Brief (text editor)

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Screenshot of a sample Brief session
Screenshot of a sample Brief session
Original author(s)UnderWare, Inc.
Developer(s)Borland International
Initial release1985; 33 years ago (1985)
Stable release
3.11 / 1992; 26 years ago (1992)
Operating systemMS-DOS, OS/2, Windows
TypeText editor

Brief (stylized BRIEF or B.R.I.E.F., a backronym for Basic Reconfigurable Interactive Editing Facility), is a once-popular programmer's text editor in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was originally released for MS-DOS, then OS/2 and Windows.


Brief was designed and developed by UnderWare Inc, a company founded in Providence, Rhode Island by David Nanian and Michael Strickman, and was published by Solution Systems. UnderWare moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1985. In 1990, UnderWare sold Brief to Solution Systems which released version 3.1.

Solution Systems advertised the $195 Brief as a "Program Editing Breakthrough! / Get 20% More Done".[1] In 1990 Solutions Systems brought in Eric Perkins as technical architect and team lead to port the OS/2 version of Brief to the Windows platform as quickly as possible. The end result was to sell the Solution System assets to the highest bidder. Within 6 months, the team of Eric Perkins, Blake Nelson and Jeff Simpson worked closely with David Nanian and Mike Strickman and ported Brief OS/2 to Windows using an MVC architecture. It was this version that was demonstrated at Spring Comdex 1991 to Borland and others, with Borland later purchasing Brief and the full suite of software tools from Solutions Systems.

Solution Systems closed permanently after the sale to Borland. Brief is no longer sold by Borland.


The original product features contain:

  • A Lisp-like macro language; later, a C-like macro language was added
  • Completely configurable keyboard
  • Template editing and smart indenting for all major micro-compilers
  • Multiple undo/redo
  • Unlimited file size (restricted only by disk space)
  • Program compiling from within Brief, with "go to the next error line" service
  • Support for all major popular compilers
  • User configurations to support any other compiler with menu-driven setup
  • EMS caching for all files and macros
  • Mouse support
  • Complete edit operations
  • Regular expression search and replace
  • Multiple windows, including multiple windows on the same source file
  • Ability to set extremely high key-repeat rates

Brief for Windows features[edit]

  • All the features of Brief for DOS and OS/2
  • The first programmer's editor to make use of the Windows WYSIWYG environment
  • Color coding of language constructs
  • Multitask within Windows environment
  • Full use of Windows memory for caching all files and macros
  • Ability to spawn off compiles to a DOS box without leaving the editor


Some Vim and Emacs packages provide Brief functionality. There was more than one program written to provide Brief-like functionality:


The Brief keyboard layout became popular and was implemented in or emulated by other editors by providing a remapping of the keyboard shortcuts and editor behaviour.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Program Editing Breakthrough!". BYTE (advertisement). March 1983. p. 326. Retrieved 19 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Brief Editor, an incomplete rewrite, ver: 4.50". Retrieved 2008-07-08.
  3. ^ "CRiSP: Brief Compatible Programmers Text Editor". Crisp, Inc. Vital, Inc. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  4. ^ "GRIEF: BRIEF clone". Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  5. ^ "Visual Studio » BRIEF keyboard emulation implemented in VS2010 AddIn (downloadable project)". Mark McGinty.
  6. ^ "Text Editor Emulation". Microsoft. Retrieved 2007-10-12.

External links[edit]