Happy Birthday MS Word
by Alan Zisman (c)
1993. First published
in Our Computer Player, October 15, 1993
MS Word 6.0
MS-DOS ver 3.0 or higher
384k RAM (512k recommended)
1.5-5.5 meg hard drive space
Hard to believe, but MS Word turned 10 this year.
Older than arch-rival
Perfect, older than the Macintosh.
Yes, way back in 1983, MS Word 1.0 was released. It
was one of the first
for a PC that supported a mouse, and in fact was often sold bundled
with the original Microsoft rodent (which created the false rumour
REQUIRED a mouse, thus hurting sales). It was also widely distributed
working model mailed out free to all subscribers of the then new PC
While innovative, the early versions were slow and
quirky. While some
fell in love with its unusual menuing interface, and its early attempt
WYSIWYG (showing bold, underline, and italics, but no true fonts or
layout), first WordStar, and later Word Perfect became the typical
word processing programs for DOS PC users.
And around 1988, it seemed like DOS Word went into a
state of suspended
animation. Version 5 came out then, with improved performance, and
feature set, ready to go head-to-head with Word Perfect 5.1. But when
Perfect continued to dominate the market, Microsoft looked elsewhere.
Word for Windows was released, becoming the first
processor available in the still-tiny Windows market. (Yes, Ami was
available, but Ami-Pro didn't come out until a few months later). And
Windows 3 became a smash success, in mid-1990, Word for Windows was
become the standard product for that platform.
(Where was Word Perfect? Well, they seemed to be
ignoring their DOS
seller as well, but they spent most of their energy developing for
then changing their mind when it became apparent that Windows was going
a much more widely used unvironment. As a result, they've only become
force in the Windows market in the last year or so).
With Microsoft, along with most other PC software
their energy into new Windows products, DOS Word 5 just sort of sat
for the last 5 years. Sure, there was version 5.5, released in late
this simply repackaged Word 5's features into an interface with more
menus, similar to Microsoft Works for DOS. Longtime Word users were
at being asked to upgrade, and to master an unfamiliar interface, while
gaining no new enhancements.
THE YEAR OF NUMBER 6
Well, this year, Microsoft finally got around to an
upgrade. Maybe it's
celebrate the 10th anniversary, which is duly noted on the box. Still,
got to wonder if version 6 will be the last version for this DOS
The goal for version 6 seems to be to bring the DOS
version into line
the Windows and Mac versions... similar feature sets, similar menus,
code. At the same time, Word 6 for DOS users are being promised a 'dual
license'... users can move to the soon to be released new Windows
also being numbered Word 6), without purchasing an additional license.
It seems like Microsoft is hoping that all the DOS users will take
of this, and move to Windows, letting the DOS version, well, fade away.
Word 6 for DOS is much less of a major change than
Word Perfect's new
6. It looks and feels a lot like Word 5.5... the same Microsoft menuing
interface already familiar to users of MS-Works or the Edit utility
comes with DOS 5 or 6.
(Word 5.5 secretly let users install the old 'classic'
6 no longer has that option).
And like Ms-Works, or older versions of Word, and
unlike the new Word
Perfect, it's still a classic DOS text program. There's the pretend
mode where you get italics in italic, and underline underlined, but
no Windows-like appearance; you can use fonts, including any TrueType
you may have for Windows, but you don't get to see them onscreen,
Print Preview mode.
You do get a number of enhancements, bringing this
version more in line
the Windows and Mac versions-- the menus are even more similar than
there's a table editor, an optional ribbon with formatting commands,
There's a nice Bullet tool, making it easy to add
bullets without having
memorize ALT+NUMLOCK codes. Borders, colors, and shading have been
easier to add to paragraphs. There's a Print Merge Helper, similar
Wizards in most new Microsoft Windows products.
Outlining is built in, complete with a special
Outlining Toolbar. Grammatik
grammar checker is included, as is special help for long-time Word
5.0 and Word Perfect
THE LAST UPGRADE EVER?
Still, with 5 years between major upgrades, DOS Word
users may feel
let down. The release of Word Perfect 6 created much more of a sense
excitment... that product underwent a total change.
In a quiet sort of way, the modesty of Word 6 may be
its greatest asset.
Perfect 6 looks and feels much more like a Windows product, just
Windows. And to make use of those features, users need faster machines
more RAM... in fact, they need machines that will run Windows. At that
they may simply decide to go all the way, and run Windows.
Word 6 doesn't claim to give you Windows without
Windows (And who would
expect it to? Microsoft obviously wants the whole world to get Windows
Windows!) Instead, you get a powerful word processor that runs with
as 384 kb free RAM, and can take as little as 1.5 meg hard drive space.
the millions of 8088 and slower 286 machines, this could be the best
of a word processor... and possibly the last upgrade they'll ever get.