Is Microsoft Word an Operating System?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 01/24/19 •  8 min read

People who are new to computers hear a lot of computer “lingo”, and frankly, it can get confusing. Sometimes people don’t want to ask a question for fear of embarrassment. So, is Microsoft Word an operating system?

Microsoft Word is not an operating system, but rather a word processor. This software application runs on both the Microsoft Windows operating system and on Mac computers as well.

The one thing that ties both the Microsoft Word and Microsoft Windows together is that they were both created by the same company, Microsoft. We are going to look at Microsoft Word and popular operating systems that are used today and show the impact that both Microsoft Word and popular operating systems have had on our society as a whole.

What is an Operating System?

In its simplest form, an operating system is system software that allows computer hardware and computer software to talk to each other.

When you turn your computer on, it powers up the operating system. The operating system (software), immediately recognizes all of the hardware within the computer as well as the hardware attached to the computer, such as the keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer and any other peripherals attached to the computer. The operating system tells the computer what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.

There are literally thousands of operating systems in the world today. The operating systems run on everything from the computer in your car to your washing machine. In this article, however, we are limiting the scope of our discussion to desktop operating systems.

How Many Operating Systems Are There?

There are three prominent operating systems in use today that dominate the desktop environment. They include Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, and Linux. Windows accounts for 82.88% of the desktop market share, the MacOS accounts for 12.52%, and Linux accounts for 1.71%.

As mentioned earlier, the top three most popular operating systems to date are Windows, MacOS, and Linux. Each operating system is very different and caters to different types of users. Let’s take a look at each of them now.


For example, Linux users tend to be “computer geeks” who like to tinker with operating systems. Linux has come a very long way in the last twenty years, so much so, that you would be hard-pressed to find a software need that the Linux community has not already developed.

With Linux, there are thousands upon thousands of software titles that allow you to do everything from word processing to video editing, and everything in between.

The one very attractive aspect of Linux is that there are many different distributions of Linux. These include Fedora (Red Hat) Linux, OpenSUSE (SUSE) Linux, Ubuntu Linux, Debian Linux, Slackware Linux, Gentoo Linux, and Arch Linux to name a few. Each Linux distribution is distinguishes itself over other distribution based on what they emphasize. For example, one distribution might place an emphasis on media, whereas another distribution might place emphasis on ease of use.


On the other extreme, you have the MacOS, by Apple Computer. People who use the “Mac”, find it extremely intuitive to use. “It just works”. Installing software is a breaker. Uninstalling software is even easier.

The Macintosh operating system has found its way into the education system. It is a brilliant marketing strategy because kids grow up to be college students, who then choose to use what they are familiar with when they enter the business world. Apple is banking on that being the MacOS. Fortunately for apple, The MacOS has gained tremendous popularity in the last several years, converting Windows users to Mac users. Again, this has a lot to do with Apple having penetrated the educational system.


Windows is by far the most popular desktop operating system. Many people use a Windows computer as the home computer, and it has completely dominated the business world. Rare is it that you will find a business that does not use at least one Windows-based computer. The same applies for home use as well.

Additionally, more software has been written for Windows than any other operating system on the planet. As if that were not enough, the Windows operating system completely dominates the gaming industry.

What is Microsoft Word?

Microsoft Word is a word processor that was created by Microsoft and first released on October 25, 1983. It is a document creation tool used for creating and editing documents.

It has built-in templates where you can choose from thousands of templates from over 63 categories. These templates add tremendous value to Microsoft Word because if you can think of something you need a document for, chances are very high that there is a template for you to choose from.

You can use the template functionality within Microsoft Word to download and create any type of document you want. Below is a list of just some of the things that you can do with Microsoft Word, but by no means limited to the following.

Microsoft Word is used everywhere.

One of the great things about Microsoft Word is that you can use it as a collaboration tool with others you have shared the document with. For example, if you were writing a term paper with a colleague, you both could work on the same document, from different locations at the same time. How is this possible? Microsoft Word saves the document in real-time.

Regardless of the industry that you are in, Microsoft Word, arguably the most widely used piece of software in the world, has had a major impact on the way we conduct business today.

How Many Word Processors are There?

Today, Microsoft Word is hands down, the most popular word-processor in the world. However, that was not always the case. Corel WordPerfect was first released 40 years ago (in 1979), and it was the dominant word processor until the early 1990’s.

Other word processors attempted to win market share such as AmiPro, and other smaller companies, but they could not withstand the competition and eventually died by the wayside leaving Microsoft Word to battle it out with WordPerfect.

Microsoft Word was the first word processor to make extensive use of the computer mouse.  It was the first to display styles on-screen, such as  italic, bold, and underlined text.  It was also the first to feature style-sheets and multiple windows.  For example, they inadvertantly invented “multi-tasking” by providing separate work spaces so that you could edit multiple documents on the same screen by utilizing windowed spaces.

Microsoft Word is not going anywhere.

In 1985, when they released version 2, they included spell-check and word-count options.  In 1989 Microsoft released the first version of Word for the Windows OS, two years ahead of WordPerfect for Windows.

WordPerfect, however, made some very poor decisions in the early 1990’s, probably thinking that no one would be able to compete with them. For example, in the fourth quarter of 1991, WordPerfect 5.1 was released for the Windows operating system and it was a complete failure.  When they released it, they did not add many new features and it even came with a DOS-based installation program.  This was the turning point, and people started to jump on board with Microsoft.

Can Microsoft Word run on any other operating system?

The first version of Microsoft Word was made for PC-DOS/MS-DOS in 1983.  It was also  released for the Macintosh operating system that same year, a full four years before the Microsoft Operating system was released.  Microsoft has been developing Windows for both operating systems ever since, a full 36 years later.

Microsoft Word is such a mature piece of software, that though not officially supported, other developers have managed to get Microsoft Word to work on Linux through “Wine”, a free open-source software that serves as a compatability later so that Windows applications can run on Linux.

Microsoft Word is so saturated in our society as a whole.  Nearly every computer document on the planet is compatible with Microsoft Word, which ensures that it will continue to grow with our computer needs well into the future.

What Word Processor is the Main Competitor of Microsoft Word?
Google Docs is certainly the biggest competitor to Microsoft Word, because of it’s maturity, ease of use, not to mention that it is completely free.  Additionally, because it is web-based, you can access it from any device connected to the internet.

Between Windows, MacOs and Linux, Which Has the Most Potential?
Linux has the most potential to grow.  Currently, it holds nearly 2% of the desktop market.  To grow, it will probably pull from Windows users, (which accounts for about 83% of the desktop market currently).

Tim Chesonis

Tim has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Tim, click here.