Since the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984, programs for it have been as difficult to create as they are easy to use. One of the main aims of SuperCard, over its 12-year history, has been to bridge the difficulty gap, and bring the ability to create Macintosh programs to a broader spectrum of people. It has placed the power to create useful software into the hands of bright and talented people, who didn’t believe they had the ability to create software.
SuperCard combines two familiar and powerful metaphors for building software. The first is the Macintosh metaphor of windows, controls, and pull-down menus as a way of navigating through a program. The second, introduced by Apple’s HyperCard program, is the metaphor of cards and stacks of cards as a way of storing information.
The glue that binds it all together is SuperTalk – a language that’s based on the standard that was set by Apple’s HyperCard. The language is designed to be so like English that you can nearly write it using everyday English. For example, the commands “go to the previous card” and “put the number of lines of card field 1 into card field 2” are easy to write and understand when you return to them later.
Scripting is the process by which you tell projects, windows, menus, cards, graphics and buttons how to behave in response to user interaction. For example, double-clicking on a button to fire the button script, or sending the mouseEnter message when the user moves the cursor over a button or graphic. Whatever the form of user interaction, messages are sent to SuperCard’s interpreter to be acted upon.
Version 4.0 – which has been 18 months in the making – is the most extensive upgrade in SuperCard’s history, and includes a plethora of new features as well as a new interface. Launching SuperCard for the first time will bring up the SuperCard Runtime Editor (RTE). This is actually a SuperCard project, and examining it will give you some idea of just what SuperCard is capable of. Just about anything that you see in the RTE in terms of interface and functionality is possible in your own projects as well. SuperCard 4.0’s RTE provides a new Object Browser interface, available from the RTE’s Object menu along with utility projects in RTE’s Utilities menu for other editing tasks.
New features that stand out include a function called shell(), that allows for the execution of Unix shell commands under OS X. Also, custom properties make the creation and management of radio-button groups, tab controls, sheets, window shapes and pop-up menus a simple point-&-click operation. The upgrade also breaks the 32K limit in scripts and text fields, provides integration with Control Manager, and OS X compatibility without any sacrificing of Classic Mac operation. SuperCard’s single Carbon binary will run on OS 8.6, using Carbon Lib 1.6 or higher, through to Mac OS X. SuperCard’s display code has also been completely overhauled, which should result in visibly faster and more-aesthetically pleasing window redraws, especially in OS X.
For those who wish to convert their HyperCard stacks to SuperCard projects, a simple application – called HC DropConverter – directly converts one file format to the other. It creates a new SuperCard project and brings in all backgrounds, cards, card and background objects and their associated scripts. Any resources present are also transferred to the new SuperCard project.
Under OS X, your projects will be fully Aqua-capable. With the addition of 20 new control types and 130 new commands, functions and properties added to the SuperTalk syntax, SuperCard 4.0 now supports virtually the complete Apple Control Architecture. Creating and scripting these controls is easier than ever.
Under pre-X Mac OSs (8.6 on), the same projects will run identically, and be fully compatible with Appearance Manager and Apple’s Platinum theme.
SuperCard’s Developer Edition includes an additional editing environment besides the RTE. SuperEdit is a separate application that’s only used for building and editing SuperCard Projects. In SuperEdit, scripts do not run, and while the ultimate goal of building a SuperCard project is to have it run, there are several advantages to being able to edit with scripts turned off.
The distinction between the two editors – the SuperCard Runtime Editor (RTE) and SuperEdit – can seem a little blurred, because their capabilities and functions overlap to a great extent. The RTE comes into its own when objects and scripts need fine-tuning and immediate feedback is required. SuperEdit, however, allows you to not only create everything pertinent to a project – including windows, backgrounds, cards, menus, dialogs, buttons and all the associated scripts – but also design icons, cursors and colour look-up tables, and import other resources such as sounds, Xcmds and Xfcns.
Once you’ve built a SuperCard project, you must decide how to distribute it. The free SuperCard Player runs projects, but they’re not self-contained and do not appear so to the end user. SuperCard’s Standalone Maker, however, allows for the creation of stand-alone applications that don’t require the presence of SuperCard to run. All the features that belong to a standard Macintosh application can be manipulated using Standalone Maker, from version numbering to resource management and custom icon association.
SuperCard 4 has arrived not a moment too soon if it’s going to regain the popularity it once held. This arena is now starting to get a little crowded, what with REALbasic and Revolution making stand-alones not only for the Classic Mac OS and OS X, but also for Windows. Still, SuperCard is the easiest to use, and delivers extremely good professional-looking Macintosh applications.
Minimum specs: Mac OS 8.6; Mac OS X.