Other competitors

Other competitors

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There were also various other applications on the PC-compatible market that featured various degrees of windowing, multi-tasking and/or task switching capabilities. Some I was able to find in period press: Matrix Software Technology Synergy, Trillian VisuALL, Scientia ConceptVP, InView, APX Core Executive, Sorcim/IUS Easyplus, WindowMaster, Arktronics Jane and Softlogic Software Carousel. Most of these appear to have been text-mode task switchers with limited windowing and multi-tasking capabilities that left little impact on the market.

Synergy seems like a very Mac-like GUI, promissing multitasking, icons, menus and windows while only using 12K of memory. This all seems to good to be true, and information on the program is scarce - it was announced in July 1985, still wasn't released by early 1986, but somehow made 1 million dollars in sales by 1988. I could only find one low-quality photo in the March 1987 issue of Australian Personal Computer, where it indeed seems to be very similar to Mac and GEM.

Arktronics Jane was initially a Commodore 64 and Apple II GUI, but was apparently ported to the PC as well by 1984. Information about the PC port is scarce.

More simplistic were the so called "desktop organizers", which allowed the display of overlapping desktop accessories, such as a calculator, over the running DOS program - not unlike how the Macintosh desktop accessories worked. The most famous of these programs was of course Borland Sidekick. Other better known products of this type include Software Arts Spotlight (later sold by Lotus), Popcorn Desktop, Advanced Software Technologies Genie, Sunflower Software Informer, Barry Watzman's Perks, Right Hand Man and Software Wizardry Whiz. For some people, even a simple DOS shell for basic file management and program launching was enough - and these were everywhere, almost like everyone and their grandma made one.

The Apple II series had several different GUIs over its lifetime. One of these was a third party Macintosh-like GUI called MouseWorks. Apple eventually licensed it and rebranded it as the Apple II Desktop. It ran on both 8-bit Apple II models as well as on the 16-bit IIgs. On the latter it was eventually replaced by GS/OS, a more advanced native 16-bit system that evolved from the earlier ProDOS. MouseWorks competed with Quark Catalyst, a very similar-looking GUI, also for the 8-bit Apple IIe. Despite their similar looks, the two products are not related. 8-bit Apple IIs could also run a port of the 8-bit GEOS (not to be confused with the later PC GEOS) system, originally made for Commodore 64, where it was quite popular.

Apricot Computers made their own little GUI called Activity for their F-series of computers running MS-DOS (not PC-compatible, though), starting with the F1 in 1984. Eventually they offered GEM and Windows as the GUI of choice, though Activity continued to be included on the system disks.