Writing in DOS

Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

For a while, writing on my MS-DOS based machine was barely different from writing on my Apple II. I first used a shareware word processor that came bundled with the computer, and then the word processor included in Microsoft Works. Neither of these really changed the way I wrote, though they made tasks like cutting and pasting easier (especially after we added a mouse).

Later, though, in the desire to gain more control over the way my documents looked when printed and to (hopefully) make them look better, we bought a "what you see is what you get" desktop publishing program called Express Publisher. This had a few problems itself: first, it wasn't quite "what you see is what you get", because the dot-matrix printer was somewhat erratic in its line feeds. Express Publisher also didn't offer that much freedom of design: the fonts, for example, were stored in a proprietary format which meant that the only source of new fonts was the publisher, who sold them at a prohibitive cost. Most importantly, though, the program was just too slow on my now-obsolete machine. It was time for an upgrade.

There were a few changes in my writing process during this time period, though. One of the most obvious stemmed from the inclusion in Microsoft Works of an on-line thesaurus. At first, I wrote "Roget's essays", using the thesaurus on every word to find one that sounded "smarter", but even after I outgrew that I found myself using it to figure out which word was slipping my mind. Express Publisher also got me to think about layout and design in addition to the actual text, which would prove useful when working on the yearbook or on HTML documents.

EL112 WebBody & Self OVTitleIndex