Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 135 / NOVEMBER 1991 / PAGE 68

Battle of the five-os. (upgrading to DOS 5.0)
by Tony Roberts

Microsoft's MS-DOS 5.0 has made its big splash, and many PC users are pondering whether to make the upgrade.

The issue is clouded a bit by Digital Research, which unveiled its DR DOS 5.0 in mid 1990. DR DOS was considered by many to be a sneak preview of what MS-DOS's 5.0 was to become. DR DOS's advantage was that it beat MS-DOS 5.0 to market, but it carried a list price of $199, which scared off more than a few customers.

As the release of Microsoft's long-awaited MS-DOS 5.0 grew near, however, Digital Research sought to increase its market share by announcing a "Toss Your DOS" special. The promotion offered DR DOS 5.0 to upgraders for a more competitive $79, and the offer was eagerly accepted by users anxious to take advantage of DR DOS's memory management capabilities.

So should you upgrade your DOS? Without a doubt. It's time to have the latest and greatest on your system, but whether to go with Digital Research's or Microsoft's product is a tossup.

I latched on the DR DOS several months ago because needed the ability to load device drivers and TSRs into high memory. The goal was to have enough conventional memory left to run my regular DOS applications and Windows without running into memory problems. DR DOS met these needs and provided several pleasant surprises including a command line retriever, extended directory and delete commands, and a full-screen text editor.

Microsoft's new product offers its own array of enhancements, including a command line retriever, full-screen text editor, and undelete utility; but in general, I like DR DOS better than MS-DOS.

Despite my preference, though, I've switched to MS-DOS 5.0 because it seems to work a little better with Windows. Since I earn a good part of my lving using Windows applications, that stability is comforting.

I find that I'm able to load DOS, drivers, and TSRs into high memory more efficiently with MS-DOS, leaving more conventional memory free.

If I didn't run Windows, however, I'd stay with DR DOS, and here's why.

* Enhanced CONFIG.SYS. DR DOS makes it easy to change the system configuration at boot0up because its CONFIG.SYS files support labels, as well as GOTO and ECHO commands. At bootup, you can have the system ask you how you want the system configured, and you can specify on the fly whether any or all of your favorite device drivers should be loaded.

* Powerful XDIR and XDEL commands. DR DOS provides extended directory and delete commands that are more powerful and more flexible than those offered in MS-DOS 5.0. The command XDEL*.TMP /S can delete all the files with a TMP extension anywhere on your hard disk. As the command woeks, the names of all the deleted files are displayed so you can see what has been erased and, if necesary, bring an undelete program to the rescue.

* Handy TREE command. DR DOS has turned this command into something useful. Not only can you get a graphical look at your hard disk's organization, but TREE tells you how many files are in each subdirectory and how much space those files occupy. This is a great help during those disk cleanup sessions. You can tell at a glance which directories are the most likely candidates for saving space.

* Interactive setup. DR DOS provides an interactive setup and configuration program that can be rerun as your needs change. This is a big help to users who dread the thought of editing their CONFIG.SYS files. MS-DOS 5.0 includes an installation program that performs a basic setup, but users are on their own for fine-tuning.

* Flexible command line. DR DOS is generally more flexible on the command line. For example, the XDEL command permits naming of multiple files for deletion, the/P switch can be added to any command to pause the display after each screen is full, wildcards can be used with commands such as TYPE (as in TYPE*.TXT), and the DR DOS RENAME command can be used to move files from one subdirectory to another.

Despite coming in second in some areas, MS-DOS has a decided advantage in other areas. MS-DOS 5.0 now offers an UNDELETE command--an essential program for any computer user. It also included the QuickBASIC interpreter as well as quick FORMAT and UNFORMAT commands.

Both operating systems make help available from the command line, and both offer a DOS shell. Although I don't use shells often, I favor the MS-DOS shell over its DR DOS counterpart, which, with its application and data icons, bears a resemblance to the Atari ST intrface. Also Micosoft's shell permits a limited form of task switching.

So if you're contemplating a DOS upgrade, don't delay. Both Microsoft's and Digital's products offer significant enough improvements over previous DOS versions to justify making the switch.