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From the Windows Setup, components of Windows can be added and removed.
Previously unwanted files had to be deleted manually.
There were a variety of reasons that Windows 3.1 became as popular as
it did. Marketing and OEM bundling certainly played a big role, but one
reason I observed was the presence of Microsoft Office for Windows 3.1
In corporate environments this meant that they could use Word and Excel
on existing or inexpensive commodity IBM-PC compatible computers in the
same way as users of those "overpriced" Macintoshes.
It is also worth noting that just a bit before this time Microsoft ceased
producing Word and Excel for IBM OS/2. Back in the day I actually had the
displeasure of dealing with some IBM computers (Pentium 90s) that had come
pre-loaded with the vastly superior IBM OS/2 2.0 where someone else had
re-formatted the machines and installed Windows 3.1 and MS-Office just
so the machines could be "useful". And whoever did that even neglected
to install the video and sound drivers!
Another selling point of Windows 3.1 was that it was backwards compatible
with DOS application, and even somewhat extended the DOS functionality.
In 386 mode it can run multiple DOS applications at the same time using
"Virtual DOS Machines". Additionally text can be copied and pasted from
the DOS application screens and in to other DOS or Windows applications.
Because Windows runs on top of DOS, each VDM automatically can access
any DOS drivers or resident programs that were loaded before Windows was
In general Windows 3.1's DOS support was considered better than that
of OS/2 or Windows NT, even if it was technically not as good. This is
probably because most comparisons usually boiled down to "It can run Doom
Of course, for those applications that refuse to run in a Windows VDM
one only needs to exit Windows to be right back in a native DOS environment.
Not sure exactly when it started, but sometime after the release of
Windows 3.1 many applications began to use a 3d control library to give
the dialog controls in the applications a 3-d appearance. (Probably because
OS/2 2.0 had 3d dialog controls)
A handy little application called "ALL3D" used the same library to provide
this 3D appearance to almost any other Windows application that did not
already include it.
The above screen shot compares an application with and without the 3D
Windows 95 and Windows NT 4 went on to make all dialogs and controls
appear 3D. But with XP and later these sorts of controls are usually given
a flat styled 2D appearance instead in order to fit in with webby style
With the "Win32s" add on Windows 3.1 can run 32-bit applications that
conform to a subset of the Win32 API set.
This was the first part of Microsoft's "stepping stone" to Windows NT,
as Win32s applications would run as native 32-bit applications under NT.
In this example Paint, WordPad and Calc from Windows 95 are running
(although not 100% correctly since they were not designed for this environment).
With the proper video drivers Windows 3.1 can run at much higher resolutions.
The background, color scheme, and many other aspects are customizable.
Windows 3.1 was also the first version of Windows to see popularity
with the Internet. It can run up to Netscape 4.08, Internet Explorer 5,
and Opera 3.62.
It is not really possible to tell just by looking at the screen shots,
but underneath the hood Windows 3.1 is a nightmare.
The Global GDI resource pool is limited to 64k, making it easy to "run
out of memory" after opening a few applications, even if you have a zillion
megs of ram. The effects of this are shown in the screen shot above.
Windows 1 and 2 ran entirely in the 640k real-mode memory. In Windows
3.x applications keep the bulk of their data in XMS but each still uses
some of the base 640k memory. It is also possible to "run out of memory"
if the base 640k fills up. This can easily happen if many DOS drivers and/or
a DOS network stack is resident in the 640k.
There is no pre-emptive multitasking. Everything is event driven and
everything shares the same global event que. This means that if one application
hangs, the entire system hangs.
There is little memory protection, so faulty applications can clobber
memory used by other application and go unnoticed.
From the development standpoint, variables in native 16-bit applications
usually can not exceed 64k in size, and even more unpleasantness than can
be listed here.
From a users standpoint, what this all means is that using Windows 3.1
feels like living in a house made of matchsticks. Flimsy, and it might
crash and burn at any moment.
Speaking of crashing...
Finally, get me out of here!!!
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