MKS Toolkit's centerpiece supports graphical shell scripts

Developers who make the transition from Unix to Microsoft Windows often discover, from
long and painful experience, that the Unix way of doing things doesn’t work.

They nevertheless want to take their Unix skills with them, and organizations want to
leverage their investments in Unix shell scripts.

Enter Mortice Kern Systems’ MKS Toolkit, a collection of more than 200 Unix-like
utilities for Windows NT, Windows 9x, MS-DOS and OS/2.

The centerpiece, a Korn shell with AT&T Unix and Posix.2 script compatibility, is
generally backward-compatible with Bourne shell scripts but incompatible with Berkeley C
shell scripts.

Compared with standard Korn shells, the MKS Toolkit’s Win32 Korn shell not only
handles standard text-based scripts, it also supports graphical shell
scripts—combinations of Windows message boxes or dialog boxes and scripts. Several of
the Toolkit’s desktop PC utilities—Autorun, Gdir, Ghist, Gps and Ugrep—work
in this combined fashion.

Autorun modifies the Windows Registry database so that specified commands run when the
system boots or when you log in. Gdir is a graphical representation of the Dirs, Pushd and
Popd commands for managing the directory stack.

Ghist displays and manages the shell command history from a scrollable dialog box. You
can also do Vi or Emacs command history editing from within the shell.

Gps displays and manages process status. Ugrep is a regular-expression search utility
that combines the functions of Grep and Find. Command-line Grep, Fgrep, Egrep and Find
utilities are supplied separately.

Some of the shell commands and utilities work as graphical programs. Gvar sets shell
environment variables using property sheets. Gset sets shell options, and Viw implements
the Vi editor as a graphical program with full mouse support. A plain text-mode Vi is
present, too.

Appc is a graphical shell script with embedded Awk scripts that furnishes a graphical
front end for the Bc calculator. The Vdiff command is a graphical version of the
file-comparison utility Diff. The Vpax graphical application reads and writes Pax, Cpio
and Tar archives. Tksched is a graphical application that can schedule any MKS Toolkit
command or utility to run at a particular time on a single or recurring basis.

The Korn shell window itself has a customizable tool bar. Standard buttons launch the
graphical command history, shell variable, shell option and directory editors, a set of
Man pages in Windows Help format and an About box for the tool kit. A built-in Tb command
lets you add buttons to the tool bar and bind them to your own commands.

In addition to Awk, which interprets Awk programming language scripts, the MKS Toolkit
has Awkc to compile them into executable files. And besides a Perl interpreter enhanced by
MKS from the freeware Perl 5.003, it includes Pscript, which makes Perl available as an
embedded scripting language for Hypertext Markup Language pages on both the client browser
and the server sides.

C programmers will be happy to find a robust make utility, along with vi, ctags, cc,
ar, nm, time, size, od, grep, diff, diff3, bdiff, strip and find.

Administrators will like the Windows NT administration and security utilities, the
Messaging Application Programming Interface and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol mail
utilities, the registry manipulation and task scheduling utilities, and the
Posix-compliant tape utilities.

Technical writers may be disappointed by the absence of the text-formatting utilities
Roff, Nroff and Troff, but at least Deroff is supplied so that you can strip out runoff
commands from a file. Spell is present for the spell-checking of text documents from the
command line.

The tool kit comes with detailed printed documentation, a Windows help file and Man
pages. Brief usage and options help are available for most utilities, and a user guide
orients the new user. There are tutorials for the shell, Awk, Vi and Make.

It took me a while to configure the shell nicely, experimenting with settings and
options. I ran into trouble with several public-domain distributions that required
downloading alternate versions of utilities. And I found several Windows-related bugs.

MKS has licensed a subset of the tool kit to Microsoft Corp. for inclusion in the free
Windows NT Services for Unix Add-On Pack.

If you are satisfied with a basic Korn shell, Perl, and 25 core file and text
manipulation utilities, download the add-on pack from

An alternative to the kit is the Hamilton C shell. If your background is Berkeley Unix
or you have an investment in C Shell scripts, Hamilton will meet your needs better than

If your background is AT&T Unix or you have an investment in Bourne or Korn shell
scripts, MKS is a better fit.

If you have no Unix experience but want a better programmable shell than Windows, both
the MKS Toolkit and the Hamilton C shell are viable choices.  

Martin Heller is a software development consultant and writer in Andover, Mass.

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