Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Getting old software/games running on older hardware.

Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby 0kool » 2018-5-13 @ 18:20

Hey folks,

I'm trying to set up early to mid-90's environment in DOS/3.1x.
Unfortunately I've got into computers at the end of the span and relatively quickly upgraded to Windows 9x.

Some random programs I remember:
DOS - Norton Commander and Norton Utilities, WordPerfect, ARJ, Microsoft Mouse
3.1x - MS Office, Acrobat, Photoshop, PaintShop

Could you please list all the useful or popular applications/utilities etc from the era for both systems (from your personal experience at the time)? Just not the modern stuff, I'm not looking for a lossless audio player for WFWG3.11 or a browser to watch 1080p youtube vids in DOS.

I'll try some of the 90s coverdisks, but most of what is available online dated at least '95-'96 and already comes on CDs for Win9x.

Your contribution is very much appreciated!
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby root42 » 2018-5-13 @ 18:29

I never went anywhere without the DOS Controller (dc.com), a Norton Commander clone by Søren Kragh. Freeware, hard to find a download nowadays. Its advantage was its speed and small size. An extremely efficient little program.
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby root42 » 2018-5-13 @ 18:33

root42 wrote:I never went anywhere without the DOS Controller (dc.com), a Norton Commander clone by Søren Kragh. Freeware, hard to find a download nowadays. Its advantage was its speed and small size. An extremely efficient little program.


Who would've thought: there still are simtel mirrors

https://ftp.sunet.se/mirror/archive/ftp ... /dc-sk.zip
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby BeginnerGuy » 2018-5-13 @ 19:06

Well in place of Norton there is also MS-DOS Shell. It seems to get no mention today but it's what me and my friends used on our family PCs. It was very simple and had rudimentary task switching for programs that could all fit into conventional memory.. good enough for flipping through text files. Worth fooling with if you're after a way to spice up DOS a bit. Granted Norton is far more feature rich.

As for other must have applications, that really depends on your use. The early 90s was still the era of magazines chock full of "office" and utility software but nothing that I would call killer apps that are going to make sitting at your DOS pc much more fun. I was more interested in programming, so my staples were Microsoft C/C++ 6.0 + MASM, Borland Turbo C, QuickBasic, later on DJGPP.. etc.

If you're into toying with music and sound, there are a few great FM trackers still available and Voyetra Sequencer Plus Gold was made free in recent years.

For graphics there was Dpaint (deluxe Paint) and more.

For win 3.11 I really can't remember many staples besides the Microsoft Entertainment Pack games (ski, minesweeper, etc). Paintshop Pro 3.x had a 16 bit windows release IIRC. If you're feeling nostalgic you can still install MIRC and jump on for a chat if you have networking set up. Internet explorer is fun to play with for a few minutes to get google and a few old websites (and this one) to open.

In essence you'll have to tell us what you like to do with your PC for solid suggestions
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby jheronimus » 2018-5-13 @ 19:56

Well, my focus with old machines is gaming, so most of my software are utilities and stuff that is useful for games — not office software or audio players. Here is my 2 cents, though:

Windows 3.11: Microsoft's TCP/IP stack. Total Commander for file management and FTP. WinImage (version 2.0, I think).
DOS: 4DOS (extended DOS prompt) or enhanced doskey.com. Norton Commander. Phil's DOS benchmark pack. Ctmouse+videcdd.sys. NSSI (as a very quick benchmark), AIDA32.
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby McKie1 » 2018-5-14 @ 12:19

Back in the day I was always using pkunzip 2.14g, xtree gold and word perfect 5.1.

Sound files I used trackblaster pro (I think that was what it was called).

Most of the old mpeg files we still have I can’t remember what we used to play them on but the quality was abysmal.

Enjoy the foray :)
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby oeuvre » 2018-5-14 @ 12:54

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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby 0kool » 2018-5-15 @ 20:47

BeginnerGuy wrote:In essence you'll have to tell us what you like to do with your PC for solid suggestions

Hmm.. I'd like to be more precise, however it's not that easy. I think in general I want to cover 3 areas:

- games: certainly, it's the first thing that comes to mind as supposedly the main reason for building an older machine, or so I make myself to believe. So here it's probably mostly about file management, various hardware tests, tweak tools, necessary codecs/libraries etc.

- that old feeling: I have little idea what applications were installed on an average (and not so average) household/office computers prior to win9x. It's certainly the right time to catch up with this mystical stuff I've never experienced before or barely touched.

- simplify and soulify: I've been contemplating about migrating some of my daily tasks and ^flows to those cool PCs I find myself constantly tinkering with far more than I probably should. As I noted before, the goal here is not to browse the internet with old IE or replacing FLACs with OPL3 playlist. I doubt it very much that even such a relatively advanced programs like Photoshop 2 could be in any way convenient, if only for the hassle to move files between machines and low res. Sure, the modern computing is quite different from the 90s - it's extremely heavy on the internet and media. And, a lot of the tools I use are products of the new age by it's core. But I can probably go a looong way with even just a good text editor/office suite. Advanced calculator? Image viewer? Dictionary? Encyclopedia?.. Can I realistically push it any further than a typewriter and still feel cozy about it?

As a side note: recently learnt about win32s and MicroHelp Uninstaller. I don't feel like turning Windows 3.11 into monstrosity with first, sounds quite unnatural while not all that powerful in practice. The ability to uninstall programs in Win3.x could come very handy, though. If anyone had experience with either - please share.

Thanks for the suggestions so far, already singled out a few gems!

oeuvre wrote:I ❤Windows 3.11

..and I ❤HyperTerminal, oeuvre. But then again, who doesn't :cool: ?
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby BeginnerGuy » 2018-5-15 @ 21:17

jheronimus wrote:Well, my focus with old machines is gaming, so most of my software are utilities and stuff that is useful for games — not office software or audio players. Here is my 2 cents, though:

Windows 3.11: Microsoft's TCP/IP stack. Total Commander for file management and FTP. WinImage (version 2.0, I think).
DOS: 4DOS (extended DOS prompt) or enhanced doskey.com. Norton Commander. Phil's DOS benchmark pack. Ctmouse+videcdd.sys. NSSI (as a very quick benchmark), AIDA32.


Wow I totally forgot about 4DOS, that was quite well praised in it's time.

0kool wrote:
BeginnerGuy wrote:In essence you'll have to tell us what you like to do with your PC for solid suggestions

Hmm.. I'd like to be more precise, however it's not that easy. I think in general I want to cover 3 areas:

- games: certainly, it's the first thing that comes to mind as supposedly the main reason for building an older machine, or so I make myself to believe. So here it's probably mostly about file management, various hardware tests, tweak tools, necessary codecs/libraries etc.

- that old feeling: I have little idea what applications were installed on an average (and not so average) household/office computers prior to win9x. It's certainly the right time to catch up with this mystical stuff I've never experienced before or barely touched.

- simplify and soulify: I've been contemplating about migrating some of my daily tasks and ^flows to those cool PCs I find myself constantly tinkering with far more than I probably should. As I noted before, the goal here is not to browse the internet with old IE or replacing FLACs with OPL3 playlist. I doubt it very much that even such a relatively advanced programs like Photoshop 2 could be in any way convenient, if only for the hassle to move files between machines and low res. Sure, the modern computing is quite different from the 90s - it's extremely heavy on the internet and media. And, a lot of the tools I use are products of the new age by it's core. But I can probably go a looong way with even just a good text editor/office suite. Advanced calculator? Image viewer? Dictionary? Encyclopedia?.. Can I realistically push it any further than a typewriter and still feel cozy about it?

As a side note: recently learnt about win32s and MicroHelp Uninstaller. I don't feel like turning Windows 3.11 into monstrosity with first, sounds quite unnatural while not all that powerful in practice. The ability to uninstall programs in Win3.x could come very handy, though. If anyone had experience with either - please share.

Thanks for the suggestions so far, already singled out a few gems!

oeuvre wrote:I ❤Windows 3.11

..and I ❤HyperTerminal, oeuvre. But then again, who doesn't :cool: ?


I do much of my daily tasks on my 486 actually, so that's something we can maybe have some fun chatting about. I use MIRC regularly for hanging out in freenode programming channels, and a few family and friends pop in there to talk to me and think it's funny that I'm on such ancient technology. I use notepad for managing my TODO list and I do mostly all of my computer science related study (writing small test programs) using it. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a nice syntax highlighting text editor for win 3.1 for my programming needs (which are probably outside of your interest).

I have it networked to my Windows 10 PC with no hassle at all, full access to many terabytes of storage. It was as easy as installing the windows TCP/IP software and spending $5 on a 3com etherlink 3 network card. You just have to enable SMB in windows 10 and turn off password protected sharing. From there the "net use" command gets any network drives connected. So using that for the past year I've been working on a game for DOS. I do all the typing on a modern PC in portrait mode with a nice colorful text editor, turn my chair and test it right out on MS-DOS!

Thing is though, to do all that I pretty much just use the stock WFW installation with no frills. The only thing I'd really like to change is to a better graphics card that will give me a bit more resolution.

Which reminds me, if you want the look and feel of Windows 95 (task bar), Grab the program "Calmira" in english, it's really cool: http://www.calmira.de/downloads/index.htm , sure it takes some of the retro feel away but I mess with it from time to time, and would have enjoyed it years ago too!

I have win32s installed on mine, I'm not sure what application I installed it for, maybe it was MIRC? There's really not much to that, it's kind of like KernelEX for Win9x, you just install it and boom you can run select win32 software.
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby 0kool » 2018-5-15 @ 21:42

BeginnerGuy wrote:I do much of my daily tasks on my 486 actually, so that's something we can maybe have some fun chatting about.

Wanted to PM you with this, but can't just yet due to my new account status. Anyways, it feels like congratulations are in order - you now have exactly 486 posts on Vogons! Quite a mark for a 80486 fan!

As for Calmira - I've heard about it, but you already put it quite eloquently - it takes away from the charms way too much. I still might give it a try sometimes.

At this point my PCs are completely offline, but I'm considering plugging it in, at least to the local network.

Yeah, I'm not exactly a coder (except for markdown :lol:). But I'm so going to install QuickBASIC and fool around with it. Who knows what will come out of it, I'm not a "Hello World" guy :lol:.

Sure, I'll look forward to our fun chats!
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby BeginnerGuy » 2018-5-15 @ 22:38

0kool wrote:
BeginnerGuy wrote:I do much of my daily tasks on my 486 actually, so that's something we can maybe have some fun chatting about.

Wanted to PM you with this, but can't just yet due to my new account status. Anyways, it feels like congratulations are in order - you now have exactly 486 posts on Vogons! Quite a mark for a 80486 fan!

As for Calmira - I've heard about it, but you already put it quite eloquently - it takes away from the charms way too much. I still might give it a try sometimes.

At this point my PCs are completely offline, but I'm considering plugging it in, at least to the local network.

Yeah, I'm not exactly a coder (except for markdown :lol:). But I'm so going to install QuickBASIC and fool around with it. Who knows what will come out of it, I'm not a "Hello World" guy :lol:.

Sure, I'll look forward to our fun chats!


LOL, Right when I mentioned the ole 486! Good catch, I'm grinning ear to ear. Unfortunately now I'm going to ruin it :depressed: .

Hey you never know, it may spark an interest in programming at least just as a little side hobby. QuickBasic is a very nice place to start, and much much nicer in my opinion than anything we have today. It's very easy to get it into a graphics mode and has plenty of built in primitives to let you unleash it's power after only studying it for a week or two. At the least it would get you very interested in toying with your retro PC when you're done playing games :blush:

I had mine offline until (like a total idiot) I fried my CF to IDE card. Was having a bad day messing with serial port jumpers and just left it hanging, powered it on against bare metal and it went up in smoke. Having the network is easier as now I can just transfer everything back and forth.

Also, I took a picture of my screen for you before and funny enough I wrote "Hello World". I took it before I saw your post but had to go away for dinner :blush: .

32530674_398465553963392_3575302936659492864_n.jpg
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby chinny22 » 2018-5-17 @ 14:47

Got our first PC around the same time I'd say (1995) and it was upgraded to Win95 end of year just as we got dial up internet as well. School still had Win3.x and what I remember from before the upgrade.

Dos
Qbasic and gorillas
Dos Shell
Both of these were on the "Dos supplemental disk" from memory
Also Xtree Gold and PKzip
But mostly Dos was Games and Norton Utilities.

Win3x

Games
SkiFree, absolute classic
Other Entertainment packs were pretty good. Chips Challenge, Tetris, Luner Lander are my main WIn3x games.

Browsers
Netscape Navigator 3 was still the main browser back then, That interface is instant nostalgia if just browning html off a CD.
IE5 is the last version from MS's side of the fence.

Office
MS Works 3.0 was the popular Office suite shipped with PC's back then
Office 4.3 is the final "proper Office" to support 3x
Word Perfect was still a big player back then as well.

WinZip was the defacto back then but now I use WinRAR.

Programs I used to use but don't bother with now
Paint Shop Pro to look at my "special jpegs"
Acrobat reader (back when it was not a bloated mess)
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Re: Best DOS/3.1x applications from the early 90's?

Postby leileilol » 2018-5-17 @ 22:26

Dos:
Cubic Player (1.6 ONLY, 1.7 jumped the shark)
Deluxe Paint
Pkunzip
Vgacopy
DJGPP
Neopaint
QMODEM
X-Tree Gold

Windows 3.1:
CoolEdit 1.31
Cakewalk Express
Netscape Navigator 3.0 Gold
Paint Shop Pro
WinImage
WS-FTP
Voodoo2s aren't 100mhz stock
Geforce256 isn't released as a beta on New Years '99 under the Quadro brand
386DX vs SX isn't about a missing FPU
DOS gaming isn't a bilinear 320x200 16:10
DOS PCs aren't better than the Macintosh
Old PCs aren't 'aesthetic'
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