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20 Historical Microsoft Office Facts You Forgot Or Never Knew

Tina Sieber 04-12-2014

Office celebrated its 25th anniversary this August. Instead of a big celebration, it just continued processing data 6 Ways You Can Get a Microsoft Office License for Free Free Microsoft Office licenses are hard to get, but they do exist. This article covers six ways to get Word and Excel for free. Read More in millions of real offices everywhere. The world has changed since digital presentations, word processing, and spreadsheets 5 Microsoft Word & Excel Skills You Must Have to Succeed at the Office "Get that report to me, ASAP!" A core set of Microsoft Excel and Word tricks can make this task less stressful and help you whiz up a stylish report in no time. Read More became a thing.


Today, a world without these tools is hard to imagine. Do you remember how it all began? Here are 20+ facts from the eventful history of Microsoft Office.

The Beginning

1. Microsoft’s first Office application was Excel.

Originally released under the name Multiplan in 1982, Microsoft changed the name to Excel when releasing it for the Macintosh in 1985.

2. There never was an Excel 1.0 for DOS or Windows.

Since Excel was initially launched on the Macintosh, its first release for Windows in 1987 was already version 2.0.


3. For compatibility reasons with Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft wrongfully set the years 1900, 2100, and 2200 as leap years.

This decision would come back to haunt them in the wake of the year 2000. The issue was corrected for the latter two, but to ensure backward compatibility, it could not be rectified for the year 1900.

4. Excel helped Microsoft become the leading PC software developer.

Lotus Software’s 1-2-3, so-called because it handled spreadsheet calculations, database functionality, and graphical charts, was released in 1983. It soon dethroned the original spreadsheet application VisiCalc, released by Apple, to become the standard spreadsheet tool of the 1980s. When Lotus struggled with porting 1-2-3 to Windows, it missed the bus and sales of its office products fell behind those of Microsoft in the early 1990s.


In Excel 4.0, which was released in 1992, an Easter egg shows an Excel logo chasing the numbers 1, 2, and 3, representing Lotus 1-2-3, off the screen.

5. PowerPoint’s original name was Presenter.

Initially developed by Forethought, Inc, Presenter for Macintosh had to be renamed due to trademark issues. In 1987 it became PowerPoint and shortly after Microsoft bought the product for USD 14 million.

6. Microsoft’s first Microsoft Mail product became available for AppleTalk Networks in 1988.


It was originally based on InterMail and re-appeared on the market as Quarterdeck Mail and Star Nine Mail after Microsoft had sold it.

The Office Suite Is Born

7. The first Office package debuted on Mac OS Microsoft Office for Mac: Is It Any Different? There have traditionally been both good and bad differences between the Windows and Mac versions, so we were wondering if this was still true today. Read More on August 1st, 1989.

Prior to being bundled up in an Office suite, the various applications were available individually. The original Office package included Word 4.0, Excel 2.2, PowerPoint 2.01, and Mail 1.37.

8. Microsoft Office for Windows followed in October 1990.


It came packed with Word 1.1, Excel 2.0, and PowerPoint 2.0.

9. An email program was first included in Microsoft Office 3.0.

After dumping its first email application for Mac, Microsoft made a second attempt and developed Microsoft Mail for Windows. It was based on Network Courier. First released in 1991, it would later be replaced by Outlook.

10. The professional edition of Office 3.0, which was later called Office 92, saw the first iteration of Access.

The popular database software Excel Vs. Access - Can a Spreadsheet Replace a Database? Which tool should you use to manage data? Access and Excel both feature data filtering, collation and querying. We'll show you which one is best suited for your needs. Read More , grew from several other projects. Between acquiring the license to sell R:Base in the mid-1980s and starting to develop their own solutions, codenamed Omega and Cirrus, it took Microsoft half a decade to finally release Access in 1992.

11. Access was never released for the Mac.

12. Word’s AutoCorrect and AutoFormat first appeared in version 6.0, released in 1993.

13. Word 6.0 was the last version for MS-DOS.

Office Goes Mainstream

14. With the release of Microsoft Office 95, all components of the Office suite received the version number 7.0.

Except for Word, all applications in the bundle skipped version numbers. With this version, Office also switched to 32-bit.

15. Microsoft’s Office team worked with Timex to release the first smartwatch in 1994.

The Timex Datalink was developed as a wearable alternative to mainstream PDAs. It could download phone numbers from a computer. Data were transmitted using light emitted by the computer’s CRT monitor. This method worked with Schedule Plus, a time management software available with Microsoft Office on Windows 95 and 98.

16. Clipit, the notorious Office assistant, first annoyed users in Office 97, released in 1996.

Users could actually choose from a number of assistants, including The Genius, a caricature of Albert Einstein. The Genius was removed in Office XP. Office assistants were retired after Office 2003 for Windows and Office for Mac 2004, although Clippy made a brief return on Office Online for April Fool’s day this year.

Clippy April Fool's

It’s rumored that a Clippy-like feature may return to Microsoft Office in 2015.

Troubled Times

17. The Melissa virus 10 of the World's Most Famous and Best Hackers (and Their Fascinating Stories) White-hat hackers versus black-hat hackers. Here are the best and most famous hackers in history and what they're doing today. Read More , which made its rounds in 1999, got its name from a Miami stripper.

The relatively harmless macro virus 7 Types of Computer Viruses to Watch Out For and What They Do Many types of computer viruses can steal or destroy your data. Here are some of the most common viruses and what they do. Read More caused a damage of 80 Million US Dollars. The virus spread as an email attachment and, when opened in Word 97 or Word 2000, re-sent itself to the first 50 contacts on Microsoft Outlook. It didn’t destroy any files, but as more and more accounts got infected, mail servers were brought down. Dale L. Smith, the creator of the virus, was sentenced to 10 years in prison; he served 20 months and paid a fine of USD 5,000.

Here is that document you asked for…don’t show anyone else ;-)
Source: SearchSecurity


18. When they became aware of the Y2K problem, Microsoft made Microsoft Word 5.5 available for free.

Office Enters Modern Times

19. In 2001 Microsoft introduced Cloud-based collaboration with the release of SharePoint Portal Server 2001.

The feature gets integrated into Office 2003.

20. OneNote joined the Office suite in 2003.

Along with it came InfoPath, discontinued in 2013, and Microsoft Picture Manager, discontinued in 2011. Meanwhile, OneNote has become a popular notetaking application 10 Unique Ways to Use Microsoft OneNote OneNote is one of Microsoft's most underrated apps. It's available on almost every platform and can do many tricks you wouldn't expect from a note keeping app. Read More . Since 2014 OneNote is available for free Microsoft Releases OneNote 2013 As Free Download for Mac And Windows Microsoft's OneNote is now completely free and also available for Mac, meaning OneNote is now a cross-platform app available on Web, Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Read More across platforms.

The Present

With that, we have reached the modern era of the Office suite. Although Office has many competitors Save on Microsoft Office! Get Cheap or Free Office Products Reluctant to spend a few hundred bucks on a glorified word processor? You can get Microsoft Office for cheap and alternatives for free. You've got many options and we offer a summary. Read More , it remains the uncontended desktop office suite on the market. And with its Cloud based offerings Students Can Get Microsoft Office 365 for Free Starting on December 1st, Universities that license Office Education for their faculty and staff can offer students Office 365 ProPlus for free. Read More , it’s also fit for the future.

What are your favorite memories of or with Microsoft Office? Which new features do you love and which ones do you miss.

Related topics: Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft OneNote, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word.

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  1. derek doodaa
    May 23, 2016 at 7:58 am

    I don’t really care about most Microsoft Office applications because they can be easily replaced with LibreOffice, but the one thing nothing has managed to replace is Office Powerpoint. I just can’t find another program where it’s so easy to arrange pictures and text and everything so easily and make it look so good. Heck Powerpoint is better at Word’s job than Word is, because images don’t jump down lines and such. The only reason I keep buying Office Home and Student is so I can get Powerpoint. It blows any other presentation software out of the water.

    • Tina Sieber
      May 23, 2016 at 10:38 am

      I didn't realize PowerPoint was so special. Thank you for the feedback, Derek! Have you tried the free versions of PowerPoint, i.e. PowerPoint in the free Office Online package or Sway?

  2. sarlenemae15
    January 22, 2016 at 6:08 am

    Thank you so much!

  3. Anonymous
    May 6, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    boring i have to do this for a school assignment

    • hi
      February 19, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      me too bro... me too

  4. Diana Reyes
    March 14, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    thank you for this!

  5. Bud Charles
    January 3, 2015 at 8:51 am

    I don't really care about most Microsoft Office applications because they can be easily replaced with LibreOffice, but the one thing nothing has managed to replace is Office Powerpoint. I just can't find another program where it's so easy to arrange pictures and text and everything so easily and make it look so good. Heck Powerpoint is better at Word's job than Word is, because images don't jump down lines and such. The only reason I keep buying Office Home and Student is so I can get Powerpoint. It blows any other presentation software out of the water.

  6. Pravin Vibhute
    December 8, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    Don't know all those history facts but at this point of time, Microsoft office is the best suite. Works better than everything else available whether free or paid suits.
    Simplicity to use is the only power of it.

  7. Zinc Whiskers
    December 4, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    You forgot to mention that the Word macro virus actually shipped on the Office for Mac CD-ROM...good times...

    • Tina
      December 8, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      Ha! Good additional piece of information. Thank you, Zinc!

      I wonder how it got on there.

  8. infmom
    December 4, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Actually, Word 5.0 was the last Word for DOS (and it was the best). Version 5.1 and 6.0 were completely reconfigured to look like some kind of bogus Windows app and the command structure that had worked so well up till then was ditched.

    Honestly, I would have kept using Word 5.0 for a lot longer than I did if it hadn't been crippled by Y2K.

  9. cwsnyder
    December 4, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    It took the adoption of Windows 95 to actually kill off competitors to Microsoft Excel & Word. Under Windows 3.x and earlier, Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect actually outsold Microsoft's Windows office products. Aldus Pagemaker, from what I saw was still being used by small business until then for both presentations and desktop publishing.

    • Tina
      December 8, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Yes and had Lotus 1-2-3 successfully ported its software to Windows by the time the Office package came out and Windows started to gain market share, it might still have dominated the market by the time Windows 95 came out.

  10. likefunbutnot
    December 4, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Excel 1.0 is said to be the last Microsoft software for which Bill Gates contributed code.

    Nearly all the tools in the Office suite are products of acquisition rather than internal development.

    Microsoft FoxPro, cancelled in 2007, is still a better and more functional desktop database product than Access will ever be.

    • Justin Pot
      December 4, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      I had no idea Bill Gates ever contributed code to a product, always thought of him as a business guy. You learn something every day.

    • Doc
      December 4, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      FoxPro was also an acquired product, as MS bought out FoxBase (a DOS database!) and renamed it.
      FoxPro 2.0a for DOS is still being used for development; I used a parts-and-repair tracking app developed in it when I worked in a trucking yard a few years back. They wouldn't upgrade to FoxPro 9 for Windows because it would take too long to port.

  11. Jon
    December 4, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    Microsoft's first "Office" was actually Microsoft Works on the Mac (and maybe Apple II and DOS/Windows--but I don't know about that). It was my first word processor on the Mac. And no, I wasn't very fond of it.