The OpenDoc initiative figures to get a much-needed boost during the next few weeks when both Apple and IBM finally ship their first OpenDoc-compatible applets, known as parts in the OpenDoc lexicon. OpenDoc is a platform-independent technology that will give desktop users the ability to incorporate features from various applications into one file.
At next month's Macworld Expo in Boston, Apple will unveil the commercial version of OpenDoc and will introduce a Kickstart programme, a collection of parts designed to simplify OpenDoc development and ease of use. In addition, a handful of OpenDoc applets from third-party developers will be showcased. By the end of this month, IBM will also ship its first commercially available OpenDoc components package.
Called PartPacks, the product from IBM is divided into two packages, PersonPack and TablePack. They each contain a half-dozen OpenDoc components that serve as basic building blocks for a variety of OS/2-compatible applications across product categories. PersonPack is a set of components that lets a human resources department, for instance, track employees within an organisation or allows a business to track its customers. TablePack lets users keep track of information contained in applications such as spreadsheets and charting programs.
"Lots of applications today try to chart anything that has numbers in it," says Scott Hebner, manager of IBM's OpenDoc and system object model market development. "So instead of developing an application to a certain set of APIs, you can just plug these parts in to an existing application." IBM will release Windows versions later this year.
Apple's OpenDoc shipping version will include a number of sample applets that help familiarise users with the concept. Apple is expected to disclose plans for a US autumn release of a set of Kickstart applets, including viewer applets or parts for QuickTime, QuickTime VR and QuickDraw 3D files; a sound playback part; container parts for text and graphics; and a part for annotating or bookmarking OpenDoc documents. Apple will distribute the Kickstart parts with OpenDoc and third-party developers will also be able to include the Kickstart technology with their applications.
Some developers seem to be gaining more confidence in OpenDoc, believing it is a stable environment for developing applications. "OpenDoc was somewhat flaky when we started using it and getting things to run was difficult ... We haven't done OpenDoc for Windows specifically for that reason," says Chris Large, a developer at Totally Hip Software, in Vancouver, British Columbia. "Now that it's more stable, we'll look at rolling our ActiveX functionality into OpenDoc."
Start-up Corda Technologies might be the first of Apple's 300 developers to ship commercial OpenDoc parts. Corda says it will ship its C-Graph and C-Table next month.