Windows 3.0 is the third major release of Microsoft Windows, and came out on 22 May 1990. It became the first widely successful version of Windows (see history of Microsoft Windows) and a powerful rival to Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga on the GUI front. It was succeeded by Windows 3.1.
The MS-DOS Executive file manager/program launcher was replaced with the icon-based Program Manager and the list-based File Manager, thereby simplifying the launching of applications. The MS-DOS Executive is also included as an alternative to these. The Control Panel, previously available as a standard-looking applet, was re-modeled after the one in Mac OS. It centralized system settings, including limited control over the color scheme of the interface. A number of simple applications were included, such as the text editor Notepad and the word processor Write (both inherited from earlier versions of Windows), a macro recorder (new; later dropped), and a calculator (also inherited). The earlier Reversi game was complemented with a card game named Solitaire.
Windows 3.0 was the last version of Windows to advertise 100% compatibility with older Windows applications. This only applies to real mode.
Windows 3.0 with VGA Support included improved color support. Control Panel was improved with all main controls in icons. Windows Setup was located in the Main program Group. Program Manager allowed the users as well as program to create program groups making commonly used programs easy to find without knowing the programs real file name (PROGRAM.EXE).
Also, a Microsoft-compatible mouse is recommended.
Real mode primarily existed as a way to run Windows 2.x applications. It was removed in Windows 3.1x. Almost all applications designed for Windows 3.0 had to be run in Standard or 386 Enhanced modes. However, it was necessary to load Windows 3.0 in Real mode to run SWAPFILE.EXE, which allowed users to change virtual memory settings.
Standard mode was used most often as its requirements were more in-line with an average PC of that era – a 286 processor with at least 1MB of memory. Incidentally, not all 286 and 386 computers remapped memory between 640 KB (the upper limit of Conventional memory) and 1 MB as extended memory — some did not show memory between 640 KB and 1 MB at all — so on some systems with 1 MB of RAM, there is no extended memory and memory was limited to 640 KB. On such a system, Windows was limited to real mode. Many 386 computers ran Windows 3.0 in Standard mode due to a lack of memory.
386 Enhanced mode implemented all the benefits of Standard mode, plus 32-bit addressing and paging for faster memory access, and virtual 8086 mode for safer execution of MS-DOS programs: each of them now ran in a virtual machine. In the previous modes, multiple MS-DOS programs could only be run in full-screen, and only the program currently active was executing; but in 386 enhanced mode, they could be run simultaneously in separate windows. This mode required a 386 processor and 1MB of extended memory (in addition to the base 640KB) – beyond the specifications of most PCs sold in 1990.
Microsoft developed the Windows Sound System sound card specification to complement these extensions.
Windows 3.0 was not available as a run-time version, as was the case with its predecessors. A limited-use version of Windows 2.x was often bundled with other applications (i.e. Ami Pro) due to the low market penetration of Windows itself. Starting with Windows 3.0, Microsoft required that customers procure a copy of Windows (in addition to procuring DOS), in order to be able to use Windows applications.