What Is Microsoft Word?

Get to know Microsoft’s word processing program

Microsoft Word is a word processing program that was first developed by Microsoft in 1983. Since that time, Microsoft has released an abundance of updated versions, each offering more features and incorporating better technology than the one before it. The most current web-based version of Microsoft Word is Microsoft 365, but the software version of Microsoft Office 2019 includes Word 2019.

Microsoft Word is included in all of the Microsoft 365 application suites. The most basic (and least expensive) suites also include Microsoft PowerPoint and Microsoft Excel. Additional suites exist and include other Office programs, such as Microsoft Outlook and Skype for Business.

The splashscreen for Microsoft Word

Do you need Microsoft Word?

If you only want to create simple documents, consisting of paragraphs with bulleted and numbered lists with very little formatting, you don’t need to purchase Microsoft Word. You can use the WordPad application included with Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. If you need to do more than that though, you’ll need a more powerful word processing program.

With Microsoft Word you can choose from a variety of preconfigured styles and designs, which provides an easy way to format long documents with just a single click. You can also insert pictures and videos from your computer and the internet, draw shapes, and create an insert all kinds of charts.

If you’re writing a book or creating a brochure, which you can’t do effectively (or at all) in WordPad or an application like Abiword, you can use the features in Microsoft Word to set margins and tabs, insert page breaks, create columns, and even configure the spacing between lines. There are also features that let you create a table of contents with a single click. You can insert footnotes too, as well as headers and footers. There are options to create bibliographies, captions, a table of figures, and even cross-references.

If any of these things sound like what you’d like to do with your next writing project, then you’re going to need Microsoft Word.

Do You Have Microsoft Word?

You might already have a version of Microsoft Word on your computer, tablet, or even your phone. Before you make a purchase you should find out.

To see if you have Microsoft Word installed on your Windows device:

  1. From the Search window on the Taskbar (Windows 10), the Start screen (Windows 8.1), or from the Search window on the Start menu (Windows 7), type msinfo32 and press Enter.

  2. Click the + sign beside Software Environment.

  3. Click Program Groups.

  4. Look for a Microsoft Office entry.

To find out if you have a version of Word on your Mac, look for it in the Finder sidebar, under Applications.

Where to Get Microsoft Word

If you are sure you don’t already have it, you can get the latest version of Microsoft Word with Microsoft 365. Microsoft 365 is a subscription though, something you pay for monthly. If you’re not interested in paying monthly, consider purchasing Office outright. You can compare and purchase all of the available editions and suites at the Microsoft Store. If you want to wait though, you can get Microsoft Word 2019 during the latter part of 2018 by purchasing the Microsoft Office 2019 suite.

Some employers, community colleges, and universities offer Microsoft 365 free to their employees and students.

The History of Microsoft Word

Over the years there have been many versions of the Microsoft Office suite. Most of these versions came with lower-priced suites that only included the most basic apps (often Word, PowerPoint, and Excel), to higher priced suites that included some or all of them (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, SharePoint, Exchange, Skype, and more). These suite editions had names like “Home and Student” or “Personal”, or “Professional”. There are too many combinations to list here, but what’s important to note is that Word is included with any suite you can buy.

Here are the recent Microsoft Office Suites that also contain Word:

  • Microsoft Word 365) is available and updated regularly in Microsoft 365
  • Word Online is a free limited version.
  • Word 2019 is available in Office 2019
  • Word 2016 is available in Office 2016
  • Word 2013 was available in Office 2013
  • Word 2010 was available in Office 2010
  • Word 2007 was included with Office 2007
  • Word 2003 was included with Office 2003
  • Word 2002 was included in Office XP

Of course, Microsoft Word has existed in some form since the early 1980s and has had versions for most platforms (even from before Microsoft Windows existed).

  • What can I do if Microsoft Word is not responding?

    A corrupt file or incompatible add-in might cause Word to stop responding. You can fix it by restarting Word in Safe Mode and disabling add-ins. Another option is to go to Settings in Windows > Apps & Features > Microsoft Office (or Microsoft 365) > Modify and follow the steps to repair Office applications.

  • What can I do when Microsoft Word isn't responding, and I haven't saved my document?

    To recover an unsaved document, close and restart Word, go to File > Manage Documents > Recover Unsaved Documents. Open the document if it's listed. If it's not listed, go to File > Open > Browse and search for a backup of the file.

  • What does a macro do in Microsoft Word?

    A Word macro records a series of commands that you can play to automate frequent procedures, such as formatting, inserting tables, or adding watermarks. To create or add a macro in Word, go to View > Macros > View Macros > Macros in > Word Commands.

  • How do I check my writing's grade level on Microsoft Word?

    In a Word document, go to File > Options > Proofing. Select Check grammar with spelling and Show readability statistics. Now, whenever Word completes a spelling and grammar check, a pop-up window will display with info about the document's reading level.

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