Omnis deserves a place in the Mac Faithful Hall of Fame — the company started with an Apple II database, and it should have a Mac OS X version ready this spring. The current version 3 of Omnis Studio offers two serious attractions: a drag-and-drop interface for developing an object-oriented database, and simple new tools for extending your data onto the Web. If you’re going to post a catalog on the Web, Omnis Studio 3.0 is a good choice.
Omnis makes a credible run at being all databases in one. It includes a proprietary Omnis database that’s very fast but mostly suitable for small companies, and a SQL (structured query language) database that can use third-party SQL-based products (it also supports direct queries to Oracle, Informix, ODBC-standard, and DB2 databases). To create a database interface you arrange collections of Omnis prefab icons from task libraries, which is an easy process after a little practice. Coding for Web applications is similarly speedy: you can develop browser-readable forms, or you can develop Web databases that employ the Web Client plug-in for Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.
Unfortunately, once you’ve created your database you may need to move it to a Windows or Linux server. The standard databases will run on a Mac, but the Web versions won’t. (That will change when the OS X version emerges.) Omnis chose to limit the supported Omnis Web Server platforms in order to offer databases the advantages of multithreading. With multithreading the database performance can stand up to simultaneous access by multiple clients.
To further improve performance, Omnis has added functionality to their client software. The server can off-load much of the database work to the client’s computer, thus eliminating server congestion and Internet traffic. All Omnis databases work with Mac, Linux, and Windows clients with no code changes. However, if you’ve written your database to take advantage of the Web Client functionality, you will want your clients to download the Web Client plug-in from www.omnis.net. Windows-based visitors to your Web site will get the plug-in automatically downloaded and installed, but Mac and Unix visitors have to do it themselves. The Web Client includes components for clocks, sliders, grids and rollovers, as well as animated GIFs and marquees.
Where to Buy: This easy-to-build product catalog uses a handful of Omnis Web Client components and the Web Client browser plug-in.