by James Waldby

From: Darwin Open Systems

Price: $30.00

Reviewer: James Waldby

OPEN LOOK is a graphical-user-interface specification. For example, the Sun OpenWindows windowing environment is based on OPEN LOOK specifications, while olwm and olvwm are OPEN LOOK window managers often included with OpenWindows implementations. XView is an X11 toolkit for developing programs that meet OPEN LOOK specifications. The “Linux GUI Development mini-HOWTO” refers to XView as “the poor man's object-oriented toolkit for building OPEN LOOK applications for X” but also says, “The XView toolkit provides extensive attribute-value pair combinations, convenience routines and object class hierarchies...” I comment briefly on XView vs. Motif later in this review.

The CD I reviewed was released in mid-1995 by the Darwin Open Systems company in Ontario, Canada. Priced at USD $30, the CD contains about 570 megabytes of files, mostly uncompressed. The principal directories are: src/X11R6/contrib, src/X11R6/xc, src/xview, book, bin.Linux, NeWS, bin.sun and t viewers. Contents of some directories are of use only on Suns (bin.sun, of course; a set of indices for SearchIt; AnswerGarden/xinfo files), but most files either appear in two forms (Sun OS and Linux) or aren't OS-specific. A lamentable exception: acroread-msw.exe and acroread.sun Acrobat/PDF viewers are supplied on the CD—but no Acrobat viewer for Linux is supplied.

One page accompanying the CD describes licensing terms for its contents, and a second page tells how to mount the CD on your system and “get started” with it. You can get a quick overview of much of the disk using an HTML browser and the provided TOUR script. The script will use Arena (provided on the CD) if you like, or any browser you already have. I used both Netscape and Arena to navigate around the disk.

The CD contains text and figures of three books, licensed for personal use. The books are volumes 7A (XView Programming Manual) and 7B XView Reference Manual) of the O'Reilly & Associates Guides to the X Window System series, and an analog of volume 3 X Window System User's Guide) tailored toward XView instead of Motif or Athena widgets and windows. Each book appears in two forms: as single files suitable for Acrobat/PDF viewing, and as chapter-by-chapter PostScript files for viewing or printing. It is these three books that make the CD unique, rather than the software on the disk; most of the software is freely or inexpensively available on Internet or other CDs. Still, having the software collected and organized on one CD adds value because that makes it easier for programmers to study and run several XView-based applications quickly.

Documentation on CD has its virtues, the most important in my view being findability (I often misplace books), transportability (much lighter than books), and machine readability (for searching and copying). But on my system (Linux 1.3.81, 486DX2-66 with 32MB RAM, 17" monitor) ghostview seems clumsy and slow, so I'm not inclined to recommend the PostScript files on this CD as an online substitute for printed manuals. Instead, I'd recommend the CD to persons learning about X11 or XView because it provides a broad set of example X and XView programs. Now, if all those .ps files were .html's ...

The src/X11R6/xc/doc directory subdivides into directories with many megabytes of troff and PostScript files for X library descriptions, X specifications, and X man pages. For example, xlib.PS.Z is a 490-page document about xlib, widgets.PS.Z is 146 pages about Athena widgets, and so forth.

The src/xview directory leads to source and executable versions of about 50 XView application programs in categories such as general, accessories, graphical, networking, administrative, games, editors, programming tools, and GUI program skeletons. Applications include (for example) workman, xrolo, xvnews, ftptool, and mahjongg.

Many of the HTML pages for the CD tour let you try out applications easily. For example, the page with URL file://localhost/CD/src/xview/pan3.0/index.html lets you run “pan” (post a note) by clicking on “Try it!”. There should also to be a link on these pages, to make it easy to view source code with your browser; but there isn't, so those pages without “Try it!” links feel like dead ends.

I noticed glitches and unexpected results in some tour links; for example, catcher and contool (listed among the XView example programs) are not actually on the CD; their pages say that copyright prevented inclusion and to use FTP to get a copy. The catcher page has a clickable link for catcher.tar.Z from, but the contool page merely says “use archie or your favorite Net Searching tool to find a copy.” For psview, the tour futilely refers to src/misc/psview instead of src/motif/psview. The workman “Try it out” button is displayed by $$Try it out.$$. The TOUR script determines it is running on a Linux system by detecting file /vmLinux which didn't exist on my system; perhaps it should say “elif [ -f /vmLinux -o -f /vmlinuz ]” instead of just “elif [ -f /vmLinux ]”. Of course, minor problems like these are easily dealt with by us Linux experts and need not deter anyone from buying the CD.

The HOWTO document that refers to XView as “the poor man's object-oriented toolkit for building OPEN LOOK applications” also says “Motif has become the standard user interface for X Window System applications.” I don't know enough about Motif or OPEN LOOK to compare their technical qualities, but at a local bookstore saw a dozen Motif titles in stock vs. two XView or OPEN LOOK titles. This is consistent with Ian Darwin's comment (in article 14.03 of the O'Reilly book, X User Tools, by Mui and Quercia) that “OPEN LOOK has essentially lost the commercial GUI wars to Motif.” But he concludes positively that “olwm and the XView toolkit will live forever, ensconced on tens of thousands of CD-ROMS and on Linux and other ... distributions.”

James Waldby is a Computer Science graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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