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All about Program Versions

As of 7-6-16

One of the most confusing things in personal computers today is understanding and keeping track of versions.

First, lets define "versions". Then we will discuss the version history of various common programs. Finally we will describe how to determine the version of various programs.

All software is given a version number. When it is first released, it is commonly defined as version 1.0.0. Then when minor revisions are released to correct errors in programming (called "Bugs"), the version numbers are increased to 1.0.01, 1.0.02, then 1.1.0, 1.2.0 and so on. Usually anyone who purchased the version 1.0.0 is given the updates free. Many people avoid the first release of any software and wait for some bugs to be worked out before buying it.

When a major revision is released, it is numbered with the next in the group, such as 2.0.0 and then minor releases follow as 2.1.0, 2.1.01, 2.2.0, etc. The following major revisions increase in number to 3.0, then 4.0, then 5.0, etc.

The original program on personal computers was Microsoft DOS (Disk Operating System) and was the program that made Bill Gates what he is today due to a serious marketing error by IBM. DOS started out with version 1 and the last version used before the advent of Windows was 6.22.

The current basic program, Microsoft Windows has undergone many major changes since it's inception. Most of us old timers started out when Windows was at version 3, but a few even tried the originals versions 1 and 2. I started out when it was version 3.1. The last revision to follow this numbering system was 3.1WFW which meant Windows For Workgroups. Windows 3.1 still used DOS as the underlying operating system. Actually all versions of Windows use DOS as the underlying operating system. Many techs will dispute this but it can be shown by running the "Command Prompt"! Dos language still works.

The confusion really started when Microsoft called the next version Windows 95 after the year of release. The actual version number could still be found in the properties list. See the instructions below to determine actual version number. Windows 95 was the first version to be considered independent of DOS and became the operating system. It still ran DOS operations, but was not dependent on DOS as was the previous 3.1. If you looked under the hood, the numbering system still followed conventional practice and still does today.

To further confuse the issue, Windows 95 became 95A, 95B, 95C and 95D. Then when 95 sounded old, along came Windows 98. Remember that all these versions were for home computers involved with multimedia and gaming. This has always been an inherently unstable operating system. At the same time, Microsoft developed a stable system for business use called Windows NT. This version would not run the games and entertainment software wanted by home users. I remember when NT and 98 were released, Microsoft made the statement that NT could not run over 1000 applications that 98 would.

Now comes the real confusion. The business version of NT was at version 4 and wanted to combine the business and home versions, so they renamed the next version which should have been NT5 to Windows 2000. This did not work for home computers, so Windows 98 upgraded to Windows Millennium (abbreviated Me). The real confusion is seen when all the programs used by home users on 95/98 released 2000 and 2001 versions. Most of these run on Windows Me and 2000, but the home user is fooled into thinking Windows 2000 will run at home. It won't! Microsoft keeps promising to release a home version of Windows 2000 with the stability of the business version, but so far have been unsuccessful.

To top it off, now we have XP, then 7 then 8 now 10. Then to make it worse other programs started adopting the XP designation. So Office XP has nothing to do with Windows XP. Over the years we saw even more confusion.

So much for Windows. Now we will look at the programs that run in Windows. Some programs are supplied with the Windows programs internally. These will be found in the Start menu under Programs, Accessories and include a simple Wordprocessor, communications and graphics program.

Most name brand computers supply preloaded additional software, much of it only temporary expecting you to pay later.

Microsoft Office has undergone as many changes as Windows. The version for Windows 3.1 was Office 4.3 and Word was version 4. About that time, the main wordprocessor was WordPerfect and it was at version 6, so Microsoft just skipped Word 5 and jumped to 6 to look as good as the competitor. Then in keeping with the next release of Windows, the next version of Office was Office 95 and Word was version 7 except they stopped calling it 7 and went to 95.

Next came Office 97 to work with Windows 98 and Word was Word 97, but actually version 8. At this juncture, they couldn't even keep the years consistent. Folks said they had Windows 97 or Word 98 both of which do not exist. Do you begin to see the confusion?

The next confusion is that most programs have home and Pro versions. Click here to see a discussion of the various Office programs.

Now how do we determine what version we have of any program?


In older Windows, just right click on My Computer and choose Properties. The version number is stated on the first page. It may look like the p[ic on the left.

Notice in the figure that this is Windows Me, but the version is 4.90.3000.

You can reach this dialog box from the Control Panel as well from the system icon.
In Windows 10 go to System in Control Panel.

I've ignored Windows 3.1, because only museum curators care anymore and if used in the recommended situation today, the version is unimportant when underwater.

Check you version and make a note of it. Note also the registration numbers and the amount of RAM.

If the registration is not in your name, it can be changed easily.

Later windows have dropped this. Go to Control Panel and click System.

Changing the registration is a nice thing to do if you have purchased a used computer that was originally owned by someone else. You need to edit the registry to do this.

For all other programs, open the program and click on Help, About. See the example for Microsoft Word 2000 below. Notice that it is up to version 9.0.2720 on my release. You may have an earlier or later one. I did cut off the registration number, but you should record yours. Use Belarc Advisor as noted elsewhere in my discussions.

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