Word 5.1 Plus

I got wired yesterday with a refrain I hear often: Word 5.1 was the epitome of word processing on the Macintosh. And, I have to say, it’s not as though this isn’t something we’ve considered over the years. We’ve even mocked up a couple of versions of Word to play around with.

But, here’s the rub. If you sit down with a bunch of people and ask them what they want in a word processor, they start from Word 5.1 as the baseline, but they’ll, almost always, want something more. Maybe it’s Word 5.1 plus background spell checking. Maybe it’s Word 5.1 plus scriptability. Maybe it’s Word 5.1 plus Unicode support. Maybe it’s Word 5.1 plus AutoText. For others still, it’s Word 5.1, but, by the way, we’d also like you to support Win Word’s file format natively—including nested tables. And, gosh, when I get a document from Win Word users, it’d be nice if you got the line breaks and the page breaks the same.

What the vast majority of people want is Word 5.1 Plus. And, by the time you add up all the “Plus’s” you come to something that’s not all that far away from Word 2004, which is how we got here in the first place. I can still hear the refrains from 1991 that went something like, “When are we going to get [fill in your favorite feature here]?” You’d have a hard time convincing me that, had we stopped at Word 5.1, someone else wouldn’t have eaten our lunch a long time ago.

Of course it is possible to find some folks who still prefer just Word 5.1, and I wouldn’t even be surprised to find that this group numbers in the thousands—which is pretty close to the number of copies of Word 2004 that we sold, in various configurations, on the first day that it was available for purchase.