A Look at 25 years of Microsoft Office (Then and Now)

Microsoft recently celebrated 25 years of its popular Office suite of programs. Here’s a look at where it started and how it has evolved into what it is today.

Two of Microsoft’s most famous crown jewels, Windows and Office are celebrating anniversaries this month. Windows, the world’s most popular and most widely used desktop operating system, hit the big 30 while Office, famous for its standards, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint is now 25. The world’s most popular productivity suite is said to be running on over 1 Billion devices worldwide. After 25 years on the market, it looks like Microsoft is just getting started. With the launch of Office 365 in 2011, Microsoft expanded Office from the standard desktop applications into a platform for Servers, Apps, and Services.

office box low res

25 Years of Microsoft Office

The history of the suite is of particular interest. Microsoft’s entry into the applications market started with a precursor to Microsoft Excel called Multiplan, a spreadsheet application developed for computers running the CP/M disk operating system that was later ported to MS-DOS, Xenix, and the Macintosh. The success of Multiplan ended with the rise and dominance of Lotus 1-2-3 once a favorite spreadsheet app that has since faded into the history books – no pun.

Microsoft made another attempt at the spreadsheet market with a new application called Excel released in 1985 and Microsoft Word (1983) which was formerly called Multi-Tool Word for Xenix systems – Microsoft’s initial distribution of the UNIX operating system. The success and popularity of new Office applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel are part of what eventually led to the introduction of the productivity suite market with competition from brands such as Novell WordPerfect Office, Lotus SmartSuite, and IBM Works. Speaking of Works, an early attempt to this growing market started with integrated packages called Works. Integrated packages included word processing, spreadsheet, database and contact manager utilizing wizards to accomplish a task like preparing a letter or a resume.

then and now

Installing Office then and now.

Versions of Microsoft Office for Windows

Microsoft Office version history as not been consistent over the years, due to a combination of point releases and superstition which resulted in the missing 13.0 release.

Microsoft Office 1.0November 1990
Microsoft Office 3.0August 1992
Microsoft Office 4.0January 1994
Microsoft Office 95 (7.0)August 1995
Microsoft Office 97 (8.0)November 1996
Microsoft Office 2000 (9.0)June 1999
Microsoft Office XP (10.0)May 2001
Microsoft Office 2003 (11.0)November 2003
Microsoft Office 2007 (12.0)January 2007
Microsoft Office 2010 (14.0)June 2010
Microsoft Office 2013 (15.0)January 2013
Microsoft Office 2016 (16.0)September 2015

Suites and integrated packages targeted different users. Suites, in particular, were more expensive but offered significant value by bundling popular applications that would cost upwards of $1,500 if bought separately versus $600 for the entire suite. Integrated packages were much cheaper with essential features targeting budget users with particular needs, and they used fewer system resources. In 1989, Microsoft came up with the idea to offer Microsoft’s most popular desktop applications as a bundle called The Microsoft Office for Macintosh. Included were Microsoft Word 4.0, Excel 2.2 and PowerPoint 2.01 and Mail 1.37. In 1990, Microsoft released a version for Windows, which bundled Word 1.1, Excel 2.0, PowerPoint 2.0.

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  1. It should be noted that the original Office for windows which I did purchase with my Windows Road Show discount included Project.

    • That must have been a special bundle since Project was never included in any of the suites since the brands inception.

  2. Jack Oster  

    I think that Symphony was in there somewhere too.

  3. DougNL  

    I have to be honest I was never overly impressed with Microsoft Office. I am quite happy with Open Office which offers just as much and for free.

    • If your needs a basic one page documents and minimal calculations, you can get away with it. Considering its usage in business and education, Microsoft Office not only because its compatibility but features and support make it a first choice. For most users, you don’t need the latest and greatest, but Microsoft makes so much easier to own a copy, I see why not.

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