Evolution of Word Processors

This article describes the evolution of the most used word processors.
August 04, 2014
Word processors are probably the most used computer software ever. They have been around since the beginning of the computer, in all kind of different designs. In this article I give a quick overview of the most popular word processors since the 80s - remember it's just a selection, there has been lots and lots of more word processing software!

WordStar, by MicroPro, is a word processor I never used. But according to Wikipedia this word processor had a dominant market share in the early 80s, so I felt I should include it. This word processor was included with the Osborne 1, the first commercially successful portable microcomputer (1981), but its place was taken over by WordPerfect from 1985 onwards.

WordStar for DOS (1982)
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Apple's first own word processor, titled Apple Writer, was released for the Apple II family in 1979. I never used it. However, it was succeeded by MacWrite in 1984 for the Apple MacIntosh, of which I have fond memories. Together with painting software MacPaint it was a revolutionary application for its time. Especially the use of a user-friendly graphical user interface inspired many word processors that were still to come. However, development of MacWrite (transferred to software maker Claris) ended in 1995. In the future, Microsoft would also become the dominant word processor producer for one of its main competitors.

MacWrite for Apple MacIntosh (1984)
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If you're in your 30s or older, it's very probable you have used a version of WordPerfect in the past. Before the popularity of Microsoft Word, everyone used WordPerfect, a word processor created by Satellite Systems International (and bought by Corel in 1996). The program was more advanced than WordStar, quickly taken its market share. WordPerfect became the most popular word processor for quite some years ('By release 5.1 in 1989, WordPerfect had become a standard in the DOS market', according to Wikipedia). However, it didn't last. With the introduction of the successful Windows 95 and the compatible Office 95 package (with Microsoft Word 7.0), the fame of WordPerfect rapidly faded away. Many tried using WordPerfect-documents in Word, causing a lot of frustrating and swearing among users.

WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS (1989)

WordPerfect 5.2 for Windows (1992)
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Microsoft Write
In editions of Windows before Windows 95 the included and instant accessible, but very basic, word processor was Microsoft Write. Write was first included in Windows 1.0 in 1985. Microsoft Write was replaced with WordPad since Windows 95.

Microsoft Write (1985)

Microsoft Word
Word appeared in 1983 for DOS, but in 1989 the first edition for Windows ('Word for Windows 1.0') appeared. Nowadays it's the most used word processor in the world. Everybody knows the .doc-extensions and is cursing while trying to add page numbers, subsections, paragraphs and bullet lists without messing up the layout of a document - something that's still pretty hard today!

Word 95 for Windows 95 (1995)
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WordPad is the basic word processor that has been included in all Windows editions since Windows 95. Many of us still use this app for quick copy and paste actions or for making notes. It's very limited to work with and it isn't ideal - but at least it's fast. (Many 90s kids will probably also remember creating its first HTML-webpages in WordPad).

WordPad for Windows 7 (2009)

Why pay for a word processor when you can use a legal word processor for free? Good question, since there are multiple free word processors since the 2000s. Most famous is probably OpenOffice.org (2010), since 2011 known as LibreOffice. It doesn't look as good as Microsoft Office, but it's just as good (and just as frustrating in the paragraph adding section) in use.

LibreOffice (2011)

Google Docs
Google Docs (announced in 2006) is Google's free Office Suite. Very popular these days, since Google seems to be involved in everything. Of course, Google registration is required.

Mobile Apps
With the rising popularity of tablets and smartphones in the 2000s era, lots of mobile word processors came around. Most popular are QuickOffice (acquired by Google in 2012 and later integrated into Google Docs), Polaris Office and Documents-To-Go. Many of these packages, usually pre-installed on mobile devices, often only make it possible to view documents. For editing (or for more advanced functions), users usually have to buy the full package.

Documents-To-Go for BlackBerry 10 (2014)
More Articles From McTom
2 years, 3 months ago
Does anybody remember the early IBM-PC word processor Final Word? Because it was highly rated by PC Magazine, I bought it in 1981 or 1982 for my new "Model-T" IBM-PC, which was loaded with a whopping 512k of RAM and two 5.25" floppy disk drives (no hard drive), and came with MS-DOS, an amber monochrome monitor, and dot matrix printer for the bargain price of $5,000! For that time, it was a great word processor--very fast editing and moving from one part of a document to another and able to display multiple parts of a document or multiple documents on one screen. The major drawback was that you had to format boldface, underline, etc. by typing in formatting commands like
    7 years, 2 months ago
    I used all except MacWrite and Documents to Go
      7 years, 3 months ago
      This was different, and I enjoyed reading it. But man, it makes me realize how horribly outdated the computers in my junior high were. I went to middle school during 96/97 and 97/98, and the computers were still using MacWrite. Wow.
        7 years, 3 months ago
        I would have liked to see some mention of Apple's Pages, which I think is a pretty elegant product. Not to mention Word for Mac, which is also very nice.
          7 years, 3 months ago
          Article started out great but then it seems like after 1995 you just skipped 15 years to the end.
            7 years, 3 months ago
            We've all been using Word for the past 15 years ;-)
              7 years, 3 months ago
              Very interesting. Of all the word processors featured in this article, Microsoft Word is by far the one I use most (I use the Mac version).
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