Microsoft Word is a word processing program developed for the Windows and Macintosh platforms. It is included in all editions of the Microsoft Office suite and is also available as a standalone program for Windows.
The first version of Word was released for DOS in 1983 and had a text-only interface. In 1985, Microsoft released a graphical version Word for the Mac OS. Microsoft released "Word for Windows" in 1989, and it soon became the most popular word processing program on any platform. In 1995, Microsoft changed the name of Word for Windows to simply "Word" and bundled the program with Office 95. Since then, several versions of Word have been released for both the Windows and Macintosh platforms.
While early versions of Word served as basic text editors, modern versions include many advanced word processing features. Some examples include spellchecking, auto-correct, text formatting, styles, and custom page layouts. Word documents may also include headers, footers, images, shapes, tables, charts, and "SmartArt," which is used for visually representing concepts and ideas. Word also includes a "Track Changes" feature that allows editors to review documents and add comments and make changes.
For many years, Word saved documents in a proprietary binary format. However, as other office suites began using open formats, Microsoft transitioned to the "Office Open XML" format. This format was introduced with Office 2007 for Windows and Office 2008 for Mac OS X. Now, Microsoft Word saves documents in a standard XML format that is compressed using Zip compression. This new format is more compatible with other software and uses less disk space.
Updated: March 22, 2012