Decker 1.0

John Earnest:

Decker builds on the legacy of HyperCard and the visual aesthetic of classic MacOS. It retains the simplicity and ease of learning that HyperCard provided, while adding many subtle and overt quality-of-life improvements, like deep undo history, support for scroll wheels and touchscreens, more modern keyboard navigation, and bulk editing operations.

Anyone can use Decker to create E-Zines, organize their notes, give presentations, build adventure games, or even just doodle some 1-bit pixel art. The holistic “ditherpunk” aesthetic is cozy, a bit nostalgic, and provides fun and distinctive creative constraints. As a prototyping tool, Decker encourages embracing a sketchy, imperfect approach. Finished decks can be saved as standalone .html documents which self-execute in a web browser and can be shared anywhere you can host or embed a web page. Decker also runs natively on MacOS, Windows, and Linux.

Decker is astonishing. At first glance you might mistake it as shallow, a fun nostalgic gimmick. How serious could something that looks so retro be? But it’s in fact quite deep: Earnest created his own custom scripting language, Lil, which is very approachable but includes things like an SQL-like query syntax for tabular data. The whole thing is beautiful and fun and useful and so engaging that I literally had a dream about using it last night. I don’t know what I’m going to make with Decker but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to make something. It’s that inspiring.

Even the names are perfect. “Decks” are to Decker what stacks were to HyperCard. Decks contain cards and cards contain widgets. The file format is plain text and very much human-readable. A deck shared on the web contains the whole runtime to present and run it in a browser, so all you need to do is publish a .html file. Decker’s Guided Tour is a fine example — both for trying Decker out and for viewing the source. (You’ll want to try it in a desktop browser, or maybe an iPad with a keyboard and trackpad — it’s not meant for phones.)

The native Mac app is just 4 MB. It’s free of charge and open source, but Earnest is accepting voluntary payments on the downloads page. Be generous! And if you make any cool decks let me know.

Sunday, 30 October 2022