MenuWorks was a popular application launcher for MS-DOS in a time before Windows and desktop icons. It was still a command-line world and people wanted an easy way to run their favorite programs without fumbling with arcane syntax.
MenuWorks 2.1 hit it big after a rocky start with version 1. The key factors which elevated the product to its new place in the world included an automated menu builder which recognized over 2,500 popular applications during setup, and repackaging the product to fit in small counter-top displays which we provided for free to dealers.
We soon started getting some really great press, Egghead put our displays on their counters nation wide, and things just took off.
I was recently delighted to find this YouTube video which gives a quick tour of MenuWorks.
Color was still a new thing. The mainstream monitors at the time supported 16 colors with an 80 col x 25 row text-only display. Mice were just on the horizon. Screens needed to be constructed using only the limited set of characters and symbols that came baked into the hardware.
What about version 2.0? That was short lived. We changed the version to 2.1 when we made the packaging change for the counter displays. The code didn't change except for adding a few more products to the menu builder.
Following up on the success of MenuWorks 2.1, I later created MenuWorks Advanced, MenuWorks Personal Edition and MenuWorks Total Security, yielding a full line-up of menu products across all price ranges.
All coding and documentation, initial marketing, PR and distribution. Once things started to take off, I was finally able to staff up and build a real company. The product was authored in C++.
The famed Walt Mossberg recommended MenuWorks in his very first WSJ column!
I don't recall if I knew about it at the time, or maybe it was simply that Walt wasn't yet a big name, but 20 years after the fact I came to learn that Mossberg wrote kindly about MenuWorks in his now-infamous inaugural personal computing column in the Wall Street Journal.