Microsoft just won’t let Clippy die

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It looks like you're digging a shallow grave. Would you like help?
Shockingly, Microsoft’s Clippy has fans. and they’re responsible for bringing it back — in a limited form.
Image: Microsoft

Windows users can’t escape Clippy. The much hated personal assistant is coming back. Fortunately, it’ll be far less prominent than back in 1997. And Mac users won‘t have to see it at all.

Apple has made its share of mistakes over the years. But few of these can compare to Clippy’s irritating attempts to help people using Microsoft Office.

Look who’s back from the grave

World Emoji Day is on July 17, and in preparation Microsoft put up a Tweet that promised to replace Windows’ standard paperclip emoji with Clippy if the post got 20,000 likes.

The post currently has 156,000 likes, so the return of Clippy is apparently inevitable.

This move will only affect Windows computers — Macs will just show a paperclip emoji. That because, when exchanging emojis, all that’s actually transferred are Unicode numbers. The device controls exactly what each emoji looks like.

It looks like you’re criticizing Clippy. Would you like help?

Microsoft made Clippy part of the Windows version of Microsoft Office in 1997. It appeared in the Mac version of the productivity suite in 1998.

The goal of Clippy was to give Microsoft’s software a human face. When someone was using an Office app, Clippy would pop up and make a suggestion. To say that people reacted negatively is an understatement.

I had to deal with Clippy on both Mac and Windows computers. Its suggestions were rarely helpful, and being interrupted was always irritating. It was as welcome as a coworker who keeps popping in to tell you how to do your job — with useless “advice.”

I’m clearly not alone, because Clippy was clipped out of Microsoft Office for over 15 years and many people still have strongly negative opinions about it. But apparently it has fans too. At least 156,000 of them.

Over the decades, Apple has had bendgate and antennagate, the failure of AirPower, and the shaky launch of Apple Maps. But few of these drew as much vituperation as Clippy. And not many people even remember mistakes Apple made in 1997 — but people sure as heck remember Clippy.