I’ve been writing about Word since it was a pup. And using it even longer — all the way back to the days of Word for DOS and the first version of Mac Word. When I started writing The Cobb Group’s Inside Word for Windows, the journal was focused on WinWord 1.1a — and its big innovation was, interestingly enough, a new interface element called the Ribbon.

The Word 1.1a Ribbon. (Note the Small Caps button; what a timesaver.) Source: Inside Word for Windows

Along with the chunky ruler that sat underneath it, here came the GUI, taking its first shaky steps. Imagine the buzz when Word 2 came along and brought with it another new element, the toolbar.

“Word 2.0 features a new element called ‘the toolbar,’ which appears under the menu bar. The toolbar contains a wide array of icons (Microsoft calls them buttons)…”
Source: Inside Word for Windows

After that, there was no holding Word back. Fast-flip through the calendar pages, as Word 6, Word 95, Word 97, and Word 2000 fly by. I can remember these versions like a teacher remembers former students — which, okay, is kind of pitiful, but there it is.

Word 2 was billed as a having a “usability” focus (hmmm…), with its toolbar and a new device called the print merge helper.

Word 6.0 introduced the so-called “intelligent” document processing — the forerunner of Word’s overbearing, backseat-driving intellisense antics (“Looks like you’re writing a letter! Want some help?”). But there were some significant enhancements as well. More toolbars — which you could move around and more readily customize; editable print preview; AutoFormat and Table AutoFormat, the Style Gallery; AutoText and AutoCorrect; the Organizer, Format Painter, tools for building online forms; and perhaps best of all, the ability to undo up to 100 actions (rather than just one).

Word 95 was fairly low-key, easing its way into Windows 95 functionality (long filenames!). But it also offered some interesting new features, including background spell-checking, WordMail, and the demo-pleasing Highlighter.

Some of the versions have faded over time, but I still see Word 97 from time to time. It had me at “VBA.”

And although I’ve lost touch with 2000, I remember it as the last version of Word I really liked. XP and 2003 are okay; I got used to them. But I can never forgive the way they shot the track changes/commenting features in the foot. Feet.

So now, 2007… well to be honest, I haven’t warmed up to it yet. I’m using it concurrently with 2003 for research purposes, so I haven’t truly committed to it. I suspect you have to break it off with the earlier versions before you can really get to know it.

How about you? Does your history with Word consist of glacial layers of versions going back to 1.1a? Which one did you like best (or did you hate ’em all?)