Did You Know? Microsoft Made a Children’ Phrase Processor within the Nineteen Nineties

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Microsoft Creative Writer Splash Screen

With regards to Microsoft and writing, Microsoft Word wasn’t at all times the one recreation on the town. In 1993, Microsoft launched a wacky phrase processor for teenagers known as Artistic Author. Right here’s what made it memorable.

Artistic Author: Bob earlier than Bob

Within the Nineteen Nineties, Microsoft started experimenting with software program for teenagers and laptop novices. Amongst these merchandise, an working system shell known as Microsoft Bob (1995) stays notorious for its coddling strategy. Bob represented a daring, various imaginative and prescient of computing for novices that fell flat within the market. With Bob, customers interacted with their computer systems via the metaphor of a home, with the assistance of interactive assistant characters.

However few do not forget that a few of Bob’s authentic rules additionally appeared in an earlier Microsoft product known as Artistic Author, which was launched in December of 1993 for Home windows 3.1 and Macintosh computer systems.

McZee trying to "help" in Creative Writer.
The Artistic Author foyer, with mascot McZee on the left.

Based on a 1993 New York Times article, Artistic Author originated as a part of Microsoft’s push into dwelling computing merchandise as a result of a slowdown within the enterprise productiveness market. Microsoft predicted an upcoming multimedia boom (because of reasonably priced VGA graphics, CD-ROM drives, and digitized sound) and needed to capitalize on this potential untapped shopper market.

In 1993, Microsoft reorganized its shopper merchandise division below the Microsoft House label, which encompassed mice, keyboards, CD-ROM edutainment titles (corresponding to Microsoft Dinosaurs), and residential reference merchandise (Encarta). Artistic Author and a sister product, High quality Artist, have been the primary two Microsoft House productiveness functions.

RELATED: Dogs, Dinosaurs, and Wine: The Lost CD-ROMs of Microsoft

Progressive Options of Artistic Author

So why would a child in 1993 use Artistic Author as an alternative of Microsoft Phrase? For one factor, it was far cheaper, retailing for about $65, however usually out there for much much less in shops. (In 1993, a Phrase 6.0 improve alone cost $99.) It additionally included a very novel kid-oriented interface.

An example of a Creative Writer document.
Microsoft Artistic Author in motion with an instance doc.

Upon launching, Artistic Author takes over your laptop’s entire display screen, minimizing distractions and stopping youngsters from by accident switching away from this system in Home windows or doing harm to Mother and Dad’s PC.

After that, you work together with capabilities of this system utilizing the metaphor of a four-story constructing. The Foyer on the primary ground is an introduction house. On the second ground, you create new paperwork (or load older ones) and write. On the third ground, you discover instruments that can assist you create specifically formatted banners, newspapers, or playing cards. And on the fourth ground, you’ll be able to work together with “Magic Combobulators” that assist break author’s block.

When you’re within the writing studio on the second ground, you see a whimsical toolbar stretched throughout the highest of the display screen that reimagines laptop GUI tropes with on a regular basis objects, a few of them foolish. For instance, to repeat textual content, you click on a digicam icon, whereas to stick it, you click on a glue icon. To do a spell examine, you click on a bee (a spelling bee, get it?). And to undo, you click on on a chick hatching out of an egg. (OK, that one doesn’t make a lot sense.)

The whimsical toolbar in Creative Writer as seen on the back of the retail box.
The Artistic Author toolbar, as defined on the again of the retail field. Microsoft

Artistic Author and High quality Artist tie in collectively. If in case you have each apps put in, you’ll be able to swap between them with the clicking of a button. You may as well share paperwork and photos between them. Artistic Artist options consumer profiles the place you register earlier than starting work, serving to you set up your work and maintaining it separate from different customers of the pc.

The Lore of Artistic Author

In case you comply with Artistic Author’s backstory (which this system presents in a comic book strip format), you’ll study a goofy-looking purple character named McZee who’s, in line with Artistic Author, the inspiration for all human concepts (That’s fairly heavy, Microsoft.).

The McZee backstory in Microsoft Creative Writer.
McZee’s backstory in Artistic Author.

In the future, McZee swirled into the lives of two youngsters: a author named Max and an artist named Maggie. He took the youngsters to a wondrous and wacky metropolis known as Imaginopolis, the place Max settled into the library, and Maggie into the museum. Now, Max can use the instruments on the library to assist him write (in Artistic Author), and Maggie can create artwork within the museum (within the sister program Microsoft High quality Artist).

Quirky Options of Artistic Author

Encrypting Text in Microsoft Creative Writer.
Encrypting textual content in Microsoft Artistic Author.

Artistic Author consists of dozens of foolish options or wacky representations of typical phrase processor software program conventions. Listed below are only a few of them.

  • Clip-Artwork Stamps: Microsoft included lots of of items of playful cartoon clip artwork that youngsters can insert and manipulate of their paperwork.
  • Sound Results: Artistic Author permits you to insert foolish sound results into your phrase processing doc from a sound library that comes with the appliance.
  • Blow up Your Phrases: If you wish to delete all of the textual content on the web page and begin over, you’ll be able to click on an explosion icon, after which click on the textual content. All the doc explodes with a sound impact and goes clean.
  • Magic Combobulators: If in case you have author’s block, Artistic Author consists of 8,000 writing prompts to help your brainstorming within the type of random foolish sentences or photos. They arrive from a particular machine or image body on the fourth ground.
  • Encrypt Your Work: In case you click on a undercover agent icon, you’ll be able to enter a password, and Artistic Author will scramble all of the letters (and conceal the images) in your doc. To see the doc correctly, it’s a must to enter the proper password.

Drawbacks of Artistic Author

Artistic Author is a enjoyable program for teenagers, but it surely wasn’t a smash hit. After utilizing it for some time, we will speculate on a handful of potential the explanation why. The primary is that, whereas the interface is enjoyable, it’s not as intuitive as you’d suppose. It takes trial and error to study what most issues do, and when you study, the interface is so non-standard that these abilities don’t translate to any program apart from Microsoft High quality Artist.

Additionally, Artistic Artist’s sound- and picture-rich paperwork use a proprietary file format known as .MAX that isn’t suitable with some other Microsoft product. It’s doable to import Microsoft Phrase .DOC recordsdata, however to not save to them. So that you’re at all times locked into Artistic Author until you print the paperwork out on paper. This system additionally obscures the file system, so that you’re not fairly positive the place these paperwork are being saved.

The Looney Library in Microsoft Creative Writer.
The crumbling structure of Imaginopolis doesn’t encourage confidence.

Talking of lock-in, when you think about the hand-holding and document-hiding you get with the app, you start to really feel a definite I’m-trapped-in-a-crooked-building-with-McZee vibe that absolutely isn’t intentional, but it surely would possibly give us a nightmare if we give it some thought an excessive amount of.

And eventually, in case you disliked Clippy and different assistants in Microsoft merchandise, the countless dialog bubbles popping up each time you click on on one thing in Artistic Author would possibly get in your nerves. Every thing you click on on will get defined by onscreen characters as a type of interactive guide with hypertext tutorials. Fortunately, it’s doable to show them off, however the non-intuitive interface turns into a whole thriller with out the interruptions. Even with these drawbacks, it’s nonetheless a extremely enjoyable program for teenagers to experiment with.

The Legacy of Artistic Author

Whereas Artistic Author wasn’t a giant hit for Microsoft, it did have an effect. It’s now apparent on reflection that Artistic Author’s hand-holding strategy with dialog-bubble interfaces offered a trial run for each Microsoft Bob (as beforehand talked about) and Microsoft’s experiments with Office Assistants (suppose Clippy) in Microsoft Workplace 97 and past.

The original Microsoft Creative Writer box from 1993.
The unique Microsoft Artistic Author field from 1993. Microsoft

After Artistic Author’s preliminary launch in 1993, Microsoft launched an add-on product that tied into the TV show Ghost Writer and a significant replace in 1995. It then adopted up with a Windows 95-native sequel known as Artistic Author 2 in 1996. The character McZee acquired the ax (solely showing as a particular font) and the appliance turned windowed (not full-screen solely), supported greater resolutions, and allowed studying and writing to some customary file codecs like RTF and TXT recordsdata.

As for cultural influence, we wouldn’t be shocked if most youngsters who grew up with Artistic Author within the Nineteen Nineties now look back fondly on the time they spent caught in a crooked library with an odd purple fellow named McZee.

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