And what of
to xyWin 4?
After a Faustian bargain with IBM put
XyQuest out of business,
The Technology Group bought the assets, speeded up
Signature, the dos xyWrite-based successor to DisplayWrite
XyQuest had written to IBM specs, released it as xyWrite 4
fairly early in the win3 era, and followed up quickly with
a port to Windows. Each xyW4 release has its proponents,
but both had problems and neither made a dent in the
market. TTG reverted to Plan A, continuing development
of the xyWin kernel for use as the engine for TTG legal
software and, after upgrading the kernel (16 bit, many
internal structures converted to 32 bit), renamed it
SmartWords. TTG announced and without explanation never
delivered a permanent-beta SmartWords
CD. TTG apparently closed
its doors on or about 12 October 2001.
xyWrite's legendary architect
Dave Erickson has invested in
and is "working with" NotaBene as well as
pursuing a number of other interests, NB president
Anne Putnam announced to the xyWrite list on 17
August 2001. After the IBM debacle, Erickson continued
till earlier this year as chief engineer at TTG.
xyWrite users the SmartWords-based release of the NB
word processor as part of the Windows NB Scholar's
Workstation (NB plus text database and other add-ons)
for $249. The SW-based release is NB's first for Windows.
The developer has long sold an early xyW3 kernel plus
overlays that endear NB to academics and linguists.
PCMagazine's word processor editor used to be a big
fan. Writer Paul Andrews testifies below that he is too.
SmartWords' most conspicuous break with xyWrite is
a shift from the IBM extended character set to ANSI.
File filters convert some chars, but (unlike NoteTab)
SW doesn't toggle the sets with a key press. Executing
dir commands lists dos dirs; VB 32bit dialog boxes
generate lfn dirs. TTG CEO Kenneth Frank commented to
the xyWrite list that comparatively the SmartWords editor
and the NotaBene product are "functionally very
similar" and from the command line are "more
or less the same." But "Nota Bene has done more
with the interface as it relates to certain functions,"
e.g., NotaBene has "enhanced the dialog boxes for
certain commands, like column tables, and added other
academic related functions. Because of what [TTG uses the
SmartWords] editor for, many of those dialog boxes are not
important to us. I really haven't compared the products
at a level of detail to be able to give you a rundown,
but for basic word processing functions we use SmartWords
as it is all day every day with no problem."
NotaBene also supplies any and all an nbWin demo,
downloadable from its site, or by smail as a $10 CD.
... An active NotaBene mailing list has flourished
for many years independent of the company. Msg:
notabene [your real name]
no subject; if your mailer requires one, use
have enhanced nbWin Help, nbWin's only documentation.
[Some notes I wrote after a belated immersion
in nbWin and xyWin
compare them to NoteTab. It will be very
interesting indeed to see what develops with
Dave Erickson involved directly in NB. Lobbying
for Unicode support, e.g., has been intense. --a | 17 August 2001]
- !xyWise owes much to Herb Tyson's "XyWrite
Revealed" (a/k/a The Book), Carl Distefano, and
Robert Holmgren. The Herb, alas, long since left xyWrite
behind. At xyWWWeb, Holmgren and Distefano offer a
and popular inventory of Warp-tilted xyWrite 4 xpl.
They also have some dos NotaBene and unsupported xyW3
stuff; caveat: when they use that stuff themselves,
by their own harrowing accounts xyWrite 3 behavior
becomes unacceptably aberrant.
James Eibisch's xyWrite 3+ xpl programs.
founder Nathan Sivin's archive at Penn,
maintained now by list owner Carl Distefano, includes
xylist archives and significant menu-driven xyDos 4
xpl by ex-XyQuest xpl programmer Tim Baehr.
- If you use or yearn to use post-IBM dos xyWrite
and you format what you write for an office printer, or if
IBM is in your portfolio, you'll find the xyWrite mailing
- For an interesting
browse (or if you're dissatisfied with your file mgr),
visit xyWrite user Robert Orndorff's site.
- For a good time
call (oh, all right ... or if you are, e.g., dissatisfied
with your browser) xyWin user Peter Evans's imaginative,
goofy melange of information useless, useful, and otherwise.
- The patron
saint of xpl programming has moved on to new interests,
software and beyond: "Herb
Tyson is a singer, songwriter, and musician, whose songs
spill into a number of different categories, including folk,
country, pop, soft rock, and blues."
Paul Andrews noted
something of particular interest to dos xyWrite and NotaBene
users in a review of Windows 2000 in his 13 February 2000
Seattle Times "User-friendly" column:
"Even Microsoft cautions
that Windows 2000 is not for everyone. [...] The MS-DOS
prompt is gone, and the DOS high-memory management system
sought by most DOS applications is absent as well. [...]
"My two DOS `legacy' applications, Lotus Magellan
(a disk-management utility) and Nota Bene (a word processor
build on the ancient 1983 XyWrite program), installed and
ran fine under Windows 2000 despite dire warnings they
"On boot-up, I still get warned that the programs are
trying to write to disk in an unsupported manner. I just click
`Ignore' and everything runs fine. I'd like to be able to get
rid of that warning message, however.
"Although MS-DOS is gone, Windows 2000 has a `Command'
prompt that will run DOS programs from a command line in a
`virtual DOS' window. As with Windows 98, DOS windows are
not resizable, but can be displayed full-screen by hitting
"The `Command' prompt is buried in Windows 2000's
`Accessories' menu, a move that suggests Microsoft would
just as soon you abandoned those old DOS applications. We
DOS diehards are a stubborn lot, however, and will give
up our DOS applications when they uncurl our cold, stiff
fingers from our keyboard.
"It was not the old programs, in fact, but the most
recent ones that gave me problems. [...]"
"Faster, easier to use, but don't expect Windows 2000
to have new look"
When I snitched that protest from
Robert Orndorff's site and in the couple of
years since, I've thought it was just a simple
graphic in a good cause. Oy!!! I've just seen
it for the first time with a Java-enabled
browser and learned, to my astonishment, that
it's a really clever animation. Sorry, Robert,
for grabbing it without asking and without
credit. --adpF, 25 June 2002
[This DOS diehard went to hell and back
to continue using win95 instead of the win98
that was preinstalled on a new notebook.
lets you wipe MSIE off your hdd and out of your registry,
but it can't get MSIE hooks out of the win98 kernel. Ultimately,
I failed to attain a kernel not infected by hooks to a browser
I don't use. The late win95 release I ended up with creates
three ineradicable MSIE subdirs--one of them lfn with
spaces in the name--that early win95 lets you delete. My
attempts to permanently erase MSIE registry entries fail,
as does the 98lite utility that claims to rid the win95
registry of MSIE entries, I suppose because of small victories
before I ran it--e.g., I have no \Program Files. Calls
to that subdir are directed to \msDrek. (My experience is
that MS won't allow a win95 subdir with no space-free lfn
subdir names. If you rename \Start Menu, win95 creates
a new \Start Menu. win95 hasn't made me any fonder of
lfn than when I first encountered them back in the early
'80s in my first dos word processor.) My lone satisfaction
is that MSIE itself remains uninstalled. Apps that require
MSIE? Too bad for them. --a | 14 july 2000]
[That satisfaction is about to go down the tubes
now that it's become nearly impossible to buy many
peripherals that aren't USB (especially cameras).
I've picked up a Partition Magician to get dual-booting
in anticipation of reinstalling win98; I'll boot to it
on occasions when I absolutely must use USB. Otherwise,
being forced to use Mac win98 VirtualDOS has removed
any doubts that win95 was the Windows release with
my name on it. --a | 30 june 2002]
[Given the vise MS has put a captive market into,
let me note, happily, that the folks who brought
us 98lite are
still at it. It's taken them this long to whip
the insecure, vandal-magnet XP into almost-ready
lite form, which is pretty scary, but the product promises
a lot of control. When finished. --a | 30 august 2003]
Once one buys into the necessity for a dos text
processor and graphical browser, the ongoing issue
becomes how best to interact with 32bit Windows.
Except for SmartWords lfn dialog boxes, xyWin and
nbWin perform no Windows services unavailable to dos
xyWrite, so the cornerstones (can a structure have three?)
of my quest for productive win95 xyWrite 3 supplements are the
Windowswide keyboard remapper (my review
of KR is on another page) plus the
text editor(s) (which I compare and
contrast with xyWin and nbWin also on another page)
and the file manager Total Commander (till recently
named Windows Commander).
xyWrite made other dos file managers superfluous,
but under win9x xyW's lack of lfn support (aside from
SW VB dialog boxes) requires a supplemental 32bit
file manager unless nbWin or Windows Explorer meets your
needs. I've used PowerDesk and I've used Total Commander.
Even though PD is prettier and can be had as freeware,
(thanks, Joe Solla!) is comprehensive. If you're
used to PD or Explorer, give yourself some time to
get comfortable with Total Commander's homely interface.
Powerhouses aren't glamorous. Take time to study
configuration options; keyboard help suggests the depth.
Although totalCom defers to Norton Commander purists with
some dumb key assignments, you can remap all functions:
Alt+O -> O -> Misc:
redefine hotkeys (keyboard remapping)
FTP services are phenomenal. <Ctrl+F> to
list unix server directories the same as if they were
on your hdd. To upload or download, proceed as if you
were copying from one dir to another on your hdd, then
tap totalCom's copy key; several other basic directory
services are available too. totalCom has a command line
I find mostly an aggravation, but I can't bring myself
to hide it. If I had to give up either KR or totalCom I'd
be hard put to make a choice. I consider each as essential
to win95 as xyWrite is to dos.
|dos xyW win9x clipboard tip
Did you know you can copy the current
item from the clipboard directly to whatever
is displayed in full-screen dos xyWrite? Yes,
full-screen (probably works with xyW-in-a-box too).
Ctrl+Esc->Esc->Tab->cursor-right to the Windows
taskbar xyWrite object->Shift+F10 (OR right-click the
taskbar xyWrite object)->Edit->Paste.
The win95 in the PC I'm using right now won't accept e->p
kbd shortcuts, alas; Edit->Paste require use of a pointing
device, but when you Alt+Tab to xyWrite you'll find the clip
right there on your screen.
When I installed win95, a friend offered three words
of advice: right mouse button. My own
distilled Windows advice applies to any app you use
much: learn the hotkeys. If you don't already
know what a placid experience Windows can be when your
hands aren't shuttling constantly between kbd and mouse,
try turning your mouse on its back.
* Ctrl+Esc unfurls the Start menu.
* Alt+Space opens an app's control menu.
* Alt+[underscored initial] displays other menus
(yeah, duh, but just do it);
* type underscored initials on the menus;
* tune in the hotkey info that's often there.
* Alt or Esc exits menus.
* Ctrl+Tab cycles tabbed panels
when dialog box options are several.
* Alt+Tab cycles open apps.
The culprit is the shuttling, not the mouse. In an
inherently graphical app, the keyboard becomes the
obstacle. If you must move your hand off the pointing
device to use a hotkey, the hotkey ceases to be a
shortcut. Except when using graphics apps, the only
time I touch a pointing device is to get to icons
in the system tray. Pointing devices integrated in
keyboards seem like a real good idea as long
as the device isn't so far from the alphanumeric
keypad it might as well be detached.
Absent xyWin or nbWin, anyone who values dos xyWrite
for writing and editing but likes to pretty up
projects with a gui app before sending them to an
office printer could do worse than NewWrite/NewDraw
(ex-GeoWrite/GeoDraw). Kind of dtpLite with a Macish
feel, the slick software (born free of 80x25 obligations)
has MasterSoft xyWrite impex filters and is part of
a suite in
a freestanding dos gui you can task switch under
Windows. You can shift every NewDraw function
except graphical import to NewWrite to form a
particularly felicitous text/graphics working
environment. Like xyWrite 3, NW/ND were written
in assembler; you'd be hard put to find a faster
graphical word processor (Geoworks used to tout
the speed on a 286 back when that was meaningful).
NW has undeniable limitations--forget footnotes,
e.g.--and the suite, much praised by the trade
press when it was released, all but disappeared
with corporate hardware downsizing and the resultant
MS software domination. My decade-old release's
font and graphical file filter choices seem quaint
now; one hopes the current developer has updated them.
Third-party fonts always were available but many were
high school. (GW neglected to trademark its flagship
product's name, someone else grabbed it, and GW came
up with a new name as dumb as SmartWords.)
Coming attractions: BeOS had a third-party office
software suite that got some nice notices and now
the developer has announced ports of Gobe Productive
to Windows and linux to be released this fall at us$125
list. Although the software of course won't have xyWrite
filters, I look forward to trying it as a possible
successor to the hermetic NewWrite/NewDraw. (I must
note that I've never once succeeded in raising the
Gobe site, but
you can find reviews of the previous release at
and the Byte BeOS archive.
The win9x book I dearly wish I'd had from the gitgo
is David A. Karp's unfortunately titled "Windows
Annoyances" (O'Reilly; ISBN: 1-56592-266-2).
No cute MSophobic collection of petulant salves
for minor irritants, the book's a bible of customization
tips that assumes you've used win9x a while, so you
needn't skip long sections of basics aimed at PC
novices. It's under 300 pages, and most contain
I-never-could-have- figured-that-out- myself
info. The editor was Andrew Schulman, presumably
the Andrew Schulman who writes "Unauthorized
[MS OS]" books. Of the multitude of two-inch-thick
user manuals, the best probably are Brian Livingston
and Davis Straub's encyclopedic IDG "Windows
[9x] Secrets" (win95: IDBN: 0-7645-3070-4).
You may know the
Annoyances site that predates the book. That's
the URL I've long had in my bookmarks (with this
comment: "very best place to get w95 information
--Dorothy Day"; there's no recommendation
I value more). The URLs the book gives are
Element and the O'Reilly
site. But the book is a convincing argument for
dead-tree (vs e-)reference. The momentary (22 April
2001) good news for us if not for Karp is that win95/NT4
and win98 versions of "Windows Annoyances"
are remaindered--half price at my
neighborhood pre-www discount computer books store,
Computer Book Works, which I hope it's safe to say
really is in business to sell "new, old, and
hard-to find computer books" (one Signature book
is on the shelves)--not data on your shopping habits.
I was probably the last win95 user to struggle with
DUN, but just in case you've never experienced the
joy of troublefree hands-off log-on I must mention
a little-known freeware utility that ended years of
weeping and wailing around here over the failure of highly
praised ineffectual solutions. I'm eternally grateful to
the indefatigable gadfly Helmar Rudolph for steering me
To log on, I need only type e on the xyW CMline and tap
my <!xyWiz> key, or Alt+S Enter in Total Commander
to execute the first item on my start menu. After that,
NetLaunch automates the whole process, including (if
they weren't loaded) loading my browser and NoteTab
(that clipboard-capture feature is quite handy while
surfing). (If you use a pointing device with win9x you
also can tap the icon in the system tray.)
Compass: Your browser's
<Back function and the table of contents at the end
of each !xyWise et al and xyWrite/PostScript page get you
back to this ("overview") index page. The toc also
lets you shift laterally to other local pages, download the
zipped files the docs describe, and explore related resources.
Navigational links "<top>/<toc>" are
scattered throughout pages whose length justifies them.