HyperCard 2.0 and SuperCard 1.5: a sneak preview.
After nearly a year of delays, the latest version of HyperCard is expected to be released at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference in San Jose, California in May. HyperCard 2.0 win be a major upgrade intended to address many short-comings in the previous versions and will add new features that have been requested by users. This sneak preview is based on press reports in Macintosh trade journals, most notably the March 6, 1990 issue of MacWeek:
Among the new features expected
* A new file format. HyperCard 2.0 will be able to open and run stacks that were previously created in earlier versions of HyperCard (the most recent being 1.2.5). However, they can be modified only upon conversion to the new HyperCard 2.0 format. This will consist of a new menu command, Similar to that of SuperCard's Convert Stack command. This new file format also will make HyperCard compatible with the Apple IIGS version of HyperCard, which is also expected to be announced at the same time.
* Window enhancements. Cards in HyperCard 2.0 no longer will be limited in size to the standard Macintosh 9-inch screen. The new version will be able to support a variety of custom card sizes up to 1280 x 1280 pixels, approximately the size of Apple's Two Page Monochrome Display monitor.
However, HyperCard 2.0 will require that all cards in a stack be the same size, unlike SuperCard, which allows for multiple windows of various sizes. Users will be able to view cards that are larger than the Macintosh screen they are using by simply dragging a selection rectangle around a special floating window.
* Multiple fonts and styles in a single field. This will allow for improved text editing. Since HyperCard 2.0 will be compatible with standard text-handling routines, it no longer will be necessary to have separate releases of HyperCard for the international market - an added benefit for Apple
* Enhanced hypertext support. It finally win be possible for any text to be a button. This will be accomplished by a combination of grouping functions for text and new HyperTalk language functions that will help stacks determine what word, phrase, or line the user has clicked. This will be a boon to developers who have been looking for ways to include hypertext features in HyperCard, such as being able to click on a word in a scrolling field to perform such an action. This, combined with the new facility to mix fonts and styles in a field, should go far toward muting criticism of HyperCard as a hypertext engine.
* Improved search engine and expanded reporting features. A new set of HyperCard commands will allow users to perform multi-step, complex searches and reports. Printing will be easier and more flexible than ever before. In addition, HyperCard will allow multiple report formats to be saved in a stack.
* Speed increases. HyperCard 2.0 will run up to 300 percent faster than current versions.
* MultiFinder support. HyperCard will be able to perform a variety of tasks such as execution of scripts and searches in the background while running under MultiFinder.
* Improved graphics. The new version of HyperCard will add a number of new visual effects and graphics commands. An icon editor will be included, eliminating the need to use ResEdit or third-party icon editors. In addition, all visual effects and graphics capabilities can be used at all times, even on a Macintosh II in 8-bit color mode. Previous versions of HyperCard required that stacks be run in 1-bit black-and-white mode on Macintosh H computers for visual and graphic effects.
In addition, the HyperTalk language has been improved, making stack development easier. Among these new features are:
* An incremental compiler. This will allow for the compilation of scripts in memory upon their initial execution. While this will speed up certain operations, screen and disk input/output will not be affected.
* Nonmodal script editing. Multiple scripts may be open and edited at any time.
* Integrated debugging features. An integrated symbolic debugger will contain windows for variables, scripts, and messages. It will support a script tracer and permit stepping and break-point setting. This is more in tune with debuggers available for more traditional languages and will simplify debugging Hypercard stacks.
* Improved support for external commands. XCMDs will be able to maintain their own windows and menus easily. HyperCard also will call up XCMDs and XFCNs only when they are needed. These enhancements will allow support for such features as color PICT display and custom palettes.
As of press time, Silicon Beach Software has officially announced a major upgrade to SuperCard. Version 1.5 will contain a number of enhancements and new features. The list price of Supercard will also rise from $199 to $299. However, aN current owners of SuperCard will receive a free upgrade. SuperCard 1.5 will include the following features and improvements:
* More speed. Due to optimization and improvements in the interpreter, SuperCard win be quicker on its feet" according to Silicon Beach. For example, scrolling field response time has been shortened; data packing/unpacking algorithms have been sped up for quicker card-to-card navigation; and binary data types are used where possible to speed up calculations.
What this will mean for Mac Plus/SE users remains to be seen. Christoper Watson of Silicon Beach was unable to give me any assurances that such enhancements would allow for acceptable performance for 68000-based Macintoshes. They said it depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the SuperCard project. We will examine this in a hands-on review of SuperCard 1.5 in a future column.
* Improved memory handling. SuperCard will juggle memory better, reducing the frequency of "Out of memory" conditions.
* Enhanced debugging. A new script-tracing environment with many powerful features similar to those expected in HyperCard 2.0 has been added to SuperCard. When a script error occurs, a new dedicated system message will be sent directly to the object containing the offending script, allowing for the trapping of errors before they get to SuperCard and display an alert. It will be possible to ascertain precisely where a script error occurred via enhancements to the SuperTalk language.
* New Language Guide and User Manual Addendum. Language Guide will include all the new 1.5 language additions as well as many corrections. An extensive User Manual Addendum is also included.
* Hierarchical and pop-up menu support. SuperCard 1.5 will contain commands for the run-time creation of hierarchical menus and support for real pop-up menus at any location on a card. The latter will include a new "autowidth" button property to enable the automatic resizing of the button width based on the name.
* Support for color text. Color may be applied in SuperEdit to text in graphics or fields, for the entire object or for a certain range of characters.
* Run-time menu editing. SuperCard will have the ability to insert or remove items within any menu at runtime.
* Online help system. This will provide quick access to a number of sources provided with SuperCard, including an online language guide and extensive general information and help.
* Pop-up script handler menu. If the Command key is held down while clicking and holding the mouse on the title bar of any script editing window in SuperEdit, a pop-up menu will appear listing the names of all the handlers and functions in that script. Choosing one of the items of the menu will select the matching handler name and scroll the script to that point.
* Improved Runtime Editor. The Runtime Editor has been rewritten and optimized for speed according to Silicon Beach (including the use of a special XFCN that instantly returns a list of selected objects). It will be possible to bring the Runtime Editor into action at any time, in any of three different configurations: as a full menu bar, single menu, or floating palette window. It also will be possible to bring up the Runtime Editor automatically when the project opens, in any of the three configurations.
* New SuperCard preferences. New additions to the SharedFile project will permit the optional setting of certain preferences, including default text attributes, blind typing and text arrows settings, plus the ability to build custom keyboard shortcut configurations.
* Enhanced window resizing. By holding down the Option key while resizing a background, SuperEdit will also resize the window accordingly. Holding down the Shift key will also constrain the resize to either horizontal or vertical motion.
* Script editing shortcuts. Any object's script will be accessible by holding down the Option and Command keys while the browse cursor is over the object. This feature is currently available in HyperCard.
* New "Sizes" button. A new "Sizes" button will provide a means for direct input of object width, height, location, and rectangle, with additional options to "pin" the changes in size to a particular point on the object (any of the four corners, the center, or none).
* Reverse tabbing order. Depressing the Shift key while tabbing through fields will reverse the tabbing direction. This makes SuperCard more compatible with traditional database programs for the Macintosh.
* Text styling shortcuts. In SuperEdit, it will be possible to use the standard keyboard shortcuts when applying text styles, justifications, and font sizes to the currently selected text in a field or graphic. This will be accomplished by pressing Command-Shift in combination with the appropriate keys.