SuperCard 3.5

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SuperCard has followed a winding path, emerging more than ten years ago from Silicon Beach Software, moving to Aldus and then to Allegiant Technologies, and now settling down with IncWell Digital Media Group. Along the way, SuperCard has gone through periods of dormancy and uncertainty, but IncWell's first update brings the software up to speed with current Macintosh technologies at a price that can't be beat.

SuperCard is often described as "HyperCard done right." Like HyperCard, it uses a card-stack metaphor for organizing information. In SuperCard, cards appear in standard Mac OS windows and contain graphics, buttons, and text fields, all of which you can script to provide custom interactivity and functionality. You do your scripting in SuperTalk, an extended variation of HyperTalk, HyperCard's English-like scripting language.

Although SuperCard clearly derives from Apple's ever-aging HyperCard, don't let this lineage put you off. SuperCard has always offered integrated color capabilities, still missing from HyperCard. It supports bitmapped images and vector graphics, which it treats as full-fledged objects just like buttons and fields.

The program's forte is interactive multimedia. It supports audio, animation, and media playback in ways that are easier to script than in Macromedia Director. SuperCard projects can work like standard Mac programs, offering custom menus, palettes, and tool bars.

To this potent mix SuperCard 3.5.2 adds a handful of new features, plus complete compatibility with Mac OS 8.5 and support for key Macintosh technologies such as drag and drop, the Appearance Manager, and QuickTime's new image formats. SuperTalk can also manipulate QuickTime VR movies, recognize spoken phrases via PlainTalk Speech Recognition, and manage scripts written in languages, such as AppleScript and Frontier's UserTalk, that conform to Open Scripting Architecture (OSA).

Some of SuperCard 3.5.2's enhancements are welcome and successful. SuperCard's speech recognition and QuickTime VR support worked surprisingly well, allowing us to pan a QuickTime VR movie using voice commands. Similarly, combining SuperCard's new drag-and-drop capabilities with QuickTime's extensive graphics support made it easy to create a utility that opened image files, added a copyright notice, and then exported the result to another folder as a JPEG image.

However, some of SuperCard's new features don't go far enough. The program's support for OSA languages is awkward–a real shame, since strong AppleScript capabilities would be valuable for creating utilities and prototype applications. Although you can run AppleScript-created scripts from SuperCard, you cannot use AppleScript to create or interact with SuperCard objects.

Authoring a SuperCard project has always been a modal experience: you're either authoring a project or running it. SuperCard 3.0 introduced the Project Editor, an extensive interactive editing environment within SuperCard. The Project Editor's features overlap–but don't completely replace–those of SuperEdit, a separate application that formerly served as SuperCard's primary editor. Thus, the SuperCard authoring environment has become a hybrid, with overlapping functions scattered across two separate software modules. The Project Editor window is finally resizable and supports standard text-editing key combinations, but you can edit only one script at a time. However, you can edit multiple scripts in SuperEdit. You will find extensive, mostly accurate documentation and a useful on-screen SuperTalk language reference. However, the manuals are Acrobat PDF files–more than 1,600 odd-size pages' worth–unsuitable for printing or easy on-screen use. Printed documentation isn't available.

You can play back SuperCard projects using SuperCard itself, or convert them to stand-alone runtime applications with surprisingly down-to-earth system requirements: depending on your project, even decade-old 680X0 systems may run it with aplomb.

SuperCard is also jammed with tools for Internet deployment. The program can save projects in a format suitable for use with the Roadster Web browser plug-in, which supports a substantial subset of SuperCard's functionality.

Allegiant Technologies introduced Roadster more than two years ago, and IncWell promises a forthcoming update. Unfortunately, this perpetually unfinished software is currently the only option for running SuperCard projects on the Windows platform.

SuperCard's animation features can't compete with Macromedia Director's, but the software is well suited to producing multimedia projects that deliver complex interactivity and content management–all with the standard Macintosh look-and-feel. Even better, SuperCard 3.5.2 is now available for less than half the price its previous owners charged. For experienced scripters and authors, that's too good a deal to pass up.


4.0 mice
PROS: Mature, reliable, flexible multimedia authoring at a bargain price. CONS: Inaccessible documentation; poor printing; no Windows player. COMPANY: IncWell Digital Media Group (530/647-8541, ). LIST PRICE: $144.95.

May 1999 page: 44

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