We all know Clippy. We all fear Clippy. But what if I told you there was more than Clippy?
If you used Microsoft Word before 2008, then a) ahahahaha I’m sorry and b) you probably encountered Clippit aka Clippy (full name: Clipstopher), the mouthless paperclip with waggling eyebrows known for badgering you while you were trying to finish your book report. The moment he appeared on his little page, you knew you were in for a series of annoying questions in a beige talk balloon. As if that weren’t enough, we had to endure his shape-shifting prop comedy reactions to everything he did until he mercifully turned into a bicycle and rode away.
While he was supposed to help us, it’s safe to say Clippy is responsible for a massive amount of wasted potential. Think of all the countless important books, invitations, or prenup agreements that were abandoned because of that damn paperclip. However, if you were lucky enough to not lose the Windows 97 CD, you had something the rest of us didn’t: options!
Specifically, you had access to the other Microsoft Office Assistants, the ones us basic users could only see previews of. As a kid, I was intrigued. Who were these strange, mysterious helpers, and why weren’t any of them the default? Join me on a journey through the recycling bin of office software past, for a look at the lost souls from deep in the Windows roster. And while there were a whole bunch of cool-looking assistants available with other versions, we’re sticking with the original lineup. With that in mind, let’s take a look and see how each one stacked up compared to the most hated paper fastener of all time.
8. The Dot
I hate this. As much as I dump on Clippy, clearly not having a mouth is an asset because The Dot has one and it never. Stops. SMILING. Trying desperately to replicate that Genie from Aladdin vibe, this disowned hellspawn of the Kool-Aid Man changes into a whole bunch of shapes, all of which are in a shade I call Satan Shoes Red. Its starfish form will give you nightmares. I’d say “kill it”, but fortunately Windows 7 did that for us.
Ranking: Somehow way, way worse than Clippy.
Wither hast thou gone, Will? Even among the hardcore nerds, creepy, clipart Shakespeare doesn’t seem to be remembered very fondly, or really at all: it’s hard to find a trace of him on the internet. It’s a cute idea, I guess, and as an English lit nerd I get the appeal, but I wouldn’t want that thing blinking at me while I was writing my Quantum Leap fanfiction. Someone should at least wipe the jam off of his lips. Out, damned Office Assistant!
Ranking: Only really preferable to The Dot.
Microsoft’s character designers must have had a thing for eyebrows. Emerging from a sliding steel door like a torturer entering your cell, F1, the googly-eyed, crab-legged, weirdly suggestive robot with a purple brain head is easier on the eyes than The Dot but basically just Clippy in a clunkier form. I guess it’s cool to see him pop his head open to reveal a typewriter or connect to the internet via a phone, but he also makes these weird waggling motions that I’m going to have to work to unsee. One plus: if you do hate him, you at least get the chance to watch him explode.
Ranking: About as bad as Clippy, but more visually interesting
5. The Office Logo
What’s that? You’re an Important Business Person and can’t be bothered with any of these cartoon robots or animals? Fine. Here’s the Microsoft Office logo doing stupid 3D tricks and playing Simon with itself. Now you can adjust your Dilbert day calendar and show all your fellow cubicle drones that you took the time to change your assistant to the most boring possible option.
Ranking: True neutral (Clippy is of course chaotic evil)
4. Rocky/Rover/Any other cartoon dog character
Office had multiple dog assistants over the years, dating back to a cartoon named Rover for its short lived OS called (really) Microsoft Bob. Seriously. That’s somehow an even worse name than Lindows. Anyway, the subsequent version of the Obligatory Dog, Rocky, is cute enough and gets up to some fun little cartoon shenanigans, such as using a blowtorch to cut through his chain leash. Mostly he just kind of stared at you, though.
Ranking: Objectively better than Clippy
3. Links the Cat/Scribble
Whoever designed Links obviously had real-life cat experience. Like the actual cats in my non-virtual office, Links’ main activities seem to be sleeping, grooming, staring at you, and shredding pieces of paper. There’s a fun bit where he pulls up the background as if it were a piece of rug, which you know more cats would do if they could.
There was also a really neat cat/collage project named Scribble who desperately deserves her own animated short to this day. Scribble was rad. She could change the patterns on her body and become a postage stamp, but she also did a lot of normal cat stuff. The idea that I had to make do with Clippy when I could have had an adorable sleeping kitty or whimsical Neil Gaiman character in the corner of my screen makes me shudder with regret.
Ranking: Objectively better than Rocky
2. The Genius
Like Will but not shitty, this neat little guy looked like a claymation Einstein and has a bunch of cool moves. He can pull a light bulb out of the air, he’s addicted to coffee just like me, and his camera apparently produces floppy disks, which would have still been pretty cool even in 1997. He could also summon a pneumatic tube inside your computer, proving Ted Stevens’ claim about the internet years before he even made it. Whatever your difficulties in decision-making, I can assure you Microsoft’s are far greater, because they passed on the chance to make this guy their mascot.
Ranking: Light years better than Clippy
1. Mother Nature
How’s this for an assistant: the entire planet. That’s right. Weird sun face aside, this is beautiful, dynamic animation that represents all the majesty of earth, from erupting volcanoes to blooming flowers to doves flapping gently in the whispering breeze. It’s a breathtaking reminder to remember the world we live in, even as we sit at our desks.
Fuck you: you’re getting a paper clip.
Ranking: We were robbed.