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The operating environment in engineering describes the circumstances surrounding and potentially affecting something that is operating. For example electronic or mechanical equipment may be affected by high temperatures, vibration, dust, and other parameters which comprise the operating environment.
In a computer the operating environment includes temperature and so on affecting circuitry; but in particular the term is often used to describe the non-physical environment in which software runs. This may apply to application software with which users interact, comprising the "look and feel" of the system, its appearance and the things that have to be done to achieve desired results. The term may also apply to system software; e.g., software designed for a Unix environment will do things differently than in a Microsoft Windows environment. Some operating environments for programming purposes are referred as programming environments; e.g., the "UNIX programming environment" for a Unix shell with its look and feel and functionality.
"Operating environment" is not the totality of the functionality and appearance of an operating system.
In the mid 1980s, text-based and graphical user interface operating environments such as IBM TopView, Microsoft Windows, Digital Research's GEM Desktop and Quarterdeck Office Systems's DESQview surrounded DOS operating systems with a shell that turned the user's display into a menu-oriented "desktop" for selecting and running PC applications. These programs were more than simple menu systems—as alternate operating environments they were substitutes for integrated programs such as Framework and Symphony, that allowed switching, windowing and cut-and-paste operations among dedicated applications. These operating environment systems gave users much of the convenience of integrated software without locking them into a single package. Alternative operating environments made TSR pop-up utilities such as Borland Sidekick redundant. Windows provided its own version of these utilities, and placing them under central control could eliminate memory conflicts that RAM-resident utilities create. In later versions, Windows evolved from an operating environment into a complete operating system.
"The environment" and environment variables
Some operating systems have an area of memory called "the environment" which can contain environment variables which tell processes about such matters as where the particular computer system expects temporary files to be stored, i.e., some details of the operating environment.
See also (computing)
- Operating system
- Desktop environment, the graphical user interface to the computer
- Environment variable
- Integrated development environment, a type of computer software that assists computer programmers in developing software
- Runtime environment, a virtual machine state which provides software services for processes or programs while a computer is running
- Operating in a New Environment, PC Magazine, Feb 25, 1986
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