Back when Macs had a tiny black&white screen, there was a wonderful tool made for them. It was famously used to prototype Myst, popularized the concept of hypermedia five years before the web, and taught people that anyone could make apps and games, not just programmers. Many tried to recreate this tool after it wasn’t a thing anymore, but it didn’t stick.

One person may have finally succeeded.

Decker is a little open source app that can make anything from presentations and e-zines to adventure games or even small GUI utilities, in the form of "decks". It's very retro, with a fixed resolution, limited colors and bitmap fonts (more can be added). Despite that, all the work is done in a drag&drop style, with menus and dialogs; scripting is only needed for advanced effects. There's even a sound editor.

Screenshot of a black&white app window with chunky retro fonts, showing a dithered art piece with two buttons and a link in the description.

Decker comes in two editions: one for the Linux / Mac / Windows desktop, the other for web browsers. Either can export a deck as a stand-alone web page, and here's the trick: each exported page contains a fully working copy of Decker, so you can change your creation right in a browser tab and export a new version, ad inifinitum!

Tips and tricks

Beware that Decker is clunky; don't let that discourage you. It's a tool with a strong personality, so you have to learn its rhythms and go with the flow. Make sure to read the manual, even if it's far from perfect. It will help.

Actually you can create an image widget like this:

  1. Import as usual, from the menu or with drag&drop;
  2. Hit Ctrl-X right away;
  3. Switch to Widgets mode from the Tool menu;
  4. Pick Edit->Paste as new canvas.

(Turns out step three is key, and not mentioned in the manual.)

Other notes

Friends who grew up with HyperCard recognized what Decker is right away, despite numerous differences. Getting in the right spirit is so much better than making a slavish clone.

I've seen Decker compared to a fantasy console. That makes sense given its deliberate limitations and built-in authoring tools, except of course in this case both have a historical basis.