technofile  by al fasoldt

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How to get more choices of DOS window sizes


Technofile for July 4, 1999

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers

If you use DOS under Windows, you probably also know that you can make DOS run in a separate area of the screen. This area, called a DOS window, can be made large or small.

But a DOS window can't be made any old size. Microsoft didn't do a good job of coding the part of the operating system that deals with DOS windows. Even though Windows itself makes good use of scalable, TrueType fonts -- fonts that can be scaled large or small, in just about any size -- DOS windows don't take full advantage of this scalability. DOS windows can only be bumped up or down in strange multiples.

These multiples are based on two things -- the presence of certain non-scalable fonts in Windows and the settings Windows keeps for TrueType fonts in DOS windows. Changing the non-scalable fonts isn't easy, but you can do it if you follow explicit directions. (I'll tell you how another time.) Changing the settings for the scalable fonts so that you get more choices of window sizes is ridiculously simple. I'll tell you how to do it this week.

Because DOS programs "think" they are running on an old-fashioned PC with a screen that's 80 characters wide and 25 lines deep, a DOS window is supposed to be 80 characters across and 25 lines down. If those characters are wide, 80 of them will make a wide window. If they're tall and skinny, 80 of them won't be very wide, and 25 lines of them will be fairy deep.

This means DOS windows will take on various sizes according to the sizes of the fonts they use. DOS windows also can assume different shapes, wider or taller than usual, if the fonts that make up each character are wider or taller than standard fonts. Tiny fonts make small DOS windows and large fonts make large DOS windows. Skinny fonts make narrow DOS windows, and so on.

Make sense so far? If it does, you're doing better than Microsoft. When its engineers did the coding for DOS windows, they left out the part about dragging the lower right corner of a window to make it any size you want. You can do that with standard windows, but not with DOS windows.

If you try it, and if the upper left corner of your DOS window says "auto," you'll see that the window will jump to present sizes. The increments are few and far between. It's not a satisfactory way for a modern operating system to behave, but I'll show you a way to add more choices.

First, click the Start button and choose Run. Type "Sysedit" (without the quotes) and press Enter. The System Editor will run and you'll see a window with system configuration files. One of them will be SYSTEM.INI. (I use capital letters for system files to make them stand out. You might see lower-case letters or a mixture. That's OK.)

Scroll to the bottom of SYSTEM.INI. You should see a line that starts with the phrase "TTFontDimenCache." It will have brackets around it. Below it are lines of code that tell Windows the size and shape of the fonts used for DOS windows. All lines start with zero and then have numbers following a space. Those numbers are in a sequence, and you'll notice right away that some numbers have been skipped. You can customize this list by filling in the settings that have been skipped. Don't make any changes, however, until you've finished reading my instructions.

Here's an example. One line might read "0 16=7 16" and the next might read "0 18=10 16." This means the "0 17" line is missing. Most Windows PCs are missing entries for "0 17," "0 19" and "0 20" on the high end and for all entries below 12 on the low end.

You can figure out a likely pattern for missing entries by looking at the ones that are listed for others. If "0 16" has the font-size numbers "7 16" and "0 18" has "10 16," try "9 16" for the missing entry "0 17." It would look like this: "0 17=9 16."

You can create entries higher than 20, but the practical limit on a high-resolution monitor is in the mid-20s. Likewise, you can create entries lower than 12, but the window size will become tiny if you go much below 10.

Simply add the missing lines to the "TTFontDimenCache" section by taking a good guess at what the numbers after the equal sign should be. (You can always change them later.)

Save your changes to SYSTEM.INI but leave the System Editor open. Open a DOS window and make sure it is showing something. Get a directory using the DIR command if you don't have anything else to show in the window. Click the drop-down list at the top left of the DOS window for your choices. Try all out the ones you created.

If you don't like one of the changes you made, click over on the System Editor and change the settings in SYSTEM.INI. Save the file. Go back to the DOS window and drop down the list again. You'll see that your changes are reflected immediately. You don't have to reboot and don't have to rerun DOS. The changes are picked up each time you click the drop-down list.


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