The Computer User
February 1996

Packed House Previews Copland at Macworld

Steve Levering (

Apple Computer allowed a sneak-peek of Copland, the much anticipated System 8 software, at the recent Macworld conference in San Francisco. The new system software is being re-written from the ground up to increase performance on RISC based PowerPCs. IBM, Motorola, Apple and several other companies have committed to a RISC computing future. The Copland software is promised to run on RISC-based machines from all these companies.

Macworld editor Galen Gruman began the session by giving a brief introduction of the Copland software. He then introduced Vito Salvaccio, one of the leaders of the Copland development team.

According to Mr. Salvaccio, Apple is committed to making the new system more customizable than ever. Home and educational users will probably find the "Personality" feature very useful. In a multi-user environment, each user may set up a personality for him/herself. This personality determines which extensions load and which preferences are used. Or if someone is set as the administrator of the machine, personalities may be set up to determine which applications and files other users may have access to. When booting, the computer asks which personality to start as. Personalities may also be changed "on the fly" without having to reboot the computer.

The new system should be 90-95% PowerPC native, which translates into a huge speed boost for PowerPC owners. On the other hand, owners of 68K Macs such as those running 68040 or 68030 chips will be unable to use the new software. Apple will port over vital new technologies, such as OpenDoc and Cyberdog, but 68K Macintosh owners will have to settle for System 7 series software. When asked about this approach, Jim Gable, Director of Apple's Common Platform group answered that for Copland to advance, some machines will have to be left behind in terms of support. Galen Gruman then pointed out that "System 7.5 will still run on a Mac Plus that was released in 1986. You show me another company with that kind of track record in machine support." He went on to point out that 286 series computers were being released at that time and that no operating systems released this past year would run on them. Mr. Gruman continued by saying that Apple would probably release several more versions of the System 7 software, including System 7.5.3, due in March.

To help ease the transition to Copland, Apple is releasing portions into the market now. Examples include PCI drivers, Virtual Memory handling on PowerMacs and Open Transport. Soon to be released segments include OpenDoc and Cyberdog, Apple's interchangeable suite of Internet tools. When pressed about why Apple released the difficult Open Transport segment now, Mr. Salvaccio reported that Open Transport was designed to meet industry standards in TCP/IP protocol use.

Copland will introduce a fully multi-tasking operating system to the Macintosh world. Users will easily be able to make multiple copies or deletions in the background while continuing to work in applications. The new software will also introduce an Undo feature at the Finder level. Users of applications have found this feature convenient in case that last keystroke was a mistake. Now if the user copies a file into the wrong folder, Undo will set things back to the way they were.

Copland will also introduce some powerful new search capabilities to Macintosh desktops, including the ability to search document contents for text strings. The results of the searches are then ranked by the number of matches found. Search results may also be saved for later use.

One of the most talked-about features of Copland was the Digest capability. Mr. Salvaccio only demonstrated this feature briefly, but everyone obviously wanted to see it in more detail. The digest feature searches a document for redundant text strings and paragraphs and then condenses the document to a percentage requested by the user. For example, if the user selects 50%, Copland will condense the document to half the original size. For an extremely brief summary, the user may squeeze it down to 1% of document size. Many people in attendance seemed curious and even skeptical about this feature. It will be interesting to test drive this segment when Copland comes out.

Copland is expected to be ready in 1997. Meanwhile, Apple plans to ship OpenDoc and Cyberdog later this year.

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