Remember Clippy — or more formally Clippit, the enthusiastic paperclip assistant in Microsoft’s Office Suite? On July 14, 2021, Microsoft tweeted that if a photo of Clippy received 20k likes the company would replace the paperclip emoji in Microsoft 365 with Clippy’s likeness.
To date, the tweet has received more than 171k likes. It’s official: Clippy is receiving the emoji treatment! (Shout out to every generation fueled on a love for nostalgia that helped make this possible.)
Once upon a time, there was a software program called Microsoft Office for Windows. This program was available in Versions 97 to 2003.
Illustrator Kevan J. Atteberry created Clippit, later nicknamed Clippy, as the default Office Assistant in Office 97. Clippy has bushy eyebrows, big, kind eyes, and a grin made possible by its steel wire bent into a looping shape. Atteberry notes on his website that the paperclip helper “still annoys millions of people every day.”
See, Clippy was notorious for popping up on the screen while you were in certain programs like Microsoft Word. The character, often sitting atop a sheet of notebook paper, would identify the task you were doing through its intelligent user interface. Then, Clippy would ask if you needed help. Because, y’know, Clippy’s job is to be an assistant.
You could choose one of the help options available. Or you could pick the option not to seek Clippy’s help, and the paperclip would disappear unless called upon again.
Unpopularity and Fan Resurgence
Clippy wasn’t the only Office Assistant. Other Assistants included a magician named Merlin and a grinning red ball known as The Dot that offered aid to those in need. However, Clippy is often best remembered due to the character’s unpopularity.
Users of Microsoft Office for Windows expressed dislike and annoyance of Clippy. Major media outlets like Time criticized the character’s design. Even high-ranking employees at Microsoft seemed embarrassed by their own quasi brand mascot.
Clippit received a new redesign for Office 2000, but by then it was too late. The feature was turned off in Office XP and the character removed from Office 2007’s debut.
Despite the character’s short shelf life, diehard Clippy fans were determined to get the little guy his gig back at Microsoft. In 2019, Microsoft introduced an animated pack of stickers for Microsoft Teams chat software. These stickers included Clippy in various poses including happily greeting others and sipping coffee.
However, within a day the stickers starring Clippy were killed off by Microsoft. A petition immediately began to circulate to bring back the Clippy sticker messaging pack in the Microsoft Teams forum. Despite receiving 5,248 votes and 935 comments, a member of the Microsoft Teams engineering teams responded that Clippy planned to continue his retirement. However, the teams admin did express that Clippy was flattered to receive this much positive attention.
Clippy’s New Life as an Emoji
Aside from the tweet encouraging fans to like Clippy, we really have Claire Anderson to thank for believing in Clippy. Anderson is an Art Director and Emojiologist for Microsoft. She recently blogged on Medium about why Microsoft was refreshing more than 1800 emoji.
The decision is less about remaining relevant with the changing emoji landscape. Rather, it is the realization that as everyone became a remote worker during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have relied on emojis to evolve with us. These symbols express our thoughts and feelings as we continue to work remote and gradually shift into hybrid workplace models.
Anderson goes on to detail that the new rollout of emojis in Microsoft 365 will be 3D designs instead of 2D. Using the animated Clippy transforms the standard, flat paperclip into one that is full of personality while winking back to Microsoft’s roots.
The newly revamped Clippy, and the rest of the 1800+ redesigned emojis, will begin arriving to Teams and Windows during the 2021 holiday season. Yammer, Outlook, and more Microsoft software properties may anticipate their arrival in 2022.
Welcome back, Clippy! You’ve never looked better as an emoji!