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Re: So, honestly, is GNUStep a viable development option?

From: David Chisnall
Subject: Re: So, honestly, is GNUStep a viable development option?
Date: Tue, 13 Nov 2007 12:18:11 +0000

Hi Mark,

First, as an Étoilé developer, I can answer the question in your subject line with a definite 'yes.' I recently did a Cocoa tutorial for OS X users where we developed a simple app in XCode and Interface Builder. In the last five minutes of the session, I copied the code that we had written across to my FreeBSD box, wrote a simple GNUmakefile, compiled it, and showed exactly the same application running on FreeBSD.

On 13 Nov 2007, at 04:54, Mark Grice wrote:

"1) Adopt a more modern look. "

Umm... no... it still looks like it did in 1999.

Nicolas wrote Camaelon some years back. It is maintained in Étoilé svn and packaged by some distros (it's in ports for FreeBSD, although a somewhat old version). The current default theme for Camaelon users is Nesedah, which looks like this:


This will eventually be replaced as the default in Étoilé with Narcissus, which looks roughly like this (mockup):


We support Mac-style horizontal menu bars as well as the OPENSTEP- style vertical menus. There was a bundle floating around a while back that attached menus to windows in Redmond-style (apparently there are still people who haven't worked out what a terrible idea that is), but I don't know if it's maintained.

"2) Make regular releases. Start courting different distributions to
include GNUstep in their package set."

Can' comment on this... I don't know how frequently the releases were
before, but it appears that UBUNTU releases new versions of their
whole distro more frequently than GNUSTEP releases updates.

GNUstep releases are roughly every six months. Distribution packages lag behind them somewhat, which is a shame and something the project still needs to work on.

"3) Eliminate the need for GNUstep.sh..."

Well, this one wasn't a biggie for me... but I still had to run the
GNUStep.sh to get things to compile.

GNUstep.sh is still needed to compile, but not to run GNUstep applications. The new GNUstep.conf contains the configuration files needed to run things. Getting rid of GNUstep.sh completely would be nice, but as long as it only affects developers, not users, I don't consider it a major problem.

"4) Start appealing more to the Mac OS X/Cocoa crowd."

I honestly don't know how important that is, or what is meant by it...
but appealing to the Mac OS Users by updating the look and feel would
be a wonderful place to start.

I believe this is targeted more at developers than users (GNUstep is an SDK, after all). Currently, OS X has a large pool of Objective-C/ OpenStep developers that are a good potential market for GNUstep.

"5) Focus and concentrate on one and only one set of display
technologies per platform."

Not sure where this is... but it seems reasonable. Having a way of
using the native look and feel would also be a huge plus for those of
us who don't WANT to look different than every other app on a

As Gregory mentioned, this was about adopting Cairo and deprecating the art/xlib backends. Fred has done a lot of work on the Cairo code recently, and it's now useable (but still officially a beta).

By the way, if you want UIn consistency, there is also a GTK version of the Nesedah theme.

"6) Decide what we are. Yes, that's right. Some people view GNUstep as
a desktop, others view GNUstep as a development environment."

I see this still being debated today... Someone in charge needs to
stick a stake in the ground and move on already...

I don't think there is any debate here. GNUstep is a development environment, Étoilé is a desktop. Some people contribute to both, but I don't think anyone mixes them up.

"7) Make GNUstep friendly with other environments like GNOME, KDE,
Windows and etc. Make sure that GNUstep functions sanely in these

Oh yeah, you betcha. This is a biggie. And not done. I can run a
GNUStep app in Gnome, but if I hit the wrong key,  suddenly find
myself in a non-responsive wmaker session! Yikes!

No idea how you did this. Yen-Ju and others have been working on things like NETWM compliance recently. GNUstep apps now behave a lot better with window managers that haven't been specifically written for GNUstep.

Selling GNUStep is hard enough... having to sell Window Maker on top
of it is a real stretch...

We use Azalea, rather than Window Maker, for Étoilé. There are not Window Maker dependencies in GNUstep.

I guess what I'm asking is this: Is GNUStep a living, breathing
project that wants to be useful in 2007 and beyond, or are you guys
the Computer version of the SCA (Society of Creative Anachronism) --
happy to be the caretakers of a historical moment in time, extolling
the virtues of a system that has lost its effectiveness, but was
really cool way back when?

OpenStep is still the easiest development system I've come across and Objective-C still one of the most flexible languages (and the most mainstream of them). GNUstep is still being actively developed, although the relative lack of manpower compared to projects like Qt or GTK, both of which are commercially supported (Qt by TrollTech, GTK by the likes of RedHat) has made this somewhat slow.


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