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Helix Code: Beyond Project to Product - page 3

What the Guys Are Up To

  • September 11, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

It's difficult to sort out where Gnome ends and Helix Code begins, or vice versa. And while this may or may not be the actual case at Helix Code, Miguel seems excited particularly about Gnome itself. And he's delighted to describe its future.

"Gnome 1.4 is slated to release sometime in October or November. Gnome 2.0 is basically going to be many things you see in 1.4, like Evolution, the groupware client which has mail and calendar and so on. And Nautilus. And with the introduction of these two things, we introduce for the first time Bonobo, which is our component technology as a usable platform, and other things like the configuration engine, the virtual file system, the Gnome printing architecture finally reaches 1.0 status. So a number of these technologies are going to be available for Gnome 1.4. I think the big shift between 1.4 and 2.0 is going to be that the API is going to be updated. For instance, we're still binary compatible with Gnome 1.0 that was released, what, a year ago? a year and a half ago? and we have a commitment to keep binary compatability. Gnome 2.0 is the first time we've scheduled a big API cleanup. This will happen at the GTK level.

"One of the other features is that GTK 2.0 and hence Gnome 2.0 use a new engine for displaying text on screen and getting characters together and printing those. That is the Pango infrastructure. Pango is a system that lets you output Unicode text to screen and printers and so on, but it's a pretty complex process if you're taking typography into account, and that's where the strength of Pango is. It's interesting, because in some languages you cannot just use a different character for representing a letter. So the big change is obviously Pango, and porting all that stuff over to the GTK 2.0 platform.

"The Gnome libraries are also going to become more integrated. Right now, we have many various packages. Even though we are doing this in a way that is binary compatible, many packages were being developed outside of the 1.0 release libraries. With 2.0, we have a chance of integrating everything into a single spot, like the Bonobo components architecture is now going to become part of the Gnome core library, so everytime you use the Gnome core libraries, you automatically have the full Bonobo support in your application. So it's mostly an integration. I wouldn't say it's such a groundbreaking thing. It's more of an ongoing work, into porting stuff we have right now. Most of the stuff I've mentioned is already developed and already finished; it's a matter of porting the applications over to this new platform and doing the unification that we have planned."

The Gnome Office Suite
The decision by Sun to make its recently acquired StarOffice open source, and its embrace of Gnome, has led to the presumption that StarOffice will soon become a Gnome application, about which Nat offers an explanation.

"Well, right now we have a couple of applications to make up the Gnome office suite: Gnumeric, a few others, Gimp, and the StarOffice people are releasing their stuff open source next month, and we're going to be working with them to get that stuff ported. What we're doing is, we're taking a hammer to StarOffice. StarOffice is this big thing right now. We're splitting it up into a bunch of tiny pieces with a hammer. These are all called components. They're all going to be Bonobo components, and then we're going to reassemble them into an office suite which is totally Gnome native."

But what about outfits like the AbiWord project, which has been the Gnome word processor?

"AbiWord, yeah. It's fairly larval. It's up to that project. I'm not driving that. That's up to the AbiWord guys."

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