I was surprised to read that MKS Inc. was being purchased by PTC (a firm I’d never heard of).

Most people today know MKS as a seller of enterprise application lifecycle management tools. The Waterloo, Ont.-based company’s flagship is Integrity, an ALM suite that covers requirements, modeling, coding and testing. While I’ve never used Integrity, I’ve heard good things about it over the years.

To me, however, MKS will always be Mortice Kern Systems, makers of MKS Toolkit. The toolkit comprised a set of hundreds Unix-inspired command-line utilities for DOS – like grep and awk, but also essential tools like vi. The built-in set of DOS command-line tools was very minimal, and didn’t come anywhere near the power and flexibility of what was available for Unix.

As a developer who used a PC during the early 1980s, the MKS Toolkit made a clumsy environment bearable. In fact, as a judge for the 2007 Jolt Awards, published by Software Development Magazine (no relation to SD Times), I wrote up a winner as:

MKS Toolkit 5.2
Mortice Kern Systems Inc.

Once you’ve used UNIX, you can never forget the power of a real command line. That’s where MKS Toolkit comes in. MKS Toolkit is long known for bringing the power of UNIX to DOS and OS/2. Now version 5.2 brings the same benefits to 32-bit Windows workstations.

With MKS Toolkit, you get all the familiar UNIX commands like awk, grep, ps, tar, pax, cpio, make, sort, and the Korn shell. But with this new Windows version, you also get Perl, web (which lets you access web pages from the command line), and Windows GUI versions of vi and vdiff, and more.

If you don’t know what those UNIX functions are, MKS Toolkit’s not for you. But if you’re itching for the command line–but find a Microsoft mouse instead–then this utility suite gives you the best of all possible worlds.

MKS ditched the “Mortice Kern Systems” name a decade ago, but still sells MKS Toolkit, albeit on a different website from its enterprise solutions. Integrity is at www.mks.com, but MKS Toolkit is at www.mkssoftware.com.

I haven’t used MKS Toolkit in many years, but am glad that the product is still available. Let’s hope PTC keeps MKS Toolkit going.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick