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Working with MS-DOS


Working with MS-DOS Applications

Although Windows 98 is designed to shield the user from the often-confusing world of the command line, AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS, and memory-management practices, it offers surprisingly rich support for those users who still desire or need to work in the MS-DOS environment. Windows 98 offers extensive control over MS-DOS application environments, allowing you to fine-tune your MS-DOS sessions to optimize performance.

Many MS-DOS applications will run under Windows 98 without any modifications. In some cases, you will need to modify the setup for the application for it to run in Windows. For applications that won't run at all under Windows 98, a special mode helps you run them quickly and easily from within Windows, and then automatically returns you to your Windows session when you're finished.

Installing and Uninstalling MS-DOS Applications

Installing MS-DOS applications is a straightforward procedure. Simply locate and run the installation program for the application. The installation program will create a folder for the application and copy the files to it. In addition, it will perform the additional operating system configuration chores that may be necessary for successful operation. You may have to handle some of the steps yourself. Look for the documentation which details the manual program installation process in the program folder. Often this is a simple text file, labeled README.TXT or INSTALL.TXT.

You can also run the installation program for an MS-DOS application from the MS-DOS prompt. Running the installation program from an MS-DOS prompt is just like doing it on a machine that's running only MS-DOS. Follow these steps to begin:

  1. Open a new MS-DOS session from the Start menu.
  2. At the MS-DOS prompt, enter the command to start the installation program (for example, a:\install.exe) and press Enter.
  3. When the installation program is finished, close the MS-DOS session manually or run the application if you want.

Some MS-DOS applications don't have installation programs at all. This is most common with shareware applications or small utility programs.

To install your application manually, follow these simple steps:

  1. Open a new MS-DOS session from the Start menu.
  2. At the MS-DOS prompt, enter the command to create a folder for your program (for example, md c:\myprog) and press Enter.
  3. Enter the command to copy the program to the new folder, such as xcopy a:\*.* c:\myprog. MS-DOS copies the files to the new folder.

If the files that you want to copy to the new folder include any sub-folders, you must use the following command or the sub-folders will not be copied:
xcopy a:\*.* c:\myprog /s

You may need to alter the preceding routine slightly if your application comes as a compressed archive (such as a ZIP or an ARJ file). Usually all this means is an additional step for decompression once the files are copied.

Configuring Your MS-DOS Application

Your MS-DOS applications are very likely to run fine without any reconfiguration. Preset configurations for the most popular MS-DOS applications are stored in Windows and in many cases these configurations will work perfectly. However, in those cases where your application doesn't run properly (or at all), you can modify many settings using the Properties sheet to control how your MS-DOS application runs. To display the Properties sheet click the Properties button in the toolbar of the MS-DOS window.

General Properties

The General properties page is primarily informational, with minimal controls other than file attributes.

The only real controls exposed in the General properties page are the file attribute settings. These are used mainly to protect documents (by setting the read-only attribute), and you shouldn't alter them unless you have a specific reason.

Program Properties

The Program properties page gives you control over the basic environment your application starts with.

Choosing the Advanced button in the Program properties page opens the Advanced Program Settings dialog box.

If you need to run your application in MS-DOS mode, here's where you can enable it. You can even set up custom CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT values for your session. If you click the Specify A New MS-DOS Configuration option, you can edit the special CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT values right in this dialog box.

If you click the Configuration button, you see a dialog box displaying controls for expanded memory, disk caching, disk access, and command-line editing.

All the settings under the Advanced dialog box should be altered only if your MS-DOS application simply won't run in a standard session with the default settings. For that matter, don't even enable MS-DOS mode unless your application demands it.

Font Properties

The Font properties page is primarily informational, with minimal controls other than file attributes. It works just like the Font list control on the MS-DOS session toolbar.

Memory Properties

The Memory properties page makes simple work of the traditional maze of MS-DOS memory management. With a few mouse clicks, you can configure your application memory precisely as needed.

If your application works without altering these values, do not change them. If your application doesn't work with the default settings, consult the documentation for your application to determine what the appropriate settings are. Then you can alter the values in this dialog box. Proceeding in any other way, unless you have considerable experience with the techniques involved, can severely inhibit the performance of your system.

Screen Properties

The Screen properties page lets you control the appearance of the MS-DOS session.

You may find that certain MS-DOS programs (especially those running in Graphics mode) respond poorly to the video emulation used in windowed mode. If so, try defeating the performance defaults by clearing the Fast ROM Emulation and Dynamic Memory Allocation options. Fast ROM Emulation tells the Windows 98 display driver to mimic the video hardware to help display MS-DOS programs faster. Dynamic Memory Allocation releases display memory to other programs when the MS-DOS session isn't using it. If you experience strange display problems with your MS-DOS programs, try changing these settings. You can also solve poor graphics performance by executing the poorly behaving MS-DOS application in full screen mode.

When a MS-DOS application is executing, you can rapidly toggle it between full screen and window operation by typing Alt+Enter.


Miscellaneous Properties

The Misc properties page covers the remaining configuration items that don't fit under the other categories.