Inform 7 Goes Open Source

Last week on Twitter, in between Elon Musk’s cries for attention, I saw a simple tweet by Emily Short announcing that Inform 7 was now open source. All I can say is … wow! Wonderful news.

Inform 7 is a wonderful tool. It is a free tool developed by Graham Nelson. Inform 7 allows us to write interactive fiction in plain language. It doesn’t read like traditional code. It reads very much like a story in doing so, is truly self-documenting.

So being that the tool was free, why does it matter that it’s open source? Good question, indeed.

What does this even mean?

Truth be told, you probably won’t notice much for a while. While open source is wonderful in so much that it allows developers to change a program, add features, and fix bugs, contributions tend to be small from non-core contributors.

At my workplace, we publish an iOS and Android app that allows our subscribers to view our video content. The vast majority of code changes come from the core developers – that is, me and my co-workers. We might get a couple of external contributions each release but usually, after a contribution, the contributor is never seen again (which is fine – we appreciate all submissions).

Inform 7 Editor
Inform 7 allows users to create text adventures using regular language versus code.

Also, it takes people a long time to understand an application’s codebase. Graham has done an amazing job by producing a tool that allows you to read a program like it were a manual. It is something called Literary Programming. But, the material itself is quite complex and requires a high skill ceiling for contributors.

So how will this improve things? First, there will be frequent releases. Graham’s been doing all the development himself which I’m sure has been a colossal effort between work and family. The IF community is quite technical so I’m sure a few members will help him out.

Inform 7 supports pretty much all major computer platforms like Windows, macOS, and Linux but we may see the tool ported to non-conventional platforms. For example, we may see Inform 7 appear on iPad OS. Also, we should see a native macOS M1 release soon.

We also may see new target platforms. It would be amazing to publish your story directly to an Xcode, Android, or heck, even a Flutter project. Who knows? The future is wide open. All it takes is understanding the Inform 7 code, writing a patch, and submitting it to the project.

That said, I’ll make sure to post some Inform tutorials. That is, once I finish with Twine.

What are your thoughts on Inform 7 going open source? Let me know in the comments below!

By Brian Moakley

Brian Douglas Moakley is a writer and technologist who lives amongst the quiet hills in New England. When not reading tales of high adventure, he is often telling such stories to all who will listen.

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