OS X 10.3 Dazzles Developers

Apple's 'Panther' release provides integrated workbench.

When application developers open the stark black box containing the four CDs of Apple Computer Inc.s "Panther" operating system, theyll get more than the newly polished end-user experience of whats already the worlds most widely used version of workstation Unix. That fourth CD contains Xcode 1.0, Apples integrated development workbench for AppleScript, Java and native C/C++/Objective-C applications.

Panther itself installed without drama on an eWEEK Labs G4 PowerBook. Choosing the option of archiving our previous system (Mac OS 10.2.6) and installing Panther as an upgrade, we found all our settings and account customizations preserved—with the sole exception of needing to respecify our log-in-screen icons.

Opening an existing project from the extensive array of examples triggered a busy but unobtrusive display of status-bar messages as our project control center began indexing the associated files. Mac OS X 10.3s robust multitasking was not visibly burdened by this background activity, even on our single-processor G4 PowerBook. In fact, these notes were written in one session at the same time that we were building a series of applications, in the background, under another concurrent session using Panthers Fast User Switching.

With indexing finished, we easily located any occurrence of any string in any file associated with our project; within a source code file, the Xcode editor offered us quick drop-down access to any defined symbol, such as a function name.

Developers who work on small-screen laptops will take special pleasure in Panthers new Exposé feature, which offers rapid access to any window, to any window of the current foreground application or to the Mac OS desktop. We quickly took advantage of the option of mapping Exposé modes to corners of the screen. Moving our mouse pointer to the top right corner, for example, now shrinks windows as needed to make them all visible and brings any window and its application to the foreground with a single click. It was much more convenient than having to Alt-Tab our way around the ring of open applications.

Other notable signs of Mac OS Xs increasing maturity are optional password-protected resumption from sleep mode or from screen saver, not to mention Panthers optional encrypted file storage—with an enterprise-essential master key capability. Leading-edge project developers will want to explore the distributed-build feature of Xcode that spreads the workload across idle machines or a dedicated build farm. Basic projects will take shape more quickly with Xcodes precompilation and other behind-the-scenes aids.

Weve just started exploring Xcodes AppleScript development capabilities, as well as its facilities for importing Metrowerks Inc.s CodeWarrior projects. But what weve seen already is a developers suite that holds its own, running in a dazzling environment that we suspect will soon feel like second nature.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.