Back to Free Stuff

DOS Still Faster Than Windows?

4/95, from Susan Francis,
An article published in this mornings Akron Beacon Journal states that DOS is not rare, BUT using it can be tricky in the future. They gave two web sites to hook up to with problems so I thought I would share these with all the die-hard WP DOS users like myself. The Usenet newsgroup is comp.os.msdos.apps and comp.os.msdos.misc. There is also help on the WWW under DOS command index page at for explanations of the DOS command. AOL users can use the keyword DOS to get to that services forum. Compuserve members can type go MSDOS and prodigy members can jump to the computer BB and from there to the operating system topic. There is also a sparse selection of DOS-based Internet software at a home page
From Mary Morken:
Methinks you are making the death certificate a little too soon for DOS, especially since it is still faster than anything on Windows for MTs. I'm eager for Windows to get up to speed before I switch; even with Dragon I'm still in DOS.

From Robert T. Hill,
I stand by my previous statement that "DOS is dead," just as FORTRAN, COBOL, and CP/M are "dead." Dead does not mean useless, it means outdated and replaced with something better. It's the way the computer world goes, most especially in the 15 years or so since DOS was introduced.

Specifically, Windows does a much better job of internal memory management. It also allows you to have multiple programs running side-by-side in addition to the over-and-under style of PRD+. It also has "virtual memory" management which makes it practical to do several things at once.

As to the question of whether DOS or Windows is faster, it seems to me that the case can be argued either way. In my opinion, they're both adequately fast. It depends on what programs you're running. Word processors like WP 6.1 Windows can, as Thom Foulks elegantly points out in his writings elsewhere, overprocess keyboard input, thereby making it seem that Windows is slow. In fact, it's the input characteristics of the word processor that seem slow because so much is being done in the background. Simple DOS word processors don't overprocess the input.

Windows gets blamed for a lot of problems that some programs cause. It's too bad, because Windows itself is indeed "up to speed."

Is there a single DOS product that compiles glossaries automatically and that does continuations? Do you want to be left on a dormant arm of software development where there is no current, nothing happening? It is true that all innovation is now on Windows.

9/19, Thom Foulks,, Web Page

Thom is a ZDNet product reviewer for Ziff-Davis Interactive,
former PC World columnist and husband of MT, Vi Foulks.

Here is a general observation based on writing reviews of every major word-processing product since the days of the original WordStar, and on the experience of writing a word processor for myself.

Every generation of word processors has provided great enhancements aimed at writing composition (grammar, spellchecking, etc.) or printed output control (form letters, mailmerge, snaking columns, etc.). None of these enhancements has had anything to do with high-speed input. Because so many of these enhancements have had keyboard linkages of some kind (hotkeys, macros), they have left the raw input control of the product highly-overworked.

Hence, it is very easy to visually overtype almost any of the current top-of-line word processors; they eventually catch up with you. But the keystroke involved has gone through so many steps between the typist and the input file/screen, it's easy for a 100-wpm typist to be racing many strokes in front of the product. For high-speed input, it is tough to find anything to like about any of the Windows-based products.

The secondary issue of runtime decoding of keyboard shortcuts (for which PRD linked to WordPerfect was the long-time leader) is also quite difficult to handle in the Windows environment. Windows itself asserts a control over the keyboard, watching for task-switching keystrokes. They again become another processing step for the computer, and programmatically the Windows system does not easily allow RAM storage of short-key-substitutes (as with PRD/WP). More slowdown.

The only Windows-based word processor that has at least taken a step into a (barely) adequate implementation of shortcuts is WinWord 6.x, with its "AutoCorrect" (NOT AutoText) feature. But Word's documentation considers this a spelling corrector, so its potential use for keyboard short cutting is obscured to many users. (I even wrote about this in PC World a couple years back; the topic got buried among the ads.)

I've loaded Word's AutoCorrect with more than 3,000 keyboard shortcuts-- a VERY tedious operation, and not very flexible for later revision, but it works adequately. With it in operation, I could see a screen lag as Word struggled to keep up with me at about 80WPM (on a 486DX2/50). All the characters did finally catch up with me, but the visual lag can be disconcerting for many types of input. (A downside to this, which WinWord users will understand, is that this can cause a humongous NORMAL.DOT file size.)

The key point remains, however, that word processing developers long ago placed a low priority on high-speed input. With the industry itself expecting voice-to-text to be the next major generation of such input, word processors will continue to concern themselves primarily with correcting grammar and format control.

DOS WordPerfect 5.1 and a keystroke short-cut product continues to look like a good longterm choice.

(Uh, in self-defense for any Windows mavens chancing by. I'm quite happy in Win95, on four machines. But it is my wife, Vi, who is an MT, and I recognize well the software requirements of her job.)

MT Daily Homepage