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What is the Microsoft Office Assistant?

The Microsoft Office Assistant was an interactive animated character, like the iconic Clippy, designed to help users navigate Office software with tips and shortcuts. It personalized the user experience in earlier versions of Office, offering a friendly touch to productivity tasks. Have you ever encountered one of these digital helpers? Share your experiences as we look back at this tech novelty.
J. Beam
J. Beam

The Microsoft Office Assistant is a version of a help tool included in versions of Microsoft Office beginning with Office 97. The office assistant tool was accompanied by an animated icon that would pop up automatically when the software detected the user could use assistance. The default Office Assistant was an animated paperclip who goes by the name of Clippit.

Clippit, the office assistant, is best known for popping up in Word when users would type the words “Dear So-and-so,” and Clippit would observe “It looks like you’re writing letter. Would you like help?” Users then had the option of selecting "help" or “tell me more,” or continuing without help. The Office Assistant also pops up when users attempt to access certain tools for tasks such as creating tables and borders. Clippit has the ability to first appear in shapes such as a star, then reshape into a paperclip. There are also sound effects that accompany Clippit’s actions.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

Though the office assistant can be changed to other animated images, such as a wizard and a jigsaw puzzle, Clippit remains the best-known office assistant because of the default setting. Users of pirated or shared versions of Microsoft Office may not have the option of changing the default Office Assistant to animate as other characters. The Office Assistant in its original form was omitted from the software starting with Microsoft Office 2007 in exchange for a different type of help tool.

The user-friendliness of the Office Assistant is considered to be debated amongst users with some finding it an annoying aspect of the program and others finding it amusing and occasionally helpful. Users have the option of turning the Office Assistant off if they find it distracting or unhelpful. Due to the popularity of the Office Assistant and the debate over the helpfulness of the tool, it has been parodied since shortly after its arrival. Comedians and television writers have mocked Clippit and it has been a recurring theme on radio and television shows alike.

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Discussion Comments


Ah, good ol' Clippit (also known as Clippy). That was one of those ideas from Microsoft that was absolutely terrible. Clippy was almost universally hated and has been ridiculed since it showed up in in Office '97.

You've got to give Microsoft credit -- the company isn't afraid to try new things. Some of those new things turn out to be terrible, but at least the company is trying.

At least Clippy wasn't as annoying as the Metro interface in Windows 8. Ugh. There's another experiment that has been controversial -- some users love it, some hate it. I hate it, but have avoided the Metro interface by downloading a third-party app that gives me a start button (there are a ton of those apps out there -- just search the Internet and find one you like).

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