Ever since Microsoft introduced MS-DOS, in 1980, users of IBM-type microcomputers have been limited to eight characters when naming a directory or file. That shortcoming is most bothersome in business applications such as word processing and spreadsheets, in which eight uppercase characters (plus, for a file, a three-character extension) barely hint at the subject matter contained within. Microsoft itself must code concepts such as "Delete Old DOS" into awkward constructions like "DELOLDOS."

But now ordinary desktoppers can spell it all out. New document-managing software called Long File Names for Windows (View Software, Palo Alto, Calif., 800-487-8439, $29.95) allows a user to name or rename a file or directory with as many as 255 characters. (Example: "In the Office copyedited text; Inc., August 1994, final state.") The software automatically translates such a description, which can contain a mix of spaces, hyphens, numbers, and letters, into its own eight-character composition that DOS can process. (In this example, the appellation might become "ITOIAU94.")

The user's descriptive phrasing, however, appears in the application's file menu as well as in its title bar. Long File Names works within Windows and handles most popular programs, including Word, Pagemaker, and Excel. (Since the Macintosh operating system already allows lengthy file names, no Mac version is offered.)

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