Quiz Yourself: Do you know what every PC user needs to know?
What PC Users Should Know
Basic MS-DOS Literacy
There are a few things that you really need to know when it comes
to working with MS-DOS computer systems. Yes, nearly everyone is
using Windows95/98/2000 now, but this knowledge is still quite necessary.
Windows 3.11, Win95/98/2000, and WinNT or a clever menu system can allow you to
get real work done without ever knowing these fundamentals.
That is both a good thing, and rather unfortunate.
While it is all well and good to get started and be productive
quickly, we maintain that there is a need for you to have some
knowledge about the
computer and the software that makes it run. Otherwise you are
walking a tightrope without a safety net.
This page is much too short to be a tutorial so think of it as a checklist. Make a printout and if
anything on the page is unfamiliar to you, draw a circle around that idea
and do some further research. Do your research in books, online help, web pages, and of course your
computer savvy friends. Computer savvy friends are a great way to do reality
checks to confirm that you have a good handle on what each of the topics below is all about.
Since WindowsNT/95/98/2000 is based on MS-DOS, you need to have this foundation knowledge:
- MS-DOS Concepts
- MS-DOS Commands
To advance beyond the ranks of rank beginner you need to know
the following concepts, and know them well:
Additionally, you should know the difference between a "resident"
command, a "transient" command and a Terminate Stay Resident (TSR)
- Directory Trees:
- Everything you care about on a hard disk is stored in a file.
Files are organized into directories (also called folders).
Directories (folders) can contain sub-directories (sub-folders).
Directories and sub-directories (folders and sub-folders) are organized into an outline or
- Do you know how that tree looks?
- Do you know how that tree works?
- Do you know how to describe the full path name of a file that is three directories down from the "root"?
- Do you know how to copy files between different branches of the tree?
- Do you know how to move files between different branches of the tree?
- Do you know at least two ways to find a specific file on a hard disk?
- File Names:
- Today a the name of a file can be, 250 characters long and it can contain spaces.
- However before Win95, file names were limited to an pattern called 8.3 or filename.ext.
- Even though you don't have to use this format with WinNT or Win95 or Win98 or Win2000; it still affects you.
- You still need to understand the rules of 8.3 MS-DOS file and directory names.
For instance, it is usually a bad idea to have spaces in the name of a file,
although you can now do that. You should understand why many experts feel this way,
even if you decide to use spaces in file names anyway.
- Directory Names:
- As with files, you can now give directories names up to 250 characters long, including spaces.
- It's much better to use 8.3.
- Do you know five reasons why?
- File types:
- Files contain either Data or Programs.
- You need to know a little about the nature of both types of files.
- Data Files are where we store our precious data.
- A simple data file contains just
letters, numbers and the punctuation you'd see on a typewriter.
- Complex data files contain
special computer codes which tell programs like Microsoft Word, or Microsoft Excel special things
about the data in this file, like what words are to be presented as bold orItalic.
- Data files are often specific to one program, but they also can be grouped in categories.
Here are the main data file categories. Do you know what these concepts all mean?
- ASCII Text files
- Web content (HTML) files
- Word Processing Files
- Spreadsheet Files
- Database files
- Graphics files
- Multi-media (sound, movie, animation) files
- Program Files contain the instruction codes that tell a computer do the work that humans want done.
- A small program (ie: FORMAT.COM) can fit in to a single file.
- A large program is usually delivered in pieces. There can be several hundred files which
by themselves do nothing; but together do many wondrous tasks (ie: Microsoft Word).
- File Extensions are the period and 3 characters at the end of a file name.
(ie: MyData.DOC, FORMAT.COM)
- These extensions are very important to the way your computer keeps track of things.
- They identify the type of information or program in each file.
- You need to have a pretty good idea of what the file extension says about the contents of the file,
and what it is saying to your computer.
- Extensions for Data files: See how many of these extensions for data files you can identify by the
program with which they are associated.
.DOC - .DBF - .WKS - .WK1 - .WQ1 - .WPF - .TXT - .ASC - .GIF - .TIF - .JPG - .PSF - .CSV - .PDF - .ZIP - .MOV
- Extensions for Program files: The extensions for program files that can be
directly run by Windows or DOS are: .COM .EXE and .BAT
- Extensions for Program Helper files: Large programs consist of an .EXE file plus one or more
additional files which have instructions which are used "as needed." An example is a screen or printer font.
It is less important that you know what each type of program helper file is about, only that you recognize that
they should not be deleted unless you are removing the entire program, or if you really know what you're doing.
The filename extensions for program helper files include:
.DLL - .OVL - .DDE - .HLP - .DRV - .SCR - .INI - .GRP - .FON - .TTF ..etc
DOS COMMAND LINES:
Even in a Windows environment, you should know something about how MS-DOS does certain things.
MS-DOS has over a hundred commands. Some DOS commands are quite
simple, others have several levels of complexity.
Fortunately you only need to know a few of them. To progress
beyond "beginner" you should MASTER the following commands and the concepts they describe:
To look at files you must MASTER these commands:
To manage your hard disk and use floppy disks you must MASTER
these concepts and commands. It is true that these functions can be
accomplished inside of Windows programs, but it is still quite valuable to
know the underlying MS-DOS concepts
COPY, XCOPY, MOVE, FORMAT, SYS, FDISK, CHKDSK, RENAME, DELETE, DEL
To move between directories (folders), to make and remove directories (folders);
or to use files and programs that are stored in directories (folders),
you need to understand:
CD (Also called CHDIR)
MD (Also called MKDIR)
RD (Also called RMDIR)
While not actually essential, it is also a big help to understand:
If you want to be a true intermediate level user, master the
following dos commands:
The users of the world have upgraded the basic DOS commands with
programs that do the same jobs but better. Here are my favorites,
and if you need a copy, link here.
SD, DDIR, STREE, Qedit, QFiler
There are some very important files you should understand, although
you need not understand them perfectly. That is to say, if you
simply have an idea of what these files are and do, you have a leg
up on 80% of the PC users out there:
AUTOEXEC.BAT, CONFIG.SYS, IO.SYS, MSDOS.SYS,
DBLSPACE.SYS, DRVSPACE.SYS, WIN.INI, SYSTEM.INI.
If you have questions or comments, please contact:|
P. O. Box 6500
Portland Oregon 97228-6500