GNUstep features a cross-platform, object-oriented IDE. Like Apple Cocoa, GNUstep also has a Java interface, as well as Ruby,Guile and Schemebindings. The GNUstep developers track some additions to Apple's Cocoa to remain compatible. The roots of the GNUstep application interface are the same as the roots of Cocoa: NeXTSTEP and OpenStep. GNUstep thus predates Cocoa, which emerged when Apple acquired NeXT's technology and incorporated it into the development of the original Mac OS X, while GNUstep was initially an effort by GNU developers to replicate the technically ambitious NeXTSTEP's programmer-friendly features.
GNUstep began when Paul Kunz and others at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center wanted to port HippoDraw from NeXTSTEP to another platform. Instead of rewriting HippoDraw from scratch and reusing only the application design, they decided to rewrite the NeXTSTEP object layer on which the application depended. This was the first version of libobjcX. It enabled them to port HippoDraw to Unix systems running the X Window System without changing a single line of their application source. After the OpenStep specification was released to the public in 1994, they decided to write a new objcX which would adhere to the new APIs. The software would become known as "GNUstep".