Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 123 / NOVEMBER 1990 / PAGE 26



What's the XCOPY option that copies only files with the archive attribute set, and resets the bit after copying? If you know the answer to that question, you may already be a DOS expert, but for the rest of us, there's DOS Help! (Flambeaux Software, 1147 East Broadway, Suite 56, Glendale, California 91205; 818-500-0044; $49.95). This excellent hypertext tool makes DOS easy to learn and master. Here's how it works.

DOS Help! can be run either as a stand-alone program or as a TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident program). For stand-alone operation, just type HELP at the command line. You'll be greeted by the program's title screen, followed by a table of contents with entries for DOS Commands, DOS Command Groups, DOS Command Summaries, Glossary, Subject Index, Introduction to DOS, Beginner Command Subset, How to Use DOS Help!, and Exit from Help!. For information on XCOPY, choose DOS Commands from the menu.

Select XCOPY from the list of DOS commands by moving the cursor to the command and pressing Enter (unfortunately, there's no mouse support). You'll be treated to several screens of information on XCOPY with lots of useful examples, including how to use the /M switch, which copies files with the archive bit set and resets the bit after copying. Finding this kind of information is great, but we haven't touched on DOS Help!'s real power yet.

When you're looking at the first screen of XCOPY information, you'll see the phrase This is an external command in bold. Move the cursor to this phrase, press Enter, and you'll be provided with an explanation of external commands.

You can press Esc to return to XCOPY, or you can select system disk—which appears in bold on the first screen—and move from there. It's this hypertext linking that makes DOS Help! so useful (and so enjoyable).

In addition to the hypertext links, each screen offers the choice of quitting, calling a subject index, or returning to the DOS Commands screen.

If you want to call HELP, but you'd like to skip the table of contents and go right to a command explanation, you can simply type HELP followed by the command in question at the DOS prompt. For example, for help on XCOPY, all you'd need to type is HELP XCOPY.

To make DOS Help! memory resident, simply type HELP/X at the command line. DOS Help! will then load into memory, using about 58K of RAM. Press Alt-H and you'll see DOS Help!'s table of contents. To go to the help on a specific command, type it at the DOS command line and press Alt-L. (The Alt-H and Alt-L hot keys can be redefined.)

DOS Help! is a lifesaver, but the help doesn't stop there. For programmers, Flambeaux has another first-class product—TECH Help! ($89.95). TECH Help! works just like DOS Help! but it contains detailed technical information, helpfully divided into three broad categories: DOS, BIOS and Hardware, and Characters and Codes.

The DOS section has discussions and tables of information on DOS interrupt 21h functions, error codes, file attributes, device drivers, DOS versions, DEBUG commands, and the DOS environment.

The section on BIOS and Hardware has a wealth of data on ROM BIOS interrupts and functions; the ROM BIOS data area; CGA, EGA, and VGA video; programming the mouse; EMS; I/O ports; keyboard scan codes; video attributes; and 80x86 opcodes.

In addition, there's data on ASCII codes, special ASCII drawing characters, ANSI escape sequences, and Epson printer codes. A final section features help on using TECH Help! itself.

After mastering the technology to produce these excellent help products, Flambeaux decided to release its Help engine as a stand-alone hypertext authoring system. The resulting program is called xText ($139.95).

xText provides everything you need to create hypertext documentation that works like DOS Help! and TECH Help!

The xText manual (xText is the only one of the Flambeaux products that comes with a written manual) walks you through the creation of a hypertext document. You can indicate hyperlinks with special codes in a plain ASCII text, or you can use the popular word processors Microsoft Word or WordPerfect. xText directly supports their formats.

For consultants and shareware authors, xText is a superb way to distribute documentation. Your documents will be hyperlinked and can be made memory resident. Flambeaux charges no license fees. After you've bought the product, you have unlimited rights to distribute documentation created with it.

For pros and novices alike, DOS Help! is one of the best ways to make DOS do what you want it to. And programmers will find TECH Help! and xText indispensable. All three are highly recommended.