The GNO Multitasking Environment provides pre-emptive multitasking. Many programs can be executing at the same time; each is called a ``process''. Each process is allowed to run for a short period of time (1/20th of a second on average). When its time runs out, the current process is set aside and another one chosen to run next. This cycle continues until there are no more processes left (i.e. when you exit GNO/ME). Starting up processes to run 'in the background' is a simple matter of adding a few characters to the shell commands.
GNO/ME provides a shell that takes full advantage of the multitasking ability provided. The most important feature of the shell is job control (starting, terminating, and suspending processes). But the shell also provides power never before seen on the Apple IIgs. The ability to choose files by ``wildcard'' has been around for a while, but the GNO Shell takes this to a new level with ``regular expressions'', a very powerful yet simple programming language. Other benefits of the GNO shell are too numerous to mention. (see the GNO Shell User's Manual for details).
In addition to being compatible with the ORCA system, GNO/ME is a very powerful programming environment. Available to the programmer are all the calls needed to control processes, support Inter-Process Communication, and other tools needed in a multitasking environment. In fact, a large portion of the libraries in GNO v2.0.6 and later are based upon code from FreeBSD UNIX (see http://www.freebsd.org). The version of FreeBSD on which the GNO libraries are based is also available at ftp://ftp.gno.org/cdrom/usr/src.
GNO/ME also boasts the first completely consistent method for accessing serial and console I/O. The IIgs TextTools have been incredibly enhanced to provide a truly all-encompassing interface for serial, console, and IPC applications. Imagine being able to attach terminals to your GS, and have a useful shell in each one. Multiuser BBSs, remote dial-ups, UUCP or SLIP that doesn't take over your computer- the applications are endless!
With all this talk of shell utilities, have desktop users (users of programs like AppleWorks GS) been left behind? Absolutely not. GNO/ME doesn't allow more than one desktop program to run concurrently, but it DOES let you run a desktop program with as many text applications as you like. In other words, no functionality is lost from the IIgs by using GNO/ME.
Finally, the GNO Multitasking Environment comes with a large number of free utilities that bring some of the power of a UNIX system to the Apple IIgs. Also, a number of programming libraries are included that make it easy to port programs from UNIX or MS-DOS systems to the Apple IIgs.