Office Mates

Just how much can a word processing program change over the years? What can a spreadsheet application add in each update when it's been the industry standard for more than a decade?

If you're talking about Microsoft Word and Excel, the answers to those questions are "a lot" and "plenty" -- especially when you go all the way back to original programs that debuted in the halcyon days of the Reagan administration. Those early versions resemble the up-to-date applications now shipping in Microsoft Office 2001, but they were missing many of the features we've come to take for granted. No drag-and-drop capabilities. Stark interfaces. No -- gulp -- spelling checker.

Here's how the two mainstays of the Mac platform have evolved over the years. And, just for context, here's what was happening to Microsoft in another, more legalistic matter.

Product Debuted Features What's Good What's Bad Antitrust Watch

Word 1.0

1984

Editing and formatting in a graphics-oriented word processing program with tools to rival MacWrite

Extensive keyboard commands; ability to open multiple documents and windows; ability to select text by word, line, or paragraph

No spelling checker; runs slowly on the Mac

Break-up of AT&T is completed; "Thank God that will never happen to us," Microsoft says.

Excel 1.0

1985

Combined advanced spreadsheet with presentation-quality (for that era) graphics, limited database manager, and macro capabilities

Worksheet formatting flexibility; strong charting capabilities; powerful, easy-to-use macros

Limited memory; formatting takes practice and patience

Microsoft Windows ships.

Word 3.0

1986

New 80,000-word spelling checker; formatting style sheets; ability to create multicolumn documents

Customizable menus; interface gives users more control over their work

Can't edit multiple columns of text on one screen; no automatic repagination or kerning

Microsoft stock goes public.

Word 4.0

1989

Page View mode; Format menu that handles all formatting; fonts in System Folder appear in Font menu; can now insert tables

WYSIWYG Page View mode; streamlined interface; new Word Count feature

No search-and-replace for formatting; multiple display modes; documents must be saved in Word 3.0 to put in page-layout programs

Microsoft Office debuts on the Mac.

Excel 2.2

1989

New search-and-replace commands; macros now include charting functions

1MB spreadsheet-size limit increased to 8MB; improved interaction with other Microsoft applications

Macros still difficult to modify; lacks charting capabilities found in other spreadsheet programs

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson celebrates seventh year on federal bench wondering, "Will I ever get a high-profile antitrust case?"

Excel 3.0

1991

System 7-ready; Autosum, Solver, sheet consolidation features added; object-based graphics

New features bring added conveniences

Slower at large-scale numerics; some color and chart features missing

FTC begins investigating alleged anti-competitive practices at Microsoft.

Word 5.0

1992

On-screen formatting ribbon; built-in grammar checker; drawing window for simple graphics; search-and-replace formatting

One-click access to font and styles; drag-and-drop editing; System 7 support

Big memory requirements; drawing, page layout features lag behind WordPerfect's

A federal judge limits the scope of Apple's copyright infringement suit against Microsoft; the suit will be dismissed a year later.

Excel 4.0

1992

New customizable tool bars; spelling checker; drag-and-drop cells, Autofit and Autofill; charting wizards

Added analytical tools like Scenario Manager, crosstab functions; perfect compatibility with Windows version

Slower than Excel 3.0; gobbles up memory

A year from now, the FTC will deadlock over whether to pursue its investigation; the Justice Department will step in.

Word 6.0

1994

Drag-and-drop between documents; multiple undos with command-Z key; Autocorrect function

More powerful templates; strong revision tracking features; improved automation features

Interface now looks like Windows version; memory hog; dramatically slower program won't run on older Macs.

Microsoft and the Justice Department sign a consent decree, barring the company from requiring PC vendors licensing Windows to license other Microsoft products.

Excel 5.0

1994

Pivot Tables; Trendlines; Function Wizard

Rich features offer shortcuts to analytical power; macros easier to edit and are automatically recorded in VisualBasic; wizards are necessities rather than conveniences

Inefficient implementation of features; big memory requirements

Microsoft and Justice lawyers defend the consent decree before District Judge Stanley Sporkin.

Word 98

1998

Expanded Web tools including Insert Hyperlink; can save documents as HTML files; one-click thesaurus; more tool bars and dialog boxes

Faster launching; smarter AutoCorrect; smart scrolling; more Mac-like interface

Annoying Office Assistant feature; still needs a lot of memory; still lags Windows version

An appeals court panel throws out an injunction barring Microsoft from requiring computer makers to license Internet Explorer if they installed Windows 95.

Excel 98

1998

Multiple-level Undo command; expanded cell and spreadsheet sizes; shared spreadsheets

High-end features, small touches underscore application's status as top spreadsheet tool

Demanding memory requirements.

Antitrust trial begins, with government lawyers calling for the break-up of Microsoft. "Thank God that will never happen to us," Microsoft says.

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