The Electronic Labyrinth


HyperShell 4.0 is a shareware product from Text Technology in England. It runs in text mode on any IBM-compatible. The entire package installs in under 1 MB, and includes a stand-alone version (256 KB RAM required), as well as a memory-resident version (50 KB RAM). In addition, a utility is included which reduces the memory requirements to 6 KB.

The frugal nature of this product is further made evident by the tiny runtime module, which occupies just 40 KB of disk space. One might well ask what functionality could possibly be contained in such a small package. The answer is surprising. HyperShell contains a Boolean search, a history function, support for full-screen PCX images, user preferences, mouse support, printing, compression, user macros, and the usual link classes (reference, expansion, note, command). The interface is simple--only one paged window is visible at a time. Anchors appear as bold text; this attribute may not be altered.

The memory-resident capability makes HyperShell ideal for help systems. One notable feature is the ability to read the screen over which HyperShell is loaded. This permits context-sensitive applications. One demonstration hyperbook, included with the package, provides help for DOS commands.

Hyperbooks are designed exclusively through markup codes in the editor of your choice. This language, HyperGlyphix, provides for menus, buttons, and other interface features. While HyperGlyphix is complete, few authors would relish viewing the maze of codes in the example hyperbooks. Some of the more sophisticated features are poorly implemented. Menus, for instance, trap the mouse cursor once it crosses their screen position. One must use the Escape key to terminate the menu before the mouse can be moved again.

The documentation is spread throughout several hyperbooks and text files. None make clear exactly how to start authoring. Some hyperbooks appear to be authoring aids--prompting for information which is then used to write markup codes to sample files. These only serve to further complicate matters. We did not spend the time to fully explore the power of this system, and believe that few others will either. HyperShell desperately needs better documentation and more coherent authoring tools.

The complete package plus unlimited distribution rights may be purchased for 140 pounds sterling. A variety of other price points are available.

Nick Taylor
Text Technology
66 Kennedy Avenue
Cheshire, UK
SK10 3DE

phone: 0625-431357

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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