So while out today I found a Windows RT Surface for $25

I had to pay another $15 for the charger.  I should have run away, but I’m a sucker.

Yes, there are basically NO apps, but thanks to this little guide

QuakeWorld on Windows RT

I was able to port over some trivial stuff, the usual things like hello world, Infocom Interpreter, a f2c build of Dungeon, then I went with something I’d been messing around an old GDI driver for WinQuake that builds with the NT 3.5 SDK (finally got it!).  So with a few minor tweeks here it is cross compiled from my x86_64 to the surface.

Last time I talked about the Surface was nearly 6 years ago…  The platform’s fate was pretty much sealed on day one.  With no open Win32 API it shunned traditional devs, and with some completely new and insane model it was such a hurdle for new devs, why put so much effort into such an old tired company like Microsoft?

I figured for the price of a good lunch it’d be a fun toy.

Too bad the speakers don’t work though.

I know the window on Windows 8.1 apps is closing soon.  I should put something together for the dead platform.  Maybe for phone too.  But for tonight, it was kinda fun doing a copy/paste attack to then run unsigned EXE’s on the device.

I might upload the tool chain later, but at the moment getting Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate is a breeze.

Reading older SQL Server 6.5 books online

So as part of my fun day job stuff involves moving data around and from time to time, there is that proverbial server in the corner (in this case it’s even physical!) and in this case I needed to move stuff into an old version of SQL Server as I needed to remember how to use the older BCP syntax.  Obviously I guess I could have just installed 6.5 into a VM, did the SQL transfer, then the whole upgrade to 7/2000 and up to something modern, but per requirements I needed to check data in the middle, so the quickest way is to just BCP it out into something human readable, and BCP it into something new.

SQL Server Books Online on Windows 10

So it turns out the books are easily copied off the install CD, and just run the viewer application directly.  And even better the ‘massive and optional’ install of all the online documentation turns out to be absolutely trivial by modern standards.

08/27/2018  12:33 PM           457,780 SQLBOOKS.AUX
08/27/2018  12:33 PM         1,163,078 SQLBOOKS.CAC
08/27/2018  01:33 PM                28 SQLBOOKS.flt
08/27/2018  01:33 PM                79 SQLBOOKS.hst
08/27/2018  12:33 PM               766 SQLBOOKS.ICO
08/27/2018  12:33 PM           238,252 SQLBOOKS.IDX
08/27/2018  12:33 PM           118,805 SQLBOOKS.KWD
08/27/2018  12:33 PM        10,193,094 SQLBOOKS.MVB
               8 File(s)     12,171,882 bytes

As you can see it’s really not that much in the world of terabyte disks.  Anyways just copy out all the SQLBOOKS* files and then from the binn directory grab the INFOVIEW program.  To view the books just run “INFOVIEW SQLBOOKS.MVB” and you’ll be set!

Some of the other older tools like Visual C++ 4.x also use this InfoViewer format, and you can copy all the other associated files, in the off chance you want to keep this ancient stuff handy.

WineVDM 0.5.0 released!

This version has MANY issues fixed, and is capable of running more and more Win16 software on Win64 based OS’s.

Printing on paper!

One of the more exciting things is that as long as I do a print setup first, I can actually print on a new printer from MS Word 2.0c!

You can download it from the releases page here:

https://github.com/otya128/winevdm/releases/tag/v0.5.0

MSDN from October 1994

I picked this 20 disc set recently and ugh the cringe is just… insane.  And yes, that is Bill Nye

 

STUDS from Microsoft .
(Video in MPEG-1/Audio MPEG-2 care of JSMpeg).

I had this ages ago, although I couldn't remember if the NT 3.5 SDK/DDK had shown up at this point, but it's only the Japanese version in this set.  Since I'm having such a PITA in tracking down a 3.5 set, and I'm not sitting on this, I may as well archive it.

Yes, I had to rip 20 of these!

So you too can find the early Video for Windows, and all kinds of other things from the mid '90's on archive.org.

Or Wallpapers like this 'puppy' from the Japanese version of Windows 3.1

https://archive.org/details/MSDNOctober1994

Excel Working Model

While messing around with Windows/386 and talking to others going through their old stuff, I’d forgotten that in the box was a working model of Excel. Since I only have the physical diskettes for 2.03, I did dump the disks for 2.11 when I had that.

Envelope with the demo

At this time in history the big spreadsheet that defined the PC was 1-2-3 which took the spreadsheet mantle away from the CP/M spreadsheet who in turn took it away from the progenitor VisiCalc on the Apple II.  And this was the chance to define the new spreadsheet for a whole new platform.  

Excel started out on the Macintosh, but with version 2 it was time to come to the PC for the new and exciting Windows 2 platoform.  And to get people to try it out the key was free working demos.

Automated demo

I thought it was interesting that it comes with a demo showing off the ability to take data from several spreadsheets and make a 3rd with data.  Oh what an exciting world 1989 was!

Oddly enough I couldn’t directly import text (csv) data into XL, but I could use Excel 3 to create a version 2 xls with my current top blog stats and then create some graphs.

So first, here is from the blog stats package wp-statistics:

wp-stats
Chart in Excel 2

And there we go in Excel 2.  Since I have Excel 3, here is it running under WineVDM on Windows 10:

Excel 3

Obviously the higer resolution helps for moving stuff around.  And the legend doesn’t resize in either, but in Excel 3’s larger display it and move stuff around.

Needless to say this stuff is down right primative in 2018, but it’s always fun to check out ‘professional’ tools from 30 years ago.

Windows/386 v2.0(3)

Unknown disk on Ebay…

I stumbled onto these three disks, seemingly out of place in history.  Windows/386 version 2.0 is a strange one in that it shipped to OEM’s in late 1987, making it & Xenix part of the initial 386 wave of Operating Systems/Environments and beating out not only the OS/2 launch in 1988, but taking advantage of the 80386’s v86 mode, something that OS/2 wouldn’t be able to do in a shipping product until 1992. 

This version itself appears to be a retail version of Windows/386 lacking any clear OEM identification that was so prevalent for the era.  Indeed setting it up it offers a few interesting platforms:

Getting this to run was a little bit of a challenge as much as I prefer Qemu, these older 2.0x versions of Windows/386 have a BIOS/disk incompatibility with the hypervisor resulting in errors reading the hard disk.  Although PCem/86Box have no such issues.  I think it’ll run off floppy/CD-ROM/Network without any issue though.

Windows/386 v2.03

Once installed it reveals itself to be version 2.03 of all things.  While I was hoping for some kind of retail version of 2.00/2.01 this appears as close as it may get as it has more in common with the PCjs version of 2.01 (which you can try live on his site!)

The PCjs version of 2.03 has 138 setup files (not counting the PIFs), compared to the eBay’s 141, while the PCjs 2.01 has 59 files.

That said, well it’s Windows/386 mostly from 1987 with slightly updated EGA/CGA VMM drivers from early 1988 that just didn’t quite make the cut.  To me what is confusing, is that it identifies as 2.03 while it’s closer to 2.01 in file count and functionality, unlike 2.03 it really ought to have been a 2.02, if there even was such a thing.

Windows/386 2.03 in CGA

Otherwise it’s really not all that interesting short of the timestamp.  It’ll run on CGA/EGA *IF* you have the proper adapter in place, although VGA is compatible, the environment will detect that it’s not actually the proper card and refuse to run.  I tried to put in the 2.01 CGA/EGA drivers, but that resulted in an OS version mismatch (I didn’t check if 2.01 was locked to the Compaq OEM of MS-DOS)

No mixing drivers!

I installed the infamous pair Word & Excel.  Despite Word 1.1a demanding at least Windows 2.11, it appears to run okay.  Excel 2.1d loaded without complaining.  There isn’t very much convential memory for either, but they both can use expanded memory, which the hypervisor can create and share out without any emm386 or any equivalent driver.  I can only imagine the incompatibles of trying to balance these drivers at the time, and how much the coming DPMI specification was needed.

Memory trouble in Windows 2.x

 And as the old saying goes the three top problems in Windows version 2 is memory, memory and memory.  Trying to run anything graphical will exhaust convential ram, forcing you to single task anything graphical which kind of defeats the whole point of Windows.  You go from this:

BattleTech CGA in a Window

To this:

Windows is out of memory!

Oh well it’s 1987, and users were kind of used to being disappointed as such.  It’s really no wonder why Windows 3.0 became the smash it it was.

And of course you can't talk about Windows/386 without this gem. (Video in MPEG-1/Audio MPEG-2 care of JSMpeg).

Re-enabling WinHelp on Windows 10

There was a shift years ago from the old help system that has it’s roots going back to Windows 3.0, and was certainly one of the killer features of Windows 3.0, the hyperlinked and searchable help files.  They were a form of compiled RTF files, and could also embed image resources, and later audio & video with the evolution of Windows.  This allowed for a platform for early multimedia encylopedias and other refrence books of sorts.

Starting with Windows Vista, however the WinHelp engine was being retired out for a CHM or compiled HTML help engine.  And for a whlie there optional updates and later downloads to re-enable WinHelp.  However starting with Windows 10 the downloads no longer work.

All is not lost however, if you copy any of the 32bit WinHelp programs from NT 3.1 onward it will still function on Windows 10.  And thanks to this great post on TenForums, you can re-enable the hook so that Windows 10 will integrate again with WinHelp.

@echo off
set crtpth=%CD%
takeown /f "%windir%\winhlp32.exe" >nul
icacls "%windir%\winhlp32.exe" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F >nul
copy /y "%crtpth%\winhlp32.exe" %windir%
icacls "%windir%\winhlp32.exe" /setowner "NT Service\TrustedInstaller" >nul
echo.
echo Done.
echo.
echo Press any key to Exit
pause >nul

WinHelp from Windows NT 3.1 refresh on Windows 10

And there we go, now I can load obsolete refrence docs from great old programs like Visual C++ 1.10 for Windows NT!

Naturally Microsoft removed all this stuff as it was a security risk, in that they apparently never revamped or updated it, so yeah it may be another infection vector.

A week with the Microsoft Lumia 950

Lumia 950

I’m a sucker for old / obsolete junk.  I was looking through an electronic market, and was near some used cellphone vendors and I saw this little gem, the Microsoft (Nokia)  Lumia 950.  I used to have a Windows 8 phone back in 2013, I picked it up in China on my accidental trip, the Huawei Ascend W1, which Huawei quickly dropped and distanced itself from Microsoft as a sign of the impending failure of Windows Phone.  It was a barely serviceable phone, the music subscription service would frequently corrupt downloaded audio tracks constantly requiring me to reset the phone, and re-download over and over.  Other than being part of the launch of the NT kernel on a phone it really wasn’t that great of an experience, but it was a budget phone so my expectations were pretty low.

So I found this 950 for $400 Hong Kong, or about $50 USD.  So yeah I thought it’d be a fun toy to play with, even though Microsoft had finally conceded defeat in the mobile space and pulled further development of Windows 10 based Windows Phone platform.  Again this isn’t too surprising, Android simply dominates the world outside of the USA/Western Europe, while Apple IOS is still a profitable and comfortable #2 world wide.  There simply is no room for a #3 mobile platform.

So why would I even care about this obsolete phone? Simple it’s the greatest feature never really touted or pushed, It’s simply called Continuum.  Simply put, docking the phone into a USB + Power + HDMI dock allows the phone to transform into a (limited) desktop.

Lumia 950 with Continuum

I know for most people it’d be “just get a real computer” but I have to say that this is one of those opportunities blown things in the fun world of corporate IT.  You see many of us ‘desktop’ users have been reduced to glorified mainframe users, where our desktops are actually just access ports into products like VMWare VDI, where we no longer have VPN access in this brave new world, and on our local machines all we have if Microsoft Office, all 3rd party installations are blocked by GPOs.  And this is where a corporate phone like the HP x3, Microsoft 950/950xl simply shines, as now we can dock and have that VDI terminal, we still can run office from the phone, and better we can unplug and take the phone with us on the go.  I have no doubt that this was instead targeted to executive users, numbering in the tens instead of the entire back office in the tens of thousands.

Well ok that’s all cool, but how does it function as a phone?  I’ve taken call on it, and yeah it was OK.  Looking at the hardware specs from AnTuTu gives you some idea of the class of hardware for this vintage October 2015 handset.

Lumia 950 Specs

And how does it hold up?  Well as luck has it I managed to scrounge up some other models, and put the numbers together:

From left to right, the Samsung Galaxy S8+, The Microsoft Lumia 950, The Nokia Lumia 1520, and a Microsoft Lumia 535.

Three years is a LONG time in the cellphone market, and comparing a high end model to a mid range at best is just not fare, although if anything it really goes to show how 3D performance has picked up.   One fun thing is that since the AnTuTu benchmark is a Windows Universal application I can run it on my vintage 2010 MacPro and see how it compares!

And in this case a circa 2010 Xeon with a Nvidia 1030 crushes cellphones.  Even though it weighs significantly more.

And then there is the apps.  And the complete lack of.  Since I go between Hong Kong & China the lack of WeChat makes Windows Phone 100% useless and reduces me to a feature phone with a nice camera.  Obviously Microsoft Office works nice on here, but it also runs on Android & IOS just as well.  I used it for work, and it was okay for me, but the lack of anything fun besides Minecraft was well.. sad.

There was an Uber application, however it’s been terminated, and instead redirects you to use a web page instead.  I was lucky in that I already knew where I was, and where I wanted to go, but the web interface to Uber is poor at best.  Looking around the map, or trying to pick locations on the web interface is just an all around terrible experence.

Naturally there are NO Google applications for the Windows Phone.  So you can only view YouTube via Edge, which actually works surprisingly well.  Even on a lowly 535 that really was only hampered by the tiny screen.  Speaking of Google the Mail/Outlook program on the phone reads Gmail just fine.

Another must have application for me is Google translate, which Microsoft certainly had no answer back in 2013, however there is now Microsoft Translator however it does NOT currently support OCR of Asian languages.  Which is a really big disapointment as the quality of text translations felt better with the Microsoft app.  That said, it is now available for Android and IOS, which goes to show that Microsoft really has no choice but to fully commit to abandoning their own platform.

There is one thing to be said about having next to no applications which is it is very free of distractions, and gave me more moments to looking around at the world, instead of staring into a tiny screen.  For those who care, here are some pictures from the 950.

It’s always interesting when a major player falters and misses out on a new platform setting themselves up for obsolescence.  And doubling down by not chasing the business market harder instead being happy to fade into irrelevance.  Microsoft has done it’s best to take the success of crushing most midrange to small range UNIX with Windows NT, but the lawsuits against Linux have in the long term set them up to fail on their own island.  Just as they have lost the mindset of generations of developers and even with their purchase of github in an attempt to stay relevent will be any indication if they really are going to long term exit the desktop/server market and become a cloud services company first, and a language developer second.

The desktop is dead, long live mobile.

Windows 10 ARM64 on QEMU

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 for ARM64 CPUs and this time, unlike Windows RT fiasco, there will be a full desktop app support including a dynamic binary translator to allow running existing x86 apps on ARM CPU, much like FX!32 on Alpha NT or Rosetta on Mac OS X.

Latest Visual Studio updates now bring official ARM/ARM64 support for Desktop Apps, little hidden, but here is how to enable it.

Being able to compile Windows ARM apps, I wanted to try to actually run them, but … on what exactly? There are some developer evaluation boards. Apparently someone managed to run it on Raspberry PI. Most importantly however you can run Windows 10 ARM64 on QEMU. This is some serious Fun With Virtualization!

Windows 10 ARM64 running on QEMU

I’m not claiming to be the first. Clever people have already done it. I just wanted to make it little easier for the lazier of us. Here is how.

Follow the link above but skip the shady UUP business in step #3 and download ready made iso instead. You can google the iso image from windows.cmd and it will take you to this link. You need the rest of the files like UEFI firmware and virtio drivers.

For the even more impatient here is a ready to run image with Windows pre-installed. Because QEMU now comes with DLL HELL I’m not including it in the archive. You will have to install it separately.

Go have fun and port some apps to ARM64 with free community edition of Visual Studio. I’m going to start with Aclock 🙂

Wanted: Console Text Editor for Windows

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

Since 2012 or so Microsoft is pushing concept of running Windows Server headless without GUI and administering everything through PowerShell. I remember sitting through countless TechEd / Ignite sessions year after year and all I could see were blue PowerShell command prompts everywhere. No more wizards and forms, MMC and GUI based administration is suddenly thing of a past. Just take a look at Server Core, WinPE, Nano, PS Remoting, Windows SSH server, Recovery Console and Emergency Management Services. Even System Center is a front end for PowerShell. Nowadays everything seems to be text mode.

This overall is good news and great improvement since previous generations of Windows, but what if you need to create or edit a PowerShell, CMD script or some config file?

Oooops, looks like you are screwed. Seems that Redmond forgot to include most crucial tool in sysadmin’s job – a simple text mode editor. WTF Microsoft?

So, are there any 3rd party alternatives? Yes, and there are and quite a lot of them! Unfortunately none are perfect and most are old and unmaintained. This article aims to be a grand tour of whatever is available out there.

Note that throughout the article I will be repeatedly referring to a “portable” editor, that for me means single .exe file that can be carried around on a USB pen drive or network share. I also cry a lot about 64-bit Windows builds because I work a lot in WinPE and other environments where syswow64 is not available. 

First lets start with most obvious choices well known through intertubes. If you search for a Windows Console Editor VIM and Emacs will naturally pop up first.These editors don’t need any introduction or praising. I use VIM every day and Emacs every now and then. These two had ports to Windows for as long as I can remember and in terms of quality and stability definitely up top. The problem is that both are completely foreign and just plain unusable to a typical Windows user and learning curve is pretty steep. Also portability suffers a lot at least for Emacs. Both editors come with hundreds of supporting files and are massive in size. Emacs.exe binary is whopping 83 MB in size and the zip file contains two of them just in case. Whole unpacked folder is 400 MB.

Emacs on Windows Console

VIM is fortunately much much better you can extract single vim.exe binary from the package and use it without much complaints.

VIM on Windows Console

When talking about about VI and Emacs hard not to mention some more historical versions. Emacs’ little brother MicroEmacs has been available for Windows since earliest days. I’m not going to attempt to link to any particular one since there are so many flavors.

MicroEmacs

VIM little brother VI also comes in different shapes and forms. Lets take look at a few.

Elvis

Elvis on Windows

XVI

XVI on Windows

Stevie is a very special case. Rumor has it, this editor played crucial role in development of Windows NT itself or has been used since earliest days of NT as part of the private SDK. If you could ever look at Windows source code I’d bet you could probably find it buried inside. Because it was ported by folks at Redmond the quality should be pretty good. Unfortunately README states “this is an incomplete VI that has not been fully tested. Use at your own risk.”. For a historical note according to Wikipedia, Stevie port to Amiga has been used by Bram Moolenaar as a base source code for VIM.

Stevie for Windows aka NT VI

One particularly interesting case is VI editor from Watcom compiler suite. It has very nice TUI known from MS-DOS editors, syntax highlighting and online help. One of nicest versions of VI available for Windows. Small portable and just all around handy editor. This is probably my main to go text editor when working on WinPE or Server Core. Unfortunately not very well known. I hope it can gain some popularity it deserves.

OpenWatcom VI Editor

Thanks to Federico Bianchi just learned that there is a BusbyBox port to Windows having both 32bit and 64bit builds, 100% portable as just a single exe file! Most importantly it contains a working vi editor that understands window resizing and Win32 paths. I’m going to be keeping this one around. Awesome job Busybox! As a last thought I wish they also included Nano.

BusyBox Win32 VI Editor

I don’t want this article to be all about VI and Emacs clones. Let this nice color menus be a segue to more native Windows / DOS editors at least departing from hardcore keystrokes and Unix.

For a change in theme lets look at SemWare TSE Pro, the editor that originally started as QEDIT for DOS and OS/2. It has most advanced features one could ever imagine for a text mode editor. Including resizable windows, hex editor, macros and spell checker. I really wish I could use it in everyday’s life. Unfortunately TSE has some drawbacks, it lacks portable version and install is little cumbersome. Currently no x64 build but the author is working on it. TSE is not free, the license is $45 but it allows to install on as many machines as you need.

SemWare TSE Pro

Next one up is Brief. It used to be very popular in it’s own time and sparked quite bit of following as there are numerous of editors being “brief style”. It’s a nice and small console based text editor. It comes in two versions basic (free) and professional (paid). The pro version supports splitting in to multiple windows regexp and unicode. Unfortunately it runs at $120 per user and there is no 64bit build or a portable edition.

Brief

There also is an open source clone of Brief called GRIEF. Flipping through the manual it has very impressive set of features including $120 windowing feature and macros. Unfortunately it’s rather unportable due to large amount of dll and other files. 64bit build could probably be made if someone wanted.

GRIEF free Brief Clone

As we talk about less costly options there is Kinesics Text Editor aka KIT. It’s more well known if you search on google, completely free and after installing you can find and a x64 binary file! This makes it somewhat portable and able to run in WinPE for instance. Until recently the editor did not have 64bit version so I did not have chance to use it much in practice but the TUI appears to have a well rounded easy to use (F1 or right mouse click brings menus). It does’t seem to have any advanced features but it’s very stable and actively maintained. And frankly this is what matters for editing on the console. It may actually be the right missing Windows console editor.

Kinesics aka KIT

Another one is Minimum Profit. It’s fully open source and it supports a lot of platforms in both windowing and text mode. It has a lot of interesting features such as syntax highlighting, spell checked and menus. It can’t be easily made portable as it needs a lot of files of it’s own scripting language. There is no Win64 build by default but one could probably make it with Mingw64. I also find that screen refresh is somewhat funky.

Minimum Profit

Lets look at somewhat well known FTE. It’s a very nice text editor available on many platforms such QNX, OS/2 and of course Windows. It has nice TUI, split windows, syntax highlighting, folding, bookmarks and tools for HTML authoring etc. Overall awesome editor falling short only to TSE. Support for NT console has been available since 1997. I have recently fixed couple of bugs and built a 64bit portable version.

FTE Editor

One could also not forget Borland Turbo C IDE. Apparently there is an open source clone of the IDE as a regular editor called SETEdit. It’s multi platform editor with MS-DOS style windows and menus. Syntax highlighting macros and all regular amenities. Looks like DOS version can play MP3 songs while you code. There is a native WinNT build made with BCPP. To run on Windows you install the DOS version then overwrite dos exe file win NT exe. The editor is absolutely awesome, unfortunately currently doesn’t work in a portable manner and there is no x64 binary. However as it’s open source it could be probably made.

SETEdit a Borland Turbo C IDE Clone

When talking about MS-DOS style windows, Norton Commander like file managers come to mind. There is one particular built specifically for Windows – FAR Manager. Written by author of WinRAR, originally shareware, but since 2007 it has been released under BSD license. FAR does come with a built in text editor hence it’s featured here. It’s actively supported and developed, and because it’s designed from ground up for Windows, it’s probably most stable and trustworthy of all applications in this post. I normally don’t use it that much, but I do keep a copy of it lying around when I need to do some more heavy lifting from Windows console. There is a 64bit binary by default but unfortunately FAR can be hardly made portable as it comes with 400 files.

FAR Manager Text Editor

When talking about Norton Commander clones lets not forget Midnight Commander, which does have an unofficial native Windows console build called mcwin32. Similar to FAR, MC has a very nice built-in text editor. MC overall seems far nicer than FAR but because it’s multi platform rather than WIndows specific and not officially supported I don’t trust it as much for day to day use.

GNU Midnight Commander

When on topic of Unix, lets talk about GNU Nano. In it’s native habitat, it’s very popular and stable editor making it a perfect choice for a text mode console. Unfortunately Windows port is lacking quite a lot, especially for things like resizing Window or handling file names. The official build looks like a fusion of cygwin, mingw, pdcurses and other horrible stuff. Version that comes with Mingw/MSYS is not portable and so far I failed in attempts to build a static windows binary by hand. Nano predecessor UW Pico unfortunately never did have console terminal Windows port. Authors of Pine decided to make it semi graphical application with it’s own window, menus and buttons. Sad story for both Pico and Nano. Hopefully one day someone will make a 100% native Windows port.

Another non-vi and non-emacs Unix editor with Windows console port is JED. Frankly I have not used JED that much in the past although I did play with it in the 90s. This is the original web page of Jed editor. It does seem to have menus and multi windows. Unfortunately doesn’t look like it can be easily made in to a portable image.

JED Win32 Port

Yet another more obscure editor is ED-NT which is DEC EDT clone. Unfortunately seems to be completely dead an unmaintained. Sources are still available through archive.org so perhaps it could be still looked after if someone wanted EDT editor on Windows.

ED-NT

When going through obscurities via archive.org one can also mention ZABED and more specifically Z95 which is a 32bit console version. I don’t know anything about the editor and I’m little too lazy to play with it extensively although pdf manual is available. Probably little too old and too obscure for every day use.

Z95

Perhaps even more obscure to a mere mortal is The Hessling Editor aka THE. It’s based on VM/CMS editor XEDIT. I did briefly use VM/CMS and XEDIT in early ’90 but I never liked it so much. THE comes in as a native Win32 binary. Not easily portable as it requires some additional files. Also no 64bit binary but source code is available.

THE aka The Hessling Editor

Thanks to Andreas Kohl I have learned about X2 Programmers Editor which also has NT console version. The editor seems very nice and has extensive help, syntax highlighting, etc. Unfortunately I have never used this editor before. Last version has been released in 2008 which is not loo long ago but sadly there has been no update since. I hope the author will continue to maintain it.

X2 Programmers Editor

Andreas also brought up Personal Editor, which comes as PE32 and PE64. Looks like really well maintained and stable editor designed and developed specifically for Windows. 64bit bit version is really cool however the editor doesn’t seem to be portable and $40 license will probably prevent me from using it professionally in environments where I would need it. Never the less looks like a very fine editor!

Another find is e3 editor. Pretty interesting stuff. It’s written in assembler and available on many operating systems including DOS and Windows. Looks like it’s still maintained as last version was released in 2016. It supports multiple modes, Wordstar, Emacs, Vi, Pico and Nedit by renaming or linking the main executable. It’s definitely portable as it doesn’t need any extra files and the exe is just 20KB (take that emacs!). Unfortunately because of assembler I don’t think there will be a 64bit release any time soon. Overall seem to be really cool to keep this one around.

e3 editor

A really cool last minute find is public domain TDE – Thomson-Davis Editor. Released not so long ago in 2007 it has 16, 32bit DOS and 32bit Windows console executable. It has DOS style menus,syntax highlighting, resizable windows and bunch of other features. Looks like a very handy editor. I don’t know how did I miss it. Since source code was available so I was able to make a x64 build. This is really untested so use at your own risk!

TDE

Also a recent find – shareware editor called Aurora. I never had a chance to use it in the past but after taking it for a quick spin I fell in love. The text mode UI it feels like it’s own windowing operating system! Originally for DOS, Unix and OS/2, Win32 port is relatively new. Unfortunately it’s no longer maintained or even sold. This is very sad because the editor is extremely cool. I hope the author may be willing to release the source code so it could be maintained.

Aurora

Thanks to Richard Wells I have learned about OSPlus Text Editor. It’s a really cool little editor with Borland style TUI and multi windows. It doesn’t seem to have any advanced features but it does have a built in calculator and allows background play of WAV and MID. Also allows format conversion of various formats like Word, Write or RTF in to text using Microsoft Office converters. Pretty cool if you need to read Word based documentation on the text console. Sadly looks like the application is no longer maintained. I guess with little bit of luck a 64bit version could be compiled using Mingw64 or MSVC.

OSPlus Text Editor

Also recently learned about HT. This is more intended as a binary/exe/hex editor and analyzer. However it seems to have an excellent plain text editor with HTML and C syntax highlighting. It doesn’t have very advanced features but one that stands out is a very detailed change log, much like Photoshop History. It shows you what exactly has been changed and in what order. This is pretty cool when doing heavy editing of some important files. The latest version is from 2015 and it’s 100% portable single exe. Unfortunately no x64 but I guess it should be easy enough to build one with Mingw64.

HT

Just in freshly “re-discovered” – Microsoft Editor. This editor is a Win32 port of Mark Zbikowski’s port of Z editor to MS-DOS. It has been widely used with Microsoft C as M, MEP and and OS/2 SDK as SDKED. Shockingly looks like Windows NT did actually have a console mode text editor since it’s earliest days or even earlier. Included in Windows NT pre-release CDs and later on the official Windows NT/2000 SDKs, hiding in plain sight, was a Win32 console mode MEP.EXE. Only if Microsoft included this editor with Windows itself the world would be a different place. I have recently dug it out of SDK and made available here. There also are additional builds (including x64) here. There is a dedicated blog post about it.

Microsoft Editor aka MEP aka Z

As with many commercial editors there is an open source edition of Z named K_Edit. It is a modern re-implementation from scratch written in C++ and LUA. It builds only on 64bit Windows and there probably is no chance for any other version. As of today author of K doesn’t provide ready binaries but I was able to make one myself.

K editor on Windows 10 x64

Reader brdlph pointed me to a pretty fresh editor named Textadept. It’s a cross platform, both GUI and TUI editor. Windows console version uses Curses, but it performs remarkably well. It has a look and feel of a modern programmer’s text editor with syntax highlighting, line numbers, etc.  The zip archive comes with over 400 files so it’s rather not portable. Also there seem to be no Windows 64bit build although there is one for Linux. The application seem to be very well maintained and the latest release is from January 2018!

Textadept

Reader Andreas Kohl mentioned SlickEdit, which was a text mode editor for DOS, OS/2 and Windows console (before Visual SlickEdit stole it’s name). According to the company’s employee an OS/2 version of the editor was used by some Windows NT team members to develop their operating system. In early days, SlickEdit CTO traveled to Redmond to port the application to a barely yet functioning NT console system so that the developers could use native dev environment. SlickEdit was most likely the very fist commercial application for Windows NT. It was available in 386, Alpha, MIPS and PowerPC editions. I’m hoping to obtain old evaluation copies. So far I was able to get this screenshot:

SlickEdit on Windows 10

Last but not least, a new kid on the block, is Micro. It’s a modern times editor for all platforms including Windows. It looks really cool and seem to have all recent amenities from editors such as Sublime Text or Atom. Multi windows, syntax highlighting and even it’s own built in terminal emulator for running a subshell. Micro is 100% portable and comes in as a single x64 exe file. It’s 10 MB size but I think well worth keeping around. Unfortunately it doesn’t have built-in file browser. Yes, there is a plugin for it but I don’t know how to use it. Also seems to have issues with Windows style path names. However I’m really happy that a new editor has been developed in recent times. It has a great chance of becoming the missing Windows text mode editor for the future! Definitely worth keeping an eye on it.

Micro Editor

With this positive news it’s time to wrap up. To summarize there currently is no perfect text mode editor for Windows. I hope that Microsoft can one day step up and provide one. In the mean time I usually stick around to OpenWatcom VI and FAR Manager. For people who do not wish to learn VI, Kinesics KIT may probably be the most perfect editor in short term and Micro in the future. I also hope someone can make a good GNU Nano port using native Win32 APIs without going to pdcurses and cygwin.

Thank you for all suggestions! Have I forgotten or missed any editor? Please let me know and I will promptly add it to the list! Note: please do not include editors that work under Cygwin.