What Was OpenDoc?


I am trying to find out what OpenDoc was and what is was supposed to do. Why was it canned? Is there any possibility that it will, or can, be incorporated into Mac OS X? Thanks for any info.



Simply Daemonic
I tried doing a search on it,
here is an excerpt from cyberdog.org

Cyberdog (a product of Apple
Computer, Inc.) is based on OpenDoc,
a component-software technology.
This allows you the user to
determine how many--or how
few--features your software solution
really needs. In the case of
Cyberdog, OpenDoc has been used to
create a tightly integrated,
resource-centric (as opposed to
application-centric), and consistent
set of tools for use in retrieving
Internet content.

OpenDoc was in MacOS 8, it was supposed to be in Copland (OS 8), but that version of OS 8 was dragging behind teh times and wasnt being released. It was supposed to be *the* next generation of the MacOS back then (in 1996?) but since it was lagging behind it was dropped altogether and apple bought NeXT and brought steve back. OpenDoc made it in OS 8 but was canned like other technologies like powermail.

Red Phoenix

[theory type = "conspiracy" level="to the top"]I think OpenDoc was really just Apple's way of trying to get Microsoft to spend more money. I believe John Scully was the CEO of Apple at the time, and not to long after he announced that technology, Microsoft announced something similar. And yet, we got nothing.

It was actually pretty cool in concept, that people and companies could design components that did specific things, and provide those services to applications. So if you didn't like how a program did a certain thing, you could feasibly change the component. But it also meant features could be present in applications that were not there originally (you could add a movie to a text document, for example.)

In theory, it was definitely quite cool. It meant small companies could specialize in particular features. On the other hand, it took a lot of power away from larger companies, like say Microsoft or Adobe. I don't know the specifics of why it was dropped, but that had to be part of it.


Staff member
The most important thing about OpenDoc is its concept. The document at the very center of everything. Everything object-based. You don't start an application, you start a document. And then you add features to it.

One of the problems was that everyone who actually *did* develop OpenDoc apps developped container applications. They kinda misunderstood the concept.

It was a fine technology with a superb concept behind it. Copland would have been the first completely document-centric operating system - but was not to be born.

(In another parallel universe, there might be superfast Mac clones using Gershwin by now - one of the successors to Copland rumoured in the mid nineties... Imagine!)


Simply Daemonic
All this talk of copland is making me want to bring my old performa out, undust it, and install a dev release of copland that I have :p


Staff member
There was a build making the rounds, but it was only installable...

- on a G1 PowerMac (6100, 7100, 8100) [no performas]
- with a debugging machine connected via the serial port (the debugging machine needs to be a Quadra class machine)

and it basically was there to crash in front of your eyes. :)

I've never installed the build myself (didn't have a G1 available, I was on a PowerBook 520c at the time), but that was the stuff you could read on the Usenet at the time.


Hardest Flusher
OpenDoc was an idea that was really ahead of its time, and was pretty much destined for failure due to the capitalist/corporate nature of software development.

But now that open source and free software (free as in speech, not as in beer) are much more welcomed in the corporate world, we should expect to see a more modular approach to software design.

Microsoft wants to control the ENTIRE user experience. Microsoft would never release software or development tools that utilize a module based system, as it would absolve themselves of control.

But with the gaining momentum for open software, alternate methods of application development will arrise.

Imagine having a series of "plug-ins" that could be added to *any* program to modify *any* document. Instead of applications, your mac desktop would be full of tools.(hehe, brings back the toolbox :D)
These tools could be used throughout the system, just like a screwdriver comes in handy all throughout the house (ooh, a new 'workspace' metaphor: "The House").

I think that computing technology is near a breaking point. The current state of one bloated program that does everything cannot continue.

Maybe something of OpenDoc's philosophy will come and replace it.

"Think outside the box"


Adjutant On-Line
Ohhh.... how about the WorkShop instead of House?

But I love the idea, and in my mind its kinda the holy grail of computing, the ability to have tools like, as you said, screw drivers, that you can just put together to make what you are going for. Also allows for the possiblity of diffrent "sizes" of the tools, so if you wanted to add a picture to a document you could use a picture viewer, a lightweight picture editor, or a heavy, full featured picture editor tool and embed it into the document.

I can remember playing with OpenDoc and thinking about how cool it would /could be, but there wasn't much besides CyberDog to do with it at the time, and nothing ever realy came out the pipe. But it did force MS to develope OLE and the associated bloat and crap-level that comes with it. Seems that even MS has shoved OLE in the closet for now, or atleast they stopped promoting it and talking about it a while back.


Haven't heard about OpenDoc in a while. It was a good concept. I recall reading some years back that there was a three way partnership behind it. Apple, IBM(?) and one other company. When they got to the point where some milestone was supposed to be met it turned out the third partner had not done any real work. It really drained the energy out of that idea. Then of course all sorts of other things happened (Steve, OS X, etc.).

Read something else somewhere that the ideas behind OpenDoc may have survived and may reappear in better form in OS X. As stated above, the key idea is to be document centric.

You can get a small taste of this in services. For example, you can create a document in Tex-Edit Plus then through services you can spell check it with Excalibur (or another spell checker).


Apprentice Codemonkey
Cyberdog was the best mail app ever!!!!!
I loved that thing, used to take forever to load on my Performa 6400/180 runnning System 7.5.5 but it was sweet, i was sad when OpenDoc disappeared and i was forced into outlook and eudura (sp?)