I'm trying to settle a debate between me and some colleagues about two-panel file managers in MS-DOS/PC DOS.

According to my own recollection the first was DV.EXE (see EDIT below), but some of my colleagues are adamant that NC.EXE (Norton Commander) was the first.

Could be we are all wrong and there was another that preceded those.

Please note: We are looking for a proper DOS program. Not a CP/M program that could also work under DOS.

EDIT: I was able find the original license and box of DV in our company archive.
"DV The DualView FileManager" (c) 1984 by Osmond Software Works Ltd.
The license was dated October 27 1984.
I tried finding out more about Osmond Software Works, but I'm drawing a blank there.

  • 3
    Mind to add a definition what a proper DOS program would be, considering that DOS 1.x was a CP/M clone for most parts? Beside that no CP/M program would work without being ported proper.
    – Raffzahn
    Jan 10, 2022 at 12:53
  • @Raffzahn I would say originally written and designed for DOS as opposed to a original CP/M program ported to DOS.
    – Tonny
    Jan 10, 2022 at 14:09
  • 3
    Ok - makes me wonder what quality that differentiation that brings. It seems arbitrary, doesn't it?
    – Raffzahn
    Jan 11, 2022 at 0:09
  • 1
    @Raffzahn Were do you draw the line? I guess any criterion I care to define will have some arbitrariness to it.
    – Tonny
    Jan 11, 2022 at 11:29
  • Hmm. I guess some criteria are less forcing and more 'natural'. For example, I would call any application that runs native under MS-DOS (no emulation or translation layer used) a by and large proper.
    – Raffzahn
    Jan 11, 2022 at 14:43

2 Answers 2


I think that both PathMinder and Bourbaki’s 1dir predate your examples, but I don’t know if they are the first DOS-specific dual-pane file managers. PathMinder was first published in 1984, 1dir (pronounced “wonder”) in 1983. 1dir didn’t always show two panes listing files; it only did so when copying files, and I’m not sure whether it did so in its initial versions.

Norton Commander was released in 1986; I don’t know when your other candidate was. (To me, DV is DESQview!)

This history of DOS file managers shows the later 1dir+ in action, and this page on Arthur-PC shows the CP/M version of PathMinder with its dual-pane interface. (Note that PathMinder was initially written for DOS, and ported to CP/M later.)

  • 2
    I know all about the confusion between DV and DESQView. We had BOTH back in the early 90's and it was a never ending source of frustration for the people running the company helpdesk back then.
    – Tonny
    Jan 10, 2022 at 14:07
  • 1
    At least these both predate NC.exe (1986). I seem to recall DV.EXE was 1984 or 1985. I may be able to find the original license for DV we bought somewhere in the company archives, but due to Covid restrictions it may be weeks (or longer) before I will be able to get to the office in person.
    – Tonny
    Jan 10, 2022 at 14:13
  • 2
    > …1dir (pronounced “wonder”)…. Oooooooh! Jan 11, 2022 at 8:54
  • I found our original license for DV and the box with the original 5.25" floppy. In 2005 a colleague of mine cleared out the old software from the cupboard with all the originals in our office while I was on holiday. I always thought everything had gone into the skip, but apparently he put everything in a couple of large boxes and placed them in the archive. The box (manual is gone unfortunately) says (c) 1984 and the license is dated 27 October 1984. So it is probably a toss up between PathMinder and DV, depending who exactly is older. I will not consider 1dir as it isn't fully 2-panel.
    – Tonny
    Mar 2, 2022 at 19:28
  • Does the box give a less concise name than DV? Who was it published by? (Perhaps you could add the information to your question!) While I’m at it, any chance you could archive the floppy? Mar 2, 2022 at 19:32

The original XTree was released in early 1985 so predated Norton Commander, I believe.

I'm not entirely certain that this first version had split screen (dual panel) but I know my trusty copy of XTree Gold (or Pro, I can't really remember) did. That was released a couple of years after the original however.

  • I actually used XTree back in the day next to DV. And XTree didn't have the 2 panels as far as I can remember.
    – Tonny
    Mar 2, 2022 at 19:14

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