TADS vs Inform - a (vaguely) in-depth comparison

It's fairly well accepted in the rec.[arts|games].int-fiction community that the two most-used languages are TADS and Inform, with, as Graham modestly points out, the latter perhaps having a slight edge. There have been some tentative and informal discussions of the differences between the two languages, but no one to the best of my knowledge has done any sort of serious point-by-point comparison of the similarities, differences, and various features of the two languages.

There is of course the seminal work in this field, the "Which Authoring System is Better" FAQ, but it focuses more on general issues in order to cover a wider selection of languages, and also doesn't give very much coverage to the day-to-day details that someone programming in the language would face; this text is aimed more at the nitty-gritty programming issues.

This evalution is divided into two parts, a "current status of the system" and "things that probably or may or might happen in the future". Each of those is divided into two sub-parts, comments on the system from the player's viewpoint and from the programmer's (although these must of necessity overlap some; I put foreign-language support into the coding section even though a French-speaking player is obviously going to be concerned with it also).

When reading this, please remember that at this time, there is only one compiler for each language, one virtual machine which each language is compiled, and no cross-machine compilers. Therefore, I will be using the language and the virtual machine entirely interchangably, and the interpreters and the virtual machine somewhat interchangably. Also, some of these responses are muddied by the fact that TADS/HTML has just come out, a much-improved interface for standard TADS games which allows various HTML-based innovations (including sound, graphics, windowing, etc). In general my comments apply to both standard TADS and TADS/HTML. I've tried to be clear when I'm speaking about just one or the other. Finally, please note that I've tried both TADS and Inform, but use TADS almost exclusively. This should suggest something both about my experience with the two systems as well as my personal biases; I've tried to be as fair as possible but advocacy has a way of slipping in sometimes :) If you have any comments on this page, feel free to mail me. I'm especially looking for evaluations/descriptions of other languages (ie, Hugo) at this level of detail.

Current Status



Into the Future

Playing: Coding: