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Tiptoes on the limbs…

19 November 2007—The aging tree that is Helix has been beset by surgeons, busily working away at its root system now for several years. Occasionally they come up for air, try to get a sense of whether and how much the landscape has changed since their last trip to the surface and what implications there might thus be for the work that remains to be completed. Occasionally, those plans change, but generally they don’t. Generally, very little can be told about the future from these "groundhog days," but occasionally, some things become clear enough to allow us to tiptoe out on the limbs and make forecasts.

This is one of those days. First, we are going to tiptoe out on a very short limb today and announce the release of Helix RADE Classic 6.1 this Friday, 23 November 2007.

A month ago we told you about RADE, with its two new features, Notify on Change and the Clippings menu. The response thus far has been great, with lots of advance purchases. Testing has turned up little of any consequence so we now feel we can say with certainty that this product will be in your hands on Friday. We’ll spend the next few days cleaning it up, getting its documentation in order and generally preparing it for real life.

As previously noted, you won’t have to buy RADE 6.1 to use with collections that will run under Server 6.1 or Engine 6.1. These products are backwards compatible which means that you can still use RADE 6.0.1 to modify them. But we’re pretty sure that once you’ve tried RADE 6.1, you’ll want to use it. As with all Helix products, a demo version will be available on the web site so you can get a feel for it first hand. You won’t be able to see Notify on Change in action until the macOS 6.1 versions of Helix Server, Client and Engine are released, but you’ll soon find the Clippings menu to be an indispensible part of Helix.

The macOS Engine revs up

Testing continues to progress nicely on the macOS Engine. Our intrepid testing group has turned up a significant number of problems but they’ve done so in a way that has made it easy to deal with them. The serious bugs are being fixed, but the cosmetic issues are being deferred for now — we know many of you will gladly overlook the visual glitches just to be able to run Helix natively in macOS. But some of these are just differences that the realities of working in macOS have dictated. For most of you the transition to using Helix in macOS will be seamless, but those who create complex collections must be aware: there are changes that will require some end-user relearning and Design Mode adjustments. The "Getting Ready for macOS" seminar, which takes place next Thursday through Saturday in New York, will cover these changes in detail. A few seats are still available, but unless you’re driving, it’s probably too late to book a flight to this one.

While it’s still too early to put a release date on the Engine, we will step out a bit further on another limb and say that we’re very close to a point where we will be ready to release the "Preview" edition of this product. As noted in an earlier edition of The Latest Word, the Preview edition will be production-ready (i.e., it won’t destroy your databases and we will support it in a production environment) even though the first release has some key features (PowerQuery and Document Management) disabled. The survey we conducted asking which features are used showed us that most of you do not use them all. For those who do rely on them, rest assured: Those features will follow shortly and subsequent Preview releases will be available as each feature is completed.

Out on the big limb … where is Client/Server 6.1?

If you’re among those Helix users who have been confused about what’s going on with these products, please buckle your seat belts. This is going to stretch your imagination more than a little bit.

The bad news … the only real bad news … is that we ran into some serious problems with the macOS Client a few months back. Back in December of 2005, it was our intention to bring both Helix Engine & Client out at the same time, in view of the fact that the only theoretical distinction between the Engine and the Client was that one worked solo and the other in groups.

While that is largely true, there was another one of those unforseeable snowbanks lying in wait.

Rather than go into a description of some of the ugly potential nightmares awaiting us, we return to the good-old "Star Trek" analogy. If you happened to catch any of "Enterprise" during its brief run, there was an episode that dealt with the early use of the Transporter. Things went out just fine and came back completely scrambled. Not a pretty sight. This could have been worse. As always, we slammed on the brakes, sucked it up and figured out how to solve it.

The first test of that solution occurred on October 1st. It was successful, but it meant that there was a lot of work that needed to be done to implement it throughout Helix. There were literally 113 places in Helix where the new routines had to go, and each one had its own twists and turns. Some would take hours, some days, some close to a week. But now that work is about half-complete, which means we can go out even further on another limb and give you what we believe to be a worst-case scenario: if things continue at the present rate, we will begin beta testing the macOS Client in January 2008. But that’s the worst-case scenario, so even if things don’t go well, you can see that we really are not that far away.

It’s difficult to say what that will mean in terms of a release of the Client, but you can do some of the math yourself. We began beta testing the Engine in September. Not quite three months have now elapsed in that testing and the product is looking almost ready for prime time. There will be problems when we put the new code in place — we can say that with confidence because there almost always are — but the beta period for Client, once it begins, should probably not take as long as the one we’re in with Engine. And of course, we also plan on making a Preview release available as soon as we know it is trustworthy.

Suffice it to say that we are getting very close, and we’re no longer talking about months and years, but rather weeks and months.

So is there any other good news there?

As a matter of fact, if you’re a Client/Server user, yes. There is.

The macOS 6.1 Server is quite good. It was rebuilt in Xcode and it will go on sale well in advance of the Client because it already has a Classic Client that works with it. In fact, we’re going to begin using the new Server and Classic Client shortly and we expect to invite you all to participate in a public beta test in our HelixChat soon.

So… the day approaches when your Helix collections will run in macOS, as single-users under Engine, in workgroups under Client/Server. 6.1 will support visits by Classic Clients and macOS Clients running on PowerPCs and Intel-based Macs. If you’re concerned about the long-term survival of your Classic machines, now is a good time to start planning the work that you’ll need to do to get ready for macOS. Following our seminar and the Preview releases, we’ll try to make more information available about the things you’ll need to do to make the wait for a macOS native Helix RADE less painful.

This is also a great time to consider making some of those modifications to your collections that you’ve put off, either because you weren’t sure if Helix was going to survive or you just didn’t know how to get them done. Thanks to a number of things we’ve begun doing, we are more sure than ever that Helix will survive. One of those things is the recent release of a DVD training series on "Advanced Techniques." This has been selling quite nicely and the response to it has so far been wonderful. As long as there’s life, there’s hope, as the old saying goes, and as long as we’re alive and hopeful, one of the great gifts we can give ourselves is the gift of knowledge. We can always learn, and the "Advanced Techniques" set has lots of great stuff to fill the bill.

Stay tuned. More good news to come!

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