Opinion: Apple's Leopard is a developer's delight

Revamped core technologies make coding easier, more exciting for software developers

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A complete package

Hodges emphasized that it wasn't just any one addition to the development environment in Leopard that is important; it's the additional features all working in concert that makes it better for developers.

While frameworks such as Core Animation -- the technology that allows the operating system's elements such as Stacks and Time Machine to work -- are easy to point to as major changes, Apple actually started at the kernel level of Leopard and worked out from there. On the way, it made sure developers could plug these new features into their apps quickly.

Every area of development was touched, including multiprocessor support -- not surprising, given Apple's use of multicore Intel processors.

"Conventionally, [the code for multiprocessor-aware apps] is multithreaded," he said, "but it's easy to get out of sync when writing in parallel. It's a lot of manual housekeeping. The new NSOperation describes operation and dependencies and the system executes automatically."

NSOperation, Apple's new API for automating multiprocessor support, also scales a computer's capabilities based on its hardware, he said. The benefit of NSOperation is that developers can write their code once and not have to worry about whether it'll run well on a Mac mini or a tricked out Mac Pro.

All those tools, and countless others, combine to allow longtime developers and hobbyists to build applications with great sophistication, and without superfluous coding. That, said Hodges, is the whole point: to make it easier for them to build the kind of high-end, third-party apps that Mac users expect.

What developers do will ultimately help define the user experience on Mac OS X. And the easier Apple makes developers' jobs, the better apps they'll build -- and the better experience users will have.

Despite some concern about the level of support Apple has offered Java developers, one thing is certain: The new XCode-based environment offered in Leopard provides a powerful set of development tools. "I'm excited to see how [developers] unleash these new technologies," Hodges said.

Michael DeAgonia is a computer consultant and technologist who has been using Macintoshes for a decade and working on them professionally since 1996. His tech-support background includes tenures at Computerworld, colleges, the biopharmaceutical industry, the graphics industry and Apple. Currently, he is working as an independent consultant at YourMacTek, specializing in all things Macintosh.

What do you think about Leopard? Let us know by sending an e-mail to leopardfeedback@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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