Microsoft Clippy Office Assistant

Last Updated on December 3, 2020 by Sean B

Microsoft Clippy, also known as Clippit, and officially called Office Assistant, was an intelligent user interface for Microsoft Office. It assisted the users in a number of interactive ways by appearing as a character on the Office applications and offering help related to various options of the Office Software. It was made available in the Microsoft Office for Windows in 1997 and was discontinued in 2003. Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Project also featured Clippy, or Clippit, starting 1998 and ending in 2003. Microsoft FrontPage and Microsoft Office for Mac had the assistant till 2004.

History of Microsoft Clippy

The actual name of the assistant in the English version of Microsoft Office was Clippit, but it was affectionately known among users as Clippy. The avatar of the character that appeared on the computer screen to offer help was designed by Kevan J. Atteberry, ironically on an Apple Macintosh computer. Microsoft Clippit soon became one of the most widely used and recognized AI personal assistant. This was mainly because the assistant came standard with Microsoft Office and others needed the users to install them separately from a CD. The character was given a new look, and more features were added to its set of abilities in 2000 when the next iteration of Microsoft Office was introduced.

Soon the helpful little paper clip started being an annoyance for the Office users, especially the ones who knew the software and needed no help from a line of code. Due to this negative customer response, Microsoft omitted the feature from Office XP and acknowledged publicly that their assistant was doing more harm than good. The feature was completely removed from existence in 2007 from Windows computers and in 2008 from Macintosh machines.

However, it remains to this date, the most commonly known personal assistant, and we all have memories of using it when Computers just started being popularized and Microsoft Office was a great deal.

Ideology Behind Clippy

It all started with research conducted at Stanford University. According to Alan Cooper, the father of Visual Basic, it was all a big misunderstanding. The research determined that the part of our minds used to interact emotionally with other humans is actively used when we are interacting with a computer.

The idea behind making Microsoft Clippy was that people would find it helpful to have a humanoid character assisting them in their interaction with Microsoft Office. However, it soon turned out that people equally disliked humans and humanoids while working on something that required their attention, and the little paper clip was not being useful in any way.

Other Assistants with Office

Microsoft Office didn’t only have Clippy as the only assistant. There were others too that users could install at will. These assistants needed an installation media to install, and Microsoft Clippy came standard, Due to this, these were always overshadowed by Clippy. These included:

  • The Dot
  • Hoverbot
  • Office Logo
  • Mother Nature
  • Scribble
  • Power Pup
  • Will

How Did Microsoft Clippy Work?

Microsoft Clippy, aka the Office Assistant, used technology from Microsoft Bob in the start, and later the bot started sharing its bases with Microsoft Agent, a program that gave advice working on Bayesian algorithms. After the dawn of the new century, Microsoft Bob was discontinued, and Microsoft Agent worked as the basis of the Office Assistant. Users also had the liberty to copy any assistant software and add it to the assistant folder in the installation files of Microsoft office to make it appear in the list of the available assistants.

Using Clippy Today

Microsoft did kill Clippy in 2004, but they left a door open for people who want to use it. The Microsoft Agent components responsible for running Clippy were not included in any Windows versions after Windows 7. However, it is still possible for users to download the files from the Microsoft website and add them to their computer to use Microsoft Clippy. The same can be done for Windows 8 and 10.

Using SpriteKit-Framework and writing a code in Swift, Clippy was made available for Microsoft Office for Mac in 2019.

Microsoft Clippy is also available as a Browser Assistant as a Chrome Extension if you’re truly one for self punishment.

Clippy and the Community

Clippy is the first and probably the only Office Assistant of its class that a lot of people have interacted it. For most of the millennials, when they first started using a computer at school and learned to operate the Office, they encountered Clippy, and that has brought it to the popular culture and has made it a household name.

Clippy’s tomb was featured in a movie to market Office 2010, and the character was introduced in the game Ribbon Hero 2, an interactive Office tutorial Microsoft released in 2011. The game shows Clippy looking for a job when it ends up being in a time machine and solve the problems people face using the Microsoft Office products like Word, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Excel. This is a fun game and can also be a good source of learning the basics of the crucial Microsoft Office applications which are some of the most widely used apps in their class.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft Clippy might not be a chatbot by today’s standards, but it was something futuristic for its day and age. The main concept behind building this was to make interaction with Microsoft Office easy and interactive for the users, and it was thought that it would release the stress a person faces after working on a computer for extended periods of time. However, it turned out to be annoying for people, and negative comments poured in from the users. Microsoft finally took it down altogether in 2004. If you want to use it now, you can add a bunch of files to your Microsoft Office, and it will appear on your computer screen offering help in a number of scenarios.

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