Whatever happened to "Open Doc"?

in Mac Software edited January 2014
Little more than decade ago I was signed up as an apple developer. I got these cds in the mail with "Open Doc". I installed it on my 604e and I thought it was extremely cool. The concept was to have a document and apply applications to portions of it i.e. 3D design, word processing and photo shop and never have to close the document, import it to other apps or import graphics or such. Pretty much the opposite of how we work with documents right now.

Has anybody else played around with this?

Is there still traces of the idea in some apple vault?


  • Reply 1 of 13
    dr millmossdr millmoss Posts: 5,403member
    This is one of the projects Steve canned when he took over. It was an extremely cool idea, but with a long way still to go before it would become practical. My pet conspiracy theory is that Apple agreed to discontinue OpenDoc as part of the deal they made with Microsoft in 1997. If I was Microsoft, I'd have seen it as an existential threat. Of course I have no evidence for this, other than the timing.
  • Reply 2 of 13
    mr. memr. me Posts: 3,219member
    Originally Posted by Dr Millmoss View Post

    This is one of the projects Steve canned when he took over. It was an extremely cool idea, but with a long way still to go before it would become practical. My pet conspiracy theory is that Apple agreed to discontinue OpenDoc as part of the deal they made with Microsoft in 1997. If I was Microsoft, I'd have seen it as an existential threat. Of course I have no evidence for this, other than the timing.

    There was no conspiracy with Microsoft to kill OpenDoc. Neither was there anything impractical about the technology. It did, however, require a change in the user paradigm for working with computers. OpenDoc was composed of documents and editors. Each document could be composed of many different types of objects. Double-clicking on an object launched a compatible editor. The most famous OpenDoc editor was CyberDog, a webrowser that enabled the creation of documents with live web-based content.

    To be sure, OpenDoc faced challenges. Changing user paradigms was challenge. Microsoft's competing OLE was a challenge. Not all challenges came from enemies and inertia. The technology ported to OS/2 where development languished. What killed OpenDoc, however, was Apple's switch to an OpenSTEP-based OS.
  • Reply 3 of 13
    dr millmossdr millmoss Posts: 5,403member
    Pardon me, but we don't know why OpenDoc was killed. It happened before Apple even began the process of migrating the MacOS to OpenStep. I have a pet theory, which I am happy to say I can't back up with evidence, but likewise you have no evidence for yours. BTW, I know how it works -- I participated in a live demo of the technology, at MWSF 1997 I believe it was. This was right before Steve pulled the plug.
  • Reply 4 of 13
    I find this topic very interesting and am surprised that more people don't bring it up. I have a theory that Apple is quietly working to fulfill the vision of Open Doc. In the past, Open Doc was a bridge too far. Today, I think it could be done.

    In fact, I think it needs to be done. Maybe not exactly like it was envisioned in the past, but something similar. We need to move from an app-centric paradigm to a doc-centric paradigm. Think about it. Core Audio, Core Image, Core Video, Core everything. Apple is also writing apps for most of the main functions. How hard would it be to then incorporate all this code into the Open Doc paradigm?

    With all the memory and CPU cores today, I say put them to work loading editors in the background for the datatype one is looking at. Split the custom FInder for the datatype and the editor for that datatype into two parts. The finders for each datatype are always active just like the current Finder. So when you want to see pictures, click iPhoto and you have it immediately open. No waiting around. In the background the editor is loaded immediately. When you want to edit, there is no waiting around. It looked ahead to what you might want to do and got ready.

    In addition, make all files part of a database using metadata and keywords. So Spotlight gets keywords and fast response. These software improvements would make the hardware seem a hundred times faster. I wish I had time to mock all this up because I think most people would then get what I am saying. Apple continues to inch their way there but most people do not see the big target at the end that they are shooting for. That target is Open Doc.

    At least it should be. I have no insider knowledge of what Apple is really doing but I see how all the pieces are fitting together. OS 11 could be quite a leap forward in how we use computers. Wish I had more time to explain all this in detail.
  • Reply 5 of 13
    hudson1hudson1 Posts: 800member
    I remember fooling around with OpenDoc way back when. It seemed kinda cool but at the end of the day it still felt like a solution in search of a problem.

    As has been mentioned, Microsoft's OLE technology (which seems trivial today) was probably a better mouse trap. Why? Well, for starters it was built around existing robust applications. It's one thing to embed a 'spreadsheet', it's quite another and better idea to embed an 'Excel spreadsheet'.

    In today's world where complex content is largely delivered via the internet, these types of documents are constructed with a whole host of tools that didn't exist 10 to 15 years ago. And documents is probably the wrong term now anyway. It's more like just 'displayed information' or something like that.
  • Reply 6 of 13
    OpenDoc was a radical concept, and no doubt would have faced an uphill battle. But it was just the sort of rethinking of fundamentals that I believe nobody but Apple could have pulled off, and I think it would have been a huge benefit to users and the industry had it been done. The reason I see Microsoft's hand in the demise of OpenDoc is that it was precisely the sort of existential threat to their core business that they were prepared to work overtime to snuff. They didn't even want to know if Netscape could become a real threat -- they wanted them gone before they'd even have to deal with the issue. So why not OpenDoc?

    Apple and Microsoft were doing a lot of horse trading at that time. I can easily hear Bill Gates saying to Steve, "and we want you to cancel OpenDoc."
  • Reply 7 of 13
    stinkbugstinkbug Posts: 170member
    It seems to me it would save a lot of development time if one could add functionality to an overall OS. i.e You buy photoshop and it's functionality can be applied anytime to anything you work on and so on. This means iPhoto would not need to borrow functions or re invent the wheel everytime. A user could purchase these functions (apps) as needed and built a customized, personalized system. Who needs all these apps that do the same stuff but a little different from the next app?

    I am very surprised about the many responses to my topic! I thought I was the only one remembering the menus changing when you clicked on a part of your doc.
  • Reply 8 of 13
    taurontauron Posts: 911member
    It seems to me all your hypothetically have with opendoc that you don't have today is that today one has to re-import the content into the main document everytime one makes a change. Forgive me but that seems to be little gain for the huge trouble of embedding.
  • Reply 9 of 13
    stinkbugstinkbug Posts: 170member
    Imagine a web design app and you can do full featured edits of any and all content in place.

    It would save me a lot of time. Instead of all thes app icons you only need to see your documents. Using a full featured sound editor together with iMovie, electric image, photoshop and dreamweaver features available at once could be fun.
  • Reply 10 of 13
    I remember that Nisus Writer 6 was built to take advantage of OpenDoc, but was burned once it was cancelled. At the time it seemed like a great opportunity and step forward.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    So, is the Google Wave the next evolution of MS OLE and OpenDoc?
  • Reply 12 of 13
    I know this thread is under applications but I think it should probably best be under the OS folder. We have Core Audio, Core Image, Core Video -- why not Core Pages, Core Numbers, Core Presentation? How many word processors, spreadsheet programs, and presentation programs do we need? After the last twenty years, these tools are pretty mature and static. We have all these CPU cores, RAM, huge hard drives - why are the apps thinking the same as they did 20 years ago?

    Apple's next OS needs to be document centered rather than application centered. Yes, edit movies, audio, images, text right in a website authoring program. No more bouncing assets between programs. The OS also needs to keep a database of all assets and their instances. That way you don't delete a photo that is being referenced in another document.
  • Reply 13 of 13
    I played with it in the mid 90´s. Both on OS/2 and then later on Mac.

    The idea sounded cool but it felt slow and buggy.

    And it was very complex to code for. In a way, every opendoc "document" was it ´s own file system, and coding the mechanisms for saving such a document was incredibly hard.

    On top of it you had ole 2, which was Microsoft´s version of OpenDoc. I bought one book for to learn ole 2 , and was big and ugly and so much code had to be written just to do file operations.

    I am glad they took it way. It was a very expensive project, and when IBM and Novell left it, it could easily have consumed all of Apple´s resources.

    I miss Wave though, the prettiest word-processor I´ve ever known.

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