Aporia: the first commerical drag & drop interface for Microsoft Windows

Aporia is the name of the first drag & drop software available for Microsoft Windows. Initial versions were released in 1998-1989.

Here are provided the information the authors of Aporia have to support this claim.

This page is a work in progress.

We did not invent the term "drag & drop". That came sometime during or after 1991 we believe. We had differernt terms for icons and their manipulation (and not very effective ones from a marketing perspective), but we were the first with the capabilities on Windows. We used "desks" and "tools" instead of folder and icons. It did let you print by dragging and dropping.

Drag & Drop Capability


Here are the main applications that provided or replaced the interface Microsoft provided for Windows.

1989 & earlier<--> 1989 and earlier<--> 1988<--> 1989<--> 1990<--> 1991<--> 1992<--> 1993<--> 1994<--> 1995<-->
Platform / OS 1988 & earlier 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
Non-PC iconic interfaces
  • Xerox star
  • Mac provided a limited interface. e.g.
    -Could drag&drop icon onto trash, but could not drag&drop onto printer
  • Sun Workstation
PC interfaces: DOS
  • topview - ibm, and alternative OS
  • desqview - non-iconic alterative OS
PC interfaces: Windows Windows 2.0 / 286
  • Aporia - first iconic drag and drop interface for windows. Released on bulleitin boards and upgraded during the year.
    Release for Windows 286 &386
    Released as freeware/shareware
    Bulletin Board Releases
    Changes List
  • Aporia released for Windows 3.0 and shown publically at the Boston Computer show
    Aporia Brochure for Boston Computer Show
    Released as shareware
  • Various commercial products
    • Aporia released as wintools
    • hdc
    • Norton Desktop
    • Central Point
    • Xerox
    • hp - NewView
    - - - Microsoft creates a full drag&drop interface.
    • Windows 95 released by Microsoft

    The key thing to note is that there were no other iconic or drag&drop interfaces to Windows before 1989 and no other compeitors until HP NewView began their releaes.

    Windows Shell Feature Comparison: 1989

    The 'shell' was the technical name for the interface to the operating system, as in a shell around the operating system making it more easily useful to users.

    Windows 2.x & 3.0 Aporia 0.1 - 1.1
    At the time Microsoft provided this interface for Windows 2.0 which provided, and Windows 3.0 was about to be released. These two versions allowed programmers to replace the interface (aka Windows Shell) with one of their own making. The interface they provided were windows with icons in them. Clicking on the icons launced a program. Folders were not hierarchal.
      Aporia used some language and visual design that was not generally adopted...
    • instead of "icons" it used "tools"
    • instead of "folders" it used "desks"
    • it used an tree icon instead of a folder icon to look at the heirarchiy of files

    Aporia was the first Windows program to allow

  • icons on the desktop
  • folders on the desktop
  • drag and drop onto all icons: one or more icons could dragged and dropped onto another to cause an action to occur
  • specialized (system) icons for p
  • icons that could run a script
  • icons could be locked into position, aligned
  • icons could be different sizes, serve as buttons, have customizable images and backgrounds
  • It was later commercialized and released in 1991.

    Aporia History







    About Creating the Interface - Jeffrey Greenberg


    I had been working some years before in Harold Cohen's studio at UCSD on one of the first sites on the internet, and on software for his AI program Aaron. After that I went to Auragen and was part of the core team of 6 working on a fundamental Unix rewrite to support software fault-tolerance documented in this paper. Victor Yodaiken and my self, along with David Arnow built this thing. The unix interface was completely terminal based(BSD v7, Unix 3, 4) but it had the idea of shells and pipe commands for chaining together small programs to get work done. CRT screens were expensive and anything that could draw a line was state-of-the-art.

    I had seen the new Mac interface in 1986 but it was primitive, notably: you could drag a file onto a trash but not onto the printer. Still it was progress. I had also seen the Xerox Star interface, but found it very difficult to understand, and a the interface to the Sun Workstation.

    I had been working on windows as an experimental interface to produce some of the earliest multimedia/interactive commercials every created for Trintex ()... ads for Macy's. A number of notable folks worked in that team including Judith Donath.


    saw interface for Sun Workstate created by a company name


    Aporia started as an effort to provide an iconic interface to windows that allowed some of the capability of the Unix shells of that time (sh, csh, zsh, etc).

    Unique Interface Features

    It had some funky and unique features:

    More Documents

    1 1989 Aporia Shareware Manual first page
    2 some BBS upload dates
    3 1989 development notes
    4 1989 some code
    5 1989 functional spec
    6 1989-90 shareware manual cover
    7 1989 shareware copyright
    8 1991 promo
    9 1991 shareware manual
    10 1991 Book with Windows interface history and Aporia coverage
    11 1991 Aporia and other interfaces reviewed by PC Magazine
    12 1992 WinTools and other interfaces reviewed by PC Magazine
    13 1993 Best Desktop replacements, Windows Magazine