The Migration To Microsoft Windows,
Was It Worth The Trip?
By Don Frey
In 1995, Donald R Frey & Company faced
the reality of the market and made the commitment to migrate
its software from DOS and UNIX to a MS (Microsoft) Windows
95 GUI (Graphical User Interface). Requests for our applications
running on UNIX and DOS systems were declining, while the
demand for Windows and NT were on the rise. This commitment
was a major decision for the company. It signaled the departure
from our primary operating environment for the last twelve
years. It also committed us to adapting the Microsoft graphical
standard found in Windows. It was both a technical and cultural
Today, it seems appropriate to look at the consequences of
that decision and what impact it has had on our company and
Before embarking on the migration, we carefully
read Microsoft's books on Windows design guidelines and standards.
As it turned out, this was a very important step for us because
it enabled us to produce true Windows applications from the
In 1996, we released the CUBIC utility billing
system. It offered great improvements, but there were rough
spots. True Windows applications require a programming style
different from that used for DOS and UNIX applications. It
is event driven programming. Users can freely move around
multiple screens in the program. This requires very extensive
checking to assure all required information is properly entered
and edited. This is why it takes so long for new Windows applications
to stabilize. We released our last major application in 1999.
The migration is now complete and running smoothly. What are
Consistency is a big benefit, if the developer
uses MS design guidelines. DOS, UNIX and other character applications
had no design standards to follow. Every developer created
their rules and styles. True Windows applications behave in
a very predictable fashion. This makes them more user friendly.
The F1 key always provides Help. Help is supplied in a standard
format. The tab key moves you from field to field. The keyboard
and mouse can be used interchangeably. Menu selections work
in a similar manner. If you use products like EXCEL and WORD,
you have an excellent basis for understanding how Frey applications
behave. Today, most new computers come with these applications.
Young users find UNIX and DOS to be foreign.
The comment I hear most often from current
and prospective clients is the software is much easier to
use than the DOS and UNIX programs. You don’t have to
get out of one program and into another to get things done.
If you are entering an invoice and need to enter a new vendor,
you just do it. There is no need to exit Invoice Entry, and
start Vendor Maintenance. If you don’t know a code,
you touch a button and a search command is at your fingertips.
A negative comment is that Windows applications
use more computer power than UNIX and DOS. That is true because
they are graphical and more intelligent programs. Computer
power is a non-issue today because the cost of hardware has
dropped so dramatically.
Another argument is that data entry is not
as fast in Windows as in UNIX and DOS. This is true, if you
measure productivity by counting keystrokes. However, it is
much easier to change functions in Windows, nullifying much
of the keystroke advantage. Other productivity tools, more
plentiful with Windows applications, are eliminating much
of the keyboarding argument. In utility billing, meter reading
entry is eliminated by downloading readings from hand held
devices. Payments are scanned rather than keyed. Operators
today are managing information rather than just entering it.
Some critics contend that Windows LANs (local
area networks) are slower than UNIX and DOS. I agree with
that to a limited extent. Data entry and inquiries run at
about the same speed on all systems. If you are data mining,
such as preparing reports, LANs may run slower because of
network traffic. Tools, like Terminal Server, are now available
that allow you to run these programs on the server, eliminating
network traffic. This is called thin client processing. Thin
clients eliminate this performance argument.
Many organizations are still running DOS,
UNIX and other non-graphical systems like Pick. The main argument
for not changing is everyone is used to it, it works, etc.... Maybe,
the real reason is fear of change! Some vendors have produced
programs that run in a window but are actually character-based
programs. They do not begin to meet Microsoft Windows standards.
I call these products Fake GUIs. Stay away from them!
To respond to the question, "The Migration
to Microsoft Windows, Was It Worth The Trip?" the answer
is a resounding yes! Things are easier and more pleasant to
use, once you have learned the Windows style of operation.
Is it perfect? No, there is always room for improvement. However,
we are a lot better off than we were in the character based
DOS and UNIX era, where there were no interface standards.
40 North Grand Avenue, Suite 303
Fort Thomas, Kentucky 41075 USA