Some random notes about Balthisar Cascade

Balthisar Cascade has been around since about 1996 or so — I’m not even sure any more!

It has a somewhat interesting history. Balthisar Cascade was the first CSS2 editor in the world. Anywhere. You know: dedicated editor. I don’t mean it’s older than BBEdit or vim or general purpose text editors. But as far as dedicated CSS editors are concerned, nothing beat Cascade.

Cascade was built for Windows 95, which was a state of the art operating system then. Most computer monitors at the time had a standard display resolution of 640x480 pixels, although 800x600 pixels was becoming popular. And Windows at the time just wasn’t built for supporting multiple display densities dpi. As a result when you run Cascade now, it looks ridiculously small on the screen, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. You can detach the class list and the preview output, but the actual work area is stuck at its fixed size.

When it was released, CSS2 was brand new. Most browsers didn’t support CSS2, and most people didn’t know how to build stylesheets with it. As a consequence Cascade was built for beginners. You can see this in its inflexibility and rigidness. The poor assumption at the time was that stylesheet authors would need to have their hands held forever.

One of my dirty little secrets is that I myself almost never used Cascade due to its inflexibility. And when I did use it, it was only as a reference tool. You see, I’ve always been primarily a Mac user, even back before it was cool. And Cascade, of course, was a Windows tool. More importantly, though, I always preferred to hand-code everything and work from scratch. Even today, despite using some frameworks such as CakePHP, everything you see on this site is hand-crafted (even the stuff that’s stored in WordPress).

Upon Cascade’s first release I had dialup internet, as did most everyone at the time. I was fortunate enough to afford dual channel ISDN for a while before @Home internet service was available in my area (early internet via TV cable). The web was slow, Google wasn’t in my consciousness, and Cascade served as a handy reference document when I needed to know how to format a selector! These days, of course, it’s easy to simply google (lower-case, kleenexed verb!) “CSS3 box model” and get a quick refresher on the first hit. Sadly Cascade isn’t even useful as a quick reference anymore.

Why do I still offer Cascade on the website? Well, the fact is, it still works! Microsoft has long since deprecated the help file format, and the installer refuses to run, but the installer was always ugly Windows candy anyway (I built Cascade the Mac way, no installer needed, and only one instance open at a time). The actual app, though, is right at home on Windows 8.1. It works perfectly fine. That impresses me, especially as a Mac user. There’s literally nothing from that era that will work on Mavericks without running a virtual machine.

Check out Balthisar Cascade. It’s not really useful anymore, and it’s a relic, but it’s a real part of the history of our internet!

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