Windows 3.1x (codenamed Janus) is a series of 16-bit
operating environments produced by
Microsoft for use on personal
computers. The series began with Windows 3.1, which was first sold
during April 1992 as a successor to Windows 3.0. Subsequent versions
were released between 1992 and 1994 until the series was superseded by
Windows 95. During its lifespan, Windows 3.1 introduced several
enhancements to the still MS-DOS-based platform, including improved
system stability, expanded support for multimedia,
TrueType fonts, and
Windows 3.1 was originally released on April 6, 1992; official support
for Windows 3.1 ended on December 31, 2001, and OEM licensing for
Windows for Workgroups 3.11 on embedded systems continued to be
available until November 1, 2008.
1.1 Windows 3.1
1.1.1 Improvements over Windows 3.0
1.2 Windows 3.1 for Central and Eastern Europe
1.3 Modular Windows
1.4 Windows 3.11
1.5 Windows 3.2
2 Windows for Workgroups
2.1 Windows for Workgroups 3.1
2.2 Windows for Workgroups 3.11
3.1 Video for Windows
3.2 Windows for Pen Computing
4.1 Program Manager
4.2 Internet Explorer
5 Promotion and reception
8 See also
10 Further reading
Windows 3.1 (originally codenamed Janus), released on April 6, 1992,
TrueType font system (and a set of highly legible fonts),
which effectively made Windows a viable desktop publishing platform
for the first time. Similar functionality was available for Windows
Adobe Type Manager
Adobe Type Manager (ATM) font system from Adobe.
Windows 3.1 was designed to have backward compatibility with older
Windows platforms. As with Windows 3.0, version 3.1 had
and Program Manager, but unlike all previous versions, Windows 3.1
cannot run in real mode. It included Minesweeper as a replacement for
Reversi was still included in some copies).
Multimedia PC Version (Beta only, released November 1992
– codenamed Bombay) included a media viewer, and the ability to play
video files. It was targeted to the new
Multimedia PC standard and
included sound and video integration with CD-ROM support.
Improvements over Windows 3.0
Windows 3.1, showing some of the personalization options available
Windows 3.1 dropped real mode support and required a minimum of a 286
PC with 1 MB of RAM to run. The effect of this was to increase
system stability over the crash-prone Windows 3.0. Some older features
were removed, like CGA graphics support (although Windows 3.0's CGA
driver still worked on 3.1) and compatibility with real-mode Windows
Truetype font support was added, providing scalable fonts to Windows
applications, without having to resort to using a third-party font
technology such as Adobe Type Manager. Windows 3.1 included the
following fonts: Arial, Courier New, and Times New Roman, in regular,
bold, italic, and bold-italic versions, as well as Symbol (a
collection of scalable symbols). Truetype fonts could be scaled to any
size and rotated, depending on the calling application.
In 386 Enhanced Mode, windowed
DOS applications gained the ability for
users to manipulate menus and other objects in the program using the
Windows mouse pointer, provided that a
DOS application supported mice.
DOS applications, such as late releases of
Microsoft Word, could
access Windows Clipboard. Windows' own drivers couldn't work directly
DOS applications; hardware such as mice required a
DOS driver to
be loaded before starting Windows.
Icons could be dragged and dropped for the first time, in addition to
having a more detailed appearance. A file could be dragged onto the
Print Manager icon and the file would be printed by the current
printer, assuming it was associated with an application capable of
printing, such as a word processor. Alternatively, the file could be
dragged out of
File Manager and dropped onto an application icon or
window for processing.
Windows 3.0 was limited to 16 MB maximum memory, Windows
3.1 can access a theoretical 4 GB in 386 Enhanced Mode. (The
actual practical ceiling is 256 MB.) However, no single
process can use more than 16 MB.
File Manager was significantly
improved over Windows 3.0.
Multimedia support was enhanced over what
was available in
Windows 3.0 with
Multimedia Extensions and available
to all Windows 3.1 users.
Windows 3.1 was available via 720 KB, 1.2 MB, and 1.44 MB floppy
distributions. It was also the first version of Windows to be
distributed on CD-ROM — although this was more common for Windows
for Workgroups 3.11, which typically came with
MS-DOS 6.22 on one CD.
Installed size on the hard disk was between 10 MB and 15 MB.
32-bit disk access (386 Enhanced Mode only) brought improved
performance by using a 32-bit protected mode driver instead of the
16-bit BIOS functions (which necessitate Windows temporarily dropping
out of protected mode).
Windows 3.1's calendar uses the .cal filename extension.
Windows 3.1 also introduced the Windows Registry, a centralized
database that can store configuration information and settings for
various operating systems components and applications.
Windows 3.1 was the first version of Windows that could also launch
Windows programs via
Command.com while running Windows.
Windows 3.1 for Central and Eastern Europe
A special version named Windows 3.1 for Central and Eastern Europe was
released that allowed use of Cyrillic and had fonts with diacritical
marks characteristic of Central and Eastern European languages.
Microsoft introduced its own code page (Windows-1250) and supported
its use in violation of many countries' ISO standards (e.g., the
official Polish codepage is ISO-8859-2, which was ignored by Microsoft
but is supported by contemporary
Internet Explorer versions).
Microsoft also released Windows 3.1J with support for
Japanese, which shipped 1.46 million copies in its first year on the
market (1993) in Japan.
Modular Windows is a special version of Windows 3.1, designed to run
on Tandy Video Information System.
Windows 3.11 was released on November 8, 1993. It did not add many
feature improvements over Windows 3.1, other than a few much-needed
LAN and business network improvements; it primarily contained dramatic
bug fixes, but was considered a significant improvement because of
those fixes, contributing to the operating system's popularity.
Microsoft replaced all retail versions of Windows 3.1 with Windows
3.11 and provided a free upgrade to anyone who currently owned Windows
On November 22, 1993,
Microsoft released a Simplified Chinese version
of Windows for the Chinese market. A year later, an update was
released, which identified itself as Windows 3.2. Thus, Windows 3.2 is
an updated version of the Chinese version of Windows 3.1. The
update was limited to this language version, as it only fixed issues
related to the complex input system for the Chinese language.
Windows 3.2 was generally sold by computer manufacturers with a
ten-disk version of
MS-DOS that also had Simplified Chinese characters
in basic output and some translated utilities.
Windows for Workgroups
Network capabilities of Windows for Workgroups 3.11
Windows for Workgroups is an extension that allowed users to share
their resources and to request those of others without a centralized
authentication server. It used SMB protocol over NetBIOS.
Windows for Workgroups 3.1
Windows for Workgroups 3.1 (originally codenamed Winball and later
Sparta), released in October 1992, is an extended version of
Windows 3.1 that features native networking support. It comes with SMB
file sharing support via NetBIOS-based NBF and/or
transport protocols and introduces the Hearts card game and
VxD version of
SHARE.EXE (a terminate-and-stay-resident
Windows for Workgroups 3.11
Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (originally codenamed Snowball) was
released on August 11, 1993, and shipped in November 1993. It
supported 32-bit file access, full 32-bit network redirectors, and
VCACHE.386 file cache, shared between them. WFW 3.11 dropped standard
mode support and requires a 386 machine to run.
Winsock package was required to support
TCP/IP networking in Windows
3.x. Usually third-party packages were used, but in August 1994,
Microsoft released an add-on package (codenamed Wolverine) that
TCP/IP support in Windows for Workgroups 3.11. Wolverine was
a 32-bit stack (accessible from 16-bit Windows applications via
WinSock Thunk), which gave it superior performance to most of the
TCP/IP Windows stacks available. However, it was only
compatible with Windows for Workgroups 3.11, and lacked support for
dial-up. Wolverine stack was an early version of the
TCP/IP stack that
would later ship with Windows 95, and provided an early testbed for
the 16-to-32-bit compatibility layer that was crucial to Windows 95's
Following the release of
MS-DOS 6.22 in 1994, WFW 3.11 largely
replaced Windows 3.1 for OEM installations on new PCs due to its
improved capabilities and greater stability.
Video for Windows
Main article: Video for Windows
Video for Windows
Video for Windows was first introduced in November 1992 as a reaction
to Apple Computer's
QuickTime technology which added digital video to
Macintosh. Costing around $200, the software included editing and
encoding programs for use with video input boards. A runtime version
for viewing videos only was also made available. Originally released
as a free add-on to Windows 3.1 and Windows 3.11, it then became an
integral component of
Windows 95 and later. Like
QuickTime there were
three components in Video for Windows. The technology introduced a
file format designed to store digital video, Audio Video Interleave
(AVI). The technology provided an application programming interface
that allowed Windows software developers to add the ability to play or
manipulate digital video to their own applications. Lastly, it
included a suite of software for playing and manipulating digital
Windows for Pen Computing
Main article: Windows for Pen Computing
Windows for Pen Computing
Windows for Pen Computing was a series of Microsoft-produced add-ons
Microsoft Windows versions in the mid-1990s with additional tools
for tablet PCs.
Windows for Pen Computing
Windows for Pen Computing (also known as Pen Windows
and W4PC) was developed as Microsoft's pen computing response to
PenPoint OS by GO Corporation.
Windows for Pen Computing
Windows for Pen Computing was
rendered obsolete by Tablet PC support for
Windows XP Tablet PC
Edition in 2002.
Main article: Win32s
Windows 3.1x was given limited compatibility with the then-new 32-bit
Windows API used by
Windows NT by another add-on package, Win32s.
There was a rumor that
Microsoft did not want to increase any
Windows 3.1x version to something like "Windows 3.2"
because it could be confused with the
Win32 API or otherwise distract
consumers from upgrading to a "real 32-bit OS" like the then-upcoming
Windows 95 was, though
Windows NT 3.1
Windows NT 3.1 and 3.5 were both 32-bit
operating systems that looked similar in appearance. A game called
FreeCell was included for testing the new
Main article: WinG
To entice game manufacturers to move from
DOS to Windows, Microsoft
provided a first attempt at high-speed graphics and animation
capabilities for Windows 3.1x, introduced in September 1994. Windows'
GDI capabilities were originally designed with static images in mind,
allowing only for write-only graphics calls.
WinG provided a
device-independent interface to graphics and printer hardware, and
allowed programs to have both read and write capabilities to the
WinG device context).
Windows 3.1x introduced new possibilities for applications, especially
multimedia applications. During this era,
Microsoft developed a new
range of software that was implemented on this operating environment,
Microsoft Bob being one of the programs.
As the first versions of Windows to enjoy major commercial success and
software support, Windows 3.1 and WFW 3.11 quickly replaced
DOS as the
platform for application software on PC compatibles. Multimedia
software (especially games) proliferated, although many games
continued to run on
DOS until Windows 95.
Main article: Program Manager
Program Manager was included in all versions of Windows from version
Windows XP Service Pack 1. A non-operable icon library named
progman.exe is included in
Windows XP Service Pack 2, and the file was
removed entirely from Windows Vista.
Internet Explorer 2 through
Internet Explorer 5 were released for
Promotion and reception
Microsoft began a television advertising campaign for the first time
on March 1, 1992. The advertisements, developed by Ogilvy &
Mather, were designed to introduce a broader audience to Windows.
Windows 3.1 was shipped worldwide on April 6, 1992, and reached three
million sales two months later. The year of Windows 3.1's release
was successful for Microsoft, which was named the "Most Innovative
Company Operating in the U.S." by Fortune magazine, while Windows
became the most widely used GUI-based operating environment.
Main article: AARD code
The installer to the beta release used code that checked whether it
was running on Microsoft-licensed
DOS or another
DOS operating system
(such as DR-DOS). The code ran several functional tests that succeeded
MS-DOS and IBM PC DOS, but resulted in a technical support message
on competing operating systems. If the system was not MS-DOS, the
installer would fail. Digital Research, who owned DR-DOS, released a
patch within weeks to allow the installer to continue. Microsoft
disabled, but did not remove, this warning message for the final
release of Windows 3.1. When Caldera bought
DR-DOS from Novell, they
brought a lawsuit against
Microsoft over the AARD code, which was
Windows 3.x was superseded by the release of
Windows 95 in August
Microsoft officially dropped support for all 16-bit versions of
Windows on December 31, 2001.
Windows 3.1 found a niche market as an embedded operating system after
becoming obsolete in the PC world. As of November 2008, both Virgin
Qantas employed it for some of the onboard entertainment
systems on long-distance jets. It also sees continued use as an
embedded OS in retail cash tills. It is also used as a secondary
DOSBox to enable emulation of
Win16 games on 64-bit
On July 9, 2008, it was announced that Windows for Workgroups 3.11 for
the embedded devices channel would no longer be made available for OEM
distribution as of November 1, 2008.
On July 14, 2013,
Linux kernel version 3.11 was officially named
"Linux For Workgroups" as a tongue-in-cheek reference to "Windows for
32-bit file access
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