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The ToolBook Toolbox

Despite numerous criticisms, HyperCard has been extremely popular among Macintosh users because of its ease of use and flexibility. Clones were inevitable, and Silicon Beach introduced SuperCard and Olduvai introduced PLUS (now marketed by Spinnaker) to complement HyperCard. Both are slower than HyperCard but provide powerful features that HyperCard lacked. Neither has gained the acceptance HyperCard has, though, because both are commercial products that cannot compete with the price of the free HyperCard.

HyperCard-like products sprang up on the PC as well, with HyperPad being the most visible along with LinkWay from IBM. None could read HyperCard stacks, though, until Spinnaker announced a version of PLUS for Windows and Presentation Manager that could read PLUS stacks from the Mac, and thus HyperCard stacks through the Macintosh version of PLUS. LinkWay has been criticized as clumsy, and HyperPad has no graphical capabilities, being limited to the ASCII character set of the PC.

Now however, a recently-released program may provide some of HyperCard's power for PC users. Asymetrix Corp., founded by Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, announced its first product, the $395 ToolBook. ToolBook is designed to work with Windows 3.0 and runtime versions of ToolBook will accompany all copies of Windows 3.0. In addition, all 386 machines from Zenith will come with Windows 3.0 and the complete version of ToolBook installed. Hopefully they will also include at least 1.5 MB of RAM, because ToolBook needs that much minimum.

ToolBook uses a "book" and "page" metaphor instead of HyperCard's "stack" and "card" metaphor, although we at TidBITS think that if it quacks like a duck, it's a duck, no matter what the ostensible metaphor. Like HyperCard 2.0 and System 7.0, ToolBook will exchange information with Windows applications through Dynamic Data Exchange, and also like HyperCard and its XCMDs and XFCNs, ToolBook will be extensible through what it calls Dynamic Link Libraries. One advantage ToolBook will have over HyperCard is a Script Recorder that will build scripts from watching the actions made by the user. Scripts can also be attached to anything such as graphics or bits of text, not just buttons or fields. ToolBook books can be distributed with a royalty-free runtime version, although in theory everyone with Windows 3.0 should already have that runtime version.

The icing on the ToolBook cake is a program called ConvertIt!, written by The HyperMedia Group for Heizer Software. ConvertIt!, true to its name, will convert HyperCard stacks into ToolBook books. ConvertIt! will be released this summer and we then see how complete its conversion actually is. Who knows, we may even convert the TidBITS reader to ToolBook, although we would do so from the ground up to take advantage of ToolBook's capabilities and avoid its weaknesses.

Asymetrix -- 206/462-0501
Heizer Software -- 415/943-7667 -- 800/888-7667
Related articles:
MacWEEK -- 22-May-90, Vol. 4 #20, pg. 9
InfoWorld -- 21-May-90, Vol. 12 #21, pg. 1, 101
PC WEEK -- 22-May-90, Vol. 7 #20, pg. 6, Supplement pg. 38
PC WEEK -- 11-Jun-90, Vol. 7 #23, pg. 51
InfoWorld -- 11-Jun-90, Vol. 12 #24, pg. 1
InfoWorld -- 02-Jul-90, Vol. 12 #27, pg. 82


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