QBasic is an IDE and interpreter for a variant of the BASIC programming language which is based on QuickBasic. Code entered into the IDE is compiled to an intermediate form, and this intermediate form is immediately interpreted on demand within the IDE. It can run under nearly all versions of DOS and Windows, or through DOSBox/DOSEMU, on Linux and FreeBSD. For its time, QBasic provided a state-of-the-art IDE, including a debugger with features such as on-the-fly expression evaluation and code modification that were still relatively unusual more than ten years later.
Like QuickBASIC, but unlike earlier versions of Microsoft BASIC, QBasic is a structured programming language, supporting constructs such as subroutines and while loops. Line numbers, a concept often associated with BASIC, are supported for compatibility, but are not considered good form, having been replaced by descriptive line labels. QBasic has limited support for user-defined data types (structures), and several primitive types used to contain strings of text or numeric data.
QBasic was intended as a replacement for GW-BASIC. It was based on the earlier QuickBASIC 4.5 compiler but without QuickBASIC’s compiler and linker elements. Version 1.0 was shipped together with MS-DOS 5.0 and higher, as well as Windows 95, Windows NT 3.x, and Windows NT 4.0. IBM recompiled QBasic and included it in PC-DOS 5.x, as well as OS/2 2.0 onwards. eComStation, descended from OS/2 code, includes QBasic 1.0. QBasic 1.1 is included with MS-DOS 6.x, and, without EDIT, in Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Me. Starting with Windows 2000, Microsoft no longer includes QBasic with their operating systems. (However, some localized versions of Windows 2000 and Windows XP still have it,and it can be given out as freeware.)
QBasic (as well as the built-in MS-DOS Editor) is backward compatible with DOS releases prior to 5.0 (down to at least DOS 3.20). However, if used on any 8088/8086 computers, or on some 80286 computers, the QBasic program may run very slowly, or perhaps not at all, due to its memory size. Until MS-DOS 7, MS-DOS Editor required QBasic. The “edit.com” program simply starts QBasic in editor mode only, and this mode can also be entered by running QBASIC.EXE with the /EDIT switch (i.e., command line “QBASIC /EDIT”).
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