Resurrected Entertainment


July 18, 2008

There are two ways to render graphics in DOS. The first involves setting the desired graphics mode and then drawing pixels on the screen via the BIOS or writing directly to video memory (an interesting topic by itself); the second method involves staying in text mode and drawing pictures with the standard set of ASCII or IBM’s Extended ASCII characters (thanks to Telecom Corner for the chart).


While scripting batch files, you can also make use of ANSI escape sequences to control the cursor, display coloured or blinking text, etc. In case your interested, DOS requires an ANSI driver in order to translate these escape sequences. These escape sequences are non-intuitive and look something like this:


Ahh. Isn’t it cute? Many people have been discreetly killed for creating less offensive syntax than that. In addition to the regular set of ASCII characters which can be used in creative and artistic ways to produce a recognizable picture, using the set of extended ASCII characters provides an easy way to draw connected lines within the grid of displayable characters. When creating your picture keep in mind the screen size, since this is dependent on the video mode (some video modes can display more rows and columns).

TheDRAW Title ScreenTheDRAW was written by Ian E. Davis and was last released in October of 1993. It is a program which allows you to paint a picture or create an animation using these special characters and ANSI attributes. It’s not like painting individual pixels, you are limited by the set of characters available. However, this hasn’t stopped ASCII artists from creating fantastic content. The most stunning examples I found were on Bulletin Board Systems. They were often themed according to design of the on-line system. Using TheDRAW, these pictures could be exported as ANSI-compliant or ASCII text files, or as header files to be used in other programming languages. There are a number of small tools available for translating these files into other formats used by other languages.

TheDRAW package is bundled with a utility called TheGrab which can take an screen shot of a running program. It’s not your typical screen shot utility which takes snap shots of any graphics screen. This program works only for text mode screens and will output a file in ANSI, ASCII, COM, or TheDRAW format files. Be wary of using this memory resident utility under DOSBox 0.72 as it will crash and force you to end your session.

Last but not least, TheDRAW package is bundled with a utility for creating your own fonts to be used in TheDRAW paint program. This is without a doubt one of my favourite features and makes creating screens a breeze. There are many fonts available in the wide, wide world so have fun.

All of these features are thuroughly explained in the documentation and in-program help. Many of my programs took on a more professional and fun look because of this drawing tool; although I think I went overboard in some cases. I still find it the best tool available for doing this sort of work in DOS, although I’m sure many of you may prefer other software such as AcidDRAW.

One Response to “TheDRAW!”

Chris dS wrote a comment on January 16, 2012

I used TheDRAW back in the day. =)


I created screens for a friend’s BBS when I was a SysOp.. specifically, a fast-food-restaurant-themed screen where BBS games and other files were hosted, called “McDownloads”..!!

Back in the day… when the McD’s menus were Bold White Text on Burgundy (dark red) background, and the Big M was an easy-enough Yellow on Red..

I did lots of experimenting with “animations”, and it was THIS util in which I learnt about “trailing blank spaces” which would “erase” the tracks of an object being moved across the screen, in order not to leave a trace/tail of the trailing edge of the moving object.

One of the biggest inspirations at the time, for me, was the BBS game OVERKILL — their “art” was very well done.. and the gameplay was engaging and had many of us going back again and again…

I was also STILL fascinated by the old AutoDuel game & universe (from Steve Jackson Games’s “Car Wars” box sets) and did screens and animations based on weaponized vehicles…

Man, I wish I knew where I could get copies of my old screens.. I don’t think my folks kept any of my old 1.2Mb 5.25″ floppies, or 720 / 1.44k 3.5″ disks either… Ahh.. when Verbatim was king. *lol*

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