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Using PROCON's High Visibility Full Screen VGA Fonts in Full Screen Modes

High Visibility Fonts for Full Screen MS-DOS Windows' Full Screen MS-DOS and Terminal Mode Fonts Unix & Linux Full Screen Terminal Fonts Full Screen Codepage 437 OEM Fonts for MS-DOS, Window's and Linux Full Screen Modes>

The HVFont Full Screen package is designed to improve productivity - and make life easier - for those who use a PC or terminal in full screen mode. These modes include:-

MS-DOS itself,
True MS-DOS "Mode" (Windows 95/98),
MS-DOS Full Screen "Boxes" (any Windows version),
Full Screen Terminal modes (Window's NT/2000/XP/Vista/7), and
Unix, Linux, AS/400 iSeries, etc., Terminal modes.

It allows users to work with high visibility, legible VGA terminal fonts - based on PROCON's HVFont design - rather than the spidery and anaemic OEM Codepage 437 fonts supplied in Windows' Codepage Information (CPI) files and the standard Video Card ROM BIOS.

A Short History of the Full Screen VGA OEM Fonts

The so called "hardware" OEM fonts were originally provided as part of the ROM BIOS in the computer's video card. The font designs were based on the MDA, CGA, EGA and VGA fonts supplied in IBM's original PC, PC/XT, PC/AT and PS/2 computers.

IBM created an extended "symbol set" by expanding the standard U.S. ASCII 7 bit list from 128 glyphs to 256 glyphs (8 bits). This allowed them to include some foreign currency symbols, box drawing characters, mathematical symbols and a subset of the special alphabetic characters used in languages like Greek, German, French and Spanish. (View IBM's PC8 - Codepage 437 - Symbol Set)

This "PC8 Symbol Set" - the common Codepage 437 - did not provide full character support for languages other than English. While the fonts in video cards were sometimes customized to suit particular alphabets, a more general solution was required.

MS-DOS 3.3 eventually provided "Codepage Information" (CPI) Files. These could be loaded into memory at boot time to adapt - or replace - the standard keyboard mapping and the PC8 screen and printer fonts to make the PC more "multilingual".

As full screen fonts are stored as bitmaps, several font pixel sizes are provided. The most important is 8x16 (8 pixels wide, 16 pixels high), but 8x8 and 8x14 fonts are also common. The actual sizes are a byproduct of the history of video card resolutions. In modern PCs, they allow the standard VGA 640x480 pixel resolution to support an 80 character wide display with a user specified number of text lines (usually 25, 28, 30, 40, 43, or 50).

Why are the built in fonts so difficult to read on screen?

The original font glyph designs were optimized for printed output rather than screen display. Their continued use on screens is an anachronism. Virtually all printing is now done with built-in printer fonts or Windows' GDI fonts. As screen fonts they leave much to be desired - particularly for users performing extensive data entry tasks.

This poor screen legibility is a particular problem for users with impaired vision; working in poor light conditions; or using small laptop screens.

Full Screen Font, Codepage & Character Set References

Microsoft's Complete Codepage List - All Codepages available in DOS & Windows.

MS-DOS/Windows Codepage 437 (PC8) Chart - Graphic of the 256 glyphs.

MS-DOS/Windows Codepage 437 (PC8) Listing - Names of the 256 characters.

Download IBM PDF Codepage Documents         PDF for Codepage 437

Useful References - Symbol Sets, Printer Control Languages, Glossaries and More.

A History of Character Codes - Probably more than you ever want to know.

Jim Price's ASCII Charts - Excellent Charts and Reference Material.

Customizing Codepage Files for Full-Screen Modes - An excellent support site for users of DOS Word processors that discusses the modification of Windows' CPI files.

Which set of VGA OEM Fonts is my PC Using?

Before we can replace these fonts with better alternatives, we must know which fonts the PC is currently using.

If you have never customized your system to load a CPI file (like most English speaking PC users) - you probably assume that your PC is only using video ROM BIOS fonts in full screen modes.

If the PC is running MS-DOS - or Windows 95/98/Me - that is probably correct.

However, Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 only use video ROM fonts in 16 bit modes. (This is during the boot process and when running NTVDM.EXE, the NT virtual DOS machine that 32 bit Windows launches to run COMMAND.COM and DOS applications).

CMD.EXE - the standard shell used in NT Console modes - is a 32 bit program - it does not use 16 bit mode unless it runs DOS programs.

Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 automatically loads a CPI file - usually EGA.CPI from the System32 subdirectory. (If a CPI file is not available 32 bit Windows will not support full screen modes.)

MS-DOS and Windows 95/98/Me can use CPI files - but the commands to initialize the display, and load the CPI file, must be explicitly given in the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files. (If a CPI file is specified the PC only uses its video ROM fonts while booting.)

Changing the OEM VGA Full Screen Fonts

You can temporarily change the full screen fonts, by loading a new font image into the memory area where the PC stores these fonts. PROCON's utility HVDOSFNT - a TSR ("Terminate & Stay Resident") program - takes this approach. It can be run each time a console window or DOS Box is opened. (While this is usually automated using a batch file it may not always be convenient to do this).

A more permanent solution is to change the fonts by;

using a special CPI file; and/or
replacing the "hardware" fonts in the Video BIOS.

Instructions for installing CPI files - and special CPI files containing the HVFont - are included in the HVFont CPI File.

Instructions for replacing the VGA fonts in Video Cards are given in the HVFont Video ROM BIOS package.

What is included in the HVFULLSC Video Card and CPI Fonts Package?

The HVFULLSC Video Card and CPI Fonts package contains:-

Various VGA Font Utilities
Binary HVFont Image Files in 8x16, 8x14, and 8x8 pixel sizes
HVDOSFNT - the HVFont as a DOS TSR Program
The HVFont Codepage Information File Package, and
The HVFont Video Card ROM BIOS Package.

Click here to download an Evaluation version of one of the HVFont packages.

Click here to purchase a licence for any of the HVFont packages.

Purchase HVFont Packages by Credit Card

PROCON CONSTRUCTION SYSTEMS
3/5-7 Victoria Parade, MANLY NSW 2095, AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61.2.9977.6863
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Last modified: 02 June 2014
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