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Re: A Critique: Getting Started with GNUstep on Windows

From: David Chisnall
Subject: Re: A Critique: Getting Started with GNUstep on Windows
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2016 09:45:10 +0000

On 17 Feb 2016, at 23:07, Doc O'Leary <address@hidden> wrote:
>> Speaking of a vision.  What I personally would like to see is a complete OS
>> distro built from the bottom up with GNUstep in mind.
> Wrong kind of vision.  I’ve always been talking about a vision for how
> *actual* people would find GNUstep useful.  Last time this topic came
> up, it involved iOS, because that was the biggest community that was hot
> on ObjC/Cocoa.  Now that Apple is pushing Swift, the stated vision either
> has to involve that, or be very specific about *not* involving that.
>> I would like us to consider creating something new and great and not
>> tethered to technologies which hold us back.
> Consider instead what people actually want and/or need.  On the Linux
> desktop, they still want good apps.  And there are a lot of them, for
> now in ObjC, that are written for the Mac.  Some are even open source,
> but others it might require the company to get involved in considering
> making their code work with GNUstep.  Outreach has always been more
> important than chest-beating code commits.
> If I were to suggest a vision, it would be a hit list of notable Mac apps
> that GNUstep *actively* supports.  The first one on the list is naturally 
> TextEdit.  Phoenix Slides is something I’ve used that I think is nice.
> There are countless others, I’m sure, but those are the two that come to
> mind for which I’ve previously poked at the source.

I completely agree.  On FreeBSD, we package GNUstep with all of the apps that I 
know exist.  If you want to use a GNUstep-only desktop, then grabbing the VM 
image for the latest release and doing ‘pkg ins gnustep’ as root will basically 
give you that.  How many people do that?  Zero.  Why?  Because it doesn’t give 
you a complete desktop environment.  There’s no web browser.  There’s no office 
suite.  The only mail client is really crappy.

As an end user, why should I care about it?  As an end users, I don’t care 
about the amazing technology underlying my applications, I they care how well 
they work.  I care that they make me more productive and that I don’t spend 
time fighting their UIs.

GNUstep needs to attract *developers*.  As a developer, I care what users of my 
apps will think.  Currently, I can get away with using GNUstep because most 
users are on OS X and so having a FreeBSD / Linux port for free is fine, but 
not something worth investing much effort in.  I am interested in toolkits that:

- Make me more productive as a developer
- Let me create apps that my users like to use
- Don’t impose annoying licensing constraints
- Let me write portable code

GNUstep does pretty well on the first point, though only being able to open 
.xib files from XCode 4.6 is annoying, as recent versions of XCode can save in 
this format but refuse to create new .xib files in that format, so I have to 
copy an old .xib and modify it, rather than starting over.

GNUstep does pretty poorly on the second.  Autodetecting the running DE and 
loading some theme settings that make sense for it by default would make life a 
lot better.  For example, if I’m not running WindowMaker, I probably want the 
Windows95 menu style.  If I’m running a Qt or GTK window manager, then I 
probably want the navigation shortcut keys in NSTextView to be whatever the 
defaults are for those toolkits (or to load them from a config file if such a 
thing exists).  If I’m on Windows, then I want okay / cancel buttons to be the 
wrong way around.  There’s lots of stuff that’s just subtly wrong in GNUstep 
(including the fact that the alt modifier in menus shows up as #).

GNUstep is okay on the third category, though LGPL is annoying in some embedded 
/ appliance contexts and GPLv3 for the tools means that I have to distribute 
without the tools if I’m shipping any kind of appliance.  I have a 
long-standing to-do to strip out the tools from the FreeBSD packages so that I 
can ship pre-installed images of only the LGPL parts and allow end users to 
install the GPL’d bits if they want them.

GNUstep does pretty well on the last too.  Nothing that doesn’t use Cocoa feels 
even vaguely native on OS X - Qt is really horrible, it takes me about 10 
seconds to notice that I’m using a Qt app because everything behaves subtly 
wrongly.  On *NIX, nothing really quite fits in and with a bit of tinkering 
(menu style, themes and so on) you can make GNUstep apps not stick out any more 
than anything else.  I’ve not used Windows for a decade or so, so I can’t 
really comment there.  On Android, at least I can reuse the back end, even if I 
have to rewrite the GUI (I probably want to for a mobile device, though one of 
my Android devices has a 10” screen, a keyboard and trackpad, so it’s not quite 
so clear cut that I wouldn’t want a full AppKit UI there).


-- Sent from my STANTEC-ZEBRA

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