Nextstep graphical user interface
|Company / developer||NeXT|
|Working state||Historic, as original code base for OS X|
|Source model||Closed source with some Open source components|
|Initial release||September 18, 1989|
|Latest stable release||3.3 / 1995|
|Available programming languages(s)||C, Objective-C|
|Supported platforms||Motorola 68000, Intel x86, SPARC, PA-RISC|
|Default user interface||Graphical|
|Succeeded by||OS X|
NeXTSTEP (also written NeXTstep, NeXTStep, and NEXTSTEP) is an object-oriented, multitasking operating system which was developed by NeXT Computer to run on its range of proprietary workstation computers, such as the NeXTcube. It was later ported to several other computer architectures.
A preview release of NeXTSTEP (version 0.8) was shown at the launch of the NeXT Computer on October 12, 1988. The first full release, NeXTSTEP 1.0, shipped on September 18, 1989. The last version, 3.3, was released in early 1995, by which time it ran not only on the Motorola 68000 family processors used in NeXT computers, but also Intel x86, Sun SPARC, and HP PA-RISC-based systems.
NeXTSTEP was later modified to separate the underlying operating system from the higher-level object libraries. The result was OpenStep API, which ran on multiple underlying operating systems, including NeXT's own OPENSTEP. Apple's OS X and iOS are direct descendants of NeXTSTEP, through the OPENSTEP lineage.
NeXTSTEP was a combination of several parts:
- a Unix-like operating system based on the Mach kernel, plus source code from BSD
- Display PostScript and a windowing engine
- the Objective-C language and runtime
- an object-oriented (OO) application layer, including several "kits"
- development tools for the OO layers
NeXTSTEP was notable for the last three items. The toolkits offered considerable power, and were used to build all of the software on the machine. Distinctive features of the Objective-C language made the writing of applications with NeXTSTEP far easier than on many competing systems, and the system was often pointed to as a paragon of computer development, even a decade later.[weasel words]
NeXTSTEP's user interface was refined and consistent, and introduced the idea of the Dock (carried through OpenStep and into OS X) and the Shelf. NeXTSTEP also created or was among the very first to include a large number of other GUI concepts now common in other operating systems: 3D "chiseled" widgets, large full-color icons, system-wide drag and drop of a wide range of objects beyond file icons, system-wide piped services, real-time scrolling and window dragging, properties dialog boxes ("inspectors"), window modification notices (such as the saved status of a file), etc. The system was among the first general-purpose user interfaces to handle publishing color standards, transparency, sophisticated sound and music processing (through a Motorola 56000 DSP), advanced graphics primitives, internationalization, and modern typography, in a consistent manner across all applications.
Additional kits were added to the product line to make the system more attractive. These included Portable Distributed Objects (PDO), which allowed easy remote invocation, and Enterprise Objects Framework, a powerful object-relational database system. The kits made the system particularly interesting to custom application programmers, and NeXTSTEP had a long history in the financial programming community.
1990 CERN: A Joint proposal for a hypertext system is presented to the management. Mike Sendall buys a NeXT cube for evaluation, and gives it to Tim Berners-Lee. Tim's prototype implementation on NeXTStep is made in the space of a few months, thanks to the qualities of the NeXTStep software development system. This prototype offers WYSIWYG browsing/authoring! Current Web browsers used in "surfing the Internet" are mere passive windows, depriving the user of the possibility to contribute. During some sessions in the CERN cafeteria, Tim and I try to find a catching name for the system. I was determined that the name should not yet again be taken from Greek mythology. Tim proposes "World-Wide Web". I like this very much, except that it is difficult to pronounce in French...
Some features and keyboard shortcuts now commonly found in web browsers can be traced to NeXTSTEP conventions. The basic layout options of HTML 1.0 and 2.0 are attributable to those features available in NeXT's Text class.
Altsys made a NeXTSTEP application called Virtuoso, version 2 of which was ported to Mac OS and Windows to become Macromedia FreeHand version 4. The modern "Notebook" interface for Mathematica, and the advanced spreadsheet Lotus Improv, were developed using NeXTSTEP. The software that controlled MCI's Friends and Family program was developed using NeXTSTEP.
About the time of the 3.2 release, NeXT teamed up with Sun Microsystems to develop OpenStep, a cross-platform object-oriented API standard derived from NeXTSTEP. Implementations of that standard were released for Sun's Solaris, Windows NT, and NeXT's version of the Mach kernel. NeXT's implementation was called "OPENSTEP for Mach" and its first release (4.0) superseded NeXTSTEP 3.3 on NeXT, Sun and Intel IA-32 systems.
The anime series Serial Experiments Lain was influenced by NeXTSTEP and Mac OS. References may be found throughout the show and its affiliated media, most notably the slogan for the Lain PSX Game, "Close the world, Open the NeXT".
The interface of NeXTSTEP 3.3 made a brief appearance in the animated film Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance, as Ritsuko Akagi's workstation desktop.
Release history 
|0.8||October 12, 1988||MO disc||First available version; for NeXT hardware only.|
|2.0||September 18, 1990||MO disc|
|2.1||March 25, 1991||MO disc|
|3.0||September 8, 1992||CD-ROM|
|3.1||May 25, 1993||CD-ROM||Support for the i486 architecture.|
|3.3||February 1995||CD-ROM||Support for the PA-RISC and SPARC architectures. Last and most popular version released under the name NeXTSTEP|
|4.0 (beta)||1996||CD-ROM||Beta circulated to limited number of developers before OpenStep and Apple acquisition|
Versions up to 3.3 were published.
See also 
- Application Bundle
- Miller Columns, the method of directory browsing that NeXTSTEP's File Viewer used
- OpenStep, the object-oriented application programming interface derived from NeXTSTEP
- Window Maker, a window manager designed to emulate the NeXT GUI for the X Window System
- Ford, Kevin (2008). "What's with all the NeXT names?". www.kevra.org. Retrieved 2009-09-07.
- Singh, Amit (December 2003). "What is Mac OS X?". osxbook.com. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
- Roads and Crossroads of Internet History Chapter 4: Birth of the Web
- Tim Berners-Lee: WorldWideWeb, the first Web client
- John Romero of id Software talks about development of Doom on NeXT
- "MCI used NeXT software to power its revolutionary Friends and Family networking referral campaign, which other rivals couldn't match for years."
- "Apple Computer, Inc. Agrees to Acquire NeXT Software Inc." (Press release). Apple Computer, Inc. December 20, 1996. Archived from the original on March 1, 1997. Retrieved April 12, 2013.
- Linzmayer, Owen W. (1999). Apple Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc.
- "GNUStep: Introduction". GNUStep.org. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
- NeXT Ships NeXTSTEP Release 3.0, Third Generation of the Complete Object-Oriented Environment
- A complete guide to the confusing series of names applied to the system
- NeXT at the Open Directory Project
- Video of Steve Jobs Demo'ing NeXTSTEP Release 3 (YouTube)