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What is a DOS Editor?

By Troy Holmes
Updated May 16, 2024
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Disk Operating System (DOS) is the underlying operating system of Microsoft Windows®. This operating system was created by International Business Machines (IBM) in the early 1980s to manage personal computers. A DOS editor is a text editor that is included with DOS, which manages text-based files within a computer file system.

The DOS editor is a menu-driven editor that does not use a computer mouse. The menus in the editor are configured to work with compound hot keys using the "ALT" key and then a letter of the command. As an example, "Alt-F" is a shortcut key for opening the file menu. Using the editor takes practice but can be learned quickly by using the online help features.

This editor software is freely available with all Windows®-based operating systems. To access this system a user should run the “CMD” program from a Windows®-run prompt. This will open a DOS prompt, which will allow the execution of the DOS editor when the user types the word “EDIT.”

The DOS editor is an older version of editing software. It does not provide the sophisticated features that are widely available on most modern editors. The editor is typically used for manipulating files on a Windows®-based operating system. These are the configuration files that are used to manage the underlying operating system.

Batch files are files that execute commands within an operating system or programming language. These are script-based files that can execute loops of logic. The DOS editor provides a method to edit batch files. These files can be modified and saved on the local file system.

An inexperienced computer owner should be careful when using the DOS editor. This program will allow a user to delete and manipulate critical Windows® files. If these files become corrupted due to an accidental modification, the Windows® operating system may become unusable. This could result in a complete system failure.

There are several DOS commands that can be used within the editor. These commands are written in the form of scripts within the editor file. These scripts can then be executed to perform system administration tasks on the computer.

Before using DOS commands, it is recommended that the computer user review the MS-DOS technical documentation. This documentation provides a good primer on what each command does. Creating a batch executable file is a powerful administration tool that should be used by experienced MS-DOS users. Some DOS commands have the ability to erase the entire operating system. This can cause serious damage to the computer file system.

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Discussion Comments

By Markerrag — On Apr 09, 2014

@Melonlity -- it might appear unsophisticated by today's standards, but that old DOS editor was a revelation when it was released back in 1981. It was rather like a UNIX terminal shell, but was simplified and easier to use.

Easier to use? Try to explain that to a kid who never knew a time when a graphical operating system didn't exist. That DOS editor used to be the main way for the user to interact with the operating system. Things have changed.

By Melonlity — On Apr 08, 2014

The DOS editor appears to lack sophistication because it is incredibly old. How old? It's very similar to what was used to navigate around MS-DOS 1.0 (then called PC-DOS 1.0) that was released with the IBM-PC way on back in 1981. Yes, some commands and functions have been added over the years, but someone who was familiar with DOS 1.0 could find the way around the underlying DOS editor that is bundled with that shiny, new version of Windows 8.1.

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