MS-DOS Editor

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MS-DOS Editor v1.0 title screen.

MS-DOS Editor is a text editor developed by Microsoft and published as a bundled application with MS-DOS version 5.0 in June, 1991. It was included with later versions of MS-DOS and several versions of Windows.


My family's first computer came with MS-DOS 5.0, so I became pretty familiar with the MS-DOS Editor and used it to create and edit text documents, batch files, and occasionally, to view the contents of binary files, although the version I had made editing impossible.

I remember recognizing that the editor was extremely similar looking to QBASIC, but, it wasn't until years later that I discovered that it literally used QBASIC under the hood. To this day, I still associate the default white on blue color scheme with MS-DOS because of the editor and QBASIC.


Through my old collection of computers, I legally own all of the versions of MS-DOS Editor.



  • This is one of the best user interfaces for a text editor of the 16-bit era. There is mouse support and full menus, so you don't have to memorize a bunch of esoteric key-combinations like with VI.
  • The first version has some basic customizations like custom colors and the width of tabs. Version 2 added split display, binary editing, multi-document support, and the ability to print to multiple ports.


  • File size was limited. v1.0 couldn't even open a 500 KB file. However, v2.0 increased this limit quite a bit to several megabytes. Although such a limit would be a serious constraint today, files rarely reached such sizes in the early 1990s.
  • By default, the open dialog in v1.0 only shows *.TXT files, but there were many other common text extensions of the time like *.DOC, *.BAT, *.INI, etc. Thankfully, v2.0 displays all files by default.
  • When saving in text mode, non-Microsoft end-of-line markers are converted to Microsoft end-of-line markers.


  • It doesn't preserve non-printable characters. So, if you save a document that had binary data in it, all binary data will be permanently lost. It wasn't until v2.0 that binary data was supported.




Version OSs Notes
1.0 MS-DOS 5.0, Windows 3.x NT, Windows 4 NT Built on QBASIC, the crippled version of QuickBASIC bundled with MS-DOS.
1.1 MS-DOS 6.x No new features, but updated to handle DOS help documents.
2.0.026 Windows 95, 98, ME Stand-alone EXE independent of QBASIC. Multiple document support, split view, hex view for binary files, more customization.