Happy 20th PowerPoint!

Wow, PowerPoint is 20 years old. All of us on the PowerPoint team have been heads down working on the new version of PowerPoint and the PowerPoint Beta Converter so we totally missed this huge milestone. By the way, the PowerPoint Beta converter is now available and you can download it from here. It will allow you to open a lot of files from Windows PowerPoint 2007 but not all. It’s a beta and there are issues so keep that in mind when trying it out.   

Anyway, my name is Marcus and I’m the Lead Program Manager for PowerPoint:mac 2008. None of us on the team knew about the 20 year anniversary until we read about it in the Wall Street Journal a month or so ago. I actually have the original copy of PowerPoint on my bookshelf and it’s kind of interesting to see how much has changed. First off, PowerPoint was originally from a company called Forethought. Forethought also marketed another product you may have heard of called FileMaker which Microsoft didn’t get in the acquisition. For the longest time, the PowerPoint team was the only Microsoft development group in Silicon Valley---now there are many. The manual for this thing was literally a hard bound book with 211 pages and on top of this was a separate 46 page Getting Started Guide. In the box there are two 3.5” floppies with all of PowerPoint fitting on a single 800K disk. On the side of the box it clearly states “For Apple Macintosh” which means only PowerPoint:mac is 20 years old. I like to tease my friends upstairs on the Windows PowerPoint team that they have to wait a few years before they can celebrate their 20th anniversary.  
20 years ago was an exciting time to work on the Mac. I personally remember working for Apple on something called the Apple Open House Tour. My job was to demo this new program called PageMaker to people in shopping malls and to explain what desktop publishing was. I remember people being amazed at creating and seeing a document on the screen and then being able to print it out perfectly using the LaserWriter. I also had to explain what HyperCard was which was a little more difficult. A few years later I worked at Claris (Now called FileMaker) and remember we were desperately trying to add presentation capabilities to MacDraw because we all thought the presentation category was going to be the next big thing. Our competition was Harvard Graphics which ruled the DOS world, Aldus Persuasion, Cricket Presents, More and of course Microsoft PowerPoint. Presentations in those days meant 35mm slides and printouts on transparencies for overhead projectors. At a previous job at Nortel I remember being told that a single 35mm slide that showed a network diagram of our PBX cost $38K to produce. Boy, PowerPoint and the Mac sure changed that.
Well we’ve come a long way in 20 years and I can honestly say that PowerPoint:mac 2008 will be the best version of PowerPoint ever. We’ve got all the important stuff you see in Windows PowerPoint like the new file format, rich graphics and SmartArt (Cool new diagramming). But we’ve also added some nice little Mac-only things to give our customers bragging rights which we’ll talk about more as we get closer to shipping. Let me just end by thanking Bob Gaskins, Dennis Austin and Tom Rudkin for creating a great product and to all of the people after them who have worked tirelessly to deliver awesome new versions of PowerPoint for our customers. I’m looking forward to the next 20 years.

Comments (19)
  1. Brett_x says:

    I’m glad to see the new version of the XML conversion tools. But as an enterprise Mac administrator, I am very disappointed to see it in a proprietary installer (MindViseX). I hope that you see the light in moving all of your installers over to Apple’s developer’s tools.

    Distributing your products is very difficult if you don’t use Apple’s [free] tools.  I noticed the Beta of RDC 2.0 has been built using them. Please continue to make progress and don’t go back to 1999.


  2. Tim Archer says:

    I’d love to see PowerPoint pick up some of the visual aspects of Keynote. I think the competition between the two programs on the Mac can only be healthy

  3. Chris Ridd says:

    Office 2004’s drag-to-install feature was superb, I do hope this is retained for 2008.

    The main thing I’d like to see from Office 2008 is the ability to gracefully handle vector art, especially PDF exported from programs like OmniGraffle. Is there a chance the new graphics code inherited from the Windows version will finally fix this?

  4. R. Mansfield says:

    So let’s see some photos of the packaging, books, and disks from the original PowerPoint!

  5. Chad says:

    How come Powerpoint:mac 2008 has to be the best version?  What’s wrong with it being the second or third best version of PowerPoint?  You really shouldn’t be setting up PP 2008 that way, it will only set it up to let it fall later in life.  Next thing you know, the next version of Powerpoint is going to be the best, and then the next, and the next, and the next.

    Next thing you know, PowerPoint 2008 will have taken a 50 floor swan dive out of a window, with nothing but a bottle of liquid courage in hand.

    Seriously, don’t try and raise the bar too high for PP 2008.  It would be best for us all.

  6. RDC is a package (installer)!!!

    Someone finally gets it!

    Everything REALY needs to be a packaged installer…


  7. Tony says:

    The only feature that is truly required by Mac users is 100% compatibility with Office 2003 and 2007.  Why not spill the beans on that very simple requirement?  Oh, wait, I forgot you’re trying to imitate Apple’s secrecy and create suspense, but the truth is that delays in the production of Office 2008 only creates aggravation…not anticipation.  If only MSFT had Apple’s invincible aura that results in the difference between the two outcomes in the eyes of the users.

    I bet delays in communication of feature set has more to do with reducing negative press than creating anticipation.  You never want to promise your kid a treat if you’re not going to give it to him.  So, I see a bit of doubt in MacBU’s mind.   And that given the only true contender is Keynote, which is used by a minority of Mac users.

    If you’re a leader, lead and dare your competition and your teams to deliver.  Build hope in your user base for a better tomorrow.  Challenge Apple to beat you…make Keynote users lust for PowerPoint’s next release…

    Or act like a shy follower and wait until you get closer to production…to surprise us with trivial Mac-only features that will bedevil my Window-using buddies.

    Or is there more to lose than one would think…is MS Office fearful of market share?  Are the open source solutions really eating into MSFT’s profitability?  Is Google really handing MSFT a beating?  Oooo…MSFT must be nervous.

  8. Janus says:

    How about you celebrate this 20th anniversary with some screenshots of powerpoint 2008…

    In the meantime, you should spend less time teasing your Windows comrades (who can at least get a product out the door and tell us about it beforehand) and blogging and more time developing.

  9. Chris Ridd says:

    Jeremy, installer.app packages are *not* what we want, because they require administrator authentication to be given to Microsoft. Drag installs do not.

    Installer.app packages are useful when installing things like kernel extensions. The RDC installer doesn’t do this, so using a package for this is doubly unnecessary.

  10. Hello to the author,

    Please don’t write your blog posts using Word. It leaves detritus like the following in the code, breaking the RSS feed for Web Standard news readers:

    P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 12pt" SPAN style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: ‘Verdana’,’sans-serif’"

    Use a plain text editor, or use a STANDARDS compliant blog post editor. Please note: this means don’t use anything made by your employer. Writing html in Word is as bad as coding websites only for Internet Exploder for PCs. Bad form!

  11. Rich says:

    In my desk is a copy of Forethought PowerPoint (but I don’t have the manual. Lucky you!) A while back, I ran it on a very old Mac just to see what would happen. The bones of PowerPoint are there, but it’s absolutely changed over the years. And for the better.

    They had to drag me kicking and screaming from Aldus Persuasion, but today I can’t imagine living without PowerPoint. Here’s to another 20 years!

  12. Shara says:

    I have to use PCs at work, but I would quite happily work at home on a Mac if someone could guarantee that I wouldn’t have to spend hours more than about once a year scouring the Web looking for advice on how to make sure a Microsoft Powerpoint, Word, or Adobe Acrobat file from the office will open up absolutely consistently on both platforms.

    Your team and your colleagues working on the Windows version should make it somewhere between "super-hard" to "next-to-impossible" to generate a file on a modern version of Office on either a Mac or a PC that does not open seamlessly on the other platform without modification of fonts, pictures, movies, sounds, animation,or anything else that a user can conceive of including in a presentation.

    Furthermore, to assist with informing user expectations for compatibility, files generated in all the latest versions of Office should be somehow color coded to show what types of machines and or versions of Word that they are compatible with.  For instance, if a user insists on generating a file on one platform that won’t open properly on the other, that file should show up in a color like orange or red when displayed in the file browser, and a banner at the top of the open window containing the file should be color-coded the same.  For instance, Powerpoint files generated on platform "X" that contain linked objects that are likely to cause trouble when ported or emailed to another computer, even one on the same platform, should be colored red when displayed on any lists or as icons.  Also, Powerpoint files that contain embedded platform-specific file formats (e.g. Windows Media, Quicktime) or that use platform-specific features (e.g. perhaps Visual Basic?) that will allow the file to operate properly on other computers of the same platform, but not on computers of the alternate platform should be coded –say– orange.  Files that are saved such that they are especially backwards-compatible and Mac/PC compatible should be coded–perhaps green–both on the icon and list displays.

    The color coding would thus at least INFORM the user by "banging them over the head" of what their expectations should be for that file’s cross-compatibility, rather than having the user potentially be stranded by surprise after they fly across the country to give the presentation on a computer they do not own, finding out that it does not work because they linked objects in it or created it using platform-specific file formats.  Running a separate compatibility evaluation, as discussed elsewhere, should be an option to diagnose why a file is color-coded, red, orange, or green, or whatever colors are best, but it should be in addition to overt and pervasive labeling of the file’s compatibility by Windows, OS X, and the Office program itself.

    This Mac/PC Powerpoint compability issue occurred at my workplace recently, and it is giving me cold feet about my cherished thought of buying a Mac instead of a PC this month. The thought running through my head is about these Mac vs. PC issues is,  "Do I accept fear or embrace courage?"

  13. Randy says:

    Marcus, I remember the DOS programs.  I think I used Harvard Graphics the most, but it would never quite print the same way it looked on screen.

    Any chance the new PowerPoint:mac 2008 will be able to open password protected files from Windows PowerPoint?  That’s the biggest problem I run into at work.

    Don’t worry about rushing the release, just make it great.  I don’t know anyone who has moved to Office 2007 on Windows, so I don’t have compatibility issues yet.

    Will I be able to edit charts directly in PowerPoint, or will I still have a separate Graph application.  I hate having it run a separate application.

  14. R. Mansfield – You read my mind:

    I want to see the packaging and disk for PowerPoint 1.0

    Email them to me: andred25 (AT) hotmail DOT com

    Interesting part about Claris which is now owned by Apple. Imagine if Apple had purchased Forethought before Microsoft or Microsoft has gotten FileMaker with the acquisition? We probably would not have Access today.

  15. nadyne says:

    R Mansfield – There are some great pictures already online at the following URL:


  16. anonymous says:

    So, why not do a 3D+WPF version? Apple’s Keynote is better.

  17. Russ says:

    I started using PPT in 1989 on a Classic Mac (black and white), I think by then it was in version 2 or 3. I worked at a hospital making 35mm slides for our clinical education department. I must have made several thousand slides while employed there. Now I use PPT to support corporate meetings. I have to say thank you to the PPT team, you have helped pay a big chunk of my mortgage and have been a key element to my business over the past 18 years!

    One comment I would like to make, I’m a dual platform user (Mac/PC) and for years have been forced to use PPT on the PC side because the Mac version has lagged so far behind in features. I would love to see PPT 2008 have complete feature parity with the Windows version. Thanks.

  18. david bull says:

    happy birthday powerpoint! your program has helped me win over many people in my world of work.  I couldn’t live without it!xx

  19. Marcus,

    is there any chance that PowerPoint 2008 will solve the problem of the QuickTime TIFF/Jpeg decompressor: http://www.pptfaq.com/FAQ00534.htm ?

    I was absolutely amazed when the Mac file version check said that everything was OK, and then when opening the file on a PC some images were wrong.

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