The case-insensitive language was at first interpreted, but since HyperCard 2.x 'virtually compiled'. It supports the basic control structures of procedural languages: repeat for/while/until, if/then/else, as well as function and message "handler" calls (a handler is a subroutine, a message handler is a procedure). Data types are transparent to the user, conversion happens transparently in the background between strings and numbers. There are no classes or data structures in the traditional sense; their place was taken by special string literals, or rather "lists" of "items" delimited by commas (in later versions the "itemDelimiter" property allowed choosing an arbitrary character).
HyperTalk was by no means a strictly procedural language. Scripts were associated with objects in HyperCard files (so-called "stacks"), and HyperTalk allowed manipulating these objects in various ways, changing their properties using the "set" command, for example. Objects were addressed using a syntax close to natural language, where objects were specified relative to the current card, or the
of operator was used to specify the absolute position of an object:
send "mouseUp" to card button "OK" of card "Veracity". Since buttons and fields could also exist on the background layer, but their content would differ between cards, there were
background fields etc. Objects could be addressed by their name, z-ordering number, or by a unique ID number that usually did not change throughout an object's lifetime. To iterate over objects (joinedly referred to as
parts in HyperCard 2.2 and later), one simply used their number after querying e.g.
the number of card parts.
HyperTalk also provided full-blown script control over the built-in drawing tools, simply by scripting the needed changes in paint tools and simulating mouse movements using the
drag from start to end and the
click at position commands.
HyperTalk also used messages (i.e. events) sent to objects to handle user interaction. E.g. the
mouseDown message was sent to a button when the user clicked it, and
mouseUp was sent when the user released the mouse inside it to trigger its action. Similarly, it had the periodic
mouseLeave, ... and various other messages related to navigation between different cards in a HyperCard stack, as well as user input (
functionKey, ...), and system events. As far as the scripters were concerned, there were no main event loops like in other procedural programming languages.
Although the HyperTalk language languished just like HyperCard itself, it received a second lease on life through its plugin protocol, so-called External Commands (XCMDs) and External Functions (XFCNs), which were native code containers attached to stacks (as Macintosh-specific resources) with a single entry point and return value. XCMDs and XFCNs could be called just like regular message and function handlers from HyperTalk scripts, and were also able to send messages back to the HyperCard application. Some enterprising XCMD authors added advanced features like full color support (ColorizeHC, HyperTint, AddColor), multiple special-purpose windows (Prompt, Tabloid, Textoid, Listoid, ShowDialog, MegaWindows), drag and drop support and various hardware interfaces to the language.
As well as second-level clones like
Many method names first popularized by HyperTalk made it into later languages, such as the
These clones and dialects (commonly referred to under the moniker of xTalk-languages) added various features to the language that are expected from a modern programming language, like exception handling, user-defined object properties, timers, multi-threading and even user-defined objects.
on mouseUpput "100,100" into posrepeat with x = 1 to the number of card buttonsset the location of card button x to posadd 15 to item 1 of posend repeatend mouseUp
put "Disk:Folder:MyFile" into filePath -- no need to declare variables
if there is a file filePath then
open file filePath
read from file filePath until return
put it into cd fld "some field"
close file filePath
set the textStyle of character 1 to 10 of card field "some field" to bold
function replaceStr pattern,newStr,inStr
repeat while pattern is in inStr
put offset(pattern,inStr) into pos
put newStr into character pos to (pos +the length of pattern)-1 of inStr