The rush to unveil products for the OS/2 operating system has turned into a stampede as leading players in the personal computer arena usher out their wares. The recent batch of OS/2 applications underline the determination by manufacturers to offer software that maximises the benefits of the new environment, such as greater memory usage, while retaining MS-DOS compatibility. This may go some way towards both allaying users’ fears about a schism between the two operating systems and beginning the process of ensuring OS/2’s acceptability as the applications developed for it demonstrate its advantages over MS DOS. Compaq Top marks for marketing go to Compaq Computer Corp which last month unveiled its version of OS/2 for its 286 and 386-based range and claimed that there was absolutely no need to clone the Micro Channel Architecture at the core of IBM’s PS/2 models because OS/2 runs even faster on Compaq machines using the good old AT Bus. Borland International and several other independent software vendors participated in Compaq’s OS/2 announcement, effectively entering the OS/2 market on Compaq’s coat tails. Borland used the occasion to demonstrate its products to be shipped this year: Paradox OS/2 multitasking with the Quattro spreadsheet in OS/2 compatibility mode. In the OS/2 environment, Paradox directly addresses up to 16Mb using the Paradox virtual memory system. Compared with Compaq, other manufacturers made fairly modest claims for their OS/2 products. But Microsoft Corp and Santa Clara California-based networking systems supplier 3Com Corp embarked on a spirited joint unveiling – in Europe and the US – of the MS OS/2 LAN manager local area networking operating environment and 3Com’s OS/2 3+Open line for server-based OS/2 networking. Both companies are convinced that the growth of networking has been curtailed by the limitations of MS-DOS that will now be overcome with the advent of OS/2, which offers higher memory usage; file protection of tasks; multi-tasking and better throughput and response times. Microsoft has also unveiled utilities for developing applications for OS/2. These include five new languages, a new smart programmer’s text editor, and an enhanced version of the CodeView Debugger. The new language versions – C Optimising Compiler 5.1, Macro Assembler 5.1, Basic Compiler 6.0, Fortran Optimising Compiler 4.1, and Pascal Compiler 4.0 – enable the development of both MS-DOS real mode and OS/2 protected-mode applications. Also announced was the Microsoft OS/2 Programmer’s Toolkit – documentation and special utilities to help develop OS/2 applications. Microsoft wants to provide its languages with OS/2 functionality – without abandoning MS-DOS compatibility – so that programmers can write OS/2 applications or use OS/2 as a development platform for MS-DOS applications – anything to get people using the damn thing. The aim has been to give programmers a single implementation of each language instead of separate versions of OS/2 and MS-DOS. Except for the Quick products, this is the first time Microsoft has delivered languages that have their own editor – the M editor, which supports both multiple windows and multiple files, can create macro functions for frequently used operations, and creates a history file that automatically logs in any program changes. CodeView, the Microsoft debugger, now enables breakpoints to be set on a program level or on a thread level; if on the former, the complete execution sequence stops when a breakpoint is encountered. You can, however, set a breakpoint at the thread level by specifying the thread (thread No 5, for example) on which execution is to halt. Similarly, tracing can be applied to either the overall execution sequence or only to the path of a specific thread. Multithreading is an OS/2 feature that enables more than one path of execution through the same instance of an application program. Microsoft has also revised the linker so that it is easier to make frequent changes to large code modules. And programs can be bound to either OS/2 or MS-DOS by using the OS/2 B
ind utility to associate a program with one or other environment so that MS-DOS programs can be written under OS/2. Key advantage is that programmers can speed development by doing several tasks concurrently – execution in one window, debugging in another – and then use Bind to marry the program to MS-DOS. Not to be upstaged, Ashton-Tate Corp trundled out several new enhancements to its OS/2-compatible RapidFile data management program for the IBM PS/2. New features include an 80,000-word spelling checker and 470,000 synonym Merriam Webster the saurus. RapidFile 1.2 is the first product Ashton-Tate has certified for the OS/2 operating system and it is guaranteed to operate in the real mode or in the compatibility box of OS/2. But it doesn’t support the expanded memory features in the OS/2 protected mode. It is out now at $295, 25% less than RapidFile 1.0. The new spelling checker is similar to the one in Ashton’s Framework II integrated package: it is menu-driven, detects repeated words, suggests alternative spellings and remembers corrections. Other changes include laser printer support for labels, enhanced data sharing with dBase III Plus and Lotus 1-2 3, better control over printer typestyles, and better keystroke macro-editing mechanism. Oracle MicroPro International Corp joined the new products foray with an OS/2 version of its WordStar 2000 word publisher. WordStar 2000 OS/2 version uses OS/2 multi-tasking without sacrificing file or user interfaces with earlier MS-DOS versions of WordStar 2000. It will be shipped in the summer of next year and will offer what MicroPro calls word publishing capabilities – greater text editing and manipulating functions than those of tradional word processing packs but still less than a full desktop publishing system. Users will be able to integrate images, graphics and multiple typestyles into their documents to produce professional looking newsletters, reports, correspondence and presentations. OS/2 enables WordStar 2000 to use true concurrent printing and the ability to jump in and out of other OS/2 applications. And Menlo Park, California-based Informix Software Inc is bringing the functionality of Unix databases down to the personal computer with announcement that versions of Informix-4GL, which it now describes oleaginously as a Cobol-replacement calibre programming language for advanced database application development; Informix-SQL, a relational database based on ANSI standard SQL; Informix-ESQL/C, which enables developers to embed SQL statements into C programs, and the C-ISAM indexed sequential access method for database applications. All Informix products for OS/2 are available now. Pricing starts at $1,500 for Informix-4GL, $995 for Informix-SQL, $749 for ESQL/C and $319 for C-ISAM. No doubt software makers hope these OS/2 products will begin the process of attracting users to the new environment by whetting their appetites, but it’s likely to be a long time before the average personal user will be weaned away from MS-DOS.