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August 16, 2013

A Clutch of Handy DOS Utilities

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

My trip down memory lane last week, with my foray into the DOSBox program to retrieve an old WordPerfect document, made me think about my typical DOS computer set up. It especially reminded me of all the utilities I used to make life bearable in that stark, command line environment.

You don’t think about handy utilities when you use today’s computers. Most of the handy tools and conveniences you take for granted today were once add-ons and extras you had to scrounge. DOS was a spartan operating system. And that’s “spartan” as in stark, bare, minimal, sleeping-on-the-floor, not the King Leonidas type of Spartan.

While DOS had a raft of tools, most of the things you did in a text-based operating system required more oomph. I kept those programs in the UTIL directory, where UTIL stood for Utilities. Many of the programs were things I collected from friends — remember that the Internet was yet to be invented. Some items were shareware I actually paid for. A bulk of the programs, however, were things I had to write myself.

Here’s a list of the major utilities I felt were necessary to survive the text-based environment of DOS:

ADDLF. A program I wrote. It adds linefeed characters to files copied from the Mac/Unix. Or it removes them. I forget, but it’s a text filter I wrote to fix the problem when DOS has to deal with text files from other operating systems.

DUMP. Another utility I wrote, basically a copy of the handy Unix hexdump utility.

FFF. Another one of mine, the Find File Fast utility, which locates a file by name anywhere on the storage system. The utility doesn’t work any longer because of the huge size of today’s hard drives. I could fix that — if I found the original code.

FINDDUPE. A utility I got from PC Magazine, I believe. It locates duplicate copies of files on the same file system. I believe it only compares filenames, not size or contents. It’s a handy tool to have, even for a GUI environment, because duplicate files tend to litter any storage system.

GLOBAL. I wrote this one for one of my DOS books back in the 1990s. It takes a command and issues that command in every directory on the hard drive, or just in the local directory or tree. I forget what motivated the need for that utility, but I do remember using it quite a bit.

GREET. A silly little program that says “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good evening,” followed by your user name. It’s the last program I ran in AUTOEXEC.BAT to say “Hello” to me when I start the computer. (In Unix, my .bash_profile file still does the same thing.)

GREP. A DOS version of the classic Unix text-searching utility.

LIST. Another file viewer. I remember this as Vern Buerg’s List program, one of the first Shareware programs out there. Similar to the less utility in Unix used for paging through text files.

NOW. I wrote this based on an old AIX utility. It gives the time of day, the moon phase, and other trivial bits about “now.” I re-wrote this DOS version for my Mac a few years back.

Q. The Quick Editor. Very handy. Everyone needs a text editor and this one was one of the best DOS quick text editors.

I could mention a few more interesting, scattered utilities I either wrote or collected. Most of them are duplicates of what Unix offers, such as du and diff.

Next week: I write about all the silly little Unix utilities I’ve written. Yep, I’m still a command line junkie.


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