Breaking the Code

I received
a mail this weekend
responding to my Friday post on Super Tooltips asking a
simple question: "It seems like you introduce every new feature in Office 12
with a code name.  Why not use the 'real' name?"

The short answer is: "Because we don't have 'real' names yet."

Where do code names come from?  They kind of just get invented.  We
make them up.  As I explained a few months ago in my post about
why we
call it the "Ribbon"
, code names for features often pop up organically as
part of designing the feature.  In some cases, code-names are dropped soon
after the "official" name is available.  For instance,
OneNote was
code-named "Scribbler", but I haven't heard that used in a few years now. 
In another case, the original code name for the OfficeArt drawing engine back in
Office 97 was "Escher."  It has stuck around long enough that objects
derived from the new graphics engine in Office 12 are called "E2Os" (or "Escher 2

The normal process is that code names exist through most of the development
cycle.  Marketing and legal work together (with input from the product
team) to generate "official" names for features which are then rolled up into
the product and used to talk about it.  In Office, this generally happens
between the end of coding and Beta 2.  (In other words, now.)

Code names for features are just temporary

Back to the original question.  Why are you seeing so many code names
exposed in Office 12?  Just because we're out here blogging about the
product in detail
way sooner than ever before.  In past releases, most of the features
would be under wraps until later in the product cycle.  By the time
marketing started talking about the product, all of the official
names for features were ready.

A more open discussion about the product means that more of our internal
processes are exposed.  I really believe that this openness
benefits our customers, but it does mean that you have to put up with more code

As "official" marketing names are available, I'll certainly start using them and
let you know how they relate to the code names I've been writing about.

And remember, Office "12" itself is a code name...

Comments (19)

  1. Dave Solimini says:

    "And remember, Office "12" itself is a code name…"


  2. Randy Rettinger says:

    Wouldn’t it be better to code name it "Closet 12"? At least until it comes out of it anyway…

  3. ChrisC says:

    > And remember, Office "12" itself is a code name…

    Because first there was Word 1.0

    then there was Word 2.0,

    then there was Word 6.0 (as part of "Office 6.0")

    Microsoft skipped to version 6 because their competitor was legitimatly on a version which would make it look like Word 3.0 wasn’t as new.

    Nice marketing ploy which worked in my opinion (IMO).


    P.S. Full disclosure: Excel already had a version three; I don’t recall it being at v5 though.

  4. Gus Prevas says:

    Aren’t feature names important for usability? Why don’t you user test feature names? Why leave them up to marketing and legal?

  5. Office 4.2/4.3 (for Windows 3.1) had Word 6.0, Excel 5.0, and PowerPoint 4.0. And if I remember correctly, Word’s version went from 2.0 to 6.0 to even it with Word for Mac, not with WordPerfect.

    Luis Alonso Ramos

  6. Nate says:

    It’s not too much time if you already know morse 🙂

  7. wien says:

    My ability to read morse code is little bit rusty, it has been almost sixteen years since I read it. Well, I had two minutes. Not that much. 😉

  8. ChrisC says:

    Doh! (I didn’t realize it was actually a coded message)

    In response:

    Jensen, the two aren’t *necessarily* related [grin]

  9. ChrisC says:


    Okay, I may be completly wrong… that post was based on comments around the company I worked at at the time (>10 yrs ago).

    Do you know what version Word Perfect (WP) was on in that timeframe?

    When I got out of University I had to convert from a Mac to Windows (no local Mac jobs) – and that was about the same time period. As my Mac SE didn’t run System7 I never knew Word had a v5.

    Everyone at the company I was at said it was to meet/pass/match WP; did they leapfrog WP numerically?

    IIRC the Mac versions of Office came out sooner than the PC versions and had more features (until mid/late 90’s?) that memory correct, or do you know?

  10. MSDNArchive says: – Review on Word 5.0 for IBM PC (sounds like it also existed for Mac), including lists of some of the features that were added in Word 2.0-5.0. It sounds like it came in 1989, which is reasonable since Office 1.0 shipped for the Mac with Word 4.0 in 1987.

  11. James K. says:

    Sometimes the codenames are better than the official marketing names, e.g. Sparkle, what a great name. The Microsoft Expression Interactive Designer name has to be one of the most verbose in the history of products. What if Windows was called Microsoft Operating System Graphical Platform?

  12. Yes I do (anything to avoid studying actually) and you’re welcome.

  13. ChrisC says:


    You are right, that’s "Microsoft Word", however it isn’t what I was talking about.

    I was talking about what was later marketed as either "Microsoft Word for Windows" that article is from before there was a distinction.

    If you google the string "Microsoft Word for Windows 2" (include the dbl quotes) you’ll find references circa 1993 which is what I remember

  14. ChrisC says:

    Oops, 2 things

    1) Above should have read:

    …marketed as either "Microsoft Word for Windows" or "MS Word for Windows"

    2) Found a link for a VHS tape "Learning Microsoft Word For Windows 6.0 – Introduction" with a release date of 7-Nov-1994. So it looks like there was no Win version of Word labeled 3,4, or 5.

    Luis may be right about syncing with the version for the Mac, a quick search proved inconclusive to me. (the main difficulty being the issue Kawigi ran into of ensuring that what you’re reading is what you think it is)

  15. PatriotB says:

    Microsoft brand names are a strange bunch.

    For example, Project was formally marketed as "Microsoft Project", not "Project." You’d see listings of products, and no other ones would have Microsoft in front of them. Even on the boxes (95/97 era), the "Microsoft" would be bold on Project boxes, but not on any other boxes. Must have been a legal thing where they couldn’t market it as just Project.

    Then there’s Office 2003 which attempted to stick "Office" in the middle of all the product names (e.g. Microsoft Office Word). That was a terrible decision and I hope it goes back to normal for Office 12.

    Of course, if I had my way we’d get rid of all this product naming nonsense and just use version numbers. That way it is crystal clear what version you are talking about, and easy to know what versions are newer than others. Using the year is ok, but you have to use them consistently. e.g. Office 95, 97, 2000, 2003. Nevermind Office XP (2002) 😉 So hopefully Office 12 will be Office 2006.

    Then there’s the distance between the years. 2000->2002 = 2 yrs, 2002->2003 = 1 yr, 2003->2006 = 3 yrs. Of course Office 2003 came out so late in 2003 (Sept?) that it should have been 2004. (XP/2002 came out in mid 2001, but was rounded ahead, so why wasn’t 2003?) Likewise, Visual Studio 2005 should have been 2006.

    Windows of course is the worst. 95, 98, Me. NT 4, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista. It’s sad how the Windows API documentation has to list out each and every version that a function is supported on: e.g. "Requires Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, or Windows 2000." Wouldn’t it be easier to say "Requires Windows NT 5.0 or higher"?


  16. Klaus Linke says:

    > […] "Requires Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003,

    > Windows XP, or Windows 2000." Wouldn’t it be easier

    > to say "Requires Windows NT 5.0 or higher"?

    Naah, that would be too easy. People wouldn’t think you need WinXP to run Office XP…

    Would be surprising if Microsoft wouldn’t go for that marketing trick again with "Office Vista".

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