SoftStar News

January 2003
The End of Diversity in Astrology Software

Since I keep in regular contact with most of the major astrology software companies, I have become aware of a major potential shift in the landscape of astrology software.

On the Western astrology software front, the number of professional-level programs may actually shrink over the next few years due to attrition. One of the major producers of these programs has abandoned further development of their most powerful calculation program, in favor of smaller, more marketable software. A second has severely delayed further development of their flagship software.

On the Vedic astrology software front, there may be a shakeout for the very opposite reason. There are too many companies producing Vedic astrology software for a market that is tiny and growing quite slowly.

Most people don't realize that it is primarily in the U.S. that most astrology software companies make a profit, because software piracy is rampant in most other countries, especially in India, which is the only other big market for Vedic software.

As a result, I predict that several of the companies that produce Vedic astrology software will find it harder and harder to make a living. Remember, these companies are usually one-person operations run by people incredibly devoted to astrology.

That is why it is so important to support the companies whose products you like, by buying updates when they come out, and by not giving copies of the programs to others. Otherwise, these companies are likely to disappear.

Most astrologers don't realize how lucky they are to have such an incredible range of software to choose from. Help keep our choices alive!

New and Important Updates

Solar Maps version 3:

Esoteric Technologies has recently released the latest version of Solar Maps (version 3).

This version of Solar Maps is a major revision, with much more accurate maps, the ability to see multiple eclipse lines on one map, better zooming, hurricane and earthquake mapping, planetary aspect and midpoint astromapping lines, multiple planet paran lines, Solar Arc direction lines, the ability to save maps as images and to email them, and help in updating the program via the Internet. The latest version of the full U.S. and World ACS PC atlas is now embedded in the software, for auto-lookup of the correct coordinates and time zone for over 250,000 cities throughout the World.

Following my suggestions, they added a wonderful selection of beautiful map color schemes, true Cyclo*Carto*Graphy mapping (i.e. showing both outer transit lines and inner progression lines on the same map), the ability to generate multiple point-and-click interpretive locality reports (just keep clicking on different cities and interpretations for them are added to the report), and best of all, the ability to animate maps. You can watch transiting, progressed, and directed lines move over maps forward or backward in time.

All of these enhancements and additions make Solar Maps an excellent tool for any astrologer serious about astromapping, as well as for people who want to get the best locality interpretive reports available today.

Forthcoming Updates:

Two astrology software companies are releasing their latest updates by the end of February 2003: ShriSource and Cosmic Patterns.

Shri Jyoti Star version 4.0

ShriSource is releasing their Shri Jyoti Star version 4.0, which is a very major enhancement of what is already one of the most powerful Vedic astrology programs.

Version four will include many enhancements of its present features and also several great new features. The enhancements include:

The new features include a uniquely powerful Astro*Carto*Graphy function with the unique ability to view two different people's map lines on the same map, the ability to see changes in the Lagna and MC as you move the cursor across the map, and the even more powerful ability to see the person's charts and tables next to the map change as you move the cursor to new locations.

More formats. For both the Main Screen and Printed Page Designer, you have the option of both more formats to choose from and can use different formats on each screen/page. This means that you can view one screen with 24 tables on it, and the next screen with one detailed very large chart on it. With my help, the author has renamed many of the menus and menu items to make the program much easier to use.

Version 4 also adds the ability to view aspect lines for any chart format (North Indian, South Indian, and Western Wheels). You can see Whole Sign, Parashari, Jaimini, Parashari and Jaimini combined, Tajik, Systems Approach (aspects within 5 degrees), and Western aspect lines, and easily toggle between them to see the differences. Excellent!

The new version has many, many more tables to choose from, including several Saham (Arabic Parts), argalas for planets and houses, kutas for all planets (within a chart or between charts), rising sign and d-chart lagnas for the day, a System's Approach report, and many more. The Transit report has been significantly enhanced, too. You can now see daily, monthly, or three month reports showing entries into signs, nakshatras, and navamsas, kakshas, aspects, KP subs, and more.

Shri Jyoti Star has more new features than I can possibly cover here, but feel free to read my forthcoming review of it in the Mercury Direct section of The Mountain Astrologer.

Kepler 6.0

Kepler 6.0, from Cosmic Patterns, is a complete revamping of the user interface in Kepler. One of the most common criticisms of Kepler in years gone by was that while it kept growing in power, its user interface made it seem like an old DOS program instead of a Windows program. All of that has changed now.

Kepler 6.0's great new inter-face lift brings it into the 21st century. Entering charts is easier, and now you can use standard Windows pulldown menus and icons to select charts, maps, graphs, and interpretive reports, as well as to modify defaults, print or email output, etc. The program is much more interactive, e.g. when viewing a chart, you can change the aspect set or points shown and instantly see the changed chart. Customizing has become much easier, e.g. changing the size of charts, altering aspect orbs, etc. Among the many very significant enhancements is the ability to have the thickness of aspect lines change with orb, i.e. the stronger the aspect, the thicker the aspect line.

The AstroMaps functions have been augmented greatly. Kepler can now show Local Space, geodetic, and zodiac sign lines and includes a Paran listing. You can view and print larger maps, and after working with many maps, instantly return to any of the maps you created in the session. Each map shows many cities, and you can double the number of cities at the push of a button.

Kepler 6.0 includes many additional enhancements including a free numerology report, degree delineations for all chart points from 11 sources, more chart styles, point-and-click interpretations of planets by sign, and much more.

Stay tuned to this column for more on Kepler 6.0

The Professional Numerologist version 4.1.1

At long last, The Professional Numerologist, an excellent numerology program produced by Widening Horizons, is available for Windows PCs (and Macs using Parallels or Boot Camp).

The Professional Numerologist consists of four discrete modules: the Numerology Report, Relationship Report, Yeary Report and Numerologist Chart. Professional numerologists who simply want software to do their calculations will purchase the latter, but most people will want the three interpretive reports, all written by Matthew Oliver Goodwin, the very well respected numerologist and author.

The Numerology Report produces well-written reports for up to 20 people in a batch, and delineates the Life Path, Increased Energy and Karmic Debt added to the Current Name, the Expression, Soul Urge, and Birthday numbers, Challenge, Karmic Lessons, Modified Karmic Lessons, Maturity number, and numbers deleted in the Current Name, and the current Life Path period and Pinnacle, and the Personal Year. The Numerology Report is my favorite module because it does a fine job of interpreting each of the factors and is comprehensive and includes a wonderful and meaningful summary of the report.

The Yearly Report interprets your Personal Year, the Special Focus of the Year, the Essence, and each Personal Month, giving you guidance on how to make the most out of the energies of the year and each month. I find the content both clearly written and very useful.

The Relationship Report uses an interesting format that evaluates the First Impression, Adaptability, Sociability, Relations with Others, Emotional and Sexual patterns, Ability to Communicate, Ability to Give Love and Affection, Physical Compatibility, Approach to Material Affairs, and Ability to Earn a Living first for each person individually, and then how the two people's patterns in each area mesh. It also covers Mutual Ambitions and the influences for the year on both people and the relationship, and what you can expect from the relationship.

Any or all of the reports can be viewed onscreen (even tiled to see all four at once), printed, or saved to appropriately-named Word-compatible files.

This suite of numerology programs is well-designed, and you can see sample reports by clicking here.

International Astrology Software

I have sometimes been asked why I haven't reviewed more programs created outside of the United States.

There are many astrology programs written overseas, and I've actually seen and tested many of them. The majority fail my review criteria for the following reasons:

1. No English version. Since I write reviews for American journals, and am fluent only in English, I cannot review programs written in other languages with no English interface.

2. Too few features. Most American astrologers have no idea how competitive the astrology software market is in the U.S. Most of the programs offered here have many times more features than their counterparts in Europe. If I am sent an astrology program that is comparable in features to programs written 15 years ago in this country, I simply alert the author that they need to offer both unique and more diverse functions to make an offering in the U.S that will be well-received.

3. Inaccuracy and lack of atlas access. While most of the mainstream programs written in this country have both superb accuracy and full electronic atlases built in that automatically look up the correct coordinates and time zones for over 250,000 cities, most international astrology programs have less accuracy and no electronic atlas. This severely limits their useability and value.

4. Problematic interfaces and bugs. Some international programmers of astrology software are extremely sophisticated both in their understanding of astrology and of computer programming, but have no idea what the ordinary person needs in their software. As a result, many foreign programs, especially software that is written in Russia, have user-interfaces that are very difficult for the average person to use.

Additionally, I have run across foreign astrology programs that are both more buggy, and that use conventions that would confuse the American astrologer, such as the European date format and the 24 hour time format.

5. Difficulties in communication.. As a reviewer and software expert, I am generous with my feedback to software creators. I have been instrumental in helping companies both discover and resolve serious bugs, and in including more and improved functions in their programs. Corresponding with companies abroad has frequently been quite frustrating. Often my emails have not been responded to for months, and even more often reported (and serious) software bugs don't get fixed.

6. Copy protection. Because software piracy is much more commonplace in Europe and Asia than it is in the U.S., international astrology software producers often use copy protection methods to keep people from giving out copies of their programs to others. Unfortunately, copy protection methods can introduce many additional problems to using a program. In one case, I couldn't install one set of French programs even after hours of help from the software's creator, in another case a dongle (hardware inserted into a computer slot) was required but even then the software didn't always recognize it was present. Dealing with disruptive copy protection is an obstacle to reviewing a program.

7. Complete lack of cooperation. Some companies, e.g. the makers of Vedic astrology software in India, do not respond to my requests to review their software. In several cases, I've heard indirectly that the reason that they don't respond is that their software is too buggy and wouldn't pass the review process. Other companies want me to buy their programs, which is impossible for me given the number of programs that I review and the pay scale for astrology reviewers. These companies don't understand the incredible benefits gained by having me review their programs, including free publicity, expert feedback on bugs and design flaws, and important suggestions on how to improve and augment their programs.

I am very open to receiving and reviewing astrology programs written outside of the United States. In fact, I'd love to see more of them, because they often offer new, beautiful, and creative ways of presenting astrological techniques.

Discounts on Software

Software discounts starting January 2003: When you purchase astrology software through me, you will get:

1. My free expert guidance in choosing the right program.

2. The best pricing distributors are allowed to offer.

3. Free U.S. shipping, unless prohibited by the manufacturer, and for some programs, free Priority shipping.

4. Additional benefits. E.g. I offer a very inexpensive excellent transit report for purchasers of Kepler & Sirius, over 60 free beautiful extra artistic wheels for Solar Fire Gold, etc.

5. You are supporting my website, allowing me to continue posting astrology tutorials, software reviews, and much more.

6. Your software is fully registered to you and shipped to you directly from the manufacturer, with their full customer support as well as mine.

To go to my secure astrology software order form, click here.

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