Learn Batch.txt by sidnpratixa


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"What is a batch file and why might I need one?"
A batch file is a series of commands that you might ordinarily issue at
the system prompt in order to perform a computer operation. The most
common uses are to start programs and to run utilities. Batch files do
that with one command instead of the multiple commands usually required.
They can be likened to shortcut icons as seen in point-&-click operating
systems, but batch files are much more powerful.

Using a batch file to start a program often means that your path
statement may be made shorter. This means fewer directories through which
DOS must search during its operations. Having a shorter path will also
leave room for other programs which may require path inclusion in order
to function properly.

Further, sophisticated batch files can improve upon program starting by
loading all or part of the program into upper or expanded/extended
memory, thus freeing up more lower (conventional) memory. Allowing lots
of lower memory means your programs have breathing room and there will be
space for utilities to run. This same capability may be had at the
command line, but the commands will likely be intricate and difficult to
remember. Why not let a batch file do the work for you?

With one command, a batch file can start the program in the desired
configuration and in addition, can request an associated file such as a
word processor document or spreadsheet be loaded once the main program is
running. This saves the user a search for that document and the issuing
of the commands necessary to load it. One simple command of the user's
naming does it all.

This is similar to Window's "File Association" feature, but with more
advantages because a number of batch files could be written to load the
same file each with its own, but different, attributes or start-up
options. In fact, one could even have the same file loaded into different
programs, each time with specific, yet different, options. The user never
has to change these configurations manually. To reinforce: once set up,
these batch files can load any program, with or witout documents, in the
user's chosen configuration automatically and with the user's choice of

Using a batch file to run a utility means being able to have direct
access to that utility. If there are any often-used specific options,
they can be included in the batch file and thus save you from typing,
with the possibility of mis-typing, these parameters.

DOS batch files can also make decisions to perform operations only if
certain conditions exist or don't exist. The most sophisticated ones can
even emulate commands not normally available with the DOS operating

The first section, below, will help you to understand and then write
basic batch files. For those who are afraid of programming, this article
will show you how simple it really is. DOS batch files are a good place
to start learning programming because they use plain-English commands for
the most part. Thus, they are easier to comprehend, even for those of you
whose first language is not English.

You may then move on to other sections which will show you to how improve
a batch file, and to make it look attractive & easy to decipher when
looking back at it from some future point. You'll also see how to combine
small batch files to do larger things.

On the Advanced Batch Files page, you'll be shown more complicated
example batch files which use command-line parameters. These allow the
file to function in different ways depending on the circumstances and the
desired outcome. On the other advanced pages, there are batch files given
that prompt a user for input. These permit operations based on choices
made by the user after the file is running.


You may wish to rename the sample files and perhaps use a different path
structure. Go ahead - this tutorial is just for example purposes. You may
also see another use for a batch file if it had some modifications. Be
creative and try the changes; however, be aware that no responsibility
will be taken by Doctor DOS for any problems encountered when using (or
mis-using) anything presented here.


I suggest that you always try out any batch file in a TEST directory.
Copy some files there to try out the batch. If it works as you intend,
and more importantly, if it does not work as you do not intend, then
transfer it to your regular working batch directory. If anything did go
wrong in the TEST directory, it would only affect copies of files and not
corrupt or destroy the originals.

First realise that a batch file typically takes the following form:

* Get Ready to Use a Program or Utility
* Run a Program or Utility
* Verify and/or Clean Up and/or Restore

The first line above, means to give some initial instructions that
prepare the main program or utility to run. These might be to go to a
specific directory, create or change an environment parameter, place a
message on to the screen, or anything else required for the
program/utility to run as you or it requires, as dictated by the task to
be done.
The next line runs the program or utility as directed by you, or in some
cases, by the batch file itself under the guidance of some pre-selected

Finally, the last line can be used to display closing messages or a
directory listing as confirmation of a utility operation. It might delete
temporary files made by the batch file, or it might restore the program
or DOS to its default settings. Another use would be to deposit the user
in some specific directory after the program or utility has finished, or
return one to where one was before running the batch file.

"What do I do first?"
To begin, create a directory called "C:\BATCH" where you will place your
new batch files. Some people use "C:\BAT", but that bothers me because
there would then be a directory with the same name as the batch file
extensions, which must use ".bat". For housekeeping and organisational
purposes, I try to not use names more than once - especially where
conflicts might arise or confusion might be generated.


Next, modify your path statement as found in your "AUTOEXEC.BAT" file to
include this new directory. Use the text editor that came with DOS. I
suggest placing it near the start so that DOS will find and execute your
batch files quicker by not having to search through unnecessary
directories first. I have my "Batch" directory placed second right after
the C:\DOS directory. So the path statement would read in part:
PATH=C:\DOS;C:\BATCH; and so on. It's also important that the BATCH
directory be before any program directories. This is because any program
executable with the same name as the batch file will initiate first,
bypassing your carefully crafted batch commands. After saving this file,
type "C:\AUTOEXEC" and press "ENTER", or reboot to initiate the change.


After the AUTOEXEC.BAT completes, select a text editor to use in writing
each line of your file. You may employ the one you used above, but there
are many other text editors available that you may find are more to your
liking. The only thing required is that it be able to save these files in
plain DOS (ASCII) text. This can be done by all text editors such as DOS'
Edlin and Edit, Windows Note/Wordpad, and a host of independent editors.
Word processors like Wordstar, WordPerfect and MS Word also have the
capability as long as you save the document in ASCII (plain text). I
personally like to use a little text editor called "Tiny Editor" by Tom

Type the files into your text editor as you see them here. DOS is not
case sensitive except in certain instances. These will be noted if
necessary. Otherwise, one may type all upper, all lower, or some
combination. I prefer to use all-caps for this purpose, except for
certain instances, or when case sensitivity is an issue. Alternatively,
you may screen capture or download this page and edit everything out but
the batch file(s) you wish to use.
When finished, name the file as seen here or use some other name that
you'll remember and be able to associate with the batch file and what it
does. Be sure to stick to DOS file-naming conventions of up to eight
characters before the dot and using a ".BAT" extension so that DOS will
know it's a batch file and run it as such. Newer DOS versions allow
longer file names but I don't recommend their use. Besides causing extra
typing in order to run the file, if you decide to use it yourself on an
older system, or pass it on to someone using an older DOS version, a long
file name may cause problems.


Recalling the file-name conflicts I touched upon farther back, you should
not name your batch file the same as any other file which is on your
computer, if possible. Otherwise, whichever comes first during a DOS path
statement search, will execute. This is unless one is in the directory in
which the given file resides. In that case, the current directory's file
takes precedence. There may be some cases where one wishes to use a batch
file with the same name as another file, but to eliminate unexpected
results, it's generally best to not use files with the same names. For
programs, however, I do tend to use the same name as the given program's
executable unless it is a long name. This is not generally a problem
because I have no program directories in my path and never manually run
programs from their own directories.

Finally, remember to place your new file into your "C:\BATCH" directory.

Once you understand the basics, we'll discuss some
improvements to make the file do more things with
the same simple keyboard command. This technique
will be followed throughout these lessons.

Let's select a task that involves only a few steps. I use WordPerfect a
lot, so we'll do that one first. Ordinarily, without a batch file, one
would log onto the appropriate drive, change to the WordPerfect
directory, and then issue the command to start WordPerfect. A batch file
will do this for you automatically. As you will see, each main line in
the batch file emulates what one would ordinarily type when at the
command line.

I'll first show you the complete batch file and then explain what each
line does. The following assumes that you are using WordPerfect 6.0 and
that it resides in a WP60 directory on the `C' Drive. Change these
parameters, if they differ from your word processor and directory.

Note that the indents shown for each example are to make them stand out
in your browser. You don't need to indent the lines in the batch file
itself unless you want to use them as part of your batch file layout.
Indents made by tabs or spaces after "ECHO OFF" are ignored by DOS during
batch file execution.
:: WP.bat
:: Runs WordPerfect


The first line is the batch file name. This is useful to remind anyone
looking at the file which one it is. The second line is a title remark
that tells what the file does.

Note the use of twin colons. DOS will not execute any batch file line
with twin colons in front of it, nor display it on the monitor screen.
After seeing the second colon, DOS ignores anything following and goes to
the next line. That is because the colon is an illegal label character.
With regards to batch files, a DOS "label" is a word or a series of
numbers/characters used to identify a part of a batch file. Some people
use a single colon to place remarks in a batch file, but since DOS uses
this to identify its labels and those lines will be read, I suggest the
single colon not be used, except of course, as a label precursor. (You'll
see more on labels in the tutorial's examples.)

Alternatively, others will use "REM" which is short for "Remark". DOS
does not execute these lines either, but it does read them, slowing
things down. This is not a problem with today's fast processors and hard
drives, but can make a difference on slower computers when the batch file
is long and contains a lot of remarks. Regardless, my philosophy is that
anything which speeds things should be used.

I must mention there is a also a problem with "REM" lines which contain
redirectors and piping, which I won't get into here because that is
beyond the scope of this tutorial. I simply recommend the double colon as
the best symbol for placing remarks/comments into a batch file.

Getting back to the example batch file, for the third line I employ the
double colons with the remainder of the line blank. It is used as a
separator between the title and the file itself. Although they do not
affect the running, or contribute to the mis-running, of the batch file,
they should be used here because DOS will display an unnecessary prompt
on the screen for any blank line before an "ECHO OFF" command.

The fourth line is required to tell DOS not to display the succeeding
lines on the screen, and the "@" symbol tells DOS not to show the line
itself. The first command in typical batch files usually is "ECHO OFF".
"Echo" means that the keys struck on the keyboard are "echoed"
(displayed) on the screen. Since a batch file is just a series of
commands, what is typed in the file would be echoed on the screen as DOS
executes each of those lines, just as though you were typing each
instruction at the command line. However, in most cases, the user is only
interested in the end result and does not need to see everything that DOS
is doing. Using the "Echo Off" command means each command issued by the
file as it works toward completing the requested task will not appear on
the screen. Again, if you wish even that line to be hidden, add the "at"
sign ( @ ) before it, as in the example above.

Next is a blank line. DOS ignores blank lines (if they occur beyond an
"Echo Off" command), and executes the following line immediately. I
insert such lines to separate the various steps the file does to complete
its assigned task. It makes no difference to the running of the file but
does give each part its own space, making for better readability. This is
important for lengthy, complicated files, especially if you go back into
them a long time after they were written.

The succeeding line tells DOS to go to the `C' drive. This is important
if you are on a floppy, CD-ROM, RAM, Flash, or another hard drive, yet
wish to start word processing immediately. The next line changes to the
WP60 directory and the final line tells WordPerfect to start.

There you have it. Save that as "WP.BAT" in your BATCH directory. Now to
start the program from the DOS prompt, type "WP" from any drive. If it
works, you may now remove "C:\WP60;" from your path statement, making for
a more efficient running of DOS. Since the batch file changes to the
correct directory for WordPerfect, DOS does not have to search the path
to locate the WP executable file. Since it no longer has to search,
having WordPerfect in the path statement is unnecessary. The fewer
directories through which DOS must search, the faster it locates what it
wants, resulting in a more efficient, and thus faster, operation of your

Note that you should be sure you have told WordPerfect
where its files are via the program's set-up section.
Removing the WordPerfect directory from the path may
result in some error messages while running WordPerfect
if this has not been done. Typically, pressing Shift-F1
will display the set-up screen when in WordPerfect.

IMPROVEMENTS: "Can this file do more work for me?"
I have a screen that is my opening one after boot-up and it's the one to
which I always return after exiting any program, save for a few. It's my
desktop, which for me, is the `C' drive root directory with a specific
custom prompt and a directory listing using an after-market program
called Color Directory by Loren Blaney. It gives a wide-format display of
the contents of the directory with sub-directories and file types in
different colours. You could display the directory contents by
incorporating DOS's "DIR" command, if you wish, but Color Directory
dresses up the screen and makes it easier to discern file types.

To return to this example desktop after exiting Wordperfect, the screen
must be cleared, the `C' Drive root directory must be returned to and the
Color Directory listing displayed. Now, we could add these commands to
the end of the above batch files, but since I add it to most batch files
I write, it's a better idea to make this its own batch file and then have
each initial batch file refer to this new one as part of its list of
commands. It will save typing those commands into every batch file and
should you decide to change your desktop, only this one specific file
needs to be altered, because all others will refer to this one.

Let's write the new file first:

:: CLR.bat
:: Clears Screen and Returns to the DeskTop



We have already discussed the opening information lines, the "@ECHO OFF"
command, the double colons and blank lines, so I will skip them here and
for all future discussions. Lines 6 & 7 return one to the `C' Drive's
root directory. Line 8 is DOS's "Clear Screen" command. It erases
everything on the screen except for the prompt and any special screen
settings contained within, such as certain coloured text & backgrounds,
among other options.

The final command is for the Color Directory. It's also a batch file
(called "DR.BAT") with one line (after "@ECHO OFF") that directs DOS to
the directory containing the Color Directory program's executable file.
The full path is given so that DOS will not have to search any
directories for the "DR" batch file. I have named this batch file
"CLR.BAT", which stands for "Clear Screen, Return to Desktop".

I can now add this "CLR" command to the end of any batch file to clear
the screen and return me to my desktop automatically after completing any
task. The reason this works is that after a DOS batch file hands control
over to a program, when the program finishes, it returns the reins to DOS
which remembers that there is another line in the batch file to run. It
therefore runs the "CLR" batch file upon exiting a given program, which
then returns me to my desktop.

Using our word processing example farther back,
the file now looks like:

:: WP.bat
:: Runs WordPerfect and Returns to the Desktop


FURTHER ENHANCEMENTS: "Could this file do yet more work?"
The preceding improves the original "WP.BAT", but we can enhance it
further through WordPerfect's built-in command-line options. I won't get
into an explanation of those options here as that would be outside the
subject of this article. You'll need to consult the WP manual to learn
more; however I'll give you an example of some.

I like to have WordPerfect use expanded memory (/r), and have it place &
read its overflow, buffer, & temporary files on my RAM (F) Drive (/d-)
for faster operation and the freeing of lower (conventional) memory. With
these options, the batch file then becomes:

:: WP.bat
:: Runs WordPerfect and Returns to the Desktop

WP /r /d-F:\TEMP


Note to use this, you will have to create a TEMP directory on your RAM
drive upon each bootup. Add such a line to your Autoexec.bat. If you
don't make use of a RAM drive (and you should!), create the TEMP
directory on your C drive and point WordPerfect there. It won't be as
fast, but there will be fewer files for WordPerfect to look through when
it doesn't place its temporary files in its own, already crowded

WordPerfect, like many DOS programs, can also load a document upon
startup. You might like to use a letter form (which is called a
"template" in the word processing world) for most letters you type. Its
name might be "LETTER.FRM" and it would likely include your name &
address as a header, along with various options you like to use. (Never
use the extension "TMP" for a "template" file as that may be used by DOS
and its programs to designate a temporary file). If it's sitting in a
subdirectory of WordPerfect's called "Template", the third-last line of
the batch file becomes:


This batch file version might be called "WPLET.BAT".

Now that you have this basic batch file, a large stable of batch files
could be written to run WordPerfect and load any number of different
documents. In addition, you may also have your batch file start a
WordPerfect macro using the "/m-" switch. A macro is a type of batch file
used by many programs. You write it much as you would these DOS batch
files except a ".WPM" extension is used in Wordperfect. (See your word
processor's manual for details on macro writing.)
To run a WordPerfect macro from your DOS batch file, enter the macro
option after any other options for WordPerfect. Now, with one simple
command, you could start the program from anywhere within DOS, load a
letter template, and then have the WP macro load the current project on
which you are working into that template. The line might then look like:


All this is from one simple batch file that might be named "WPCP.BAT" for
"Wordperfect, Current Project". What a huge amount of typing saved! Can
you imagine typing those lines every time you wanted to work on that
particular project? Plus, with this method, you get the options you want,
tailored to each type of program and document upon which you are working,
without having to reconfigure a program's defaults.

Note that these command-line options are done using "slash switches",
that is a slash followed by a letter or character string. For more on
this aspect of DOS, see DOS Switches, elsewhere at this website. Making
use of command line options (switches) is a very powerful way to run

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