CLS Museum: the packrat

Originally designed as a storehouse for text files and other bits of information, the packrat became much more.  Multiple copies of the stack could be used to store Read Me files, scripts, important email messages, project ideas, passwords, timelines, work logs—any textual information you had cause to collect and store in a central location.  With the introduction of a linking system in later versions, the packrat was used to create computerized references and textbooks, complete with color pictures, music, movies, sounds, and links to web pages.

Two text fields held the information to be saved. The header field served as a cue to the main body field contents and also as a title in the almost magical QuikDex popup menu. Clicking near the dotted line in the top right corner of the main field earmarked the entry, allowing users to print, export, or search a smaller subset instead of the entire stack. The padlock in the lower right corner locked the text to prevent accidental editing.

The QuikDex popup menu held a self-updating list of every entry in the packrat stack, making navigation a simple click-and-drag affair. The small chain link icon would show and hide the links field. Option-clicking the logo in the top right corner produced a new clean packrat stack for a user.

Clicking a line in the links field could do amazing bits of magic, and creating links were easy as pie. Pairing it with Quicktime and the Mac’s incredible URL Access capabilities truly made the packrat a killer app. Create a new link and your user could:

* Open another HyperCard stack (including other packrat stacks)
* Go to a specific card within any HyperCard stack
* Display image files in a variety of formats
* Play sound or music files in a variety of formats
* Show movie files
* Open a file in its creator application
* Launch another application
* Open a folder in the MacOS Finder
* Open a web page in your preferred browser
* Create a new email message in your preferred email client
* Access an internet resource (e.g., telnet, ftp)

What’s more, the links field could be rapidly resized by dragging the small bar between it and the main entry text field. This element had just been introduced in the operating system UI; CLS was the first to implement many new interface elements within HyperCard.

The button bar provided ready access to some of the most common functions. Of course, all these actions (along with everything else discussed on this page, and more) were available via a comprehensive and Apple UIG-compliant menu system.

Even more features

There were plenty of other increible features packed into this little marvel. While many seem standard today, this was not the case at the time, demonstrating just how far ahead of its time the packrat was. These include:

* A comprehensive contextual menus system
* Enhanced entry printing and export features
* Detailed, context-sensitive help systems, including Balloon Help
* Text-to-Speech commands
* Support for extended keyboards
* Advanced search and replace functions