Mac Software Guide

Microsoft Word for Mac History

Dan Knight - 2008.05.22

Microsoft Word began life as Multi-Tool Word for Xenix in 1983. It was renamed Microsoft Word and ported to MS-DOS in 1983, the Macintosh in 1985, and Windows in 1989. It has been the dominant word processing program on the Mac since 1988 and on Windows since 1993.

When Apple introduced the original Macintosh in January 1984, it also introduced two programs so Mac users could do something with the new computer, MacWrite and MacPaint. With these essentially free apps bundled with the computer, it would be an uphill battle to sell alternative word processing and paint programs - but that didn't stop anyone.

Word was rooted in Bravo, the GUI word processor created at Xerox PARC. Microsoft hired Charles Simonyi, Bravo's "father", in 1981, and Multi-Tool Word was released for Xenix in 1983. It was ported to MS-DOS later in the year, where the name was simplified to Word. Word was the first WYSIWYG (or semi-WYSIWYG) word processing program for DOS - it could display bold, italic, and underlined text, although it could not display different typefaces or sizes. Word for MS-DOS was designed to work with a mouse, and Microsoft even offered a bundle that included Word and the new-fangled input device. The mouse and semi-WYSIWYG display gave Word two big advantages over Wordstar, then the most popular word processing software in the world, and WordPerfect, the rising star in the DOS world.

Word for MS-DOS had been written to support high-resolution displays, even though DOS computers didn't yet have them, which made it easier to port the program to the Macintosh. The first version of Word for Mac was released in 1985, and Word 3.0 in 1987. (There was no Word 2.0 for Mac. The second version was called 3.0 to match the numbering of the current DOS version.)

Unfortunately, Word 3.0 was "plagued with bugs", and within a few months Microsoft fixed them and mailed free Word 3.0.1 disks to all registered Word 3.0 users. Word 4.0 came to market in 1989, the same year that Apple spun off its software to its Claris subsidiary and MacWrite stopped being free. By this time, Microsoft already owned the Mac word processing market with over 50% of market share. MacWrite II peaked at just over 30% market, quickly dropping off until Apple discontinued MacWrite Pro in 1994.

Mac word processor market share by units, 1988 to 1997.
Mac word processor market share by units, 1988 to 1997.

Many Mac users consider Word 5.1a to be the best version ever released. The original Word 5.0 for Mac reached the market in 1991, and the upgrade to 5.1 in 1992. After all those years, Word still worked very well on compact Macs with their 9" 512 x 342 pixel black and white displays.

Word 6.0, launched in 1993, is widely considered to be the worst version of Word ever for the Mac, as it was based on the same codebase as Word 6.0 for Windows. That meant that it looked and worked more like Windows software than a Macintosh program. Mac users were so up in arms that Microsoft actually released a Word 5.1 downgrade to unhappy Word 6.0 owners.

It was five years before Microsoft unleashed another version of Word for the Mac, and at that point Microsoft adopted a new numbering scheme: Henceforth versions of Word would be identified by the year of release, so the new version was Word 98 (Microsoft began this in 1995 with Word 95 for Windows). Subsequent versions of Word were 2001, v.X (the first version for Mac OS X, also released in 2001), 2004, and 2008, which is the current version.

Word 98 was the first version of Word that was not only file-compatible with Word 97 for Windows, but also compatible with macro viruses.

Version History

Hardware and OS requirements coming.

Word 1.0


Word 3.0


Word 4.0

1989: Last version that can be run using a two-floppy Mac.

Word 5.0/5.1

1991 (5.1 - 1992): Requires System 6.0.2, 512 KB of RAM (1 MB for 5.1, 2 MB to use spell check and thesaurus), 6.5 MB available hard drive space. Last version to support 68000-based Macs.

Word 6.0

1993: Requires System 7.0, 4 MB of RAM (8 MB recommended), at least 10 MB available hard drive space, 68020 CPU. 68000-based Macs are not supported.

Word 98


Word 2001


Word v.X

2001 - first OS X version

Word 2004


Word 2008


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