[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

SFWRITER.COM > Nonfiction > WordStar Under Windows


Running WordStar for DOS Under Windows

vDosPlus to the Rescue!

vDosPlus was derived by Wengier Wu from vDos, which was developed by Jos Schaars, who, in turn, based his work on DOSBox, a free MS-DOS emulator.

vDosPlus is no longer being developed, and I'm no longer updating this web page. But a different DOSBox derivative called DOSBox-X is still in active development and is vigorously supported by a team including Wengier Wu. DOSBox-X will let you run WordStar under Windows, Linux, or Macintosh operating systems.

If you are setting up WordStar for DOS on a modern computer for the first time, I suggest you use DOSBox-X instead of either vDosPlus or vDos. WordStar versions 4 through 7 run extremely well under DOSBox-X, including printing to modern USB printers, displaying true italics on screen, and copying to and from the operating system's clipboard; DOSBox-X also provides full support for WordStar 7's Advanced Page Preview at high resolutions.

DOSBox-X is free and open-source software. You can get it here:


Once you've set up WordStar under DOSBox-X, you may still wish to consult the rest of this web page, below, for lots of tips and tricks.

I'm a Hugo and Nebula Award-winning science-fiction writer, and I've been using WordStar since 1983, writing all 25 of my novels with it. If you still have questions about getting WordStar to run under Windows after reading the notes below, please email me at sawyer@sfwriter.com.

Robert J. Sawyer

Why I and other professional writers (including George R.R. Martin) still use the magnificent WordStar for DOS:

WordStar: A Writer's Word Processor
an essay by Robert J. Sawyer

Introduction | vDosPlus Installation | vDosPlus Settings | Printing | Swapping Ctrl and CapsLock | Windows Clipboard Support | Fonts | Onscreen Italics and More | Screen Settings | Screen Brightness | Advanced Page Preview and Inset | EMS and XMS | Converting between WordStar and Word | TameDOS | More Information | Acknowledgments

Updated Sunday, January 2, 2022


[WordStar under vDosPlus]

My favorite word-processing program is the versatile, customizable, and powerful WordStar for DOS, last updated in December 1992. Running it under Microsoft Windows can be difficult, particularly with 64-bit versions of Windows, and especially with recent versions (Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10).

But an MS-DOS emulator released in 2014 called vDos makes it easy to run WordStar for DOS (and many other MS-DOS programs) under Windows, whether 32-bit or 64-bit, with real onscreen italics and boldface and excellent printer and clipboard support. WordStar's graphical Advanced Page Preview and Inset work under vDos, too, although only at standard VGA resolution (640x480 pixels).

Note: for an older version of this page, covering vDos versions prior to 2016, see here.)

vDos was created by Jos Schaars by modifying DOSBox. DOSBox, beloved by those who like MS-DOS games, has never been good for business applications. Jos changed that by stripping out the gaming flourishes (joystick support and so on), beefing up file locking, and vastly enhancing the screen display (plus allowing you to use any monospaced TrueType font you wished). His system supports XMS, EMS, and it automatically converts PostScript or PCL (LaserJet) output into Adobe Acrobat PDF files that can be printed on any printer.

Now, there is a "but" — and it's a pretty big one — but there's also a complete solution, so read on.

The "but": Jos Schaars has chosen, despite numerous user requests, to not support long filenames, or even their short-filename equivalents. Under other DOS-like environments — the Windows built-in Command prompt, JP Software's 4DOS and 4NT, TameDOS, and DOSBox — either long filenames such as Book Manuscript.ws or their corresponding short filenames such as BOOKMA~1.WS show up in all file directory listings at the command prompt. But not under vDos. It instead suppresses — that is, hides as if they weren't even there — any long filename (or long directory name), and won't show you the short version. Files and directories with names that aren't in the DOS 8.3-character format won't show up when you do a DIR listing at vDos's command prompt, and they won't show up in WordStar's "Files" list.

Warning to Dropbox and Sync users: this means that if you have a file-synchronization conflict, you'll never see evidence of that under vDos, since Dropbox and Sync both will give the conflicted copy a long filename, and vDos will hide that file.

Fortunately, there is a complete solution to the long-filename problem. A kind and generous programmer from the University of Toronto named Wengier Wu created a modified version of vDos called vDosPlus that does support long filenames and long directory names, plus adds many useful extra features not found in vanilla vDos (such as real onscreen italics and support for the mouse scroll wheel).

(WordStar itself is blissfully unaware of long filenames, and will always show only short filenames in its directory listings.)

And although vanilla vDos only supports Windows 7 or later, the wonderful vDosPlus works under Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10. vDosPlus is free software; there is no charge to use it.

Wengier summarizes the many extra features in vDosPlus here.

I recommend you use vDosPlus.exe rather than vDos.exe; it's the version of vDos covered in the notes that follow.

If you use high-capacity SD or MicroSD cards or USB flash drives, files with long filenames will not show up at all at all (even as short filenames) under vDos or vDosPlus on external media formatted with exFAT, which is the default format for high-capacity removable media such as SDXC cards.

Instead, format or reformat such external media as NTFS, which is the other formatting option Windows will offer you, and all will be well. However NTFS only allows a maximum file size of 4 gigabytes — easily exceedable by lengthy high-resolution video files; you may not want to use the same card or flash drive for movies and WordStar documents.

If you are using a drive formatted as NTFS and no short filenames are being generated for corresponding long filenames (and so files with long filenames such as "My Novel.ws" don't show up at all in WordStar's directory listings, not even as MYNOVE~1.WS), then use the Windows Registry Editor to change the key


from whatever integer it is to 0 (zero). For more information, see here.

Note: If you use Windows Vista, XP, or earlier (or the rare 32-bit version of either Windows 7 or Windows 10), you may find TameDOS to be an even better solution than vDosPlus. However, TameDOS will not run at all under 64-bit versions of Windows. There's more about TameDOS at the end of this page.

Most of the instructions below apply to using all of the later releases of WordStar for DOS: WordStar 4.0, WordStar 5.0, WordStar 5.5, WordStar 6.0, and the final release, WordStar 7.0. You can see which version you have by hitting ? at WordStar's Opening Menu.

vDosPlus Installation

First, download the vDosPlus zip archive from this link on this page. (If these become dead links at some point, feel free email me at sawyer@sfwriter.com.)

To install vDosPlus, create a folder wherever you wish (e.g. C:\VDOSPLUS) and then copy the contents of the zip archive into it.

For an ideal screen display, you'll want to use Microsoft's Consolas typeface. These are not included in the zip archive, but you copy the four Consolas font files from the hidden \Windows\Fonts or \Windows\System32\Fonts folder on your system hard drive into the vDosPlus folder you've just created:

  • consola.ttf (which is the regular version)
  • consolb.ttf (which is the bold version)
  • consoli.ttf (which is the italic version)
  • consolz.ttf (which is the bold-italic version)

There's more discussion on installing the Consolas fonts below.

After you've finished installing vDosPlus, read the Adobe Acrobat document vdosgettingstarted.pdf. This is the vDos manual. Please read it.

Please also read the files README.1ST, README.TXT, and sysnotes.txt, all of which provide useful information.

(Note: Wengier, who wrote README.TXT, is fond of very lengthy paragraphs. I've made a WordStar version of the file with shorter paragraphs and some boldface and double-strike codes for highlighting. Download readmevp.ws4 for an easier reading experience.)

Additional documentation is in the comment lines in the autoexec.txt and config.txt files that are also included with the vDosPlus program.

vDosPlus Settings

Once you've installed vDosPlus, have a look in the supplied autoexec.txt and config.txt files for various parameters you can set (these correspond to the autoexec.bat and config.sys files used by MS-DOS).


Open the plain-text file autoexec.txt (in Nondocument mode, if you're using WordStar):

Assuming your main hard drive is C:, add this line:

USE C: C:\

From then on, vDosPlus will have access to any directory/folder on your C: drive. Assuming WordStar is already installed on your C: drive (in C:\WS or wherever), it'll work just fine now without changing any of WordStar's internal pathing.

If have other hard drives as part of your system, you can make them accessible to vDosPlus here. For instance, if you have an external hard drive named F:, make it accessible to vDosPlus by adding this line:

USE F: F:\

Note: If your WordStar program files are on a drive other than C:, it's imperative that you add that drive to vDosPlus, using the above syntax.

And if you've been using the DOS/Windows SUBST command to assign a drive letter to a folder name, you can get the same effect under vDosPlus with the USE command. I've long employed SUBST N: C:\NOVELS to make logging to drive N: the equivalent of logging to folder C:\NOVELS. To get the same thing under vDosPlus, I added this line to autoexec.txt:


If you wish to unassign a drive letter from the command line while using vDosPlus, employ the UNUSE command:


You can then reassign the drive letter from the command line to be a synonym for any drive or folder you wish:


Issuing the naked command USE from the command line will give you a complete list of your current drive-letter assignments.

Here in autoexec.txt you can also set a PATH command (just like the MS-DOS PATH you might have in your old MS-DOS autoexec.bat file) if you need one. For instance:


(or whatever else you normally use).


Next, have a look at the plain-text file config.txt (in Nondocument mode, if you're using WordStar):

For WordStar 7.0 (which can use EMS memory, as discussed below), or if you want EMS memory for TSR (memory-resident) programs, I suggest these settings.

WINDOW = 100

For WordStar 4.0, 5.0, 5.5, or 6.0, which can't use EMS, don't include the XMEM = 4 EMS line unless you need some EMS for memory-resident utilities:

WINDOW = 100

Each of the above options is documented with comment lines in vDosPlus's config.txt file.

For instance, as you'll see in config.txt, the directive WHEELMOD = 7,2 sets the mouse scroll wheel to use WordStar's ^W and ^Z scroll-up and scroll-down commands when you roll the wheel forward and backward for vertical scrolling, while issuing regular left and right arrow keys when you tilt the wheel to either side for horizontal scrolling.

Note: If the WordStar "companion program" ProFinder tends to freeze or crash for you under vDosPlus, try turning mouse support off before invoking it. You can do that with this command, either at the command prompt or in a batch file:


After running ProFinder, you can turn mouse support back on with:



vDosPlus has some built-in support for printing from DOS applications. The documentation for this is in the supplied file Printing.pdf.

But for a better system, read on.

Getting the Files You Need

Trying to print directly to your printer with any DOS application can be tricky under Windows, but by using components of the freely available Ghostscript and GhostPCL under vDosPlus, the redoubtable Edward Mendelson has created an elegant workaround. First, download the files you'll need from my website: vdosprint.zip. Unzip vdosprint.zip, and put all three extracted files into your vDosPlus folder (where vDosPlus.exe is located):


Note: if you need a vesion that supports Windows XP, download this file instead: vdosprint-xp.zip.

Installing a Printer Under WordStar

To print under vDosPlus, we need to tell WordStar that you have an appropriate printer hooked up to your system (even if you don't actually have such a printer). WordStar 5.0, WordStar 5.5, WordStar 6.0, and WordStar 7.0 support both LaserJet and PostScript printers. WordStar 4.0 doesn't support PostScript printers. Again, note that you do not actually have to own a LaserJet or PostScript printer to use the methods described below; you can send the output to any dot-matrix, inkjet, or laser printer.

(If you prefer the output from an Epson or Epson-compatible dot-matrix printer, see the Adobe Acrobat file Printing.pdf supplied with vDosPlus and the comments about DOSPrinter in vDosPlus's config.txt file.)

If you use WordStar 5.0, WordStar 5.5, WordStar 6.0, or WordStar 7.0, and don't already have a LaserJet or PostScript printer installed under WordStar, run the program PRCHANGE.COM, which should be in your main WordStar folder, and select a choice from either "HP LaserJets and compatibles" or "PostScript Lasers."

I recommend you choose LaserJet 4P, if it's listed for your version of WordStar, or LaserJet III if it isn't. If neither of these are listed (which will be the case with WordStar 5.0 and 5.5), then choose LaserJet II.

If you have WordStar 4.0, you set your default printer with WSCHANGE.COM (not PRCHANGE.COM) at menu BAA. Choose option 2 ("Printer Menu #2, Epson LQ - IBM").

On that menu, the choices you'll see depend on which release of WordStar 4.0 you have. If you see this option, choose it: HP LaserJet II, F & P Cartridges. If not, choose this instead: HP LaserJet, U & V Cartridges. Either should give you the full normal suite of accented characters as well as the PC-8 box-drawing characters. For information on selecting fonts, run the README.COM program that comes with WordStar 4.0 to view the compressed ReadMe file, or download the extracted ReadMe file as plain-ASCII text from my website: readmews.txt.

Printing a File

With WordStar 5.0, WordStar 5.5, WordStar 6.0, or WordStar 7.0, select any LaserJet or PostScript printer and print as normal — and, by "as normal," I mean just print to printer port LPT1 or COM1.

(Your WordStar printer description file will likely have the parallel port LPT1 or the serial port COM1 selected by default; if not, you can specify one of those ports in WordStar's "Print" dialog under "Redirect to," or select one of them permanently for your printer with PRCHANGE.COM, under "Change printer adapter port".)

With WordStar 4.0, which only allows you one installed printer, just go ahead and print.

No matter which version of WordStar you're using, vDosPlus will intercept the output as it goes to the printer port, and instead of sending it to the printer directly, it will create a beautiful Adobe Acrobat PDF document, which will open automatically in your system's default Acrobat PDF viewer — and from there you can print it to any printer (even one that doesn't normally support DOS applications, and even one hooked up to a USB port).

Given that vDosPlus only supports low-resolution VGA graphics (640x480 pixels), rather than using WordStar's Advanced Page Preview, "printing" to PDF using this method also gives you a wonderful high-resolution preview of your document, which you can have open in a separate window; you don't have to actually print the PDF document unless you want to.

If you use metric / European A4 paper, instead of North American letter-sized paper, or just want to know more about WordStar's printer settings, see this text file by me.

(You probably won't need it, but some technical documentation about all this is available via Edward Mendelson, although the above installation instructions are my own. See here.)

Swapping Ctrl and CapsLock

Most WordStar users prefer to have the Ctrl or Control key to the left of the A key (as it was on the original IBM PC keyboard); that is, they prefer to swap the positions of Ctrl and CapsLock.

WordStar for DOS comes with a TSR (memory-resident) program called SWITCH.COM to make the swap, and there are other similar free TSRs kicking around the internet (notably Eric Meyer's CTRLCAPS.COM).

Unfortunately, none of these TSRs work under vDosPlus (or under vanilla vDos). But Wengier Wu has once again come to our rescue. His program swapcc.exe will swap the Ctrl and CapsLock keys under vDosPlus (and vanilla vDos, too). You can download it from my website:


Once you've downloaded it, rename the file to swapcc.exe, and load it in your autoexec.txt file:


To unload it from memory, issue the command:

swapcc /u

If you'd like to have Ctrl and CapsLock swapped everywhere (not just under vDosPlus, but also in your Windows applications), I suggest you use a system-wide keyboard remapping utility. For Windows XP, Vista, and 7, I suggest KeyTweak, and for Windows 10, try SharpKeys.

If you're curious, can learn a lot about the process of remapping keys from this article, and a more technical discussion (with some alternative techniques) can be found here.

Windows Clipboard Support

vDosPlus has these built-in commands to copy to and paste from the Windows clipboard:

  • WinCtrlA copies all the text on the current screen (including WordStar's various status lines) to the clipboard.

  • WinCtrlC copies the text on the current screen (again, including WordStar's various status lines) to a plain text .txt file, which will then automatically be opened by the Windows program that normally handles such files.

  • WinCtrlleft mouse click starts selecting a rectangular block of text. Drag the mouse and release the mouse button, and vDosPlus copies the selected text to the Window clipboard.

  • WinCtrlV pastes the Windows clipboard into the DOS keyboard. Sadly, because of a modification Jos Schaars made to vDos to support Clipper applications, this works excruciatingly slowly in WordStar document mode (but it works fine in nondocument mode).

  • WinCtrlright mouse click pastes the Windows clipboard into the DOS keyboard — and, fortunately, this method works just fine in both WordStar document and nondocument modes.

Much more useful than the above for WordStar users is the fact that vDosPlus also has bidirectional clipboard support via the LPT4 device if you remove the rem notation from in front of this line in vDosPlus's config.txt:


After that, anything that is printed to or copied to LPT4 (a pseudo printer port) will be intercepted by vDosPlus and instead be copied onto the Windows clipboard. So, if you want to send a large block of text from WordStar to the Windows clipboard, write that text to its own file (perhaps called TOCLIP.TXT) using WordStar's ^KW "Copy to Another File" command (selecting "Copy in ASCII format" in the dialog box), and then use WordStar's ^KF "Run DOS Command" function issue an instruction like this to copy the contents to the Windows clipboard:


Want to paste in text from the Windows clipboard? No problem; as I said, the support via LPT4 is bidirectional, so this will put the text from the Windows clipboard into a file called FROMCLIP.TXT:

You can then read open the FROMCLIP.TXT file under WordStar or read the file into a WordStar document with WordStar's ^KR "Insert File" command.

Ah, but if only there were some way to automate all that! Oh, wait, there is ...

WordStar 7.0 Clipboard Macros

WordStar 7.0's built-in clipboard commands (^K[ and ^K]) don't work under vDosPlus. But both copying to LPT4 and pasting (reading) from LPT4 can be automated with macros, giving you essentially the same functionality.

You can download the two macros described below compiled and ready to run from my website: wincopy.wsm and winpaste.wsm.

Simply place these files in whatever folder normally contains your WordStar macros. You can then assign whatever hotkeys you wish to them with WordStar's ^ME "Rename Macro" command.

Both of these macros will run better (without interruption) if you tell WordStar not to bother asking you to press a key to return from shelling out to DOS; you can turn off that pesky message at WSCHANGE menu D, B, A, 2, I ("Return to WordStar" prompt).

These macros assume you have a folder named C:\WS on your system and that vDos recognizes its existence via the USE directive in autoexec.txt. If you're using different drives and folders, then edit the macros with WordStar's ^MD "Edit/Create Macro" command to change all occurrences of C:\WS in both macros to whatever is appropriate for your system. Note that under some windows installations, the system root directory, normally C:\, cannot be written to by most users.

This WordStar 7.0 macro copies the marked block from WordStar to the Windows clipboard under vDosPlus; perhaps call it WINCOPY (macro filename wincopy.wsm):

REM  Copies the marked block to the Windows
REM  clipboard under vDosPlus.

REM  by Robert J. Sawyer (sawyer@sfwriter.com)

REM  Without using WordStar's ^K] command, this
REM  macro copies the existing marked block
REM  (with accented and graphics characters
REM  properly converted) from WordStar to the
REM  Windows clipboard by writing the block to
REM  temporary file C:\WS\TOCLIP.TXT and then
REM  copying that file to LPT4.

REM  For this to work, vDosPlus's CONFIG.TXT
REM  file must contain this line:

REM  To avoid a prompt to return to WordStar,
REM  set WSCHANGE menu D,B,A,2,I (which is
REM  label "RUNMSG") to "OFF".

Sub Main
       ACK: Key("O")
       End IfException
    Key("copy C:\WS\TOCLIP.TXT LPT4")
End Sub

This WordStar 7.0 macro pastes from the Windows keyboard into a WordStar document under vDosPlus; perhaps call it WINPASTE (macro filename winpaste.wsm):

REM  Paste from Windows clipboard under vDosPlus.

REM  by Robert J. Sawyer (sawyer@sfwriter.com)

REM  Without using WordStar's ^K[ command, this
REM  macro pastes text from the Windows 
REM  clipboard (with accented and graphics 
REM  characters properly converted) by writing 
REM  the clipboard contents to temporary file
REM  C:\WS\FROMCLIP.TXT and then reading that
REM  file into an open WordStar document.

REM  To avoid a prompt to return to WordStar,
REM  set WSCHANGE menu D,B,A,2,I (which is 
REM  label "RUNMSG") to "OFF".

Sub Main

REM  First, delete old FROMCLIP.TXT file;
REM  otherwise vDosPlus might be lagging behind 
REM  and accidentally paste that one in instead:

           ACK: Key("{Enter}")
        End IfException

REM  Next, copy the clipboard contents
REM  to temporary file FROMCLIP.TXT:


REM  Insert FROMCLIP.TXT into the currently open
REM  WordStar document.  Because vDosPlus 
REM  sometimes lags behind a bit, keep trying to
REM  read in FROMCLIP.TXT until vDosPlus catches
REM  up:

TryAgain:    Key("^KR")
       QRY: Key("{Enter}")
            GoTo TryAgain
       End IfException

End Sub

If you've followed the instructions above, you should now have WordStar up and running just fine under vDosPlus: you should be able to create, edit, save, and print WordStar documents, and copy text to and paste text from the Windows clipboard.

Everything that follows is optional: either extra information you might find useful or instructions for customizing or enhancing your use of WordStar under vDosPlus.


The customized vDos font created by Jos Schaars and built into vDosPlus does not handle double-line box-drawing characters in the normal fashion: instead of double lines, it shows thick single lines; for those characters where, in a normal font, double and single lines would intersect, Jos's font has glyphs that are partially thick and partially thin. He likes this customized look better, but, if you don't share his taste, you can use any monospaced TrueType font with vDosPlus.

Under vDosPlus, all versions of WordStar can optionally display onscreen bold (not just as brighter text, but actually using a thicker font), underlining, italics, bold italics, subscript, superscript, strikeout, and combinations such as underlined bold italics. (Of these, only underlining and strikeout were available when running WordStar under regular MS-DOS, unless you had a Hercules Graphics Card Plus with RamFont capabilities.)

Note: Normal or regular fonts are sometimes called roman fonts. Italic fonts are sometimes called oblique fonts.

To activate support for onscreen boldface, italics (either simulated, or by using a real italic font), bold italics, subscript, and superscript, you must set vDosPlus's WP = word-processor directive in config.txt to WS (for "WordStar"):


There's more about the WP = directive below.

Note: in addition to installing appropriate TrueType font files, discussed immediately below, to get onscreen strikeout, underlining, italics, bold, and bold italics, you must also patch WordStar as discussed later in this document.

I suggest you instead use Consolas from Microsoft as your vDosPlus font; it's normally included with Windows and it comes with separate italic, bold, and bold-italic versions. vDosPlus (but not vanilla vDos) can use those to display true italics, true boldface, and true bold italics on screen.

You can manually copy Consola.ttf (note that this filename lacks the final "S" of the font's actual name), Consolai.ttf (italics), Consolab.ttf (bold), and Consolaz.ttf (bold-italiis) to your vDosPlus folder. They're likely in C:\Windows\Fonts or C:\Windows\System32\Fonts, but note that most versions of Windows hide the \Fonts folder (by setting the "hidden" attribute).

Then set them in config.txt with:

FONT = Consola
ITALFONT = Consolai
BOLDFONT = Consolab
BOITFONT = Consolaz

If you have Windows Vista, 7, or 8, then versions 5.00, 5.22, and 5.32 respectively of the Consolas font came with your system, and should work fine with vDosPlus.

Earlier versions of Consolas (0.90, 1.00, and 2.00 were bundled with various Microsoft products) don't include the graphic PC-8 line- and box-drawing characters WordStar needs to make its menus and dialog boxes. If you don't already have version 5.00 or better of Consolas, Microsoft will sell it to you here.

A terrific monospaced font family that will also give you true bold, italics, and bold italics on screen is the free Liberation Mono from Ascender.

You can get Liberation Mono for free here. At the top of the screen is a button that says "DOWNLOAD TTF," but clicking it actually downloads a zip file containing all four weights of this font. To install this typeface family in vDosPlus, extract the four files and copy them your vDosPlus folder, then set these variables in config.txt:

FONT = LiberationMono-Regular
BOLDFONT = LiberationMono-Bold
BOITFONT = LiberationMono-BoldItalic
ITALFONT = LiberationMono-Italic

Another excellent monospace font family that includes true bold, italics, and bold italics on screen is the free DejaVu Sans Mono.

You can get DejaVu Sans Mono for free here. To install this typeface family in vDosPlus, copy DejaVuSansMono.ttf, DejaVuSansMono-Oblique.ttf (which is the italic version), DejaVuSansMono-Bold, and DejaVuSansMono-BoldOblique to your vDosPlus folder, then set these variables in config.txt:

FONT = DejaVuSansMono
ITALFONT = DejaVuSansMono-Oblique
BOLDFONT = DejaVuSansMono-Bold
BOITFONT = DejaVuSansMono-BoldOblique

The best Courier font I've found for use with vDosPlus is FreeFontMono, available for free here. You can install it in config.txt with these parameters:

FONT = FreeMono
ITALFONT = FreeMonoOblique
BOLDFONT = FreeMonoBold
BOITFONT = FreeMonoBoldOblique

I find the regular roman and italic versions of FreeMono rather lightweight (like Windows's anemic Courier New), but the bold and bold italic versions are spectacular (like the old BitStream versions), and if you don't care about having your onscreen bold and bold-italic fonts being thicker than the nonbold versions, I recommend the following setup, using only the bold versions (of course, text will still print in either boldface or not, as appropriate, although many LaserJet printers and their clones never did have a bold-italic version of Courier built in):

FONT = FreeMonoBold
ITALFONT = FreeMonoBoldOblique
BOLDFONT = FreeMonoBold
BOITFONT = FreeMonoBoldOblique

vDosPlus comes with an additional font called Nouveau_IBM.ttf, but it's heinously ugly, and I don't recommend its use; it resembles IBM terminal displays from the 1980s, and it does not include italic, bold, or bold-italic variants. You might want to look at it once, just to remind yourself how far screen fonts have come in the last few decades. You can activate it in config.txt with

FONT = Nouveau_IBM
A better monospaced font that works well with vDosPlus but only provides simulated italics (by slanting the normal roman font), is Lucida Console from Bigelow & Holmes. If you have any version of Microsoft Windows from XP through to 8, you should already have Lucida Console on your system. Copy it to your vDosPlus folder, then set it in config.txt with:
FONT = Lucon

Or, if you like, you can use another font's italic version; indeed, you can mix-and-match any combination of roman (normal), italic, bold, and bold-italic fonts you wish. The italic version of Consolas works well with the roman version of Lucida Console, for instance:

FONT = Lucon
ITALFONT = Consolai
BOLDFONT = Consolab
BOITFONT = Consolaz

This combination also works well:

FONT = Lucon
ITALFONT = DejaVuSansMono-Oblique
BOLDFONT = DejaVuSansMono-Bold
BOITFONT = DejaVuSansMono-BoldOblique

If you do prefer Jos's default vDos font, simply comment out the following parameters in config.txt, or set them to blank values, and that's what you'll; but, as I said above, if you use Jos's font, you'll get simulated, not real, italics. Remember, do not comment out WP = WS, though.

rem FONT =

If you wish to turn off both simulated and real italics, activate this line in config.txt by removing the rem notation from in front of it:


Each of the fonts I've mentioned above has its advantages and disadvantages:

  • Consolas has a good period, a good comma, a narrow hyphen, a normal lower-case "L," a slashed zero, and real bold, italic, and bold-italic versions. It shows multiple underscores (____) as one continuous line. (Consolas is the font used in this screenshot.)

  • Liberation Mono (my current favorite) has a good period, a good comma, a narrow hyphen, a normal lower-case "L," a dotted zero, and real bold, italic, and bold-italic versions. It shows multiple underscores as discrete characters.

  • DejaVu Sans Mono has a good period, a good comma, a narrow hyphen, a weird lower-case "L", a faintly dotted zero, and real bold, italic, and bold-italic versions. It shows multiple underscores as one continuous line.

  • Free Mono, which is a Courier typeface, has a good period, a good comma, a wide hyphen, a normal lower-case "L," an undotted/unslashed zero, and real bold, italic, and bold-italic versions. It shows multiple underscores as discrete characters.

  • Nouveau_IBM has a good period, a good comma, a wide hyphen, a normal lower-case "L," a dotted zero, there's no separate bold, italic, or bold-italic version, and it's just plain ugly. It shows multiple underscores as one continuous line.

  • Lucida Console has a good period, a good comma, a good hyphen, a normal lower-case "L," and an undotted/unslashed zero — but it's difficult to distinguish capital and lowercase versions of "W" and "w" and "S" and "s" from each other in this font, and there's no separate bold, italic, or bold-italic version. It shows multiple underscores as one continuous line.

  • Jos's default vDos font has an okay period, a good comma, a narrow hyphen, a normal lower-case "L", and an undotted/unslashed plain zero, and there's no separate bold, italic, or bold-italic version. It shows multiple underscores as discrete characters. As mentioned above, this font doesn't handle box-drawing characters in the normal fashion. However, it does do a better job of simulating onscreen italics than any other external font without an actual italic variant that I've tried.

Sadly, I've found these monospaced TrueType fonts are not generally suitable for using WordStar under vDosPlus, because their roman (normal) versions lack some or all of the PC-8 graphic characters WordStar needs to make its menus and dialog boxes:

  • Anonymous Pro (from Mark Simonson)
  • Courier Prime (from Quote-Unquote)
  • Courier Prime Sans (from Quote-Unquote)
  • Cousine (from Google)
  • Dark Courier (from Hewlett-Packard)
  • iA Writer Duospace (from iA Writer)
  • IBM Plex Mono (from IBM)
  • Inconsolata
  • Lucida Sans Typewriter (from Bigelow & Holmes)
  • Noto Mono (from Google)
  • Roboto Mono (from Google)
  • Space Mono (from Google)
  • Vera Mono (from BitStream)

Most North American users will have their system codepage set to 437, which displays the original IBM PC "PC-8" character set. If you use a different codepage, you might see accented alphabetic characters on screen where you'd expect to see some or all of the line- and box-drawing characters. To force vDosPlus to show the American PC-8 character set, add this line to autoexec.txt:

chcp 437

(Note that there is no equals sign in this line, and that it goes into autoexec.txt, not config.txt.)

If your external font actually has all the line- and box-drawing characters in it but isn't displaying them properly (none of the five problematic ones named above have those characters), try putting a minus sign or hyphen ("-") in front of the vDosPlus FONT = directive in config.txt. That will cause vDosPlus to map ASCII codes 176 through 223 to line- and box-drawing characters in your chosen font as if your system had codepage 437 selected:

FONT = -[fontname]

If your font is showing little empty boxes or question marks where line- and box-drawing characters should be, it's probably a lost cause for use under vDosPlus. Generally, font files smaller than 100 kilobytes and/or very old TTF font files tend not to have the line- and box-drawing characters included.

Screen Settings

Note that if you have multiple monitors, you can force vDosPlus to come up on your monitor of choice by setting SCREEN = 1, SCREEN = 2, or similar in config.txt. Simply comment out the SCREEN line (by beginning it with rem) to have vDosPlus use the default screen, or set the default screen explicitly with SCREEN = 0.

You might think all monospaced fonts are interchangeable, so that whether you are using, for instance, Liberation Mono rather than Consolas would make no difference to how much screen real estate a vDosPlus session takes up. But, in fact, vDosPlus (and vanilla vDos) window sizes vary widely depending on your font choice: you may get more or fewer columns, or more or fewer lines, fitting on your monitor depending on which font family you've installed in config.txt.

Below are the combinations of fonts and screen sizes I like best. Of course, this is subjective, and, as we say in Canada, ykmv — your kilometrage may vary.

Use the highest resolution your monitor supports that's appropriate for its aspect ratio; the higher the resolution the better the TrueType fonts used by vDosPlus will look (although they look very nice even at lower resolutions). Most widescreen 16:9 monitors max out at 1920x1080, and most 4:3 squarish monitors max out at 1024x768.

(That said, using a lower resolution will make Windows icons, dialog boxes, and other things that don't matter when using vDosPlus, look larger; I actually often use 1280x720 when hooking up my laptop to a large HD TV monitor.)

Edge Padding

By default, vDosPlus gives you one-half character width of blank space at all four edges of the screen or window.

If you'd like more, you can set a custom edge-padding value (in pixels) in config.txt. For instance, this will give you 10 pixels of additional padding at all four edges:

You can set the padding color to match the background of your document window by specifying an optional color parameter from 0 through 15: 0 for black, 1 for blue, 2 for green, 3 for cyan, 4 for red, 5 for magenta, 6 for yellow, 7 for white, 8 for bright black (which is gray), 9 for bright blue, 10 for bright green, 11 for bright cyan, 12 for bright red, 13 for bright magenta, 14 for bright yellow, or 15 for bright white.

If you've customized these colors using the COLORS directive in config.txt, the PADDING directive will also use the customized colors.

So, this will give you 20 pixels of green padding:

PADDING = 20,2

Widescreen Monitors

For widescreen monitors with 16:9 (or 1.78) aspect ratios (including HD TV sets), often used with graphic resolutions of 1280x720, 1366x768, 1600x900, or 1920x1080 pixels, try the Consolas font family with the default screen dimensions of 80x25:

Note: the vDosPlus parameter for setting the number of lines is LINS = not LINES =.

COLS = 80
LINS = 25
WINDOW = 100

The above will give you quite large text. For medium text, try the following, still using the Consolas family. This one, and the two that follow, all have screens wider than 80 columns, which may cause some MS-DOS applications to not work well, although WordStar itself should have no problem if you've made the "Screen Sizing" patch discussed below.

COLS = 94
LINS = 29
WINDOW = 100

For even smaller text, still using Consolas fonts (this is my favorite):

COLS = 104
LINS = 31
WINDOW = 100

And for tiny text, again with Consolas fonts:

COLS = 118
LINS = 35
WINDOW = 100

(When using the Consolas font, the setting COLS = 118 gives you a six-column WordStar file-directory display, plus a tiny bit of blank space on either side of the screen; a setting of 117 or lower only gives a five-column directory display but more room around the window's edges.)

If you prefer the look of Lucida Console (which you specify by the filename LUCON), you'll get a nicer display by using 28 lines instead of the default of 25:

COLS = 80
LINS = 28
WINDOW = 100

For smaller type with Lucida Console, try this:

COLS = 94
LINS = 31
WINDOW = 100

Squarish Monitors

For squarish old-style monitors with 4:3 (or 1.33) aspect ratios, often used with graphic resolutions of 640x480, 800x600, or 1024x768 pixels, you'll want to use more than 25 lines (otherwise, you'll have large amounts of unused screen real estate at the top and bottom). Try these settings in config.txt with the DejaVu font family:

COLS = 80
LINS = 35
WINDOW = 100

or these with the Consolas font family:

COLS = 80
LINS = 36
WINDOW = 100

If you want more text on screen, I find these settings work well with a squarish monitor and the Lucida Console typeface:

COLS = 105
LINS = 50
WINDOW = 100

Onscreen Italics and More

The following instructions should work for WordStar 4.0, WordStar 5.0, WordStar 5.5, WordStar 6.0, and WordStar 7.0.

Jos Schaars kindly added some special video support for WordStar to vDos — many, many thanks, Jos! Later, Wengier Wu extended this support even further in vDosPlus; again, many thanks!

This extended support allows WordStar to display bold, underlining, italics, bold italics, subscript, superscript, strikeout, and combinations such as underlined bold italics within WordStar. If you'd like to try this out, add this line to config.txt:


That stands for "word processor is WordStar."

(WP = can also be set to 5 or 6, to support WordPerfect for DOS 5 or WordPerfect for DOS 6, or to XY to support XyWrite for DOS.)

Sometimes text in marked blocks can appear struckthrough even when you haven't selected that attribute; if this bothers you, the STRIKOUT = OFF directive will eliminate that. There's more about block-marking colors below.

Remember, to choose special font treatments in a WordStar document, you fence text with paired control codes:

^B Bold ^B

^S Underlined ^S

^Y Italic ^Y

^B^Y Bold Italic ^B^Y

^V Subscript ^V

^T Superscript ^T

^X Struckout ^X

^B^S Underlined Bold ^B^S

^B^S^Y Underlined Bold Italic ^B^S^Y

^B^S^X^Y Struckout Underlined Bold Italic ^B^S^X^Y

(The actual order of combined codes doesn't matter to WordStar, but my advice is to always insert them in alphabetical order, since if you want to search for a code combination later, the sequence must match exactly.)

To get all these font treatments, you must also patch a copy of the WordStar program WS.EXE or a WordStar configuration file *.CFG to use specific color settings for special attributes (this won't affect your choices for menus, lists, title bar, style bar, status line, scroll bar, or ruler).

To make the patch, write all three of these lines out to a plain text (nondocument) file called VDOSPLUS.PAT (with each line ending with a hard carriage return and line feed — which is what you get if you hit Enter in WordStar):


Or simply download vdosplus.pat from my website: vdosplus.pat

Place vdosplus.pat in your master WordStar program folder (normally C:\WS), and then run WSCHANGE, go to menu E, A ("Patch from file"), and specify vdosplus.pat as the filename to be read in).

This gives dim white text on a black background (with bold and bold italics showing as bright white on black in addition to being in a thicker font, if available).

If you prefer other colors, you can play around with WSCHANGE's "Video Attributes Menu" at menu choice A, C, A in WordStar 4.0, WordStar 5.0, WordStar 5.5, WordStar 6.0, or at menu choice A, B, A in WordStar 7.0.

Or you might look at modifying the COLORS variable in config.txt rather than changing colors in WSCHANGE.

Or you could modify the VDOSPLUS.PAT file and apply it again, but note that calculating the first of the two bytes in each VCOLOR word is a bit tricky (but see below).

If you're not seeing onscreen strikeout, or if you're not seeing half-height superscripts and subscripts, make sure these parameters are both set to ON in vDosPlus's config.txt file:


If, for some reason you wish to disable display of onscreen strikeout, italics, or superscript and subscript, you can do so with these directives in config.txt:

(Note both that there's no "E" in STRIKOUT and the particular spelling of SUBPSCR.)

If you like using a black background for WordStar documents, you can skip to the next section. If not, or if you just want technical details, read on:

WP = WS has this effect (in vanilla vDos), according to Jos Schaars:

If you invoke WP = WS, and the high bit of the background color is set (8-15 = 0x8-0x0f), which means you can't use bright background colors anymore, and:

  • If bit 0 (1) is also set, the text is underlined.

  • If bit 2 (4) is also set, the text is struckthrough.

You can add a decimal numerical argument to the WP = WS statement to specify the background color you use for the WordStar editing window as set in WSCHANGE.EXE; vDosPlus will only provide text enhancements against the specified background color. Black is the default, or you may specify one of the following [these are also supported in vDosPlus]:

WP = WS,0 = Black
WP = WS,1 = Blue
WP = WS,2 = Green
WP = WS,3 = Cyan
WP = WS,4 = Red
WP = WS,5 = Magenta
WP = WS,6 = Brown
WP = WS,7 = White
WP = WS,8 = Gray
WP = WS,9 = Bright Blue
WP = WS,10 = Bright Green
WP = WS,11 = Bright Cyan
WP = WS,12 = Bright Red
WP = WS,13 = Bright Magenta
WP = WS,14 = Yellow
WP = WS,15 = Bright White

So, WP = WS and attribute 0x97 will display white (7) underlined text (8+1) on a black background.

WP = WS,8 and attribute 0xdf will display bright white (F) underlined and struckthrough (0xd) text on a dark gray (8) background.

Block-Marking Colors

The VDOSPLUS.PAT autopatcher file described above makes WordStar show marked blocks as black text on a green background. If you want inverse video (which can look odd with the special attributes patched above), go to WSCHANGE menu E, = ("Enter User Area Address"), and specify VCOLOR+6, then enter these two bytes:

FF 00

If you prefer a color combination other than black on green, patch VCOLOR+6 as follows — a great tip from Karl Fuss, who was a mainstay of the CompuServe WordStar Forum.

WordStar usually displays marked blocks by using a simple reversal of the normal text colors. Depending on the background and foreground colors chosen for text display, large areas of reverse video can often be ugly or uncomfortably bright. The color-setting menu in WSCHANGE does not permit altering the marked-block colors, although the VCOLOR area does include a two-byte slot called "Reserved (reverse video)" that serves the purpose quite well.

To control the marked-block colors, set the two bytes starting at VCOLOR+6 (default FF 00) to 00 nn. Get nn from the following table:

                    Background-->                   M     
                                     B     G        g  B  W
                                     l  B  r  C     e  r  h
                                     a  l  e  y  R  n  o  i
                                     c  u  e  a  e  t  w  t
                                     k  e  n  n  d  a  n  e
                     Fore-   Black |  |01|02|03|04|05|06|07|
                     ground   Blue |10|  |12|13|14|15|16|17|
                      |      Green |20|21|  |23|24|25|26|27|
                      |       Cyan |30|31|32|  |34|35|36|37|
                      v        Red |40|41|42|43|  |45|46|47|
                           Magenta |50|51|52|53|54|  |56|57|
                             Brown |60|61|62|63|64|65|  |67|
                             White |70|71|72|73|74|75|76|  |
                              Gray |08|09|0a|0b|0c|0d|0e|0f|
                       Bright Blue |18|19|1a|1b|1c|1d|1e|1f|
                      Bright Green |28|29|2a|2b|2c|2d|2e|2f|
                       Bright Cyan |38|39|3a|3b|3c|3d|3e|3f|
                        Bright Red |48|49|4a|4b|4c|4d|4e|4f|
                    Bright Magenta |58|59|5a|5b|5c|5d|5e|5f|
                            Yellow |68|69|6a|6b|6c|6d|6e|6f|
                      Bright White |78|79|7a|7b|7c|7d|7e|7f|

To make the change, go into WSCHANGE, press E for patching, then =. Type VCOLOR+6 as the label to edit. You should see FF 00 as the first two bytes. Change them to 00 nn (taking the appropriate value of nn from the table above), press X, and then save the file.

Screen Sizing

If you have WordStar 7.0, you can make WordStar automatically adapt to whatever your vDosPlus screen dimensions are. Go to WSCHANGE menu A, A, C (Screen sizing) and set both Height (WordStar user-area address label HITE) and Width (WIDE) to 0 (zero); WordStar will now autosize to fit the current dimensions.

If you have WordStar 4.0, 5.0, 5.5, or 6.0, and you are using vDosPlus at anything other than its default values of 25 lines by 80 columns as specified by the LINS = and COLS = directives in config.txt, then you have to manually set Height (WordStar user-area address label HITE) and Width (label WIDE or, in WordStar 4.0, WID) to have the same numeric values as the LINS = and COL = settings you've specified for vDosPlus; these values are set at WSCHANGE menu A, A, C (Screen sizing).

Cursor Sizing

WordStar 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, and 7.0 support separate cursor shapes for insert and overtype (or "Ins-Off") typing mode (WordStar 4.0 doesn't support changing the cursor shape). To set a size that works well under vDosPlus, go to WSCHANGE menu E, = (Enter User Area address), type CURSIZ, and enter these six bytes if you like a block cursor for insert and an underscore for overtype:

07 02 07 06 07 06

Or, if you prefer an underscore cursor for insert and a block for overtype, instead enter:

07 06 07 02 07 06
The cursor cell starts at the top with pixel row 00 and goes down from there: the six bytes are, in order:
  • bottom of cursor for insert
  • top of cursor for insert

  • bottom of cursor for overwrite
  • top of cursor for overwrite

  • bottom of cursor after you exit WordStar
  • top of cursor after you exit WordStar
Values of FF 00 make sure the cursor block always fills the entire character cell; to turn off any cursor sizing by WordStar, set the first two bytes to FF FF instead.

Screen Brightness

I've made three little .btm (4DOS batch) files to set dim, medium, or bright color schemes in vDosPlus. Just put them anywhere on your PATH, and type either DIM, MEDIUM, or BRIGHT at the vDosPlus prompt to choose the brightness level you wish. (4DOS is the command processor integrated into vDosPlus.)

You can also run these batch files within WordStar using from the ^KF "Run DOS Command" dialog box.

All three, plus a 4DOS descript.ion file, are here: britedim.zip.

Or you can just cut-and-paste the contents below into the indicated filenames (and, of course, you can rename the .btm files to whatever you wish):


REM Sets DIM color scheme under vDosPlus
REM by Robert J. Sawyer / sawyer@sfwriter.com

SETCOLOR 0  #000000
SETCOLOR 1  #000080
SETCOLOR 2  #008000
SETCOLOR 3  #008080
SETCOLOR 4  #800000
SETCOLOR 5  #800080
SETCOLOR 6  #808000
SETCOLOR 7  #c0c0c0
SETCOLOR 8  #808080
SETCOLOR 9  #3300ff
SETCOLOR 10 #33ff00
SETCOLOR 11 #00ffff
SETCOLOR 12 #ff0000
SETCOLOR 13 #ff00ff
SETCOLOR 14 #ffff00
SETCOLOR 15 #ffffff

Brightness: DIM



REM Sets MEDIUM color scheme under vDosPlus
REM by Robert J. Sawyer / sawyer@sfwriter.com

SETCOLOR 0  #000000
SETCOLOR 1  #0000aa
SETCOLOR 2  #00aa00
SETCOLOR 3  #00aaaa
SETCOLOR 4  #aa0000
SETCOLOR 5  #aa00aa
SETCOLOR 6  #aa5500
SETCOLOR 7  #aaaaaa
SETCOLOR 8  #555555
SETCOLOR 9  #5555ff
SETCOLOR 10 #55ff55
SETCOLOR 11 #55ffff
SETCOLOR 12 #ff5555
SETCOLOR 13 #ff55ff
SETCOLOR 14 #ffff55
SETCOLOR 15 #ffffff

Brightness: MEDIUM



REM Sets BRIGHT color scheme under vDosPlus
REM by Robert J. Sawyer / sawyer@sfwriter.com

SETCOLOR 0  #000000
SETCOLOR 1  #0000cc
SETCOLOR 2  #00cc00
SETCOLOR 3  #00cccc
SETCOLOR 4  #cc0000
SETCOLOR 5  #cc00cc
SETCOLOR 6  #cc7700
SETCOLOR 7  #cccccc
SETCOLOR 8  #777777
SETCOLOR 9  #7777ff
SETCOLOR 10 #77ff77
SETCOLOR 11 #77ffff
SETCOLOR 12 #ff7777
SETCOLOR 13 #ff77ff
SETCOLOR 14 #ffff77
SETCOLOR 15 #ffffff

Brightness: BRIGHT


Advanced Page Preview and Inset

Advanced Page Preview

Under vDosPlus, the easiest way to get a high-resolution full-color preview of how your file will look when printed is to simply go ahead and print it. vDosPlus will intercept the output being sent by WordStar to a printer port, such as LPT1 or COM1, and convert it into an Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) file, which will automatically open with your computer's default PDF viewer. (If you don't have one, I recommend the free Sumatra PDF.)

But suppose you want to preview the file you're still editing? That's easy, too: first, save it using WordStar's ^KS "Save & Resume" command, then print it from within the file using the ^KP "Print" command.

In WordStar 7.0, you can automate the process with a macro, which you might want to call preview.wsm:

REM  Preview the file you're currently editing
REM  as an Adobe PDF file

REM  by Robert J. Sawyer (sawyer@sfwriter.com)

Sub Main
End Sub

You can download the above macro from my website here: preview.wsm

Okay, that's the easiest way, but it does preview the entire file from the beginning, rather than starting at whatever page in the file you happen to be on, and the Acrobat PDF can take a long time to generate (although it'll happen in the background) if your document is large. What about WordStar's actual built-in Advanced Page Preview?

WordStar 4.0 is solely a text-mode program; if you have that version, you can ignore this entire section and skip to the next section relevant to you.

Starting with WordStar 5.0, and continuing with WordStar 5.5, WordStar 6.0, and WordStar 7.0, the ability was added to graphically preview the layout of documents with the fonts and colors that would be used when printing. WordStar's makers rightly called this feature Advanced Page Preview: it was light-years ahead of the competing features in the DOS versions of Word and WordPerfect.

Although under plain old MS-DOS with the right graphics card WordStar's Advanced Page Preview could support resolutions as high as 1600x1280 pixels, vDosPlus only supports the standard VGA resolution of 640x480 pixels, and so that's the best you're going to get out of WordStar when running under vDosPlus.

However, if you have a monitor with at least twice 640x480 resolution, such as an HD monitor at 1920x1080 resolution, you can get a bigger preview display by upping the SCALE parameter in config.txt from the default of SCALE = 1 to SCALE = 2. All this does is replace each single pixel in Advanced Page Preview (or any other graphic display) with a 2x2 block, but it'll be easier to see. If you have a very-high-resolution monitor, values up to SCALE = 9 are supported. If you'd like to have different vertical and horizontal scaling factors, separate them with a comma, and put the vertical one first, for instance SCALE = 2,1.

If you frequently switch monitors (say, from a laptop's built-in screen to an external one), and only one of them supports a SCALE factor greater than 1, you can turn off the warning message vDosPlus gives when the higher value is too big for the current screen by setting CONFWARN = OFF in CONFIG.TXT. Note that this turns off all warning messages for invalid settings in CONFIG.TXT.

If you use a dual-monitor system, or have some other reason you'd like Advanced Page Preview and other graphic displays to spill over the edges when they don't fit your current monitor's resolution, you can use the undocumented vDosPlus technique of putting a minus sign in front of the SCALE factor, for example SCALE = -2; this prevents the defaulting back to a scale value of 1.

Try invoking Advanced Page Preview under vDosPlus (while editing a document) with the ^OP command. If it works, great. If either of these two things happen, though, you need to make a little tweak:

  • You get a blank screen; if so keep pressing Esc until you're out of preview and back into your document.

  • You get the WordStar error message "Must have graphic display to run Preview;" if so, press Esc to return to your document.

If either of those errors occur, you'll need to go to the folder that contains your Advanced Page Preview files. Depending on how you set up your WordStar program, that might be C:\WS or C:\WS\PREVIEW or whatever location you chose when installing WordStar for the first time.

In that folder, you'll find a file named FONTID.CTL. Edit this in WordStar's nondocument mode (or with any ASCII editor) and find the line that begins:


The = may or may not be followed by a number (if it isn't, that told WordStar to auto-detect your display-adapter type, a function that fails under vDosPlus). Edit the line to specify adapter type 6, which is (as documented in the FONTID.CTL file) "640 X 480 IBM VIDEO GRAPHICS ADAPTER (VGA) (16 COLOR)." The line should now look like this:


Note: If you have a standard 16:9 widescreen monitor, you might like this combination of WordStar's FONTID.CTL settings and vDosPlus CONFIG.TXT settings, which will cause the Advanced Page Preview display to fill your whole monitor (albeit at low 640x480 resolution):

In vDosPlus's CONFIG.TXT, set the SCALE value to "0,0" which tells vDosPlus to fill the screen both vertically and horizontally:

SCALE = 0,0

Then in WordStar's FONTID.CTL, set the line labeled ASPECT= to a value of -100 (note the minus sign), to compensate for the aspect ratio of your monitor so that previewed pages will still have the correct proportions:


Finally, if you have WordStar 7.0, and you're skilled at computing, it is possible to get high-resolution 300 dot-per-inch graphic previews out of WordStar under vDosPlus (or TameDOS). My instructions for doing this are here, but I don't provide any technical support for them.


If your version of WordStar came with the Inset graphics editing program (it was included with WordStar 5.5, WordStar 6.0, and WordStar 7.0), or you acquired it as a standalone add-on for use with WordStar 5.0, you also need to tell Inset to use standard VGA resolution. Find the WordStar folder containing INSET.EXE. In the same folder, you should also find Inset's installation utility, SETUP.COM.


Change option A ("Screen") to "VGA."

Change option B ("Screen Mode") "VGA_HIGH."

Inset, which you invoke while editing with ^P&, should now work properly under vDosPlus.


WordStar 4.0, 5.0, 5.5, and 6.0 do not support either EMS (expanded memory) or XMS (extended memory); if you have one of those versions, you can skip to the next section.

Enabling WordStar's EMS support frees an extra 18K of the 640K of low DOS memory; that additional low DOS memory can be used by WordStar itself or by TSR memory-resident programs (although note that not all TSRs work under vDosPlus).

(You shouldn't need it for WordStar under vDosPlus, but if you use a 32-bit version of Windows and are having trouble accessing EMS on your computer outside of vDosPlus — a common problem with Dell computers — the free product EMS Magic will be your friend. The executable EMSMAGIC.COM is included with vDosPlus to solve a specific problem with XyWrite 4, and the full, free product with documentation, courtesy of its creator Jon Petrosky, is available here.)

To enable EMS in WordStar 7.0, go to WSCHANGE menu C, C, 2 (Memory Usage Menu #2), and set option G ("EMS Usage (16K pages)," which is user-area address label EMSMEM), to 16.

The values of 16 suggested above have never given me any problems, but, for the record, the README file that comes with WordStar 7.0 says, "It's generally best to use a total of 8 to 35 pages of EMS. Using fewer than 8 pages or more than 35 pages may slow WordStar down. You can try different settings within this range to find the optimum efficiency on your system."

You then must activate EMS in vDosPlus; to do that, you must have this line in vDosPlus's config.txt, file as indicated under vDosPlus Settings, above:


(The numeral in the above line tells vDosPlus to provide 4 megabytes of EMS; you can specify any number between 1 and 63.)

You can confirm that WordStar is in fact using EMS memory by issue ? from the Opening Menu, or ^O? while editing.

WordStar 7.0 Rev. A, Rev. B, and Rev. C support only EMS but not XMS. Support for XMS was added (in addition to the existing EMS support) in the final revision, WordStar 7.0 Rev. D, which allows using EMS, XMS, or both simultaneously (or neither, if you prefer). You can see which revision you have by hitting ? from WordStar's Opening Menu.

Unless you have WordStar 7.0 Rev. D, you can skip to the next section now.

If you do have WordStar 7.0 Rev. D, and prefer to use XMS instead of EMS, then, since XMS is the vDosPlus default, either comment out the XMEM = line in config.txt, or explicitly set it to XMS, like so:


Then go to WSCHANGE menu C, C, 2 (Memory Usage Menu #2), and instead set option J ("XMS Usage (16K pages)," label XMSMEM) to 16.

As I said above, enabling WordStar's EMS support frees an extra 18K of the 640K of low DOS memory. Enabling Rev. D's XMS support, on the other hand, uses up an additional 4K of the 640K of low DOS memory. As vDos creator Jos Schaars explains, "To access XMS memory, a program requests DOS to swap a chunk of memory from XMS to conventional memory and back again, so some conventional memory has to be set aside as a buffer. EMS memory has its buffers in upper memory and no swapping is involved; a buffer is simply set to point to some part of the EMS memory." Because of this, unless you have a specific need for XMS, I recommend you use EMS instead.

You can confirm that WordStar is in fact using EMS or XMS memory by issue ? from the Opening Menu, or ^O? while editing.

Converting Between WordStar and Microsoft Word

If you have WordStar 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, or 7.0, you already have the conversion utility you need. It's called Star Exchange, and is actually a rebranded version of the third-party software Software Bridge. You can access it either from WordStar's Opening Menu (under "A" for "Additional") or from the command line.

If you have WordStar 4.0, you'll need a similar utility. Software Bridge's main competitor was Word for Word, and it's abandonware now. Edward Mendelson has made it freely available here.

Even if you have Star Exchange, I recommend you get Word for Word, too. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and you may find that one or the other does a better job for you.

Modern Windows word processors support three different formats. There are the two that everyone knows about, .doc and .docx, and a third that most people are blissfully unaware of, .rtf (Rich Text Format). And it's .rtf that's the key to moving back and forth between WordStar and Microsoft Word (or the word processors in LibreOffice, OpenOffice, Scrivener, SoftMaker Office, StarOffice, and others).

  • To import from WordStar into a modern word processor, convert your file to .rtf and the modern word processor will open it just fine. Then, if you wish you can use the modern word processor's "Save As" function to save in either .doc or .docx format (although there's usually no need to actually do that; you can continue to work in the modern word processor on an .rtf file without difficulty).

  • To export from a modern word processor into WordStar, use the "Save As" function to save a copy of the file in .rtf format, and then convert that .rtf file to WordStar using either Star Exchange or Word for Word.

Even if you have WordStar 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, or 7.0, you might nonetheless try converting from .rtf to WordStar 4.0 format. I find that often gives a cleaner import into any version of WordStar (by producing a file that uses only dot commands and no font tags or other tags).

NOTE: WordStar 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, or 7.0, can flawlessly open WordStar 4.0 files (that is, there is forward compatibility), but WordStar 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, or 7.0 files cannot be opened at all in WordStar 4.0 (there is no backward compatibility).


If you use a 32-bit (but not a 64-bit) version of Windows 10, 7, Vista, 2003 server, XP, 2000, Citrix, or NT, you might consider TameDOS rather than vDosPlus: it provides several additional enhancements, and, since it works on top of Windows's own buried MS-DOS rather than trying to emulate DOS in Windows, application programs (including WordStar) run much faster under TameDOS than they do under vDosPlus.

(Note: Almost all distributions of Windows 7 and 10 are 64-bit; unless you specifically requested the 32-bit version, you almost certainly don't have it. You can find out what version you have by checking your system properties in the Windows control panel. In addition, if your system has more than 4 gigabytes of RAM, it's almost certainly not a 32-bit system, as 4 gigabytes is the maximum amount usable by 32-bit versions of Windows.)

TameDOS costs US$20, and I do recommend it; it's what I use myself daily to run WordStar under the 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows 7: TameDOS.com.

A few modern computers using onboard Intel graphics (including some Intel GMA chipsets), rather than a separate graphics card, experience a maddening 8-second delay each time TameDOS loads. Fortunately, there's a complete fix for this here.

More Information

Latest news and builds are at Wengier Wu's vDosPlus Home Page.

There's a discussion thread about WordStar and vDos over at the original vDos's home on SourceForge.

And vDosPlus has its own SourceForge area, including a discussion forum.

Older discussions of vDosPlus, from back when it was called vDos-lfn, are here.

Users of the MS-DOS word processors XyWrite and Nota Bene have been particularly active in supporting vDosPlus, and Wengier Wu himself often participates in their discussions. Join the mailing list or search the archives here.

Bruce Hartford has put together detailed beginner-friendly instructions on using WordStar 6.0 (his favorite version) under vDosPlus and Windows 7. Get his PDF here.

Edward Mendelson has tons of information on using WordPerfect, his preferred word-processing program, under vDos and vDosPlus. See his page devoted to that for more tips and tricks, and some excellent explanations related to vDosPlus.

For more information about WordStar, see:

And for an explanation of why one might not want to use market-leading Microsoft Word, see the essay Why Microsoft Word Must Die by my friend and colleague Charles Stross.


Many thanks again to Jos Schaars for creating vDos, to Wengier Wu for giving us vDosPlus, to Gary Sandhu for first introducing me to vDos, and to WordPerfect for DOS maven Edward Mendelson for tips and tricks, and, of course, to Rob Barnaby, Seymour Rubenstein, Peter Mierau, Joe Masters, and all the other people at MicroPro/WordStar who created the best word-processing program the world has ever known.

Robert J. Sawyer, a member of the Order of Canada and a former sysop of CompuServe's WordStar Forum, won the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Nebula Award for Best Novel of 1995 and the World Science Fiction Society's Hugo Award for Best Novel of 2003. The ABC TV series FlashForward was based on his novel of the same name. He writes all of his books in WordStar for DOS.

Introduction | vDosPlus Installation | vDosPlus Settings | Printing | Swapping Ctrl and CapsLock | Windows Clipboard Support | Fonts | Onscreen Italics and More | Screen Settings | Screen Brightness | Advanced Page Preview and Inset | EMS and XMS | TameDOS | More Information | Acknowledgments

More Good Reading

WordStar: A Writer's Word Processor

An older version of this page, covering vDos versions prior to 2016

Rob's system for getting WordStar 7.0 to preview pages at high resolution with any graphics card

Printing on A4-sized paper with WordStar

Still using WordStar 3.0 or 3.3? Here's how you can customize the keyboard

Rob's sixth "On Writing" column, outlining tricks you can do with your word processor — whatever it may be — to help you with your writing.

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