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ATPM 2.09
September 1996




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by H.M. Fog,

OpenDoc is Your Software Port o’ Call

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Get ready for change.

Get ready for some exciting times.

Get ready for a new way to think about software.

Get ready for a revolutionary approach to software architecture.

Get ready for OpenDoc - It's your software "port o'call."

You may have heard about OpenDoc. You may even have used Cyberdog. But until now very few personal computer users have experienced this revolutionary change in software architecture. Your wait is almost over. Very soon many OpenDoc container applications will be in commercial release.

OpenDoc is a cross-platform software architecture which will expand and change the way we work with software tools and their applications. For many years software developers have had to make applications more complex and larger is size in order to add new features and greater functionality for users.

Unfortunately this meant that software often became "bloated" with features and also required large amounts of RAM to run the simplest of operations. Software users were forced to pay for features and options that they seldom used and were often compelled to use overly complicated applications in order to complete a series of tasks.

How does OpenDoc change all this?

For starters, OpenDoc works across platforms and across applications. It does this by using what's called components—when branded by CI Labs they are called "Live Objects" (formerly known as "parts" )—that work among OpenDoc container applications. In this way you can add tools and features from different components in an incremental manner and use your favorite tool by Dragging and Dropping" into any OpenDoc container application or "workspace." The tools of your choosing can now be used at your convenience and to increase your productivity. No longer will you need to put unnecessary effort into making your software's tools fit a task, you will now be able to pick and choose the tools you prefer to use to accomplish your work.

Secondly, because you'll be working with components or "Live Objects" rather than large, monolithic applications, developers will be better able to meet the particular needs of users for specific resources within the OpenDoc architecture. It will also allow users the opportunity to "pick and choose" among a variety of components for a particular function, tool or feature rather than among much larger and more expensive applications to accomplish a particular task. This should reduce the amount of development time for OpenDoc components. And again, because OpenDoc is designed to work cross-platform, developers and users will benefit from the larger market that will be available for OpenDoc components. In addition, OpenDoc will work seamlessly with Microsoft's OLE. In fact, you will be actually embed OpenDoc tools and features into what are called OLE applications and conversely you will be able to embed OLE tools and features into OpenDoc applications.

This article will focus on the benefits of OpenDoc to the computer user and what OpenDoc is really all about. I'm confidant that in a very short time most Mac users who choose to work with OpenDoc container applications (such as the upcoming Claris Works 5.0 upgrade) will see the many benefits of this new software architecture.

OpenDoc will allows users to have multiple links, features and resources in a single "workspace." The best example of this is the Cyberdog 1.1 Starting Point (illustrated below):

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Many different components were used to together to create this document. Each of the items placed inside an artistic frame in the above illustration is either a component or small series of components working together to create the Cyberdog "suite" of internet-related activities. This is a prime example of OpenDoc components working together to increase functionality. As you can see from the Cyberdog example, the OpenDoc architecture will reduce the need for large, stand-alone applications. Instead, different OpenDoc components will work together to provide far more functionality and of ease-of-use than many large and overly-complicated software applications.

Users will also have the ability to "mix and match" OpenDoc components to create unique presentations and to be able to use your favorite OpenDoc tool in any OpenDoc workspace. One way to view OpenDoc components is that they are "building blocks" that work together to create and communicate. With the upcoming release of Claris Works 5.0, users will have the ability to create documents which can include such items as photos, video clips and live internet links all in the same document. Better yet, the documents will be able to be shared across a network and across different platforms including the Mac OS, Windows, O/S 2 and AIX.

Many of ATPM's readers may have recently read that Apple Computer and Netscape have signed an agreement for Netscape to develop a new version of its Navigator internet browser software that specifically supports Cyberdog and OpenDoc. The product is intended to be called Netscape Navigator for Cyberdog and will be a custom component developed specifically for Cyberdog. This also illustrates the level of software industry support for OpenDoc.

What is CI Labs and what do they do?

In their own words: "CI Labs is a nonprofit industry association which adopts, licenses, validates, and registers multi-platform, distributed component software."

There are many members of CI labs including Adobe, Apple, IBM, Novell, Oracle, and many others. CI Lab members who have components that satisfy the "Live Objects" validation process for compatibility are eligible to license Live Objects trademark and logo (shown below):

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Where can I find out more about OpenDoc and Cyberdog?

More information about OpenDoc is available at the following URL:

The new Cyberdog version 1.1 is available for free downloading from the web site at

Because Cyberdog is based on the OpenDoc architecture you will need to download OpenDoc 1.1 (also available from the Cyberdog web site). In addition, watch for the upcoming release of Claris Works 5.0 along with other OpenDoc container applications.

It is this writer's view that OpenDoc will revolutionize the software industry. Now that this architecture is available upon which to build applications and create components that are inter-compatible and will work cross-platform, developers will be able to bring products to market more quickly and at lower cost to users such as you and me.

Most importantly, OpenDoc will allow users greater use of their favorite tools and help each of us reach beyond the limits of today's software to new heights of creative expression and effective communication.

To this "software sailor" - OpenDoc truly is your software port o' call.

© 1996 H.M. Fog H.M. Fog is a west coast computer consultant who sometimes writes articles for ATPM. [apple graphic]

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