Some more Windows acronyms explained

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/05/02 00:16 -04:00, original URI:

One of the good reasons to keep MSDN Blogs on the list of Blogs I Read is that a lot of stuff goes past my eyes via a FeedDemon radar. :-)

Though I have to admit that Feed Demon seemed to have some kind of memory leak problem when I ran it on Server 2003 SP1, one that no longer seems to repro now that I run it on XP SP2. I am now back to avoiding reboots when not installing software. I probably should have reported it but it did not occur to me that it was the only new program I had installed before requiring reboots every few days until it was too late.

Anyway, on to what I saw earlier....

I noticed on Brian Welcker's blog, (cleverly entitled Direct Reports), a fun post entitled Brotherhood.

In this post, he explained the meaning of CTP (Community Technology Preview), and explained the meaning of IDW, while not literally defining it. He said:

While no one seems to know exactly what "IDW" stands for, it is an interim build that meets a set of criteria for release to a larger audience outside of the product testers. The frequency of IDWs depends on the team and varies from weekly IDWs to bi-monthly. While they are full interim builds of the product, until recently, IDWs rarely went outside of Microsoft, and if they did, only to a select set of customers.

I can clear up one mystery here, at least. According to Jack Mayo, IDW stands for:

Internal Developer Workstation - a build that has additional focus on it in order to make sure it meets a level of quality such that anyone at MS could use it as their main machine without too much pain.

Of course armed with knowledge (and the historical fact that in older versions of NT like NT 4.0 the more personal SKU was the "workstation" SKU), one can attempt to logically deduce the meaning of the next highest quality of internal build, the IDS build:

Internal Developer Server - a build that has additional focus on it in order to make sure it meets a level of quality such that someone at MS could consider using it as an internal server without too much pain.

Of course the terms IDW and IDS are today used in a much wider sense than the prior Windows workstation/server context (and probably were even back then), but the quality bars themselves make sense for people who are not developing or testing the product daily, but who have either reason to periodically install the product or who just wish to do a little dogfooding.

Now while it seems that both SQL Server and the .NET Framework have embraced the idea of getting builds out more often based on a more arbitrary, time-based model, Windows seems to be using more of an "event based" model. For example, we just released a "WinHEC" build of Longhorn to attendees of the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference and have in the past sometimes done the same thing for the PDC (Professional Developers Conference) and at other events.

I myself currently have all of the following installed:

Notice how I use IDW builds for the products I don't do development on and whatever seems to build on the ones I do? I only trust daily builds if I'm building them or know the people who are personally. :-)

# Larry Osterman [MSFT] on 1 May 2005 10:43 PM:

The very first significant milestone in Windows NT 3.1 was the "IDW" milestone, the second was the "IDS" milestone. Then we had the normal run of betas and RCs like every other Microsoft product. And, of course, more IDWs and IDSs.

But the first IDW was huge. It was when we realized we actually had enough of a product that everyone on the development team could (and did) switch. Remember what a statement this was - this was a brand new operating system, written from scratch. It had to be capable of running stress, of reliably interoperating with all the other servers in our labs, etc.

Before the IDW, only the bravest of developers ran NT - in fact, there were four pioneers picked to be the very first people to run NT on their development machines:
Larry Osterman from the Networking group
Mark Lukovsky from the Base group
Dave Treadwell from the Networking group
Scott Ludwig from the Windows/User group

We were the first people to remove OS/2 from our development machines - at the time, NT didn't even have a GUI, just console apps. But it did have working local filesystems, and a working network filesystem and server, which was enough for us. There were three working editors (VI, Z, and Slick), a source code control system (SLM) and of course the compilers and linkers, etc.

The first IDW had (I believe) a GUI (I may be wrong on this one) and enough of the Windows 3.1 UI that it could be considered to be usable.

I very fondly remember when we were finally able to install that. It was when we realized that NT had arrived.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 May 2005 8:14 AM:

Ah, that is a cool story. :-)

(One of the hazards of working for so long on projects != Windows is that even my oolest stories pale by comparison!)

Slightly off topic, but I do remember vaguely Drew Warden talking about a period of time early in the life of Access that it could only be built on OS/2, even though it only ran as a product on Windows (there was not a toolset with sufficient horsepower to build Access on Windows in those early days).

See? The Windows stories always sound cooler. :-)

# Ivan Petrov on 2 May 2005 9:49 AM:

Hi Michael,
from a long time I want to ask you a question connected with Windows acronyms.
In the Windows SYSTEM.INI file in the section [386Enh] we can find:


As we take a carefully look at the text above, we can see that:

CGA stands from 'Color Graphics Adapter';
EGA stands from 'Enhanced Graphics Adapter';
40 and 80 stands from 40&80 columns of the fixed-pitch display font in DOS mode;
DOSAPP stands from 'DOS Application(s)';

But I've been always wondering what this 'WOA' means ???

Than You in advance.


# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 May 2005 11:07 AM:

Hi Ivan --

I am not sure myself. But I have asked some folks on the MS Typography team and will report back (or they will post!) with information or insights on this.

# Ivan Petrov on 2 May 2005 11:15 AM:

Thank You Michael.

I'll wait.

See You.

# Larry Osterman [MSFT] on 2 May 2005 12:10 PM:

Michael, I do feel oblighed to mention that between 1994 and 2002, I worked on stuff that wasn't related at all to Windows.

It's just that I was lucky to be on the NT team for day 0.

I've said this before, but Tom Miller put it best: "Working on NT is an opportunity to be in at the ground floor of the last new operating system that will be written in our lifetimes". And no, Gnu/Linux doesn't count - it's a new kernel but most of the rest of the system was adopted from previous versions.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 May 2005 2:29 PM:

Ok Ivan, I got the scoop. First Paul thought he'd make some clever guesses:

* Windows Only ANSI
* Will Others Ask?
* Won't Others Ask?

I particularly liked the last two!

Nick had no idea since it was before his time, but made a plausible guess:

* Windows OEM ANSI font?

Claude made one humorous guess and another plausdible one:

* War Of Ages
* .WOA swap file in Microsoft Windows 3.x

And then he finally found a cite that gives the most likely explanation for them at --

WOA font - The filename and installation disk number containing the correct font to be used by the Windows for Workgroups grabber.

# Ivan Petrov on 2 May 2005 3:16 PM:

Ok Michael, but I think that this is not a good answer of my question. I asked just for the meaning of the acronym 'WOA', not for an explenation of what a 'WOA font' is!

So, I'll give you my guess of what it means:

WOA stands from Windows Old Application(s).

Let's see what You and the guyes of the MS Typography team think about it now!?


# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 May 2005 4:07 PM:

I basically gave the guesses they had, no one had any other ideas beyond that. Personally, I would vote for "Will Others Ask [about the name]?"


# Ivan Petrov on 2 May 2005 4:54 PM:

Aha, I finally got it ;-)

1) As we can see here:
at the 'MS-DOS Support Components of Windows for Workgroups 3.11' Section under the 'WinOldAp and the Grabber Files' Subsection;


2) here (the link you posted):
at 'Keyboard and Code Page Sections' Section under '[codepages]' Subsection;


!3) especially here:;en-us;117742

we can conclude that:

WOA stands from Windows Old Application(s)

So I found the answer by myself ;-), but I'm sure that this stuff will be interesting and for somebody else.
Sorry for disturbing you.

Best wishes,

# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 May 2005 9:06 PM:

I was not disturbed! I just said I asked some people, that's all....

# Anmar on 8 Jul 2008 6:59 AM:

Thanks Ivan, i was looking for the same thing just now !

# 'Momo' on 12 Jun 2009 5:50 PM:

WOA stands from Windows Old Application(s)

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