New Features in Windows 3.1

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SUMMARY

For Windows version 3.1, Microsoft significantly enhanced the usability of the Windows operating system based on extensive feedback from users of Windows version 3.0. Dozens of improvements will be noticeable immediately, while hundreds of others work behind the scenes to support new features. Microsoft made more than 1000 changes in Windows 3.1, changes that contribute to a smoother, more responsive interaction between the user and Windows.

MORE INFORMATION

IMPROVED INSTALLATION

The Windows version 3.1 Setup program can detect even more hardware and software configurations than its version 3.0 predecessor. Therefore, Windows 3.1 configures itself optimally for the computer on which it is installed. The Setup program also detects a wide variety of terminate-and-stay-resident (TSR) programs and hardware devices known to cause problems; it then notifies you of a problem, or corrects the problem without your involvement.

Windows 3.1 will be easier for novice users to install because of the Express Install feature. This is the default setup method for Windows 3.1 and requires minimal user input. For more advanced users, there is a Custom Installation option that gives you a high degree of control over the setup process, so you can customize the installation to fit your needs. For PC coordinators, Windows 3.1 installation provides the Batch Install option and better network setup features for network installations.

FILE MANAGER IMPROVEMENTS

The Windows 3.1 File Manager has been completely redesigned for improved usability and performance. You can now display the directory tree and directory contents side by side in a window. The File Manager now supports multiple "panes" for easy browsing of different drives. The File Manager also allows the display of more file attributes than before and can even display filenames and folder names in a choice of fonts.

Another significant improvement is the quick format capability, which allows you to format floppy disks in much less time than before.

The File Manager also supports an easier, more intuitive "drag-and- drop" model for manipulating files. For example, to print a file, you drag the file's icon with the mouse and "drop" the icon onto the Print Manager icon. You can also drop an icon on a running application or the application's title bar; the application will then automatically open that file. This drag-and-drop functionality is controlled by the new Registration Database, which stores information on how applications open and print files and how file types are associated with specific applications.

PROGRAM MANAGER IMPROVEMENTS

Improvements to the Program Manager include "wrappable" icon titles that sit neatly under each icon in multiple lines, instead of a single long line that may overlap with other icon titles. The Program Manager also provides the new Startup group, which allows you to launch any group of applications automatically when the Windows operating system is started. Adding programs to the Startup group is done by simply dragging and dropping an icon.

CONTEXT-SENSITIVE HELP

The Windows 3.1 help system has also been enhanced; it now provides context-sensitive help information. By highlighting a command or procedure and pressing the F1 key, you will be greeted with help screens containing specific information about the command, as well as any associated information.

PRINTING IMPROVEMENTS

The Windows 3.1 Print Manager can now resume stalled print jobs without user intervention. For example, if a printer runs out of paper, the print job will be automatically resumed after the paper tray is restocked.

Another printing improvement introduced with Windows 3.1 is the universal printer driver (UNIDRV). This software offers a single, printer-independent driver for which specific printer drivers can be built rapidly. The universal printer driver makes it easier for printer manufacturers to write or update printer drivers, because the driver encapsulates all the major features of a printer driver in a single piece of software. Vendors simply provide a table of printer- specific parameters for each printer. Instead of using dozens of monolithic printer drivers, the Windows operating system needs only a single driver and a small support table for each printer. Nearly 250 printers are supported in Windows 3.1, with the majority supported through UNIDRV.

BETTER SUPPORT FOR NETWORKS

Microsoft has made Windows 3.1 easier to use on a computer that is attached to a network. Network administrators will find setup is easier with Windows 3.1, especially for complex system configurations. Network problems are also easier to trace and correct because network error messages contain more information regarding the type and source of the problem.

Windows also maintains persistent network connections, meaning that information about a remote disk drive or printer is maintained by the Windows operating system after a network session is terminated. When Windows is restarted, it will reconnect automatically to the same network connections present when it was closed. Windows will even prompt the user for passwords if needed.

APPLICATION SUPPORT: INTEGRATION

Windows 3.1 provides the most sophisticated platform yet for application integration, making it easier for users to exchange data between documents and for programmers to build data-exchange capabilities into applications for Windows. Application integration is supported by several features of version 3.1, as discussed below in detail.

Object Linking and Embedding

An important technology for the 1990s, object linking and embedding (OLE) creates an environment in which applications can share information seamlessly. With OLE, all data can be thought of as objects. A spreadsheet chart, an illustration, a table, and even a paragraph of text are all examples of objects. OLE provides the information necessary for applications to share these objects easily.

Windows 3.1 supports OLE by providing standard libraries, interfaces, and protocols that applications use to exchange data objects. As developers implement OLE capabilities within programs, you will see a new generation of applications that work together.

Microsoft has added OLE capabilities to new versions of the Windows Write, Paint, and Cardfile accessories, all of which are provided with Windows 3.1. You can, for example, create an illustration using the Paint program and embed the graphic in a Write document. If the illustration must be updated, you can double-click its icon within the Write document, which launches Paint automatically so you can edit the drawing. Since the original graphics file is embedded in the Write document, there is no need to store or update multiple copies of the image, and the file can be updated on any PC with Paintbrush.

Better Support for Dynamic Data Exchange

In the Windows operating system, the standard way of sharing data between applications is through a mechanism known as dynamic data exchange (DDE). OLE and other forms of data exchange use DDE as their primary means of sharing data.

Windows 3.1 provides developers with a new Dynamic Data Exchange Manager Library (DDEML), which offers a higher-level programming model and makes it easier for developers to implement DDE capabilities in an application designed for Windows.

Better Support for MS-DOS Applications

Windows 3.1 provides improved support for existing MS-DOS applications within the Windows operating system. In particular, performance of MS- DOS-based applications is enhanced when Windows 3.1 is used in conjunction with MS-DOS version 5.0, because MS-DOS 5.0 can significantly increase the amount of conventional memory available. In addition, Windows 3.1:

  • Supports MS-DOS applications running in VGA graphics mode in a window or running in the background.
  • Allows mouse support for MS-DOS-based applications when running in a full screen or in a window.
  • Includes more prewritten program information files (PIFs), which tell Windows how to run a specific MS-DOS-based application; this results in even greater MS-DOS-based application support.
  • Offers disk-paging, which will allow you to concurrently run more applications for MS-DOS than you can under Windows 3.0.

IMPROVED APPLICATION SUPPORT: TRUETYPE(TM)

Windows 3.1 includes the new TrueType scalable-font technology. TrueType provides outline fonts, giving you instant access to fonts in any point size, and allowing high-quality output on any monitor or printer supported by Windows. TrueType was designed and developed to meet the requirements of type professionals and graphic designers and offers the following benefits.

Complete Integration with the Operating System

TrueType is an integrated component of Windows 3.1. For the Windows customer, this means there is nothing to buy or install. All the benefits of scalable-font technology are built into the operating system, so existing applications can take advantage of the benefits immediately. TrueType fonts can be used in Windows applications and in the system itself. For example, you can now choose your own fonts for File Manager. Four TrueType scalable-font families will ship with all copies of Windows 3.1: Arial (alternative to Helvetica), Times New Roman, Courier, and Symbol.

Cross-Platform Compatibility

TrueType is also offered on the Apple Macintosh, and TrueType fonts can be ported between Windows and the Macintosh without conversion. Therefore, documents using TrueType fonts can be exchanged between a PC running Windows and a Macintosh without changes in character set, font metrics, or line endings. TrueType is also available in Macintosh- compatible laser printers and in TrueImage printers, and has been licensed to numerous printer vendors for use in future products.

Dynamic Font Downloading

TrueType fonts are automatically converted to bitmap images or outlines, depending on the printer being used, and then downloaded to the printer. For PostScript printers, both bitmaps and outlines are used. For printers using Printer-Control Language (PCL), bitmap images are used. TrueType uses dynamic downloading, sending only the characters requested rather than the entire character set, resulting in faster, more efficient printing.

Open Technology

To make it easy for vendors to support TrueType, Microsoft has published the complete specification for the TrueType font format. This specification details every aspect of the font format, including the outlines, metrics, font names, and all technical information associated with the font. Public availability of the TrueType font specification will make it easier and less expensive for vendors to support TrueType fonts with their products.

SYSTEM ROBUSTNESS AND PERFORMANCE

Since its shipment in May 1990, Windows version 3.0 has proven to be a remarkably stable product. In fact, Microsoft implemented only one update release (version 3.0a) to accommodate minor corrections. Like any mature operating system, Windows works in cooperation with a vast number of hardware platforms, applications, and peripherals. With the countless permutations of software and hardware, occasional conflicts are inevitable, and approximately 1 to 2 percent of the calls to Microsoft Product Support Services about Windows 3.0 are regarding unrecoverable application errors (UAEs).

Through Microsoft's communication with Windows users and developers, Microsoft has gained a detailed understanding of how applications generate and handle errors. Most UAE questions pertaining to Windows 3.0 have been resolved by helping users remove misbehaving TSR programs, by answering questions on drivers or software, by removing unnecessary lines in CONFIG.SYS files, or by installing later versions of the applications that are causing problems.

Reducing UAEs and enhancing system robustness were primary goals for the designers of Windows 3.1. Microsoft's accumulated knowledge serves as the basis for the following design focal points:

  • Developing better diagnostics to pinpoint the cause of application errors
  • Providing tools and information to help developers write error-free applications
  • Protecting the system from application errors
  • Graceful handling of application errors if they do occur (so the application causing the error doesn't stop the system)
The following are several examples of how these design goals are implemented in the Windows operating system version 3.1.

Error Diagnostics and Reporting

If an application generates an error running with Windows 3.1, you will receive an error dialog box with specific information about the type of error that occurred and which application generated the error. (The Windows 3.0 dialog box simply says
Unrecoverable Application Error
This allows problems to be traced and corrected much more quickly than before.)

Additionally, Windows 3.1 ships with a diagnostic tool called Dr. Watson that logs information about an application error, should one occur. This logged data provides feedback on the error that can be used by a support technician to determine the solution to the error and help developers solve the application error.

Error Recovery

Windows 3.1 includes a number of improvements designed to handle application errors more effectively.

One of these improvements is the use of parameter validation--the same type of parameter validation that developers use also works in the retail version of Windows 3.1. This validation monitors application calls to ensure that applications do not violate system integrity.

An errant application may still cause problems, such as stopping so that your computer no longer responds to input. Under version 3.1, if an application stops, you can press the CTRL+ALT+DEL restart key sequence, and Windows will ask whether the application should be continued or closed. If you choose to close the application, Windows will reset the environment to a stable state that will allow you to continue working within the Windows operating system. You no longer have to exit and restart Windows. This gives you better control over your system.

The sum of all these efforts is a system with significantly enhanced reliability, in which application errors are far less likely to cause you to stop working and shut down the application or restart the system.

IMPROVED PERFORMANCE

Many performance improvements have been achieved throughout Windows 3.1. These include:

  • Faster, more responsive user shell components (notably, File Manager and Program Manager).
  • Faster disk caching. The Windows SMARTDrive disk-caching utility has been completely redesigned for Windows 3.1. It installs automatically during setup and significantly boosts performance by caching read and write disk operations.
  • Faster paging in 386 enhanced mode. Version 3.1 includes a 32-Bit- Disk-Access driver that allows Windows to bypass MS-DOS and the BIOS to access the Windows virtual memory paging file.
  • Increased display driver performance (for example, the VGA and 8514 drivers).
  • Better printing performance. The overall printing speed is improved; but, more significantly, Windows also gives control back to the application more quickly after the Print command is invoked.

MULTIMEDIA

Audio services and Media Control Interface (MCI) support have also been added to Windows 3.1. The audio application programming interfaces (APIs), which are identical to those found in Multimedia Extensions 1.0, specifically support waveform or PCM audio and Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) synthesized audio. Additionally, any application for Windows that supports OLE can take advantage of the audio capabilities in Windows 3.1 with no additional development required by the independent software vendor (ISV). From an application's perspective, audio becomes just another object type.

The MCI architecture supports control of media devices such as video discs and videotape. Using drivers provided by third-party peripheral vendors, this support provides greater flexibility to the standard computing environment and meets another growing market need, especially in the areas of corporate presentations, training, and education.

For those who require full multimedia support, Microsoft offers a CD- ROM version of Windows 3.1 with the multimedia extensions and drivers. This product includes Music Box, an accessory for playing CD audio disks, and HyperGuide, an online Help program. The addition of audio services and media control support to Windows 3.1 is yet another evolutionary step toward bringing multimedia functionality into the mainstream of desktop computing.

Windows 3.1 works seamlessly with Multimedia Extensions 1.0. These extensions allow you to embed new objects such as audio, animation, and full-motion video in existing applications. The objects also allow you to create a whole new class of multimedia documents, such as encyclopedias enhanced with video and audio clips, or catalogs that display animated illustrations. The extensible architecture of Windows makes it possible for multimedia computing to span low-cost systems for home and education to sophisticated multimedia authoring platforms for the higher end of the market.

An important enabling technology for multimedia computing is the OLE protocol described above. With OLE and Windows 3.1 or Multimedia Extensions 1.0, you can embed a multimedia object, such as an audio clip, in an existing application for Windows, just as you can embed a chart or text file.

LAPTOP SUPPORT

Many vendors of today's popular 286- and 386-based laptop computers ship Windows version 3.0. Laptop users will appreciate a feature in Windows 3.1 called mouse trail, which makes it easier to find the cursor on a laptop display. In addition, Windows 3.1 supports the Advanced Power Management (APM) specification, which allows Windows to support the native power management of a laptop PC for longer battery life.

CONCLUSION

The Windows operating system version 3.1 is an important next step in Microsoft's core systems strategy--an evolutionary strategy that spans 286-based laptops to high-end workstations or servers. Today, Windows runs with MS-DOS, the operating system that spawned the PC industry and is currently in use by tens of millions of people. Windows also runs the thousands of existing MS-DOS and Windows-based applications. Extended versions of Windows--multimedia or pens, for example--allow you to run all these applications as well, plus unique new applications developed with pens or multimedia in mind.

Microsoft's vision of computing in the 1990s and beyond is that computers will empower individuals and organizations. With its scalable implementations, the investments of Microsoft, and the commitment of third parties, the Windows operating system will be the foundation for realizing this vision.

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Article ID: 83245 - Last Review: November 16, 2006 - Revision: 1.1
APPLIES TO
  • Microsoft Windows 3.1 Standard Edition
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Retired KB Content Disclaimer
This article was written about products for which Microsoft no longer offers support. Therefore, this article is offered "as is" and will no longer be updated.

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