The Office Assistant
was a Microsoft Office
feature to assist users by way of an interactive animated character. It interfaced
with the Office help content in versions 97 through 2003, offering advice based on Bayesian
algorithms. In Microsoft Office for Mac
, it was included in versions 98 to 2004. In Office 2007
and Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac
, the feature was removed due to widespread dissatisfaction. The default assistant in the English version was named Clippit
, nicknamed Clippy
, after a paperclip
. It used technology initially from Microsoft Bob
and later Microsoft Agent
The Office assistant was enabled by default in early Microsoft Office versions. It popped up when the program determined the user could be assisted with using Office wizards, searching help, or advising users on using Office features more effectively. It presented tips and keyboard shortcuts. Famously, typing an address followed by "Dear" would cause Clippit to pop up and say, "It looks like you're writing a letter. Would you like help?
Other Office assistants were available, such as The Dot, a shapeshifting and colour-shifting smiley-faced red ball, Hoverbot (a robot), The Genius (a caricature of Albert Einstein), Office Logo (a jigsaw puzzle), Mother Nature (a globe), Scribble (a cat), Power Pup (a dog) and Will (a caricature of William Shakespeare). In later versions of Microsoft Office for Windows, the Hoverbot, Scribble and Power Pup assistants were replaced by F1, Lynks and Rocky, a robot, a cat and a dog, respectively. The cat, Lynks, meowed and purred when a woman's hand scratched its head. When tired, it would groom itself, curl up and sleep, or roll over on its side. In many cases, the Office installation CD was necessary to activate a different Office assistant character, so the default character, Clippit remains widely known. An assistant named Max, in the shape of a Macintosh Plus, served as the default on Mac versions of Office (although Clippit was available).
The Microsoft Office XP Multilingual Pack had two more assistants, , an animated secretary, and a version of for Asian language users in non-Asian Office versions. Native language versions provided additional representations such as Kairu the dolphin, in Japanese. Clippit inspired parody software such as Vigor, a version of the vi text editor with a paperclip.
The program was widely reviled among users as intrusive and annoying, and was criticized even within Microsoft. Smithsonian Magazine called Clippy "one of the worst software design blunders in the annals of computing". Office Assistant was codenamed TFC (The Fucking Clown) during development.
Since their introduction, more assistants have been released.
- Bosgrove (a butler)
- Genie (a genie)
- Kairu the Dolphin (available for East Asian editions, downloadable for Office 97)
- Max (a Macintosh Plus computer) (Macintosh)
- Peedy (a parrot)
- Robby (a robot)
The 1997 assistants can be downloaded from the Microsoft website.
Starting in Office 2000, Microsoft Agent
) replaced the Microsoft Bob
-descended Actor (ACT
) format as the technology supporting the feature. Users can add other assistants to the folder where Office is installed for them to show up in the Office application. Microsoft Agent-based characters have richer forms and colors, and are not enclosed within a boxed window.
A key element of Microsoft's advertising campaign for Office XP was the removal of Clippit and other Office assistants, although it was simply disabled by default. (It is available in Office 2003, but not in the default installation.) The self-effacing campaign included the now-defunct website officeclippy.com (still viewable at YouTube ), featured the animated adventures of Clippit (voiced by comedian Gilbert Gottfried, in an annoying voice) as he learned to cope with unemployment ("X...XP...As in, ex-paperclip?!") and parodied behaviors of the Office assistant ("It looks like you're writing a letter. Would you like Help?").
There is a Clippit parody in the Plus! Dancer application included in Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition which is later included as Windows Dancer in Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. The dancing character Boo Who? is wearing a ghost outfit, roughly having the shape of Clippit's body, with a piece of wire visible underneath. Occasionally the white sheet slips, revealing the thin curve of steel. The description mentions "working for a short while for a Redmond, WA based software company, where he continued to work until being retired in 2001". Clippit is also included as a player character in Microsoft Bicycle Card Games and Microsoft Bicycle Board Games.
As of Office 2007, Microsoft removed the Office assistant in favor of a new help system
In popular culture
- Comedian Demetri Martin makes a reference to the paper clip on his album These Are Jokes, where he mocks the paperclip's "It looks like you're writing a letter..." question as "It looks like you're writing a ransom note, need some help? You should use stronger language; you'll get more money."
- In the book The Year of Secret Assignment, Lydia comments that a "little paper-clip man" arrived on her computer and said she was writing a letter and asked if she wanted help. She later says that the paper-clip man sits on her shoulder, eats a bowl of berries and cream, insults the person she is writing to, and suggests Lydia destroy the computer, even though that results in his death.
- Clippit is in Drawn Together during the second season premiere. He appears to Wooldoor Sockbat to help him carve a suicide note into the wall, by offering tips such as "Remember to avoid clichés like 'Goodbye cruel world'" and "Don't forget to blame your parents".
- In The Simpsons episode, "Stop, Or My Dog Will Shoot!", when a python sinks its teeth into a computer monitor, Clippit appears onscreen and says "It looks like you are trying to eat me. Need some help?" In another episode, "Funeral For A Fiend", when Sideshow Bob tries to kill the Simpson family with an explosive laptop, Clippit says, "It looks like you're trying to blow up the computer. Mind if I hug my kids?" (prompting the appearance of three small children Clippits being embraced by the parent).
- On an episode of CNNNN, Chas Licciardello walked around in a Clippit costume offering help in various tasks, including "It looks like you're trying to write a letter, would you like some help?" "It looks like you trying to spread propaganda, would you like some help?" (spoken to a man at a newsstand) and "It looks like you're trying to relax and unwind, would you like some help?"
- In the Family Guy episode "Lois Kills Stewie", Stewie Griffin controls a CIA computer and hacks into their network. This is when Clippit pops up, saying "It looks like you're trying to take over the world. Need some help?" Stewie responds "Go away, paper clip! Nobody likes you!".
- The paperclip is a recurring feature of ridicule on the BBC radio show The Now Show.
- In the webcomic God Mode , Kraig complains about not being able to write his gaming reviews because his favorite office assistant, Clippit, was removed from Office 2007.
- In the first season of Red vs Blue Sarge mentions in PSA 4: The PDC Video, that he was next in line to become "one of them little office assistant thingies". An Office Assistant of Sarge is actually available to download.
- In Superhero Movie, The Hourglass is seen typing on "Death Machine Ultimate" (a reference to Windows Vista Ultimate) when the paperclip pops up and says "Looks like you're planning a mass murder. Need some help?" In which he mutters "Stupid PaperClip Guy".