From: Adam Rifkin (Adam@KnowNow.Com)
Date: Sat Aug 26 2000 - 02:09:48 PDT
"What's the advantage of developing with Cocoa? Two and a half developers
can write a Web browser that competes with Netscape's and Microsoft's
hundreds of developers and win." Yes!!!!!! And look, Rohit, they have
Road to Mac OS X: Cocoa-developed OmniWeb coming
by Dennis Sellers, email@example.com
August 25, 2000, 1:55 pm ET
(This weekly column looks at features and products that MAY appear when
Apple's next generation operating system, Mac OS X (10) appears in January.
If you aren't familiar with terms like "Rhapsody" and "OpenStep," check out
our explanatory "Note" at the end of this article before proceeding.)
OmniWeb 4 from the Omni Group, now in beta testing, will offer a
full-featured Web browser for Mac OS X. And what's more, it will be a
native Cocoa browser.
Currently, OmniWeb 3.0 is the only native Web browser for Mac OS X Server
and Mac OS X, and the only Web browser on any platform that is truly
multi-threaded. The Omni Group says it will actually get faster on
multi-processor machines, something to keep in mind for those who have
purchased new dual processor G4s.
"We designed OmniWeb to be an efficient way to get information from the
Web, whereas most browsers are designed to have as many features and
checkboxes as they can collect," says Wil Shipley, president of the Omni
Group. "Generally, when people use OmniWeb, they tell us it just feels
better than other browsers. It's hard to describe the differences without
delving into 10,000 little details, which, alone, aren't very interesting.
But it is interesting to note that OmniWeb has been shipping since before
Netscape incorporated and long before Spyglass wrote what became Internet
Explorer. And, over the years, both Netscape and Internet Explorer have
borrowed a number of ideas that were invented months before in OmniWeb. So,
we've felt like they are always try to catch up to our level of usability."
Beta 3 has been released and includes user interface updates, better
performance and stability, and some bug fixes (including a work-around for
a bug in Mac OS X Developer Preview 4's text system which lost all content
following a bullet on a line, which in OmniWeb meant you couldn't view any
unordered lists). And when OS X is finalized, "we'll be there," says Shipley.
"We aren't allowed to start selling it until Apple releases OS X, so
there's no point in coming out of beta until then," he says.
OmniWeb was the first browser to let you simply drag a page to and from
your bookmarks. When it arrives for Mac OS X, its interface will be
completely "Aquafied." The Omni Group says that, during the five-year
development of OmniWeb, other browsers have often borrowed features that
Omni pioneered, including hierarchical bookmarks, the separate bookmark
window, drag-and-drop URLs between windows and bookmarks, bookmarks that
check themselves for updates, and downloading files by drag-and-drop. In
addition, the company says that Sherlock's Web searching was inspired by
OmniWeb's advanced search panel, the first to query multiple search engines
simultaneously and combine the results in a table.
"Our Aqua support is not just skin deep: we have slide-out bookmark and
history 'drawers' and not only do we use native Aqua interface elements for
display on Web pages; we even make the default submit button in a form
throb just like it would if it were the default button on a native panel,
so you know what will happen when you hit return," says Shipley.
He adds that, even more importantly, OmniWeb is designed to offer the best
user experience you'll find in a Web browser. It includes support for
have full support for Cascading Style Sheets and Java applets.
"We think it's important to polish every user interaction to make sure that
the browser acts the way you want it to -- so you can stop thinking about
the application you're using and just get at the information you want,
quickly," Shipley says. "We've concentrated on things like making bookmarks
extremely easy to use and having them automatically check themselves for
new content. But our focus goes beyond the big features, to include little
details like having keyboard shortcuts for finding forward and backward
(and automatically wrapping around), shrink-to-fit window zooms."
As we mentioned, OmniWeb is developed using Cocoa, a collection of
advanced, object-oriented APIs for developing applications written in Java
and Objective-C. It's based on two object-oriented frameworks: Foundation
and the Apple Kit. These frameworks offer both Java and Objective-C APIs
(with most Java classes simply "bridging" to their Objective-C
implementation). What's the advantage of developing with Cocoa? Two and a
half developers can write a Web browser that competes with Netscape's and
Microsoft's hundreds of developers and win, he says. More generally, Cocoa
allows you to write only the parts of your program that are actually
interesting and new, because the parts that have been done before are
pretty much all in Cocoa, Shipley adds.
"We've been programming to the Cocoa interfaces for 11 years because we've
always believed that they are what programming should be, and we wanted to
support them so everyone could experience the fun of only writing useful
code," he says. "With OS X, we're finally getting a volume platform that
runs Cocoa, and we couldn't be happier."
OmniWeb 3.0 is free to the first user at any site, and costs $59.95 per
machine or user beyond that. Complete educational and volume prices are
available at the Omni Group Web site. Licensing hasn't yet been determined
for OmniWeb 4.0 for OS X.
"Our current plans are to have most if not all of the functionality
available for free, but to use a hopefully innocuous method to encourage
people to pay us US $29 for it if they like it a lot," Shipley says. "If
this model works, we'll release other apps with this scheme, if not, well,
we make lots of money from consulting."
The Omni Group (also known as Omni Development) has been writing custom and
commercial software for OpenStep systems for seven years.
(Note: Mac OS X is the upcoming, "next generation" operating system from
Apple, due in the first half of 2001. Mac OS X will include components of
the traditional Mac OS, as well as components of the Rhapsody project.
Rhapsody was once planned as Apple's next generation operating system. It's
still around as Mac OS X Server, and parts of Rhapsody technologies will
become part of Mac OS X. Rhapsody/Mac OS X Server is partially based on
OpenStep technologies that Apple obtained in the purchase of the NeXT
company. Carbon is the modified version of the Mac OS API, allowing
applications to be rewritten with relative easy for Mac OS X. Cocoa (also
known as the Yellow Box) is a set of cross-platform APIs that will allow
the development of applications that run under Mac OS X and other operating
We own the customer. -- Dennis Walsh, http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/00/08/28/000828hnclient.xml
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