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Converting a HyperCard stack to LiveCode

Introduction

For years, Apple Computer's HyperCard was the authoring environment of choice for thousands of Macintosh users. Its ease of use and accessible scripting language have made programmers out of many people who would never have attempted to write software in more complex languages. Unfortunately, HyperCard has been neglected by Apple in recent years, and as the Macintosh makes advances in its interface and feature set, perfectly functional stacks may be perceived as outdated. In addition, many stack authors have gazed wistfully at the majority of computer usage in the world and wished they could port their work to run on Windows or UNIX machines. Until recently there was no alternative for these authors, outside of rewriting their work from scratch in another programming language.

LiveCode is a cross-platform authoring solution that reads and converts HyperCard stacks, allowing stack authors to port their work to Windows 98/XP/Vista, Macintosh OS X PPC/Intel, and Linux. A stack written in LiveCode will run without any alteration on all of these platforms, provided the target computer has the freely-available runtime engine installed or the stack is compiled as a platform-specific stand-alone application. A HyperCard stack needs to be imported and converted only once. After that, it will run on any OS without further changes.

LiveCode supports virtually all HyperCard commands and features, and the very few things not directly supported can be scripted or added with .bundle files (on Macs) or DLLs (on Windows.) In addition, because LiveCode uses a large superset of HyperCard's scripting language, LiveCode offers many times the power and capability of HyperCard. Nearly all of the behaviors that require XCMDs in HyperCard are implemented as native features in LiveCode. LiveCode stack authors will find that external additions are almost never necessary. In the years that HyperActive Software has been doing HyperCard conversions, we have never required an external.

Converting a HyperCard stack to LiveCode is not difficult, but does require some knowledge about the differences between the two software programs. The goal of this tutorial is to expose stack authors to some of those differences, explain some possible approaches for successful conversion, and walk the user through the conversion of a simple HyperCard stack as an example.

Not all conversion issues are addressed in this tutorial, but it does focus on the most common ones. The objective is to give the new LiveCode user a basic understanding that will serve as a foundation for conversions of other, more complex stacks.

Using the LiveCode Trial Edition

Runtime sells three editions of its LiveCode software: the entry-level Media package, the standard Studio edition, and the complete Enterprise edition. Runtime also offers a fully functional 30-day free trial version of its Enterprise edition. This tutorial will work fine with any of those, including the trial version.

What you will need: software and download information

To work through this tutorial, you will need:
  • HyperCard 2.2 or higher (commercial software from Apple Computer, Inc.)
  • LiveCode (any commerical version) or the free LiveCode trial package
  • The Tech Support TimeSaver HyperCard stack

Downloading the software

To start with, you will need to download the Tech Support TimeSaver HyperCard stack at
http://www.hyperactivesw.com/mctutorial/tutFiles/TSTS-HC.sit.

That is all you will need if you already own a commercial development version of LiveCode. If you plan to use the free trial instead, download:

LiveCode Trial

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