Smalltalk & native UI

Written on December 11 2011.

This blog post was written a long time ago and may not reflect my current opinion or might be technically out of date. Read with a grain of salt.

From time to time, someone on the Pharo mailing list asks how to build a desktop application.

A long time ago, Smalltalk was a great way to make desktop apps. drag & drop, rich visual interface, mouse pointer. Yeah, the mouse was quite a big thing.

Things have changed. People expect consistency from the software they use. Not only in the look but also in the feel. They want their applications to be tightly integrated with their operating systems. If you’re considering a niche application where people only care about the functional part of the system, that could work. Otherwise I would not bet a penny on a smalltalk dialect.

Squeak 4.3 pre Pharo 1.4 pre Visualworks on MacOS

Long story short, don’t use Smalltalk if you want to be the next WordPad or iTunes.

I’m not saying that Smalltalk is bad at user interfaces, new UI paradigms are tested with Smalltalk. Croquet and Newspeak, Gaucho are examples of some innovations in user interfaces (one for collaborating in 3D world, the other for IDE and GUI framework).

footnote: I actually have to mention that I’ve heard that Dolphin and ObjectStudio runs natively fine on windows.