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The secret power of Windows 3.1

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Drag and drop: The secret power of Windows 3.1

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1994, The Syracuse Newspapers

Quick: What's the least-used of all the important features of Microsoft Windows 3.1?

It's "drag and drop."

You can use "drag and drop" with the Windows File Manager and with its Program Manager. Basically, you click your mouse button once on the name of a file, hold the button down and then drag the filename to the name of a program and let go of the button.

(Substitute "icon" for "name" in the explanation above if you are used to working with icons instead of filenames.)

"Drag and drop" does two things. It runs the program you've dragged a file to, and it tells the program to load the file that was dropped on top of it. The only catch is that the file has to be something the program can work with. (You can't get Lotus 1-2-3 to make sense out of a Windows "BMP" file, for example.)

This is very handy, especially since the file you dragged appears automatically inside the program, ready to go. You don't have to run the program, pull down a file menu and tell it to load the data file.

It's also a great way to get around one of the shortcomings of Windows.

Programs often set themselves up so that double-clicking on specific file types will run the program and load the file. Windows Write does this, as you probably already know; you double-click on any file that has "WRI" at the end of the filename, and Windows Write automatically runs and loads the document.

This is OK as far as it goes. But sometimes Windows guesses wrong. A good example is the way Microsoft Word always runs and loads any file with "DOC" at the end of the filename when you double-click on the file. If the file is actually a Word document, fine; but suppose it's just a brief note sent along with a shareware program? You'd be wasting you time to wait until Microsoft Word runs and loads such a brief text (which won't be in Word's own text format, anyway).

That's where "drag and drop" comes to the rescue. You just drag that "DOC" file to the filename (or icon) of Windows Notepad, which runs immediately and displays the text.

You can use this principle for hundreds of other programs and data files. Try it out, if you're new to this technique. It will save you time, and will give you an edge in running Windows you didn't realize you had.

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