Microsoft Word was released 40 years ago, writes Tom Warren at The Verge. At the time, it competed with the famously powerful but difficult WordStar and the intuitive but late-to-Windows WordPerfect. By the 1990s, there wasn't much left to compete with, and the rest is history.
The BBC posted a retrospective.
Ironically, given its ubiquity, Word has rarely been a pioneer when it comes to features. As mentioned, it was far from the first word processor. It's often credited with introducing grammar tools, despite the fact these were developed decades earlier. And the idea behind "track changes" – where you can see edits to a document – wasn't a Microsoft invention.
Yet Word's superpower was using smart, simple design choices to make such features accessible to a global audience, not just techies. Its "What You See is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) design philosophy is now commonplace in software and on the internet. Word introduced line breaks, along with bold and italic fonts on screen. It revolutionised typeset-quality printing, as well as the use of templates. And it was in these templates that Word's early impact on communication emerged.
My favorite odd Word fact is that while there was a Mac edition in 1985, Microsoft didn't release it for Windows for another three or four years, despite having it in the can. DOS was it. WordPerfect's own inability to get past DOS in timely fashion is what sank it after Word for Windows finally appeared.