Which came first, Office for Mac, or Office for Windows? The answer may surprise you!

As a Mac consultant, I’ve met lots of Windows users who tell me they’d love to switch to Mac, but can’t because they save all their documents in Word and Excel.

Even some who do know about Office for Mac think it was originally a Windows-only product that was eventually made available in a stripped-down Mac version.

The truth may surprise you: Office was a Mac-first product.

Not just the Office bundle, but each of the “big three” Office apps—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint—were released on the Mac before Windows. Mac users were using Word four years before the Windows version shipped1!

Office App Release Dates (in chronological order, rounded to the nearest whole month)2:

App Mac Windows Mac headstart
PowerPoint Apr 20, 1987 May 22, 1990 3 years, 1 month
Excel Sep 30, 1985 Nov 19, 1987 2 years, 2 months
Word Jan 18, 19853 Jan 8, 1990 5 years
Office suite Jun 19, 1989 Oct 1, 1990 1 year, 3 months
Outlook 1997 1997 (tie)

Not only was Office a Mac-first product, but Microsoft made a point of introducing new features on the Mac version. For proof look no further than this email to Bill Gates from then Microsoft exec Ben Walkman:

Because Mac Office is so much less critical to our business than Windows, we have the flexibility to test out new things in the product and in its marketing before we try them on Windows," Waldman said, adding, "I've personally also found the Mac market interesting because I've seen so many trends appear there first, and eventually become important on Windows.

(Emphasis mine. The email was made public as part of the discovery process in a class action lawsuit4.)

  1. The first version wasn’t for Mac or Windows, but for MS-DOS, released in 1983. []
  2. An earlier version of this post had the wrong dates for PowerPoint and Word []
  3. I was unable to find any source citing the official release date of Word for Mac. The date I used, January 18 1985, was chosen because that is the date that appears in the “About…” box as seen on this page. []
  4. Joe Comes, Riley Paint, Inc., et. al. v Microsoft Corp., Iowa District Court for Polk County, Case No. CL 82311 []