Kickstarting a free, open version of Livecode

Edwin sez,

I've been using Runtime Revolution's Livecode for over a decade. It's sort of like Hypercard on steroids. It uses the same concepts - stacks with cards, interface elements that you drag around, resize, natural language code that makes sense when you read it and so on, but updates all of this to incorporate modern stuff like interwebs and mobile devices. Once you have written something you can easily pop out executables for Mac, Linux, PC, Ios or Android without a major porting effort. There's even a server version that works like php, but using language that doesn't make my head hurt.

Anyway, while I've been using this for years to automate all sorts of tasks, designing my own web-page generating apps and creating game prototypes, I have not been able to unreservedly recommend it to friends that would like to experiment with it because of the cost.

That could change though because the company behind Livecode has a Kickstarter up to create an open source version of Livecode with many improvements over the current closed version. From what I am seeing on the kickstarter the only difference between the future open source version and the future closed version is the licensing - if you pay for the closed version you won't have to share your code. I am very excited about this - Livecode is probably the easiest to use development environment around and it makes introducing programming to kids and less-technical-but-creative friends a real joy. I am certain that having this out in the wild would make the world a better and weirder place, so I am supporting it. I think that anyone interested in increasing the number of people that can write their own applications should do so too.

I, too, loved Hypercard, and have been impressed by Runtime Revolution. A free/open version (they're promising GPLv3) would be a serious force for good on earth. I just kicked in a hundred. This would be great.

Open Source Edition of LiveCode (Thanks, Edwin!)


  1. I think they should skip the fund raising, and just post it all to GitHub or something like that. I don’t have any spare cash to donate, but I do have time… there are LOTS of un/under employed programmers in the same boat. They could spend about as much time as they did producing this nice slick video with a few youtube talks about how the existing code is structured, and how they want to change it, and we’d all get a better product, faster.

    Of course, they wouldn’t have a nicer in-house open-washed product if they did that, would they?

    1. The Kickstarter page explains quite well what the funding will be used for. In any case an “as is” release of the source code is schedule for March, so under employed programmers can get their hands on right away. But taking into consideration the slow evolution from Hypercard to MetaCard to Revolution to Livecode a radical cleanup and restructuring is probably a good thing. And the current user interface feels ancient, so an effort for a complete redesign of the user-interface is very welcome.

    2. I was thinking something similar: If, as they say, they think that “larger communities make better code” (the center of the open source paradigm), then why wasn’t this open source from the beginning?  I’ve rarely seen code that was proprietary or closed then “finally” released into the open succeed.  Sorry, but I just don’t think that these guys have a FOSS mentality or culture.

      On a tangential note: making programming available with easy drag-drop interfaces doesn’t increase the quality of code out there, it just increases the quantity (and usually debilitates the quality severely).  Programming requires discipline in logical thinking and design, not just knowledge of the syntax.  Traditionally, the syntax requirement enforces a certain discipline, thus only talented developers survive.  By opening up the syntax with common language, expect all sorts of illogical bad experiences to spring forth.

      1. Or, you know, a rash of creativity like what happened with Hypercard all those years ago. You know, one or the other.

        I do agree with you about needing discipline and logical thinking to program well. I just think most people have an easier time learning that kind of stuff when they aren’t also being forced to learn any variant of C syntax. 

        1. HyperCard followed an incredible simple and powerful concept (it’s a stack! of cards!) and the possibilities beyond were rather limited (as far as I remember, at least). 

          I think coming up with a good concept (which was easy if that concept had to be a stack) is far more difficult than learning some syntax. 

          Also, the concepts of programming have to be learned somehow anyway, so why not with some kind of “short hand” syntax. Lets call it any variant of C. 

      2. Dave, it seems that you are not too familiar with Live Code and the evolution of it. You ask: “Why wasn’t this open source from the beginning?” Because it had an 25 year long evolution from HyperCard via MetaCard, Supercard, Revolution to LiveCode with many stakeholders joining and dropping out over time.

        And I really can not share your view that making programming available to more people would just lead to more of bad code. This seems to me a rather elitist view. The programming language that Livecode uses is very intuitive, it avoids use of special characters, it is very effective in processing text; in short it has a low entry barriers for people that want to try their hand on programming and it is incredibly fast to produce results. Nevertheless the logic is very similar to other programming languages and one can work with fairly advanced programming concepts within livecode. Here an example of the simplicity of livecode language:

        In LiveCode: put theText begins with “Hello”

        In JavaScript:

        theText.substring(0, “Hello”.length).match(“Hello”) != null;

        Also, the drag and drop interface of the IDE doesn’t replace programming as such, it just helps you to create a GUI in very short time. The actual programming is done inside the objects that you drag and drop onto your stack.

    3.  Believe it or not, it’s actually a bit of work to prepare a half a million lines of code to be dual-licensed. *Then* it’ll be ready to be posted to github. And just posting to github isn’t quite the same as managing a large FOSS project. They’ll need to devote resources to overseeing commits and unit and integration testing. Cross-platform.

  2. Didn’t know about Livecode.  Thanks for this.  Loved HyperCard – used it to release a story/game back in ’89 called “Ali Baa Baa & The Forty Winks”.  Tons o’ fun.

  3. Did you know if it will be possible to translate the open source version of LiveCode to other languages… If so, then I would recommend to Kevin & Co. (RunRev) to expand the deadline from 1 month to 6 months to allow Universities and Educational Leaders around the world to evaluate the usefulness AND viability of porting LiveCode to their native language… After all, this is the ultimate destiny of every open source project: TO SPREAD IN EVERY LANGUAGE AROUND THE WORLD. :D

    1. My understanding is that support for other languages is in there, but I am not sure exactly what that means (I am just an excited user). I don’t know if it’s just regular localization type possibilities or if it would go down into the livetalk language elements – I assume that would be a crazy hard thing to do.

  4. Nice!  When everybody can code, nobody has to code any more. Coding will be like organizing the office United Way campaign.- nice but not mandatory. 

  5. I believe there has been a few open source attempts but without the backing of a company like RunRev they usually suffer from the dev deciding to do something that feeds the kids. While some might scorn RunRev’s late decision to open source I applaud them for being brave enough to put the IP that their company is based on out into the wild and make it available to the open source community. It’s going to make a huge difference in the uptake of the platform.

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