Few Windows users this day want to drop to DOS to perform simple tasks feeling that the Graphical User Interface provided by the Microsoft does most basic computer tasks more easily and with far less confusion than typing the command into the cryptic C:> prompt. However, for those pressed for time and without access to tools that make Windows file management easier such as Directory DOS, typing cmd in the run box on your start menu can give you a quick and dirty way of doing things. I will take you some brief time saving commands. I cannot help to cover all the functionality of DOS, nor would I even try, but every Windows user should know the diskcopy and xcopy commands.
Diskcopy is a tool whose importance has been somewhat diminished in recent years as it was designed primarily to copy one floppy disk to another. You can use it on larger mediums, but for most cases you will either do it in the Windows file manager or use the Xcopy command with various wild cards to move files between folders quickly. For the remainder of the article I will refer to folders as directories, as that is what they are called in DOS and other operating systems such as Unix. In most cases, the syntax for the diskcopy will be diskcopy a: a:. The first letter is the target drive and the second letter specifies the destination drive. As long as the target disk is smaller or equal size to the data source the command will work. (I may be wrong on this however and it may be that the disks must be the same size.) Keep in mind that diskcopy creates an exact replica of your original disk and will also erase whatever information you had stored on the disk before. If the source drive is the same as the target drive, diskcopy will prompt you to replace the source disk when it finishes copying the date to its memory. Pop the new floppy in and a few minutes later you will have an exact duplicate of the original.
The windows process required to do the same thing is incredibly tedious without third party software. Not only do you have to select all the files on the disk, you must create a temporary folder or some other location to hold them. It is possible just to copy them to the desktop, but I like a temporary folder to keep my workspace fairly clean. It also makes it easier to find the files that you need if you litter the Windows wallpaper with far too many icons.
Xcopy was introduced long ago in MS-DOS as a slightly faster method of copying files than the copy command which serves the same function. (I believe Windows uses neither in its process), but the advantage of Xcopy is through the use of Wildcards. While it is possible to select multiple files in the Windows file manager, Xcopy lets you use wildcards such as *.* for all files in your directory to move a group of files quickly to another destination on your hard drive. The format for the command looks something like this xcopy c:docs*.odt d:mydocs. In the example the * stands for any number of characters before the three letter extension, and .odt is the format used by Open Office files. If you want to copy multiple files of different types it is actually faster and easier to use the cut and paste process allowed by the Windows file manager rather than using Xcopy.
Other commands such as edit and format may be useful but there is no significant advantage to using them. The Windows equivalent of edit, notepad does the same thing and usually quite faster. Edit is maintained for backwards compatibility with DOS versions 5.0 and later. There are many more DOS commands, but most will either be used for reasons of nostalgia or to save time by tech savvy people. One or two administration tools can only be run from the command line but the average user will never need to use them.