Nextstep was the original object-oriented, multitasking operating system that NeXT Computer developed to run on its range of proprietary computers, such as the NeXTcube. Nextstep 1.0 was released on September 18, 1989 after several previews starting in 1986. The last version, 3.3, was released in early 1995, by which time it ran not only on Motorola 68000 family processors, but also IBM PC compatible x86, Sun SPARC, and HP PA-RISC. Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X is a direct descendant of Nextstep.


Nextstep was a combination of several parts:

Nextstep was notable for the last three items. The toolkits offered considerable power, and were used to build all of the software on the machine. Distinctive features of the Objective-C language made the writing of applications with Nextstep far easier than on many competing systems, and the system was often pointed to as a paragon of computer development, even a decade later.

Nextstep's user interface was refined and consistent, and introduced the idea of the Dock, carried through OpenStep and into Mac OS X, and the Shelf. Nextstep also created or was among the very first to include a large number of other GUI concepts now common in other operating systems: 3D "chiseled" widgets, large full-color icons, system-wide drag and drop of a wide range of objects beyond file icons, system-wide piped services, real-time scrolling and window dragging, properties dialog boxes ("inspectors"), window modification notices (such as the saved status of a file), etc. The system was among the first general-purpose user interfaces to handle publishing color standards, transparency, sophisticated sound and music processing (through a Motorola 56000 DSP), advanced graphics primitives, internationalization, and modern typography, in a consistent manner across all applications.

Additional kits were added to the product line to make the system more attractive. These included Portable Distributed Objects (PDO), which allowed easy remote invocation, and Enterprise Objects Framework, a powerful object-relational database system. The kits made the system particularly interesting to custom application programmers, and Nextstep had a long history in the financial programming community.


The name was officially capitalized in many different ways, initially NextStep, then NeXTstep, and also NeXTSTEP. It became NEXTSTEP (all capitals) only at the end of its life. The capitalization most commonly used by "insiders" is NeXTstep. The confusion continued after the release of the OpenStep standard, when NeXT released what was effectively an OpenStep-compliant version of Nextstep with the name Openstep.


The first web browser, WorldWideWeb, was developed on the Nextstep platform. Some features and keyboard shortcuts now commonly found in web browsers can be traced to Nextstep conventions. The basic layout options of HTML 1.0 and 2.0 are attributable to those features available in NeXT's Text class. The game Doom was also largely developed on NeXT machines, as was Macromedia FreeHand, the modern "Notebook" interface for Mathematica, and the advanced spreadsheet Lotus Improv.

About the time of the 3.2 release, NeXT teamed up with Sun Microsystems to develop OpenStep, a cross-platform standard, and implementations of that standard (for Sun Solaris, Microsoft Windows, and NeXT's version of the Mach kernel), based on Nextstep 3.2. The implementation for NeXT's version of the Mach kernel was called "Openstep for Mach"; the 4.0 release of that was the successor to Nextstep 3.2. Following an announcement on December 20, 1996, on February 4, 1997, Apple Computer acquired NeXT for $427 million, and used the Openstep for Mach operating system as the basis for Mac OS X.

A free software implementation of the OpenStep standard, GNUstep, also exists.


Version Appeared Comment
0.8 October 12, 1988
0.8a 1988
0.9 1988 first available version; for NeXT hardware only
1.0 1989
1.0a 1989
2.0 September 18, 1990
2.1 March 25, 1991
3.0 At the end of 1992
3.1 May 25, 1993 Support for the i486, PA-RISC, and SPARC architectures.
3.2 October 1993
3.3 February 1995 Last and most popular version released under the name Nextstep
4.0 (beta) 1996 Beta circulated to limited number of developers before OpenStep and Apple acquisition

Versions up to 3.3 were published, the last version 3.3 after purchase of NeXT by Apple

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