995, Microsoft increased its market share in the word processor business with the release of Windows 95 and Office 95, which offered a bundled set of office productivity software.

Some features that have made MS Word useful include a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) display: this design ensures that everything displayed on screen appears the same way when printed or moved to another format or program. The ability of users to copy and paste MS Word content into many other platforms without significant formatting loss is one reason the software has stayed so popular in the last two decades.

In addition, MS Word has a built-in dictionary for spell checking; misspelled words are marked with a red squiggly underline. MS Word offers text-level features such as bold, underline, italic and strike-through, and page-level features such as indentation, paragraphing and justification. Word is compatible with many other programs, the most common being the other members of the Office suite.

In 2007, .docx became the default file format, replacing the “.doc” extension.

As Microsoft Word modernized over time, so did Microsoft operating systems. Since the Microsoft Office suite is inherently tied to the Microsoft operating system, its use featured in user frustrations around end-of-life for Microsoft XP and the successive Vista and Windows 7, 8 and 10 additions.

At the same time, Microsoft was getting on the cloud bandwagon. Its new offering, Microsoft Office 365, replaces old out of the box or single machine licensing methods with a cloud-delivered set of software applications that users can access from anywhere.

With subscription pricing, many customers are now accessing Microsoft Word and Office suites through office 365 instead of buying it through downloads with license keys. Theoretically, the cloud-delivered method allows for more versatile use on multiple devices, although some users have reported trouble trying to get new devices authorized.

One other popular aspect of the cloud-delivered software is that there’s no need to load it onto the local hard drive, leaving the end device less cluttered by drivers and other types of software infrastructure. At the same time, Microsoft has added other complementary cloud applications like OneNote, OneDrive and SharePoint for enterprise users, and a mobile Office suite for Apple and Android.

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