Saturday, April 02, 2005

DOS Apps

Before moving on t0 Windows, it may be interesting to review the various DOS apps which were big in the late 80’s early 90’s.

Most users today consider MS Office with Word and Excel to be the standard for business productivity software. Well, it wasn’t always so. In the DOS era, WordPerfect, not Corel owned at the time, and Lotus, also independent, were the standard. There was no real email so Outlook didn’t exist. For a personal organizer, I used Sidekick. (If you know what Sidekick is, you are really old!) Sometime in that period I also implemented a product called Carousel. This actually allowed multiple apps to be loaded under DOS and then be cycled onto the screen, much as a slide projector brings up slides one at a time, thus the name. It really worked quite well but even my associates found it intimidating to install and confusing to use. I don’t remember a single customer that used it.

As for word processing and spreadsheets, the knowledgeable user chose WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3. The MS equivalents were far down the list.

WordPerfect 5.1 was probably the best word processing software ever developed for the DOS OS. I didn’t use it, having no real need for powerful word processing software, but the college students we hired as interns considered it essential. One of its real strengths was printer support. It made printer drivers available for virtually every printer manufactured in the world. In DOS, each app had to have its own printer driver. The OS did not do the job. A universal printer driver for the OS was, perhaps, Windows greatest achievement in the early years.

Lotus was the preferred spreadsheet, though like WordPerfect, I didn’t use it. Many of our customers did. It was so accepted, the early versions of Excel could be set to use Lotus commands. Certainly Triumph of the Nerds credits the availability of Lotus with helping the IBM-PC to become the standard for corporate use. IBM must have been impressed since they bought the company in 1995. Though Lotus Notes may have been more important by then.

The MS application available for DOS that I did use was Works. I still use it. It gives you a simple word processor, now Word, and a simple spreadsheet. Works is considered a home product but that is mainly because it competes with the more expensive MS Office in the business environment. For most small businesses, Works is quite sufficient.

As the DOS era drew to a close, both Lotus and WordPerfect were on top of the mountain. Where they failed, was in adopting to the Windows environment. This was not due to some nefarious scheme on the part of MS. I was an authorized dealer for both products when Windows 3.0 was released. About six months later, I got letters from both informing me that they saw no advantage to moving their products to Windows and were going to continue as DOS applications! Of course a few months later, both were footnotes and MS Office became the defacto standard for productivity software.

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