University of Michigan
HyperCard is Apple's attempt to make the creation of simple applications available to users with little or no programming knowledge. Using HyperCard, the user assembles a "stack" out of "cards" which can contain text, graphics, data, buttons leading to other cards, etc. While it is possible to construct useful stacks without writing a line of script, HyperCard does include a full programming language--"Hypertalk"-- which allows users to attach scripts to buttons, cards, text fields, or any of the other objects in its object-oriented environment. Theoretically, Hypertalk allows HyperCard stacks to process text, manipulate data, create graphics, or do just about anything word processors, spreadsheets, bibliographic software, paint programs or other standard applications can do. While HyperCard could never replace more specialized software (it lacks, for example, the text formatting capabilities of a full word processor), its versatility makes it ideal for creating software solutions to idiosyncratic problems. Subscribers to H-MAC use HyperCard for tasks as varied as compiling concordances, storing recipes, sorting text in Greek alphabetical order and teaching grammatical terminology.
HyperCard's ability to manipulate text, graphics, and hyperlinks makes it particularly useful as a hypermedia authoring tool. Professional hypermedia products, including _Myst_ and (hitting a little closer to the historian's interests) _Who Built America_ were created with HyperCard. HC's library of interface-construction tools (including dialog boxes and standard Mac button styles) also make it an ideal tool for constructing Mac-style interfaces for programs written in programming languages compliant with Apple's open scripting architecture (OSA).
HC has the further advantage of having been around long enough to have inspired plenty of peripheral software. Macromind Director (an animation program), for example, comes equipped with XCMDs for attaching Director animations to Hypercard stacks. Voyager sells a set of Hypercard tools with which users can construct hypertext editions resembling Voyager's own line of expanded books (at least one H-MAC subscriber has found these tools useful for creating courseware). And there are plenty of shareware HC stacks and expansion programs available.
For all its versatility, however, HyperCard has some problems and limitations that have persisted throughout all of its versions. HC's word-processing capabilities are limited by the fact that a single text field can only hold around 30k of material. HC stacks can only be combined or split apart through a laborious process of cutting and pasting individual cards one at a time, or through extensive scripting (Kerry Magruder tells me that the shareware bibliographic stack "Hypernote" allows the user to combine or split note-taking stacks). Stacks are notoriously memory hungry. Cards deleted from a stack continue to take up memory space until the user chooses the "compact stack" option in the file menu, and even fully compacted stacks use an extraordinary amount of memory. Version 2.2 has done little to correct these problems.
What's New in Hypercard 2.2
Nevertheless, version 2.2 does expand HC's capabilities in other directions. Several of the features new to version 2.2 are clearly designed to heighten Hypercard's utility as a hypermedia development tool. While stacks created with previous versions required Hypercard to run (or Hypercard Player, a run-only application which Hypercard owners are allowed to distribute with their stackware), version 2.2 allows the user to save stacks as stand-alone applications by choosing that option in a pop-up menu in the "Save As" dialog box. Apple also ships an animation program called "AddMotionII" (a version of MotionWorks' ProMotion software especially designed for use with Hypercard) with Version 2.2, and among the utility stacks that come with 2.2 are Quicktime Tools, which make it easy to integrate Quicktime movies into stacks, and Color Tools (perhaps the most widely known and eagerly awaited feature of this version) for adding color to stacks.
How well do these multimedia-oriented enhancements work? The Quicktime Tools and the Color Tools add useful capabilities, although both are add-on stacks rather than fully integrated features of Hypercard. In order to display QT movies from within your stacks you must open the QTTools stack and click a button which installs the necessary resources into your own stack. Once the resources are installed, however, the QuickTime Tools stack need not be accessible for your stack to run. A teacher could thus easily create courseware stacks containing film clips of silent movies, documentary footage, newsreels, etc.
The Color Tools are a little more fully integrated than the QuickTime Tools; an "install" button in the Color Tools stack installs scripts into your home stack which add a "Color" menu to your HC menubar. The resources invoked by the "Color" menu still reside in the Color Tools stack, however, which means that you can expect a substantial wait when you select an item from this menu. It also means that HC's paint tools are inaccessible when you are adding color: when you choose an item from the HC "Color" menu the HC menubar is replaced by a Color Tools menubar. The Color Tools do *not*, therefore, turn Hypercard into a full color paint program. The user is limited to placing colored rectangles, adding color to buttons and fields, and importing PICT files.
Addmotion's animation utility works like Color Tools. Once installed, it adds to HC's "File" menu three options which invoke the Addmotion stack. As with Color Tools, switching back and forth between HC's menu bar and the menubar called up by these "File" options can be quite time consuming. Still, you can't complain about getting a path-based animation program as a freebie.
The save-as-standalone feature works well with standard stacks, although it adds almost 800k to the stack's size. Stacks modified with the Quicktime Tools can function as standalone applications, but I have been unable to make functioning standalone applications out of stacks containing either Addmotion animations or color added with the Color Tools.
Further enhancements offered by version 2.2 include compliance with Apple's open scripting architecture (i.e., HC can use Apple events to interact with, control, and be controlled by programs outside of HC), the ability to script HC objects in OSA compliant languages other than Hypertalk (such as Applescript), Worldscript compatibility (facilitating the use of non-Roman alphabets), and new button styles.
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Last Update: 9 April 95