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|A component of MS-DOS and IBM PC DOS|
|Included with||MS-DOS 4.0 and 5.0|
|Also available for||MS-DOS 6.0, 6.2 and 6.22 "Supplemental Disk"|
|Replaced by||File Manager, Windows Explorer|
DOS Shell is a file manager, debuted in MS-DOS and IBM PC DOS version 4.0 (June 1988). It was discontinued in MS-DOS version 6.0, but remained part of the "Supplemental Disk" until MS-DOS version 6.22 (the last independent retail version of MS-DOS). The Supplemental Disk could be ordered or could be downloaded through Microsoft's FTP server. DOS Shell was retained in PC DOS until PC DOS 2000.
DOS Shell was one of the first successful attempts to create a basic graphical user interface (GUI) type file manager in DOS, although it is properly referred to as a text user interface (TUI) or Character Oriented Windows (COW) even though graphical modes were available on supported hardware (VGA equipped PCs). It was additionally one of the first GUIs developed by Microsoft, and later inspired the design of Windows. The shell is very much like a DOS version of File Manager found in Windows up to versions 3.11 and NT 3.51, and File Explorer on later versions.
The shell includes common features seen in other file managers such as copying, moving and renaming files as well as the ability to "launch" applications with a double-click. The shell could be run by the command "
DOSSHELL". It had the ability to set simple colours and styles.
The shell also has a help system, "program list", and a "task swapper". Like many modern file managers, it had the ability to display dual hierarchy directory and file lists, i.e. left and right panes, displaying both a list of directory contents and the hierarchical file path to the current working directory. The mouse was supported, however, like any other DOS application, it required an appropriate device driver.
One feature was the ability to list all files on a hard drive in a single alphabetized list along with the path and other attributes. This permitted the user to compare versions of a file in different directories by their attributes and easily spot duplicates.
DOS Shell was incapable of full multitasking. It supported rudimentary task switching; it could switch between programs running in memory, at the cost of performance hit. However, all the running programs had to fit into conventional memory area, as there was no support for paging to disk. (Programs with DOS extenders such as DOS/4GW were immune to this issue as DOS/4GW spared conventional memory from overflow.)
In time, Windows 3.1x, with its own graphical user interface, became much more popular among computer users. Windows was capable of multitasking. System performance was much higher, with complete access to extended memory.