Apple Computer is about to introduce HyperCard 2.0, the first major upgrade to the popular programming and database software on Apple's Macintosh since HyperCard was introduced in 1987.

HyperCard is harder to describe than it is to use. It's part database management software and part programming language. The software, which comes free with every Macintosh, allows users to create their own information systems. Unlike most programming languages, it's designed for novices as well as professional software developers.

HyperCard can be used to create your own programs, called stacks. They are so named because they resemble a stack of index cards. Each card is used to store a piece of information. For example, a simple stack might be used to maintain a phone and address listing with a separate card for each person in your directory.

HyperCard isn't limited to simple programs. A number of professional programmers have created sophisticated commercial HyperCard applications. For example, Xiphius, a Marina del Rey, Calif.-based software company, has used HyperCard to develop a compact disc-based national directory with names, addresses, phone and facsimile numbers of more than 100,000 businesses and institutions.

Hyperglot Software of Knoxville, Tenn., has used it to create a series of language-training stacks that use HyperCard's audio capabilities to provide actual pronunciation via the Mac's built-in speaker.

You don't have to know a programming language to work in HyperCard. Commands are issued by using the mouse to press on-screen buttons. Buttons contain the intelligence to complete certain tasks. Once a button has been created, it can be copied and used over again. HyperCard comes with hundreds of buttons that users can incorporate into their own stacks.

HyperCard also comes with its own programming language, called HyperTalk, which can be used to customize stacks. You don't necessarily have to learn the language -- simple stacks can be created by pointing, clicking and copying other objects. But serious programmers rely on HyperTalk for their sophisticated programs.

HyperCard 2.0 adds many new features to the popular software. Unlike the previous version, it is now possible to run more than one stack at a time, each in its own window. HyperCard itself can now run in the background while the Mac is running other programs. In the old version of HyperCard, the display couldn't be any larger than what could fill the 9-inch screen on the Macintosh Plus and SE. The new version allows programmers to fill up any screens, including the large 19-inch monitors that are becoming increasingly popular with Macintosh II systems.

The program now lets you create your own user-definable menus. A new HyperTalk script editor allows programmers to move back and forth between editing their scripts and running their stacks. It's also possible for stacks to share resources with one another.

The new HyperCard gives users more control over text. The old version limited your use of text styles and sizes, but you now have complete flexibility, similar to what you'd expect with a Macintosh word-processing program. You also have greater flexibility when it comes to printed reports. HyperCard always has been great at displaying information on the screen but weak when came to printing. The new version makes it much easier to create printed reports. It also makes better use of laser printers, allowing you to print graphics at the full 300-dot-per-inch resolution. It's also now possible for a stack to print a different type style than it displays on the screen.

Some HyperCard users will be disappointed to learn that the new version provides only limited support for color. You can include color graphics but you cannot use color within HyperCard itself.

HyperCard comes with several free stacks, including an address book, a date book, calendars, an expense form and a phone dialer. It is included with all new Macs and is available from Apple dealers, with documentation, for $50.

Apple's goal is to get everyone to upgrade and is making that easy by authorizing, but not requiring, dealers and user groups to provide free updates to users who bring in their own disks. The program will be available in mid-July.

HyperCard will work on any Macintosh with at least 1 megabyte of memory and two 800-kilobyte floppy drives or one floppy drive and a hard disk.

Readers' comments are welcomed, but the author cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Lawrence J. Magid, P.O. Box 620477, Woodside, Calif. 94062, or contact the L. Magid account on the MCI electronic mail system.