Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 145 / OCTOBER 1992 / PAGE 68

Windows 3.1 (Evaluation)
by Clifton Karnes

Save time and memory and load up on special features with the best version of Windows yet.

If you're using Windows 3.0, upgrading to 3.1 should be the easiest decision you've ever made. If you're not using Windows yet, 3.1 may make you want to come on board. What's so good about 3.1? It's faster, crashes less often, runs DOS programs better, has a first-rate File Manager, comes with its own font technology (TrueType), makes compound documents possible with OLE, and more.

Speed. That's one thing we all want, and 3.1 is much faster than 3.0. There are several reasons for this dramatic speed increase. First, there are new video drivers, including an SVGA driver that's faster than the third-party 16-coior drivers I've seen. Next, hidden inside the system is Fast Disk, an improved 32-bit hard disk' driver that boosts disks ,driven by Western Digital and compatible controllers.

Besides being faster, '3.1 is more robust than 3.0. You can say goodbye to almost all the unrecoverable application errors that plagued 3.0.

The biggest single improvement is the new File Manager. In 3.1, each of File Manager's drive windows is divided into a directory tree on its left side and a window displaying the files in the selected directory on the right. You can open and display multiple drive trees and directories, so copying and moving files between disks is quick and easy. And since this version of File Manager is fully MDI (Multiple Document Interface) compliant, you can minimize drive displays at the bottom of the File Manager window.

One of File Manager's neatest new features is drag-and-drop. To see it work, run Notepad and iconize it on the desktop: Now run File Manager and tile it so the Notepad icon is visible. Click on a text file in File Manager, drag it to the Notepad icon, and release the mouse button. The file is loaded into Notepad.

Drag-and-drop works with most Windows accessories, and it will work with any thirdparty Windows programs that choose to support it.

Perhaps File Manager's best new feature is its speed. As an example, the File Manager in 3.0 rescans a drive every time you switch. Since the new version lets you open a new drive window without closing the current one (by holding down the Shift key and doubleclicking on the drive icon), rescanning isn't necessary.

Support for .DOS programs has been dramatically improved in the new Windows, too. Not only do DOS apps run faster, but 3.1 now manages icons for DOS programs in a consistent way. This means that if you specify an icon for a DOS app in Program Manager, that icon (rather than the homely generic DOS icon) will appear on the desktop when you minimize the program.

Perhaps best of all for DOS applications, Windows 3.1 lets you use your mouse in a windowed DOS app. The mouse response isn't as fast as it is in text-based DOS programs, but it's a super convenience.

Resources should no longer be a problem for anyone. Windows 3.1 provides much more memory for resources, and most people will never run low.

Now there's a local reboot option, which allows you to reboot a single Windows or DOS application without rebooting your whole system. To use it, simply hit Ctrl-AltDelete, and you'll see a screen that offers you the option of pressing Enter to kill the current app, pressing CtrlAlt-Delete again to reboot your system, or pressing Esc to return to Windows. This feature is a real lifesaver.

If you've never gotten along with the LOAD= and RUN= lines of your WIN.INI, you'll be happy to hear that there's a new group called Startup. All the apps you place in this group automatically run when Windows boots. To start a program minimized, simply select that option in the program's properties dialog.

Multimedia sound support is now built into Windows, so if you have a Sound Blaster, Ad Lib, or Roland card, you'll be able to take advantage of applications that use sound hardware. And 3.1 can map sounds to system events.

OLE (Object Linking and. Embedding) is a major enhancement to Windows that lets you actually create compound documents by embedding one application inside another. It's like DDE, but it goes a step beyond. With OLE, not only does the client application get a copy of the server application's data in the client's native format, but it gets a copy in the server's native format, too. This means that if you're using OLE, you can double-click on an embedded document, and the creating application loads with the embedded data in it, ready for editing.

TrueType s an outline font technology, like PostScript, that was developed by Apple, licensed by Microsoft, and incorporated into Windows 3.1. If you don't already have a collection of fonts, then TrueType is great news for you because Windows 3.1 includes a basic collection of 13 high-quality'outline fonts. If you do already have a font manager, such as ATM or Facelift, and an investment in fonts, you may not want to use TrueType.

Now, to the all-new SMARTDrive. SMARTDrive 4.0 is an EXE file. and you run it from your AUTOEXEC.BAT. It automatically loads itself into high memory, unless you tell it not to. And now it caches writes, which gives it a big performance boost. If you're 'nervous about caching writes, you can turn this feature off or just cache writes on selected drives. You can now control SMARTDrive interactively, too, which means you can turn it on or off and adjust its parameters while it's running.

When you run the new SMARTDRV. EXE, you'll probably want to specify the same two parameters that the developers did for SMARTDRV. SYS. For example, if the line in your CONFIG.SYS file says DEVICE--SMARTDRV. SYS 1024 512, you use the line SMARTDRV. EXE 1024 512 in your AUTOEXEC.BAT. SMARTDrive automatically configures itself to cache writes for optimum speed. (If you're a Stacker user, note that this new version of SMARTDrive is Stacker aware and works fine with stacked drives.)

There's more. In addition to all this, Windows 3.1 adds several new utilities and enhances others. One of'the most useful new apps is Character Map, which displays a grid of all the characters available for each font in your system. When you double-click on Character Map (in the Accessones group), you'll see a.character grid with font names listed alphabetically in a dropdown list box

If you click on a character, you'll get an enlarged view of it There are buttons to copy the selected character to the Clipboard and to append groups of characters. Once in the Clipboard, you can paste the character or characters into your document.

There are several enhancements to Control Panel's Desktop module, too. First, there's an animated screen blanker that offers full password protection The screens aren't going to put After Dark and Intermission out of business, but they're all usable. In addition, Desktop now sports several new, attractive wallpaper bitmaps. My favorites are Marble and Slash.

That's Windows 3.1 in a nutshell. My recommendation is simple: If you're a 3.0 user, upgrade! If you've never tried Windows before, this is by far the best version of Windows yet. Give it a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.