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Need eye-candy/Windows like graphical menu for DOS

Posted on 2002-06-10
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Last Modified: 2012-05-04
I have a tech. cd that I have been working on for the past 3 years as a hobby.  It as a HTML file as an
interface to the programs on the CD in Windows and cool stuff like unattended Windows installs, etc. The CD *is* bootable and I have a text menu for it (I have a snapshot that you  can see here: http://stealth.kirenet.com/~aleinss/supertech.htm, top of the page).
I'm using MS' own menuing commands to setup the menu. However, this has setup a limitation. I can only setup 9 menu entries, that's it.  I would like to make a more structured format such as option 1. Run AV
Software, 2. Run System Information Utilities, etc. and then embed the correct items under these listings.  What I really want is a cool graphical interface that works in DOS that you can pick and click icons to do task.  I would probably have a boot menu that would be
something like this:

1. Plain Text Menu System Interface (failsafe)
2. Graphical Menu System Interface

Option 1 would launch MS' own menu stuff, providing the user with limited capabilities and two would be a pretty graphical menu with icons that would be split into different categories such as Disk Scanning, Antivirus, etc.  I've tried going through some of the
programs here: http://www.simtel.net/pub/msdos/menu/, but the graphics where right down ugly (not to mention the nagware associated with these programs).  So then I thought of using Windows 3.1 as my graphical
menu.  I would just use the program manager and embedded groups as the graphical environment.  I would then modify the PIF for each program, making sure it would run in real mode DOS.  I looked and looked and looked, but I can't find it, but I could swear someone had a project
like this once (running Windows 3.1 straight from a CD).  Of course, a CD is not writable so I would have to setup a RAM drive and such, but what I'm wondering, would Windows 3.1 work this way?  Has anyone attempted such a novelty project?  I figure that Windows 3.1 is a perfect candidate as it will run on a 386 and a
Pentium-4 system.  Oh yeah, that leads to another
question...FAT-32...will Windows 3.1 run with a Windows 98 command.com?  Has to, otherwise the tech
won't be able to see FAT-32 drives.  Another else I can use as a graphical menu?

UPDATE: I tried loading Win 3.1 on a FAT-32 partition, worked first time, then on reboot it told me incompatible DOS version.  I did some digging and found 3xstart.exe (http://www.powerload.fsnet.co.uk/win9x.htm) Looks like it will patch the Windows 98 files to fool Windows 3.1 into working.  Now, Windows 3.1 would be running from X:\, not C:\...so I have to change every every reference from C: to X: in every file, right?
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Question by:Adam Leinss
7 Comments
 
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Accepted Solution

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cookre earned 200 total points
ID: 7069035
What you're making is a utilitarian product for techies.  They're note going to care about fancy graphics or icons - they just want to get the work done quickly.

By sticking with DOS and text, you know you can come up running on any box without having to worry about graphics for odd ball video cards or strange monitors.

To deal with the nine item limitation, just use sub-menus.

1. Install an OS
2. Disk Utilities
3. Drive Utiities
4. Directory Utilities
etc...

Each selection goes to a chunk of code that displays another menu (don't forget a go-back choice).
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Expert Comment

by:SysExpert
ID: 7069876
I agree with cookre on this. SubMenu's are the way to go.
If you want something fancier, then look into any of the free DOS batch file enhancers. There's a ton of them.

zdnet.com, cnet.com, SIMTEL.org

You can also add ANSI graphics if you want.

I hope this helps !
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LVL 22

Author Comment

by:Adam Leinss
ID: 7069934
Well, I have given my CD to other people at work and I want to try to make it as easy to use as possible.  I really like the HTML interface I made: it does make things easier.  The graphical interface is just a challenge: basically, can I make something that is cool and easy to use (yet powerful)?

In terms of SUBMENUs, yes, I will reorganize the text menu to match up with the graphical interface I make.

Again, I'm looking to do this for aesthetic and "wow, isn't that stinking cool?" reason.  There really isn't any functional requirement this fulfills, other than "that's cool man!"
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LVL 22

Expert Comment

by:cookre
ID: 7071675
One wonders if the not insignificant amount of work needed to identify the installed hardware on an unknown box is worth it.  For example, do you want to be able to run on that old Dell Pentium 100 with an on-board Tseng video chip and a SCSI CD player hung off a Future Domain card hooked into who knows which IRQ?

Now, if you're willing to restrict yourself to purely PCI boxes with IDE CD players, hardware discovery is less of a problem, but still rather involved.

But then, in my decrepitude, I've grown to prefer simple functionality without the glitz.
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LVL 22

Author Comment

by:Adam Leinss
ID: 7071810
Yeah, it's just a funny little waste-of-time project I have going. ;)  Here's something I am trying right now:
http://members.cox.net/dos/desktops.htm.  They have Desktop 2.62 there which is really nice.  The graphics could be better, but it's pretty much exactly what I want.  Someone on the news groups suggested FreeDOS.org, so I went there.  Found this: http://www.freedos.org/freedos/software/lsmtable.cgi?dir=gui

Dwin - stinks
Qube - very nice look/interface, but you can't do squat with it
SEAL - buggier than a Nixon room
WinTix - again, nice look, but you can't do anything with it!

Trying to configure Desktop 2.62 right now.  Having to do some work arounds, I'll see if it works in a read-only environment.  I'll keep the question open to see if anyone comes up with anything "cool".
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LVL 22

Author Comment

by:Adam Leinss
ID: 7079092
Read about Desqview/X (http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~bmm/dvx.html) from an old news group thread.  Might try OS/2 2.1 as well.
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ID: 7133399
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