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ATPM 3.10
October 1997

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Review: HyperStudio

by Evan Trent, etrent@atpm.com

verynice

IMAGE imgs/page1305.gifProduct Information
Published by: Roger Wagner Publishing, Inc.
1050 Pioneer Way, Suite P
El Cajon, CA 92020
Phone: (800) HYPERSTUDIO
Fax: (619) 442-0525
E-Mail:
<rwpadmin@aol.com>
Web: <http://www.hyperstudio.com>

I've been using HyperStudio since version 1.0 on the Apple IIGS. It was an awesome piece of software then, and it has since evolved into a more mature and versatile package. HyperStudio is a multimedia authoring environment aimed primarily at schools and youngsters, but not exclusively. For $199.95, it's difficult to find a package that will do as much as HyperStudio and nearly impossible to find one that does it so easily.


Some Background
HyperStudio was patterned after the HyperCard model. However, like other HyperCard spinoffs, (SuperCard for example) HyperStudio leaves HyperCard in the dust. The HyperCard model is preserved only at the most basic level. There are still buttons, text items, cards, and stacks, but the similarities between the two programs end there.

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Key Features
HyperStudio's most appealing features is its ease of use. Anybody who can use a Macintosh with some degree of proficiency can get a stack up and running in fifteen minutes. It's really that simple. There is absolutely no scripting required to do almost anything in HyperStudio. Buttons have a tremendous number of pre-programmed actions. However, should you wish to use the scripting language, HyperStudio does make use of a logo dialect known as HyperLogo.


HyperStudio can use as many colors as your monitor setting. Defining a button to play a QuickTime movie takes about ten seconds. Buttons can even be set to jump to specific frames in the movie, or to perform standard functions such as play, pause, rewind, fast forward, advance or rewind one frame, or adjust the sound level.


Dealing with graphics in HyperStudio is simple. The user can either read in a PICT file, or the icons can be ripped from the resource fork of any file. HyperStudio can import part of a PICT as clip art, or import the entire PICT as a background. Of course, HyperStudio supports graphic objects, which can be scripted, manipulated, hidden, and revealed by other buttons or objects. HyperStudio's ability to deal with graphics in a multitude of fashions makes it incredibly easy to create a stunning presentation. In truth though, the most interesting graphical feature is the ability to create animations. HyperStudio creates animation from a series of pictures, or it can generate one while you drag an object around the screen.

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HyperStudio recognizes both System 7 and AIFF sound files and files can be recorded through your Mac's microphone (or your AV Mac's audio input). Sounds can be played back asynchronously (in the background while other events occur) or synchronously (nothing else happens until the sound stops). HyperStudio can access Speech Manager to speak a preset text string, or text from any text item. Additionally, a button or object can easily be set to play a given track off an audio CD in the CD-ROM drive. In fact, creating a CD-ROM remote control eith HyperStudio would take about five minutes.


Text items, as boring as they might sound, are actually quite versatile in HyperStudio. Obviously, they can be scrollable or non-scrollable, editable or non-editable, and visible or hidden. Text items can contain multiple fonts, styles, and sizes. Buttons can be set to scroll a text item at a given rate for a given number of lines or pixels. This effect is simply fantastic. The last card in a stack can scroll a text item showing the credits. Set the background color of the card to black, the text color to white, set the text item's transparent flag, and then sit back and watch the show. Buttons can also be defined for easy editing of text items.


Push Those Buttons
Buttons can do just about anything imaginable in HyperStudio. As in HyperCard, their icons can be chosen from HyperStudio's vast library, from any PICT file, or from the resource fork of another application. As expected, buttons can navigate to another card or stack using any one of a number of transitions, but they can also load another application, launch a web page using an external web browser, or even control Laser Discs connected through the serial port. Better still, HyperStudio's buttons can perform any of HyperStudio's menu functions. Thus, buttons can not only perform mundane tasks like cutting, copying or pasting text, but they even can add other buttons. The possibilities are truly endless.


It gets better. HyperStudio's buttons can be timed. Without typing one line of code, a button can be set to go off any number of seconds after arriving at a given card. The action can occur only once or can repeat a designated number of times (or indefinitely). This makes it easy to have a card "react" to a user.


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Buttons can also perform test functions. If a user sets up a quiz or test using buttons as multiple choice responses, the buttons can be assigned values (correct answer or incorrect answer) and the number of correct and incorrect answers can be polled at any given time by another button.


Of course, buttons can execute scripts using HyperStudio's HyperLogo scripting language. This language has total control over every element in a stack, teaches elementary programming techniques and provides the user with a gentle learning curve.


Other Features
All objects in HyperStudio have a large feature set. All objects can be hidden, revealed, or can affect other objects that pass over it. For example, when the cursor is dragged over an object, the action can change either the cursor or the object itself. Additionally, dragging certain objects over others can trigger a response. This is exactly what a "drag-and-drop" objects is. With HyperStudio, they are easily created and incorporated into your presentations.


Graphics, sounds and movies can be shared among cards. This feature drastically reducing the size and memory requirements of a stack. To further reduce a stack's size, you can tell HyperStudio to load files off disk rather than incorporating them into the stack. For example, if a button plays a sound, can you tell HyperStudio to load that sound off disk and not make it part of the stack's resource fork.


Roger Wagner Publishing also includes a developer's kit with HyperStudio which provides a wealth of information on how to create NBAs (the equivalent of HyperCard's XCMDs) and other extensions to HyperStudio. Additionally, HyperStudio can make use of PhotoShop Plug-Ins. Also included is a HyperCard dissolver which aids in the conversion between HyperCard and HyperStudio. And finally, HyperStudio has a spell checker!


Polishing Your Stacks
HyperStudio has a host of features which facilitate the distribution of stacks. Stacks can be locked with a password to prevent unauthorized changes. HyperStudio has a "Print to Video" feature with which a user can create a slide show from the stack. Roger Wagner Publishing also provides a runtime version of HyperStudio which can be distributed freely with your stacks. HyperStudio runs on both Mac and Windows platforms, so stacks are interchangeable. As if this wasn't enough, there is now a HyperStudio plug-in for Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer so users can browse HyperStudio stacks directly on the web.


Outstanding Value
Because HyperStudio is aimed at the educational market, its really a steal at $199. Consider Microsoft PowerPoint, which costs $300. PowerPoint doesn't save to an executable application, it's slower than HyperStudio, it does far less, it's clumsier, less intuitive, and certainly less "fun" for kids. Frankly it doesn't compare. The closest competitor in terms of price and performance is SuperCard from Allegiant Technologies. SuperCard hasn't been updated in years, it has little support for technologies such as QuickTime and Laserdiscs, and the only feature that is superior to HyperStudio is its ability to save to an executable. Clearly, there are other multimedia packages on the market that can squash HyperStudio, but they cost about $1000 (Director, mTropolis etc.). After shopping around, it should become rather obvious that HyperStudio is the best deal going.


Any Problems?
HyperStudio's manual is excellent and the bundled CD is loaded with a truckload of resources. Roger Wagner Publishing is a great company with topnotch technical support. So why is this product rated Very Good rather than Excellent? There is one feature that HyperStudio really should have that it doesn't: the ability to save a stack as an application. So many other packages do this, it's no longer considered a feature, it's an expectation. It may seem harsh to bump this wonderful product down one full rating for not providing this facility, but without it HyperStudio will have a hard time leaving the classroom, and there's really no other reason it can't.


Reflections
As a long-time user, I have enjoyed watching HyperStudio evolve from a stunning but somewhat limited product that ran on an Apple IIGS to a full fledged multimedia authoring environment running on Macintosh and Windows platforms. For schools of all levels, there is simply no better package. Companies interested in creating in-house presentations quickly and easily should consider HyperStudio as an excellent value. Once Roger Wagner Publishing enables HyperStudio to save stacks to a self-executing format, HyperStudio will be a viable solution for companies wanting to distribute presentations or advertisements, especially over the web. To put it simply: HyperStudio is a great product with an incredibly low price tag.


Blue AppleEvan Trent, etrent@atpm.com is ATPM's webzinger. When not working on web sites, he enjoys C/C++ programming and desktop publishing. Every now andthen he spends five minutes away from his computer.

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