|Object Desktop Professional||- by Alex Bradley|
Editor's note: this review originally appeared in slightly different form, in OS/2 Review Magazine. OS/2 Review Magazine is a service for OS/2 user groups world wide.
long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
A year ago, Stardock Systems, best known for creating Galactic Civilizations, released Object Desktop 1.0. It won great praise in the industry and brought cutting edge features to the OS/2 world. Its features included the unique ability to make .ZIP files behave as regular OS/2 folders, a reliable and integrated way of launching programs with the keyboard, virtual Desktops, enhancements to the look and feel of OS/2, and a plethora of other features.
On the downside, Object Desktop 1.0 suffered from numerous performance and compatibility issues due in main to its seamless integration with OS/2. In response, Stardock hired IBM developers who did not want to transfer from Boca Raton, Florida to Austin, Texas. The result was Object Desktop 1.5 (released in May). It not only addressed the performance and stability issues but added many asked-for features.
According to Stardock, Object Desktop 1.5 is still their recommended environment for most OS/2 users and Object Desktop Professional is only for power users and corporate Desktops. I do not know if I agree with Stardock on this point. Stardock believes the US$179 price tag for Object Desktop Professional will put it out of the reach of most OS/2 users. On the subject of cost, this author and Stardock part ways. Maybe $179 is too high for someone using OS/2 as a hobby but most people use OS/2 to increase their productivity and are professionals. A quick tour of the feature set of Object Desktop Professional makes it pretty compelling to those who are not using OS/2 as a hobby or to defy Microsoft. And in fact, it makes it unnecessary to buy so many other products that OS/2 users save a lot of time and money trying to get some of these feature piecemeal.
Let's look at what Object Desktop Professional (ODPro) does.
I then double clicked on my files and ODPro viewed them all (GIF, 10.6K) -- every file came up perfectly. My Word7 document not only had the right formatting and fonts, but the embedded graphics worked inside. Not even Star Office's MSWord import filter handles embedded graphics. I went to my "Cool Targa file" and selected the eyeball of the female model. Then I copied it to the clipboard, pasted it into StarWriter and it came up perfectly.
I also played with Object Viewing in conjunction with the Object Navigator in ODPro. The Object Navigator can open up a connected window (GIF, 21K) at the bottom of the screen; double click on a file and the contents are displayed in the "view pane". Most remarkably, the viewing performance is very fast. In less than a second on most documents, correct display of formatting and contents appear in the view pane. If you choose an .EXE or .DLL, ODPro displays their information as well right down to segment offsets, making this program attractive to developers.
On the other hand, Object Viewing did not recognize my Star Writer files. Overall, I salute Stardock for delivering on their promise on the viewing capabilities. It should be noted that there is no product on the market for any OS that I know of that combines such file support with this kind of performance. Quick View on Windows95 tries and fails at what ODPro does (it is very slow compared to ODPro and does not support nearly as many files). When it comes to being able to work with others, ODPro gives OS/2 a real advantage. This makes OS/2 a very attractive client for corporations.
This brings up the biggest problem I encountered with ODPro. It has a UI deficiency in terms of creating Object Advisors. A user has to right click on the Object Advisor and choose the "Definitions" view that then lets them create an advisor. The Advisor creation mechanism is very well done, however, and I quickly wrote up an Object Advisor for my current applications.
If I used the Worldwide Web, I could have made Advisors that connected to Web sites. Object Advisor is a very exciting and powerful feature. I expect most of the more aggressive OS/2 shareware and freeware authors to begin including an advisor for their apps so that their customers can easily download updates. Stardock has done a real service for OS/2 developers with this feature because it will likely decrease technical support problems for both users and developers. IT managers will also like the Object Advisors because they can create a company wide help system that works with their intranet. This means that IT managers can dynamically change their system help on custom software, create technical support forms, etc. Every large OS/2 site should look carefully at ODPro just because of this feature.
Being the skeptic I am, I decided to put this to the test. I created three very different Desktops. My original Desktop I backed up and I must comment on how intuitive and pleasant the UI for the Desktop Backup Advisor is. Then I made a Macintosh-like Desktop and backed it up. Finally, I made a Windows95 looking Desktop and backed it up. Next, I restored my original Desktop (this took about 3 minutes to do so I would not recommend doing this every day).
My original Desktop came back and sure enough, my system did seem a bit faster. Those uncluttered .INI files are supposed to bring better speed and stability to OS/2. I do not know about the stability because OS/2 is already very reliable for me but as I type this I am quite sure it is faster. On the downside, some of the objects in my Tab LaunchPad were not restored, however, I was able to add them back quickly enough. I wonder what Stardock's response to this is since it restored everything else on my system perfectly (it seems funny that ODPro can restore a Desktop perfectly except for some icons on Stardock's own object).
To put this product into perspective, you get everything in Object Desktop and in addition, reliable and extensive file viewing/file exporting features, backup, security, Desktop management, performance tuning, .INI repairing, Desktop standardization, and goodness knows what else. I do not think any company has ever packed so many useful features in a single product and then turned around and priced it this low. Any user can price out how much it would cost to buy a security package, Desktop management software, .INI maintenance package, system backup, possibly the world's best file manager, and a lot more.
I do wish Stardock would put in an Associations Editor. There are numerous freeware and shareware ones available but it would be nice if they came with this product. Maybe ODPro 2.0 will have one!
Stardock says users can upgrade to ODPro from Object Desktop 1.5 for $69.95 until the end of September when the upgrade price will increase to $99. People with Object Desktop 1.0 can upgrade to ODPro for $119 from either Stardock or their favorite reseller. ODPro new is $179.
I think Stardock is going to be in for a surprise when they discover that most OS/2 users are power users and not using OS/2 as a casual hobby. Even if you only plan to use a couple of the features of ODPro, it is well worth the price.
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