Running old DOS applications with Hebrew support

A friend of mine called me yesterday and asked me if knew how to run old DOS applications with Hebrew on a modern machine. This might sound arcane to some of you, but there is an accounting program widely used in Israel called Hashavshevet. The company that developed that program released a new Windows based version, but it is quite expensive and many still want to run the old version.

There are several ways this can be attacked.

The first one is multiboot. You can set up your machine to work with both Windows XP (or whatever you have installed right now) and, say, Windows 98. Old DOS programs run fine under 98, and if you get your hands on a properly localized version (I think it was called “Hebrew enabled”), you’ll have everything working in a couple of hours.

The second option you have is installing VMWare and a Hebrew enabled version of Windows 98 on top of it. This of course requires either stealing or purchasing a license for VMWare, which might cost more than a new version of the program you’re trying to run.

The third, and in my opinion the best option, is purchasing HebrewXP from TAO. They’ve modified DosBox to fully support Hebrew and printing, and I think they can even make old programs that require an LPT plug work like charm (provided you own such a plug of course).

The fourth option, which that is the one I’m going to explain below, involves partially recreating what the folks from TAO did. We’re going to make DosBox (a very nifty open source DOS emulation that was created to run old games) speak Hebrew using some extremely outdated tools of the trade.

You’ll need is a recent copy of DosBox from here and also two drivers : hebvga.com and keybhe.com.

The first one changes the font mappings of the BIOS to match OEM-862, the DOS Hebrew code page. The second one allows you to actually write in Hebrew within old DOS programs.

Install DosBox.

Create a folder named ‘hebrew’ in your DosBox folder and copy the hebvga.com and keybhe.com files there.

Open the dosbox.conf file using a text editor (Notepad should do fine), add the following lines to the end of it:

mount h hebrew
h:hebvga.com
h:keybhe.com

Now you can run DosBox.

Those lines should run when DosBox starts and allow DosBox to both show Hebrew and accept it as input from the keyboard.

To type hebrew anywhere (including the command prompt), just press Ctrl-Tab. Esc and Enter will cancel the Hebrew mode.

Oh, the old and simple days.

By the way, does anybody have an old copy of QText 5.5? It was a fine piece of software and I’d like to run it using this “time machine” technology.

Many thanks to my roommate Haim that devised this solution.

10 Comments on “Running old DOS applications with Hebrew support”


By itsho. April 22nd, 2008 at 10:02

the guys from Tao didnt use DosBox. since, as you said, it’s a open source, and they wrote a front-end to emulate Dos – Real(protected)Mode with VB6 (which is quite funny i think). about Qtext 5.5, i think i have. let me check it.

By gooli. April 22nd, 2008 at 10:27

A DOS emulator in VB6? That’s scary :O…

By Yaakov. August 13th, 2008 at 12:48

Does this solutin support printing from Hashavshevet ?

By gooli. August 13th, 2008 at 16:03

I don’t think so since the official DOSBox version doesn’t support printing. There are a few patches floating around that might work, like this one: http://vogons.zetafleet.com/viewtopic.php?t=4281. Drop a note here if you make it work.

By gooli. August 13th, 2008 at 16:07

There’s another option I just thought of. You can use the free VirtualBox (http://www.virtualbox.org/) to create a virtual machine that runs Windows 98 Hebrew and install Hashavshevet on top of it. That should work for printing as well as for anything else. The only thing you need is an old Windows 98 SE Hebrew disk.

By Avi. January 8th, 2009 at 23:17

Excellent article, keeping a fairly complex issue very simple and understandable, cheers and thanks. I’m also in need for the classic Qtext 5.5 for dos, if you have a link i would appreciate it deeply.

By Dror. November 11th, 2009 at 11:58

The ExDOS is the most comprehensive solution for DOS & 16bit applications (including all Hashavshevet DOS versions) via Windows XP,VISTA,7 and Terminal Servers. It includes advanced printing options to any existing printer, PDF, FAX and even export to WORD and HTML formats. The HebrewXP software is not supported or available since 2007 due to many hardware incompatibilities…

By old dos program. March 29th, 2010 at 03:18

[...] active window, button, text field or icon being active or selected was very clear. If a message boxgooli.org Running old DOS applications with Hebrew supportA friend of mine called me yesterday and asked me if knew how to run old DOS applications with [...]

By Peled. August 22nd, 2010 at 12:29

Works good on Windows 7.
Checked also Qtext552, and it works fine.
Only Problem is that it is very very slow.
Compare to Tao ExDos, which is very very fast on the same program.

So we can deckare here that we have a free solution of DOS Hebrew in Windows 7.

Actually I did remember that there is the hebvga.com file and while looking for it I stumble on your site.
Thank You.

By yossie steinberg. August 30th, 2010 at 17:55

did you get the QText from the 2nd post

I have an old fashioned yeshiva rebbe who uses it and his win98 computer crashed. he doesn’t want to learn new software. we would buy it.