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    Although some of this has been repeated on the Internet a lot, I don’t think it’s fair to describe Word for Windows 1 as a rush job, although “sketchy” is fair. It was a troubled project that hit several false starts, which can be seen in the source code release. There’s the “lite” stuff (Word for Windows and Windows Write were supposed to be built from the same code, which didn’t pan out), and the “WordTech” stuff (all the Words were supposed to share a common library with unique frontends.) Managing and testing this kind of code sharing proved problematic, because a code change could regress any product, so it made development difficult. This is the product that brought Mike Maples Sr to Microsoft to improve development processes so it could get out the door.

    Also, although Word 95 didn’t match the file format of Word 97, it also wasn’t the same as the DOS versions. Word 95 and Word 6 used an OLE compound document format, wrapping StgOpenStorage et al. This can be seen in the WordPad source code (IsWord6) which was made available as a sample back in the Win95 SDK and has been kicked along since (see the OLE samples within the MFC set.) Prior to that point, (almost) every release had its own file format, and included a handful of converters; the benefits of a single format allowing document exchange was less pronounced in a pre-Internet era.

    Totally agree about Word 6 for DOS being a great product. The way it could use TrueType fonts from DOS was impressive in itself. It’s a shame that by the time it was released there wasn’t much interest in DOS, so it didn’t get the appreciation it deserved.

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      There seems to be a significant difference of opinion inside and outside of MS. ;-)

      I must admit, I thought Word95 was at least mostly compatible with Word 6 and older. I do remember an incompatibility between Word 97 and later versions: Word 97 couldn’t embed a table inside a table cells, and lacked the yellow-highlighter functionality. Highlights in docs from newer versions just disappeared, but tables inside tables crashed 97, IIRC.

      This actually affected me in the real world, with templates when I was on a course that needed in-cell tables, but TBH I ascribed this mostly to incompetence in using Word in the real world. :-(

      BTW there is an interesting comment to this from Charles Stross on Dreamwidth now, who recalls a detail I don’t. I’d be interested if you had a take on that.

      I do still use Word 6 for DOS occasionally, but I own 97 and 2000, which I think covers me license-wise.


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        Right, Word95 was compatible with 6 for Windows, and 6 for NT. I don’t remember if 6 for Mac used the same format, but I’m fairly sure 6 for DOS was different. Word 2 for Windows was substantially different (and WordPad contains a bit of logic for that too - no idea why.)

        My take on the Dreamwidth thread is I don’t have actual knowledge but it seems plausible. I think people over index on the “boy genius” narrative and overlook how much organizational chaos determines outcomes. If a company is building products for DOS, Mac, Windows and OS/2, the developers who believe in each will naturally gravitate to the thing they believe in, which in turn builds strong thought bubbles. “Boy genius” can’t afford to embrace any one too strongly (or three quarters of their people leave), and can’t embrace something that doesn’t have a commercially viable portfolio of products. So a lot of it ends up being encouraging each team to make progress, and the winners are the ones who can execute and deliver promising offerings (take note, OS/2 team!). That thread sounds like what would happen if boy genius suggested something that sounded like a rebuke to Mac - their best Mac people leave, resulting in a product Mac users poke fun at for a decade, resulting in a change of course.

        What I do know about the 6 for Mac product is it used Windows Libraries for Macintosh, shipped as part of Visual C++ Cross Development edition for Macintosh. I never found an actual copy of the Visual C++ product, and it was discontinued fast (only released for 2.0?) After 6.0 for Mac, MacBU was formed, and the code was re-forked, but they retained the legacy of being built on a Windows compatibility layer for a long time. Heck, there’s still plenty of #ifdef _MAC in the current Windows SDK.

        Also, for the WordPad comment in those threads, file converters were used and bundled with WordPad. Converters use RTF as the “universal language”, so they need to translate RTF to/from their native format. The rich edit control is natively RTF. So the WordPad sample also contains a lot of demonstration about how to invoke converters, which was also specified in obscure documents on the old FTP site. I ended up building tools for these (http://www.malsmith.net/wincvt/) and have been meaning to backport a lot of that code to WordPad (WordPad is hardcoded to use only two converters - Word 6 and Write.) Oh, and I assume you’re hinting at the same thing, but there’s a Word 97 converter for Word 6 for Windows, so for me the existence of the 2007 formats really was the EOL for Word 6.

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          Oddly, this popped up as a new unread message this morning, and shortly afterwards you appeared as a reply to one of my comments on OSnews. :-) Small world (wideweb) sometimes.

          Just for clarity, because I am not sure:

          Are you saying that Word 6 for Windows and Word 6 for Mac shared some common codebase, but Word 6 for DOS does not?

          In which case, I agree, based on observation and a bit of deduction.

          Or are you saying that Windows and Mac Word 6 have a shared file format, but the DOS version does not share the file format?

          If so, I am fairly sure that’s wrong, and that the format is the same, because back in the day, I think I routinely round-tripped files between DOS and Windows versions at the least, and the Mac with some disk conversion or a fileserver, because we’re talking about Classic here.

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            I was referring to Windows and Mac Word 6 having a shared file format, and DOS Word 6 having a different one.

            Based on your comment I went back and looked at the behavior of the Windows and DOS products and stand by my assessment. Word 6 for Windows has a Save As option for Word 6 for DOS. That option generates a substantially different file format from its default. GNU file reports the DOS one as “Word 5.0-6.0” and the Windows one as “Composite Document File V2”. Looking at them under a hex dump shows they have nothing in common.

            Some other strange things I noticed looking at this. Word 6 for DOS appears older than the Windows version and does not include a converter to load the Windows version format. It displays gibberish for those files. The Windows version includes a separate converter for DOS (worddos.cnv) which hosts both conversions for 3.x-5.x and a different conversion for 6.0. One thing I’d forgotten until doing this is DOS always used linked style sheets (documents refer to a .sty file) whereas Windows always recorded them in a single document. This means that document conversion is a bit strange because it requires converting a Windows document into two linked files - the converter throws up a dialog asking what you want it to do for this. Another random thing is the Word 6 for Windows converter appears to support a different “Word (Asian Versions) 6.0” format, which I don’t think I ever saw in the wild back in the day.

            Word 95 included a 32 bit version of the DOS converter, but Word 97 appears to drop it. After that there was a supplemental converter pack on the FTP server, which included it, and that code is binary identical to the Word 95 version. I dug through the FTP server looking for other downloadable converters, but I didn’t see anything to enable the DOS version to load the Windows format - this would have been clearly desirable but also difficult because it means porting chunks of OLE into DOS :)

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              Wow! I am impressed and I salute your thoroughness.

              I must find my copy of WinWord 6 now. I just found and installed DOS Word 6 under DOSemu2, where it seems to work very well, and created a file with some formatting. LibreOffice opens this fine, but WinWord 2003 (under WINE) can’t. It complains it needs converters, then can’t install them and loads garbage. I think that when I installed WinWord 2003, I installed all the available convertors, but I am not categorically sure about this.

              But this is inconclusive, I fully appreciate.

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                installed DOS Word 6 under DOSemu2, where it seems to work very well

                That’s great! I used NT 3.51, and it didn’t work well - Word (and its installer) only get keyboard input when full screen, which made the installation a real pain.

                I think that when I installed WinWord 2003, I installed all the available convertors

                I’d be stunned if Word 2003 included the DOS converter out of the box if it had already been dropped in Word 97. 2003 also had a downloadable converter pack (OCONVPCK.EXE) but that doesn’t appear to include the DOS converter. I think you’d need to go back to the Word 97 downloadable pack (WDSUPCNV.EXE) for this.

                For a slightly more authoritative source on Word 97: https://jeffpar.github.io/kbarchive/kb/162/Q162987/

                One other thing is that Word 2003 was released just before the giant security push, and that push affected converters (which were fairly old and insecure at that point.) I’d swear there was an update that disabled converters unless a registry key is set, although I can’t find it now so I might be hallucinating. See MS09-010, MS09-073, which applies a registry key to WordPad, but it also appears to update a pile of non-WordPad converters.

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                  This is very interesting stuff.

                  It took me years to find a copy of Word 6 for NT. I got it working no problem on Win7 and Win8. I haven’t tried on 10 because I encountered minor problems that made it a deal-breaker for me, with considerable regret. I missed proportional scrollbar thumbs, which I like as a quick visual indicator of document length. But it doesn’t support scroll wheels (or equivalents such as Trackpoint or trackpad gestural scrolling), and I use those quite a lot.

                  ISTR it had problems on WINE, but so did Word 2003. Newer WINE is a lot better; ’03 works on WINE 7 perfectly.

                  97 works great on WINE and has for years. The one thing that didn’t work was a big portrait monitor. But if 97 is the last version that can import Word 6 docs via an optional extra, for me, 97 is enough for most things.