rich menga
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Bring back Earl the Cat!

I reloaded the old IBM StinkPad 390 with Windows 95. Why '95? Because I think '98 sucks. Anyway. I had a really old copy of Microsoft Office 97 "Small Business Edition" lying around (which came with bundled with my Compaq Deskpro 6000 back when it was new). I remembered that you could go download (and still can) different "assistants" directly from Microsoft's download center. So I downloaded all the ones I could find just to check them out.

MS Office's help section sure used to be a lot more entertaining.

Assistants that came with MS Office 97

Clippit

We all remember this guy - and we all remember hating him.

The Dot

I never liked this one too much, but it was better than the paperclip.

The Genius

I liked this one. The Genius wasn't as intrusive as the other characters.

Mother Nature

Mother Nature is an artsy-fartsy character therefore I never liked it.

Power Pup

This is the one I remember most people using. He's very "cartoony" and it's neat that he's a superhero.

Office Logo

Good ol' MS Office logo. Boring.

Will

Will had bad drawing, very few animations and wasn't entertaining at all.

Assistants that were only available by download

F1

F1 also made a later appearance in other versions of Office. Cute at first, but downright freaky looking with that Return to Oz animation style.

Hoverbot

I'm pretty sure this one was an extra download that didn't come with Office. Either way, Hoverbot sucks. Boring and uninspired animations with annoying sound effects.

Kairu

A lot of people didn't believe me when I would tell them Yes, there is a dolphin character for Office until they actually saw it. Kairu is one of the best characters ever made for Office - no doubt about it. Friendly, fishy and fun.

Office Logo

If you thought the first MS Office Logo was boring, this one doesn't move at all! It was created in response to Office 97 users who wanted a character that didn't move - period. Easy enough to create, I guess.

Scribble

Another artsy-fartsy character - yeech. This cat was replaced by another cat "Links" in Office 2000.

Earl

Okay - the best for last: Earl the Cat.

This character seemed to come right out of left field as far as the design department was concerned. Earl was downright hilarious. Sound effects were awesome, animations were extremely good for 256 colors and you really wanted to watch this guy.

Here's a few more stills I captured of Earl.

Microsoft Word - Do you want to save the changes you made to Document1?

Microsoft Word - Do you want to save the changes you made to Document1?

Microsoft Word - Do you want to save the changes you made to Document1?

Microsoft has since completely abandoned all help characters in favor of a more traditional help system in the latest version of MS Office. Granted, it's more useful, streamlined and whatever - but I really do miss these characters sometimes. I mean, sure, those chracters didn't improve productivity whatsoever, but I think that's the whole point. Sometimes you need the fun counterproductive stuff.