Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is a set of interrelated desktop applications, servers and services, collectively referred to as an office suite, for the Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. Office was introduced by Microsoft in 1989 on Mac OS, with a version for Windows in 1990. Initially a marketing term for a bundled set of applications, the first version of Office contained Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint. Additionally, a "Pro" version of Office included Microsoft Access and Schedule Plus. Over the years, Office applications have grown substantially closer with shared features such as a common spell checker, OLE data integration and Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications scripting language. Microsoft also positions Office as a development platform for line-of-business software under the Office Business Applications (OBA) brand.

The current versions are Office 2007 for Windows, launched on January 30, 2007, and Office 2008 for Mac OS X, released January 15, 2008. Office 2007/Office 2008 features a new user interface and a new OOXML-based primary file format (docx, xlsx, pptx). Microsoft has made available a free add-on known as the "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack" that lets Office 2000-2003 editions open, edit, and save documents created under the new Office 2007 formats.


The very first version of Microsoft Office was released in 1989, not for Windows, but for the Apple Macintosh. Microsoft Office has long been the dominant player when it comes to software that offer word-processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools.

History of Microsoft Office for Microsoft Windows

  • Microsoft Office 3.0 was the first version of Office to be released for the Microsoft Windows operating system.
  • Microsoft Office 4.0 was released in 1994, containing Word 6.0, Excel 5.0, PowerPoint 4.0, Mail, and Access. Word was called Word 6.0 at this point despite the fact the previous version number was 2.0. The purpose was to use common version numbering with the Mac OS version.
  • Microsoft Office 4.3 was the last 16-bit version, and is also the last version to support Windows 3.x, Windows NT 3.1 and Windows NT 3.5 (Windows NT 3.51 was supported up to and including Office 97).
  • Microsoft Office 95 was done as a fully 32-bit version to match Windows 95. Office 95 was available in two versions, Office 95 Standard and Office 95 Professional. The standard version consists of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Schedule+. The professional edition contains all of the items in the standard version plus Access. If the professional version is purchased in CD-ROM form, it also includes Bookshelf.
  • Microsoft Office 97, a major milestone release which included hundreds of new features and improvements, introduced "Command Bars", a paradigm in which menus and toolbars were made more similar in capability and visual design. Office 97 also featured natural language systems and sophisticated grammar checking.
  • Microsoft Office 2000 introduced adaptive menus, where little-used options were hidden from the user. It also introduced a new security feature, built around digital signatures, to diminish the threat of macro viruses. Office 2000 automatically trusts macros (written in VBA6) that were digitally signed from authors who have been previously designated as trusted.
    Office 2000 is the last version to support Windows 95. 2000 is also the last Office release devoid of Microsoft Product Activation.
  • Microsoft Office XP, released in conjunction with Windows XP, is a major upgrade with numerous enhancements and changes. Office XP introduced the Safe Mode feature. It allows applications such as Outlook to boot when it might otherwise fail. Safe Mode enables Office to detect and either repair or bypass the source of the problem, such as a corrupted registry or a misbehaving add-in. Smart tag is a technology delivered with Office XP. Some smart tags operate based on user activity, such as helping with typing errors. These smart tags are supplied with the products, and are not programmable. For developers, though, there is the ability to create custom smart tags. In Office XP, custom smart tags could work only in Word and Excel. Microsoft Office XP includes integrated voice command and text dictation capabilities, as well as handwriting recognition. Another feature introduced with Office XP is Product Activation, which is also implemented in Windows XP (and later versions of Windows and Office).
    Office XP is the last version to support Windows 98, ME and NT 4.0. Office XP is also the earliest Office reported to work well with Windows Vista - however Outlook 2002 (XP) does have some serious problems with Vista such as not remembering email account passwords.
  • Microsoft Office 2003 was released in 2003. Two new applications made their debut in Office 2003: Microsoft InfoPath and OneNote. It is the first version to use Windows XP style icons. Outlook 2003 provides improved functionality in many areas, including Kerberos authentication, RPC over HTTP, and Cached Exchange Mode. The key benefit of Outlook 2003 is the improved junk mail filter. 2003 is the last Office version to support Windows 2000.
  • Microsoft Office 2007 was released in 2007. Office 2007 contains a number of new features, the most notable of which is the entirely new graphical user interface called the Fluent User Interface (initially referred to as the Ribbon UI), replacing the menus and toolbars that have been the cornerstone of Office since its inception with a tabbed toolbar, known as the Ribbon.
    Office 2007 requires Windows XP with Service Pack 2 or 3, Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 or higher, or Windows Vista.
    On May 21 2008 Microsoft announced that Office 2007 Service Pack 2 will add native support for the OpenDocument Format. EU announced it is going to investigate Microsoft Office OpenDocument Format support.

History of Microsoft Office for Macintosh

Prior to packaging its various office-type Macintosh software applications into Office, Microsoft released Mac versions of Word 1.0 in 1984, the first year of the Macintosh computer; Excel 1.0 in 1985; and PowerPoint 1.0 in 1987. Microsoft does not include its Access database application in Office for Mac.

Microsoft has noted that some features are added to Office for Mac before they appear in Windows versions, such as Office for Mac 2001's Office Project Gallery and PowerPoint Movie feature, which allows users to save presentations as QuickTime movies.

  • Microsoft Office for Mac was introduced for Macintosh in 1989, before Office was released for Windows. It included Word 4.0, Excel 2.20 and PowerPoint 2.01.
  • Microsoft Office 1.5 for Mac was released in 1991 and included the updated Excel 3.0, the first application to support Apple’s System 7 operating system.
  • Microsoft Office 2.9 for Mac was released in 1992. Excel 4.0 was the first application to support the new AppleScript.
  • Microsoft Office 4.0 for Mac was released in 1993. It was the first Office suite for the Power Macintosh. However, Microsoft later acknowledged that "(m)any customers commented that Office 4.2 wasn't enough like the Macintosh." The final release for Mac 68K: Office 4.2.1
  • Microsoft Office 98 Macintosh Edition was unveiled at MacWorld Expo/San Francisco on Jan. 6, 1998. It introduced the Internet Explorer 4.0 browser and Outlook Express, an Internet e-mail client and usenet newsgroup reader. Office 98 was re-engineered by Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit to satisfy customers' desire for software they felt was more Mac-like. It included drag–and-drop installation, self-repairing applications and Quick Thesaurus before such features were available in a version of Office for Windows. It also was the first version to support QuickTime movie.
  • Microsoft Office 2001, launched in 2000, was the last Office suite for pre-Mac OS X, or Classic, operating system; it required Mac OS 8, although version 8.5 or later was recommended. Office 2001 introduced Entourage, an e-mail client that included information management tools such as a calendar, an address book, task lists and notes.
  • Microsoft Office v. X was released in 2001 for the new Mac OS X platform.
  • Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac was released in 2004.
  • Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac was released in 2008. It is the first Office for Mac suite that is a universal binary -- meaning it runs runs natively on both Intel- and Power PC-based Macs — and uses XML file formats. Microsoft announced on May 13, 2008, that Office 2008 was "selling faster than any previous version of Office for Mac in the past 19 years" and affirmed "its commitment to future products for the Mac.


Desktop applications


Microsoft Word is a word processor and was long considered to be the main program in Office, although with the rise of electronic communication that distinction has now passed to Outlook. Word possesses a dominant market share in the word processor market. Microsoft Word utilizes a simple and intuitive interface. Its proprietary DOC format is considered a de facto standard, although Word 2007 can also use a new XML-based, Microsoft Office-optimized format called .DOCX which has been standardized by ECMA as Office Open XML and its SP2 update will support ODF and PDF. Word is also available in some editions of Microsoft Works. It is available for the Windows and Mac platforms. The first version of Word, released in the fall of 1983, was for the DOS operating system and had the distinction of introducing the mouse to a broad population. Word 1.0 could be purchased with a bundled mouse, though one was not required. The following spring Apple introduced the Mac, and Microsoft released Word for the Mac, which became the most popular Mac application and which, like all Mac apps, required the use of a mouse.


Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet program. Like Word, it possesses a dominant market share. It was originally a competitor to the dominant Lotus 1-2-3, but it eventually outsold it and became the de facto standard. It is available for the Windows and Mac platforms. The current Mac version (Office 2008) has removed Visual Basic functionality so macros cannot be used and those generated in previous iterations of Office no longer work. Microsoft announced in May 2008, that Visual Basic would be returning to Excel in future versions.


Microsoft Outlook, not to be confused with Outlook Express, is a personal information manager and e-mail communication software. The replacement for Windows Messaging, Microsoft Mail and Schedule+ (Plus) starting in Office 97, it includes an e-mail client, calendar, task manager and address book. Although historically it has been offered for the Mac, the closest to an equivalent for Mac OS X is Microsoft Entourage, which offers a slightly different feature set.


Microsoft PowerPoint is a popular presentation program for Windows and Mac. It is used to create slideshows, composed of text, graphics, movies and other objects, which can be displayed on-screen and navigated through by the presenter or printed out on transparencies or slides. This is convenient for school or work presentations.Office Mobile for Windows Mobile 5.0 and later features a version of PowerPoint called PowerPoint Mobile. It also possesses a dominant market share. Movies, videos, sounds and music, as well as wordart and autoshapes can be added to slideshows.

Other desktop applications (Windows version only)

Server applications

Web services

Common features

Most versions of Microsoft Office (including Office 97 and later, and possibly 4.3) use their own widget set and do not exactly match the native operating system. This is more apparent in the 2002 or XP release of Microsoft Office where the standard menus were replaced with a colored flat looking, shadowed menu style.

Visual elements of Office packages' widget systems have been included in next versions of Windows systems and have offered some cues into what user interface (UI) elements a major Windows incarnation would employ in the future: The toolbar, colour buttons and the usually gray-coloured '3D' look of Office 4.3 were added to Windows 95; The gradient title bar and flat buttons in Windows 9x/2000.

Similarly, Microsoft Office 2007 introduces a whole new widget system, dubbed "Ribbon", but now known as the "Fluent user interface". The same widget used in Microsoft Office is also used in the Visual Studio product line, though the "Fluent UI" was not announced to be included in future versions of Visual Studio. Later versions of Windows thus inherit the concepts of task-based user activities and easy discoverability of program functions.

Both Windows and Office use "Service Packs" to update software, Office used to release non-cumulative "Service Releases", which were discontinued after Office 2000 Service Release 1.

Programs in past versions of Office often contained substantial Easter eggs. For example, Excel 97 contained a reasonably functional flight-simulator. Versions starting with Office 2000 have not contained any easter eggs in the name of Trustworthy Computing.


A major feature of the Office suite is the ability for users and third party companies to write add-ins that extend the capabilities of an application by adding custom commands and specialized features. The type of add-ins supported differ by Office versions:

  • Office 97 onwards (standard Windows DLLs i.e. Word WLLs and Excel XLLs)
  • Office 2000 onwards (COM add-ins)
  • Office XP onwards (COM/OLE Automation add-ins)
  • Office 2003 onwards (Managed code add-ins)


Microsoft develops Office for Windows and Mac platforms. Beginning with Mac Office 4.2, the Mac and Windows versions of Office share the same file format. Consequently, any Mac with Office 4.2 or later can read documents created with Windows Office 4.2 or later, and vice-versa. Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac drops VBA support. Microsoft has replaced VBA with support for AppleScript. As a result, macros created with Office for Windows will not run on Office for the Mac, and vice versa. However the version after Microsoft Office for Mac 2008 will bring back VBA support. In addition, Microsoft has also ceased development on Microsoft Virtual PC.

There were efforts in the mid 1990s to port Office to RISC processors such as NEC / MIPS and IBM / PowerPC, but they met problems such as memory access being hampered by data structure alignment requirements. Difficulties in porting Office may have been a factor in discontinuing Windows NT on non-Intel platforms.

Support lifecycle

Version Compatibility

Beginning in 2002, Microsoft instituted a new support lifecycle policy. Versions earlier than Office 97 (including Outlook 97) are no longer supported. For current and future versions of Office mainstream support will end five years after release, or two years after the next release, whichever time is later, and extended support will end five years after that.

Last Office versions available for Windows:

Windows operating system version Last version Mainstream Support End-date Extended Support End-date
Windows NT 3.51 Office 97 August 31, 2001 February 28, 2002
Windows 95 Office 2000 June 30, 2004 July 14, 2009
Windows NT 4.0/98/Me Office XP July 11, 2006 July 12, 2011
Windows 2000 Office 2003 April 14, 2009 April 8, 2014
Windows XP/Server 2003/Vista/Server 2008 Office 2007 April 10, 2012 April 11, 2017

Last Office versions available for Macintosh:

Macintosh Operating system Last version
(68K) System 7.0-Mac OS 8.1 Office 4.2.1
(PPC) System 7.1.2 Office 4.2.1
(PPC) System 7.5-Mac OS 8.0 Office 98
(PPC) Mac OS 8.1-9.2.2 Office 2001
Mac OS X 10.1 Office v. X
Mac OS X 10.2-10.3 Office 2004
Mac OS X 10.4-10.5 Office 2008

Discontinued applications and features

  • Microsoft Binder: Incorporates several documents into one file and was originally designed as a container system for storing related documents in a single file. The complexity of use and learning curve led to little usage and was removed from releases after Office 2000.
  • Microsoft FrontPage: Web design software (also requires its own server program for some functionality). Offered only as a stand-alone program for the 2003 version. In 2006, Microsoft announced that this was to be discontinued and to be replaced by two different software packages: Microsoft SharePoint Designer and Microsoft Expression Web.
  • Microsoft Mail: Mail client (in old versions of Office, later replaced by Microsoft Schedule Plus and subsequently Microsoft Outlook).
  • Microsoft PhotoDraw: A graphics program that was first released as part of the Office 2000 Premium Edition. A later version for Windows XP compatibility was released, known as PhotoDraw 2000 Version 2. Microsoft discontinued the program in 2001.
  • Microsoft Photo Editor: Photo-editing/raster-graphics software in older Office versions up to Office XP. It was supplemented by Microsoft PhotoDraw in Office 2000 Premium edition.
  • Microsoft Schedule Plus: Released with Office 95. It featured a planner, to-do list, and contact information. Its functions were incorporated into Microsoft Outlook.
  • Microsoft Virtual PC: Included with Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2004. Obsolete from 2006 onward due to new Macs possessing the same Intel architecture as Windows PCs. It emulated a standard PC and its hardware. The final version is Microsoft Virtual PC 2007.
  • Microsoft Vizact 2000: A program that "activated" documents using HTML, adding effects such as animation. It allows users to create dynamic documents for the Web. Development has ended due to unpopularity.
  • Microsoft Data Analyzer 2002: A business intelligence program for graphical visualization of data and its analysis.
  • Office Assistant, included since 1997 as a part of Microsoft Agent technology, is a system that uses animated characters to offer unrequested context-sensitive suggestions to users and access to relevant parts of the help system. The Assistant is often dubbed "Clippy" or "Clippit", due to its default to a paper clip character, coded as CLIPPIT.ACS. The Office Assistant was hidden by default in Office XP and following mixed public response, not installed by default in Office 2003. It has been removed entirely in Office 2007.


Microsoft Office has been criticized in the past for using proprietary file formats rather than open standards, which forces users who share data into adopting the same software platform. However, on February 15, 2008, Microsoft made the entire documentation for the binary Office formats freely available under the Open Specification Promise. Also, Office Open XML, the document format for the latest versions of Office for Windows and Mac, has been standarized under both Ecma International and ISO. Ecma International has published the Office Open XML specification free of copyrights and Microsoft has granted patent rights to the formats technology under the Open Specification Promise and has made available free downloadable converters for previous versions of Microsoft Office including Office 2003, Office XP, Office 2000 and Office 2004 for the Mac. Third-party implementations of Office Open XML exist on the Mac platform (iWork 08) and Linux ( 2.3 - Novell Edition only).

Microsoft Office for Mac has for long been criticized for its lack of support of Unicode and BiDi languages, notably Arabic and Hebrew. This has not changed in the 2008 version.

Microsoft Office 2007 has been heavily criticised for being far less modular than previous options, with the new layout making it difficult for more experienced users to use more complex functions, while limiting what less experienced users can do.

See also


External links

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