|From the Kenosha News on 8-7-05
Sometimes old DOS commands come in handy
One of the virtues of modern computer operating systems is their GUI or graphical user interface. The original GUI interface was introduced by Apple computer in 1983; it allows the user to click on icons with a mouse pointer to accomplish common tasks. Today, many users can't remember the days when they had to type in commands to launch programs or copy files. However, DOS (Disk Operating System) commands can still be used on Windows computers, and sometimes, they're the only way to do something.
Back in May, a reader (Bob) wrote asking how to print the list of files in a specific folder. We both thought there must be a way to do it in Windows. After some investigation on my own and asking a colleague or two at work, we all concluded that using a DOS command was the only way to do this!
To access a DOS prompt and DOS commands, click on Start and drag to Run. In Win98 or WinME, type "command"; in Win2000 or WinXP, type "cmd". This will launch a black window with some text and a flashing cursor.
The command that Bob was looking for was DIR > LPT1. The DIR command displays a directory listing of whatever directory you're in. The > (greater than) symbol is a redirector, telling DOS to send its output somewhere other than the screen. LPT1 is the name of the parallel printer port. If you have a USB printer, this command won't work because the output is re-directed to the parallel port. Since DOS is ignorant of USB, we'll need to redirect the output of the DIR command to a file and then print the file as a separate step. To do that we "pipe" the output to a file name that we specify using the vertical line character that you get when you press Shift and the backslash key. For example, DIR | c:\filelist.txt would place the directory list into a file called "filelist.txt" on your C drive. You then open the file in Notepad or Word and print it.
Some other DOS commands include:
CD dirname – change to a directory called dirname
DEL filename.doc – Deletes that file
COPY fileA.doc fileB.doc – Copies a fileA.doc into a new file called fileB.doc
ATTRIB filename.doc – Displays the attributes of a file, e.g. if it's read-only or not
You can also use a "wild card" symbols of asterisk (*, often called "star") or question mark (?) with these commands. These symbols represent any file name or any single character. For example:
DIR *.doc would list all files with a .doc extension, meaning all Word documents.
DEL *.* would delete ALL of the files in the current directory. Be VERY careful with this one!
To get more information on the syntax and options associated with a command, type HELP, then the command name. For example, HELP DIR explains how to properly use the DIR command. Typing H ELP by itself gives you a list of commands.
If you find this terribly daunting, just close the DOS window and don't worry about it. However, if you're feeling brave or a little nostalgic, DOS commands can give you capabilities that Windows might be missing.
By Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 8-7-05