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Go backArticlesNewWave 3.0: The object-oriented metaphor ripens with age

Reprinted from PC Magazine, October 30, 1990, pp. 34-35.

Each NewWave icon represents an object where data and program can be treated as one entity.
This image can be zoomedEach NewWave icon represents an object where data and program can be treated as one entity.
First introduced in the summer of 1989, Hewlett-Packard’s NewWave is a graphical software environment that runs on top of Microsoft Windows. Like Windows, NewWave provides an icon-laden desktop, but brings a rich object-oriented metaphor to the PC user.

Originally hailed as an exciting and interesting GUI (First Looks, PC Magazine, October 17, 1989), this new version of the product improves on a good thing. Central to this latest version is what’s called “full agent capability” and the ability to share objects on the network. In addition, all of the benefits of the new Windows 3.0 environment, especially its memory management, are available to NewWave.

Rather than viewing the desktop as a collection of programs and files, NewWave’s iconized desktop offers an integrated computing environment defined by objects and agents. Object management technology lets the user combine data and code into a single manipulable entity. Complex repetitive tasks can be automated and even scheduled using the NewWave Agent, a recorder-type feature, now provided with the basic package. And, although the greatest gains in productivity come from using applications written especially for NewWave, there are benefits to using it with existing Windows and DOS applications.

At $195 (a $50 upgrade from the previous version), you’ll probably feel the NewWave pinch more on your hard disk than on your pocketbook. NewWave requires roughly 10MB to hold its basic files, and a bit more to decompress the files during installation.

At the center of NewWave is the Office Window and its object orientation. It provides a view of everything available in the NewWave environment. At first glance, the Office Window appears to be just another graphical rendition of the MS-DOS file system. But it’s vastly different from Windows. Using Windows, a task involves navigating through a file system to execute a program and then finding and loading a corresponding data file. By contrast, the principal items in the NewWave Office are objects where the program and data are linked is a single entity. A task – whether it’s a document, a worksheet, or a graphic chart – is initiated by creating an object of the corresponding type.

Each object can be manipulated in a variety of ways by dragging it with the mouse and dropping it into another object or tool. Suppose, for example, you wish to create a word processing document, print it, and then store it. Starting with the Create a New... command in the Objects’ menu, you might select a NewWave Write or Amí object. Once created, the object is then opened by double-clicking on it with the mouse. You enter and edit text in the usual way, and then close the object. To print, you drag the newly created object to the printer tool; when done, you can drop the object into the File Drawer to remove it from the desktop.

Another premier feature of any graphical user interface is data exchange. Traditional Windows exchange is either via the clipboard or Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE). DDE in particular can be used to hotlink information in one file to another. DDE links require that the destination application have the intelligence (i.e., the code) to support a variety of data formats. Such capability is at the whim of the developer. Also, DDE has no way to know when information has changed once the connection is closed; if the spreadsheet data in the document is then modified, these are not reflected in the original file. Additionally, DDE links can be lost if the spreadsheet is moved to a different directory or renamed.

In NewWave, a compound document is created by dragging an object to another and dropping it there. The two objects do not have to know anything about each other. Furthermore, the same object can be contained in several places and the information always remains up to date even when container and containee are moved about. Because NewWave maintains the links, they are both dynamic and persistent.

The Agent is a high-level macro recorder. This Agent Task invokes the procedure for a square root operation.
This image can be zoomedThe Agent is a high-level macro recorder. This Agent Task invokes the procedure for a square root operation.
An object contained within another can be modified by simply clicking the mouse on the object’s graphic – so, for example, you can change your spreadsheet data from inside a word processing document. Called “drill down” editing, the changes also radiate to all other places where the object is located. Compound objects can even be moved to floppy disks or shared on networks using NewWave’s object storage feature. The user doesn’t need to remember the components nor manage the links among them. And, since objects can include video, sound, or animation, it is quite possible to create some multimedia items.

Finally, the Agent is a sophisticated, but easy-to-use facility for recording operations. As you enter a sequence of commands, they are recorded by the Agent, and each line is displayed in a window. When done, the series of actions can be edited, compiled, tested, and stored as a task. A task can be run by simply dragging it to the Agent tool. Tasks can also be scheduled for automatic operation and may contain prompting and conditional statements.

Thus, the Agent is more of a programming environment than a simple batch language. And the Agent task doesn’t depend on the Desktop arrangement for its execution. If for some reason your task fails, you will be presented with a view of the Agent task with the offending line highlighted waiting to be edited and recompiled.

Three introductory tutorials that illustrate how to create an object will have you running NewWave in no time. You’ll be able to direct your efforts toward learning applications, not an underlying file structure. On the other hand, if you already know DOS and/or Windows, you may at first find yourself with all the wrong reflexes for using NewWave efficiently.

NewWave 3.0 is a major step toward achieving an object-oriented environment. But achieving its full potential hinges on the availability of an assortment of NewWave-specific software. Key software vendors, including Lotus, Samna Corp. (Amí Professional) and, recently, WordPerfect Corp., are committed to producing NewWave versions of their products. Until the software collection grows, the NewWave desktop and Agent can be used to bridge DOS and Windows applications, but the process can be tedious and confusing.

by William S. Hall

Fact file

HP NewWave Environment
Hewlett-Packard Co., Personal Software Division, 3410 Central Expwy., Santa Clara, CA 95051: (800) 752-0900.
List Price: $195.
Requires: Microsoft Windows 3.0, 10MB hard disk storage space.
In Short: A potentially powerful object-oriented extension of the Windows 3.0 environment. NewWave suffers from a lack of NewWave-specific software. A good (albeit somewhat confusing) bridge for DOS and Windows applications.

Page added on 14th December 2004.

Copyright © 2002-2006 Marcin Wichary, unless stated otherwise.