Apple's decision to transfer HyperCard to Claris may or may not have been the best choice, but it has fostered confusion about who gets what where why and how. Got that? Good.
Here's the deal. A stripped-down version of the HyperCard distribution comes with every Mac. By stripped-down I mean that you don't get much with it - HyperCard itself, Home, and an Address and Phone stack. The HyperCard program is fully functional, but has been temporarily limited to the lower user levels. It's easy to get back to the scripting level, though, just type "set userLevel to 5" in the message box, then add that same line to the "on startUp" handler in the stack script. Other suggestions have circulated recently, though I tried the rumored technique of typing MAGIC in the message box, and it didn't work at all. If you don't know about stack scripts, startUp handlers, and the like, don't worry about it, it's not a big deal.
If you're a serious HyperCard programmer, you'll probably want the full Claris distribution of HyperCard (which I presume does not come set to userLevel 2). The Claris version is more extensive and comes on four disks. Goodies include items such as manuals, a HyperTalk Reference stack, and a Power Tools stack. I haven't seen the entire thing yet, but the tools are welcome. Most were available previously from shareware or public domain sources, but it's nice to have them provided from day one. It's $49 from Claris and you can order your very own copy by calling 800/628-2100 (at least in the U.S. - no international number was given, sorry). Operators are standing by. :-)
Once you've got HyperCard and the stacks and manuals, you may wish to purchase one of the voluminous manuals that seem to go so well with HyperCard. Danny Goodman has updated his "The Complete HyperCard Handbook" and the general consensus on Usenet says that it is still good for someone who is just learning HyperCard but isn't a very good reference manual. More for the serious user is Dan Winkler and Scot Kamins's "HyperCard 2.0, The Book," which is supposedly the final word on the subject. Other books exist too, but I haven't heard much about them yet. Sooner or later I'll make it to the bookstore to check these things out, but time is dear these days.
Some final information that Kevin Calhoun kindly posted and which I thought would be useful is what version of HyperCard gets along with which version of the system. Kevin posted a nice chart of the possibilities, but it boils down to the following. Use HyperCard 1.2.2 only with System 6.0.3. Use HyperCard 1.2.5 only with System 6.0.4 or 6.0.5. Use HyperCard 2.0 only with System 6.0.5 or 6.0.7. Experience has shown that 2.0 will not run with system software lower than 6.0.5, but the consequences for disobeying the rest of the rules are unclear because for months now, one of us ran 1.2.2 under System 6.0.5 and the other ran 1.2.5 under 6.0.3 with no apparent problems. Probably causes tooth decay or something, though neither of us have any cavities yet.
Claris -- 800/628-2100
Adam C. Engst -- TidBITS Editor
Tonya Byard -- TidBITS Editor
Kevin Calhoun -- email@example.com