The concept, first introduced in Microsoft Publisher in 1991, was first used in an operating system in Microsoft's Windows 95. The most commonly-used wizard at the time was the Internet Connection Wizard, which was renamed to the "New Connection Wizard" in later versions of Microsoft Windows. This wizard guides the user through the process of creating a connection to the Internet, or to a Virtual Private Network.
By 2001, wizards had become commonplace in most consumer-oriented operating systems, though not necessarily by the same name. In Mac OS X, for example, they are called "Assistants"; some examples include the "Setup Assistant", which is run when one boots the Macintosh for the first time, and the "Network Setup Assistant", which has similar function to the aforementioned "New Connection Wizard". GNOME also has a similar construct which they call a "Druid" .
By contrast, expert systems guide the user through a series of (usually yes/no) questions to solve a problem, and tend to make use of artificial intelligence or other complex algorithms. Some consider expert systems as a general category that includes all problem-solving programs including wizards.
Wizards were controversial among user interface designers when they first gained widespread use. This controversy centered around the fact that wizards encourage modal windows, which its opponents consider antithetical to proper human interface design.
Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications (Version 3.0) urges technical writers to refer to these assistants as "wizards" and to use lowercase letters. In countries where the concept of wizard does not convey the idea of helpfulness or is offensive, the manual suggests using the term "assistant" instead.