Year in review: Software

Users may be awaiting Apple's next-generating operating system, but 2000 still proved to be a busy year for Macintosh software, especially in the graphics arena. Here's a rundown of the important Mac-related software events of the past 12 months.

Mac OS X

The biggest software news of the year, of course, was Mac OS X, Apple's next-generation operating system. Steve Jobs previewed the new OS and its Aqua graphical interface at Macworld Expo San Francisco in January. Five months later, at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple released Developer Preview 4 and announced a revised schedule for shipping the new OS. Most users got their first taste of OS X in the fall when Apple released the Public Beta -- selling 100,000 copies of the $29.95 software as of early December.

Reaction has been mixed. Most users welcomed such modern OS features as protected memory, which allows the system to continue running even when an application crashes. But some elements, such as the Aqua graphical user interface, the Dock and the Unix-derived directory structure, spurred complaints from long-time Mac users, who found that they had to shift gears when navigating the new OS. Many also lamented the absence of such familiar features as the Apple menu and Control Strip. However, numerous users have reported that the new OS becomes more comfortable over time, and Apple has indicated that it is taking user feedback into account as it prepares the final release, now scheduled for sometime in February.

Meanwhile, developers are scrambling to move their applications to the new OS, primarily using Apple's Carbon APIs. Helping them along the way was an upgrade of Metrowerks CodeWarrior that included Carbon support. In addition, Real Software released a series of alpha versions of RealBasic 3, which also supports OS X.

In April, Apple released the long-awaited 1.0 version of Mac OS X's open-source cousin, Darwin -- which some thought that Apple had forgotten as it rushed to get OS X out the door. Prior to the 1.0 rollout, Apple engineer Wilfredo Sanchez got Mac users astir by reporting that he had compiled Darwin to run on Intel hardware, prompting speculation -- later denied by Apple -- that the company was hedging its processor bets by taking steps toward PC hardware. The first Darwin release was followed a few months later by an update, Darwin 1.2.

Another software highlight for Apple was the July release of iMovie 2, an upgrade of the consumer video-editing program that's now bundled with all FireWire-equipped Mac systems. Apple also announced an update to Final Cut Pro, its professional video-editing software, now at version 1.2.5.

Office 2001

Outside of Apple, the biggest software development for most Mac users was Microsoft's release of Office 2001. This, the most Mac-friendly release of its productivity suite, includes a new e-mail/PIM application called Entourage to go along with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. In contrast with the Windows version, which is targeted at corporate users, Office 2001 for Mac aims squarely at the consumer and SOHO markets, which account for 60 to 70 percent of the Mac Office customer base, the company said.

Entourage is essentially a souped-up version of Outlook Express integrated with a personal information manager, allowing users to manage their contacts through an e-mail client. Other new Office features include a Project Gallery, which presents previews of customizable templates for all four Office applications; a Formatting Palette that provides quick context-sensitive access to text-, graphics- and document-formatting features in Word, Excel and PowerPoint; Image Effects, a set of built-in image-editing tools accessible from the latter three programs; and a Collect and Paste feature that lets users cut or copy multiple items to an enhanced clipboard.

Office 2001 also features a new identity, with a new logo design and plastic clamshell packaging.

Browsers

Internet time being what it is, both major Mac browsers saw upgrades during the year. In March, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5, featuring the new Tasman rendering engine, which is designed to provide more-reliable rendering of HTML pages. Other new features included a streamlined search function, a Scrapbook tool for storing Web pages and an Auction Manager for tracking online auctions. Mac OS X Public Beta included a Carbonized version of Internet Explorer with a few new features, such as the ability to drag graphics with embedded URLs from Web pages to the toolbar.

In November, Netscape released the long-awaited Netscape 6, featuring the new Gecko rendering engine, but Mac users were almost unanimous in their derision of the upgrade, complaining about slow performance and interface quirks. Some awaited the release of lesser-known browsers from Opera and iCab, while others turned to OmniWeb, an OS X-native browser from OmniGroup.

Graphics

Adobe Systems and Macromedia continued their heated rivalry for the hearts and wallets of Mac graphics users as both companies updated most of their product lines. Adobe was especially busy, releasing LiveMotion 1.0 and InDesign 1.5 in March; Illustrator 9 and GoLive 5 in April; Photoshop 6 and InScope -- a workflow management program formerly known by its code-name, Stilton -- in August; and Premiere 6 in December. InDesign, however, brought its share of headaches as users complained about Adobe's $99 upgrade price; Adobe eventually relented and dropped the top upgrade fee to $30. At Seybold San Francisco in late August, Adobe announced that it had acquired Glassbook, a developer of e-book software. Two months later, Adobe announced an ambitious Network Publishing initiative, and at the end of the year, the company announced that co-founder and CEO John Warnock was stepping into a new role as chief technology officer, leaving the CEO position to Bruce Chizen.

Meanwhile, Macromedia released new versions of FreeHand, Flash, Dreamweaver and Fireworks, and announced Dreamweaver UltraDev, a version of the Web-authoring program designed for creation of database-driven Internet sites. Flash, Dreamweaver and Fireworks all sport a new common interface with tabbed, tear-off palettes, prompting a patent-infringement lawsuit by Adobe. Macromedia also announced a joint effort with Intel to develop a streaming 3D format viewable through Macromedia's Shockwave Player.

In April, users learned the fate of Painter, Bryce, Poser, Carrara and other graphics applications formerly owned by MetaCreations, which had announced in December 1999 that it was divesting the programs to focus on the Metastream 3D Web format. Adobe picked up Carrara and Canoma, and Poser went to a company called Curious Labs that was launched by the program's original authors. Likewise, Mark Zimmer, Tom Hedges and John Derry, the creators of Painter, reacquired rights to Headline Studio, which they plan to upgrade as part of their new company, fractal.com. However, the bulk of the programs went to Corel -- just as the latter company was undergoing a financial crisis that led to the departure of founder Michael Cowpland. Corel also angered users when it announced in May that it would halt development of WordPerfect for the Mac.

Among smaller developers, Synthetik Software released Studio Artist 1.5, a free update to the $329 "graphics synthesizer" that adds several new features, including 3D lighting effects that can be incorporated into brushes. Pixologic debuted a Mac version of ZBrush, a 3D sculpting and painting program. Beatware introduced E-Picture Pro, an upgrade of its Web-animation software. Totally Hip Software launched LiveSlideShow, a QuickTime presentation tool based on its LiveStage Professional software. Alien Skin Software released Eye Candy 4000, a new set of Adobe Photoshop plug-ins; Vivid Details announced Test Strip 3.0, a new version of the popular color-correction plug-in; and DiamondSoft released Font Reserve Server, a server version of its font-management software, which competes with Extensis Suitcase.

High-end graphics

The year also saw the Mac making some big moves in the high-end graphics arena, comprising 3D and video production. In May, Alias|Wavefront announced that it would bring its Maya 3D software to Mac OS X in early 2001. A few months later, at the Siggraph show in New Orleans, Auto-des-sys announced an update of FormZ, its high-end modeling program, and Newtek demonstrated a Mac OS X version of Lightwave 3D. Maxon introduced BodyPaint 3D, a texture-generating application that complements Cinema 4D XL. Meanwhile, Electric Image, slow to get an upgrade of the Electric Image Animation System out the door, broke away from parent company Play in November and returned to being an independent developer, also taking Amorphium, a $149 3-D sculpting program.

In July, Media 100 introduced a new family of digital-video editing products, signaling an emphasis on Web-based streaming-video. All four Media 100i systems incorporate versions of the company's video-editing and effects software along with a PCI card (two in the high-end configuration) for capturing DV video streams. Later, the company released Cleaner 5, an upgrade of the video-compression software, formerly known as Media Cleaner Pro, that added new DV-capture, media-authoring and video-streaming capabilities.

In the multimedia space, Tribeworks released iShell 2, a new version of its authoring software, which features a unique visual programming interface. The upgrade adds numerous enhancements, such as the ability to create custom media players that can be dragged around the screen. Tribeworks also improved the documentation and modified its membership plan. Non-commercial users -- or those who want to try it out -- can download the full version of the software and use it for free. Commercial users can opt for one of two paid membership plans.

Other software

Other software releases of note include:

Rewind. This system utility from Power On Software lets Mac users recover from file overwrites, software conflicts, unknown viruses and other disasters by hitting a "Rewind" button.

ViaVoice for Mac. The latest version of IBM's speech-recognition software adds computer control functions and an enhanced USB microphone that cancels out background noise.

MusicMatch Jukebox 1.0. MusicMatch's free MP3 encoding and playback software, already popular in the PC market, made its Macintosh debut. Not to be outdone, Casady & Greene released an OS X-native version of SoundJam MP.

Napster for the Mac. Napster released its long-awaited Mac client, which is actually based on an earlier program called Macster.

Click to read the other sections in our Year in Review:

Finance
Expos
Hardware
Software
Games
Imaging
Video Cards

This story, "Year in review: Software" was originally published by PCWorld.

  
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