Solar Fire 3.0 and 4.0

created by Graham Dawson

Note: It is worth reading both reviews, because all of the features in version 3 were kept, and added to, in version 4.

Solar Fire 3

Until recently, astrologers have had to choose between easy to use astrology programs and more advanced, and complicated, programs that had all of the features they needed. In March of 1995, Astrolabe will release Solar Fire 3.0, one of the simplest to use and most comprehensive astrology programs ever published. It's list price is expected to be $250, and it will run under Microsoft Windows on IBM compatible computers with 4 megabytes of RAM.

Installing Solar Fire is effortless, and once you're in the program you can use your mouse (pointing and clicking) or pull-down menus and hotkeys to make your choices. All of its functions are easily accessible, and you won't have to learn any complicated keystrokes to get the results you want. You can import your files from other programs (at present Blue*Star, Nova, Quick Charts, and earlier versions of Solar Fire), and Solar Fire 3 can also read Nova and ChartWheels files directly.

You can readily customize Solar Fire to your liking, specifying the colors for the planets, signs, and aspects; your present location, the chart credits, your preferred house system and zodiac, the aspects used and their orbs, and the type of chart wheel displayed at startup. You can select the planets and points you want to be displayed, aspected, transiting, and transited. You can even create many sets of defaults, e.g. different aspect sets or different sets of transiting planets, and switch between them easily. When you upgrade the program in the future, Solar Fire will preserve your settings, so you won't have to redo them.

Because everything Solar Fire does is shown on your computer screen, you can easily rectify charts, view different points or aspects, and see interpretations right before your eyes. You can even read interpretations for transit and progressed hits onscreen. Interpretative text can be edited and added to, printed out, and sent to a file for word processing. Chart wheels can be saved in a resizable format, imported into desktop publishing programs, and printed in color. Solar Fire offers many types of wheels and tables (for both viewing and printing): single chart wheels, two wheels side by side, aspect and interaspect grids, and bi-, tri-, and quad wheels.

A major new feature is the Wheel & Dial Designer. Here you can create your own chart wheels, changing the placement and size of the symbols, circles, lines, etc. The Designer is much easier to use than other chart design programs; most novices will be able to fashion their own wheels effectively. Even without a manual or help file (both of which will be present in the shipping version of Solar Fire 3), I was able to create just the style of single wheels and biwheels I wanted.

Solar Fire 3 performs a very wide range of precise astrological calculations. Like Solar Fire 2.1, it can create natal, event, secondary progressed and solar arc charts (with converse and precession-corrected options), composite and relationship charts, returns to any planet or point, and optionally include the comet Chiron and the six major asteroids. Among its new features are draconic charts; tertiary and minor progressed charts, 5 methods of progressing the M.C., coalescent charts, 21 types of pre-natal charts, charts for any phase of the transiting or progressed Moon; charts for the rising, setting, culminating, or anti-culminating of any point; and Transpluto, the TransNeptunians, the Vernal point, and Vulcan.

Its powerful predictive searches generate timed lists of transits (to transits, natal, progressed positions), secondary, minor, and tertiary progressions (to progressed and natal positions); solar, ascendant, and vertex arc aspects; and parallels of declination and latitude, all with entering and leaving orbs; plus planetary stations, house and sign ingresses, and eclipses. You can use different aspect sets for transits and progressions, save search configurations to reuse later, queue several searches before executing them, view a chart wheel for any event (Great!), and see the aspects an eclipse makes to a natal chart.

Solar Fire 3 has several additional modules that extend its usefulness considerably. In addition to Solar Fire 2's many powerful reports, such as midpoint trees, sorted aspects, rulership listings, etc., it adds an ephemeris generator, a TimeMap module, and several new reports. The very powerful Ephemeris Generator can display and print out ephemeris pages for any time period and ayanamsha, and geo- or heliocentric positions. It can show positions in longitude, latitude, declination, and right ascension, plus daily motion, for the inner planets, outer planets, the asteroids and Chiron, and hypothetical points. You can calculate positions for every day, or any number of days apart (e.g. every ten days). The TimeMap module graphs all predictive events (transit and progressed hits, ingresses, stations, and eclipses) as they occur throughout the year.

The Fixed Star Aspect and Paran reports display the aspects and parans made between fixed stars and natal planets and angles. The Arabic Parts report lists the parts' positions and their aspects to natal points, while the Planetary Nodes report shows node positions and daily travel, as well as aspects to planets and angles. The Essential Dignities report, for horary astrologers, shows the almutens of the houses, as well as the ruler, exaltation, triplicity, term, face, detriment, fall, and weighting for each planet.

In the new Planetarium, you can observe the Celestial Sphere for any date with the stars and planets in place. The sky can be viewed from Equatorial, Ecliptic, or Local coordinates, with polar and horizontal orientations. When you click on a planet, it shows you the nearest star. Clicking on Show Info gives you a raft of astronomical data on a star, including its magnitude, spectral class, longitude and latitude, rise and set times, and, if available, it's nature (e.g. mercury/mars nature). The shipping version of Solar Fire will have longer interpretations for about 70 fixed stars.

Solar Fire 3 was still under development as I tested it for review. Nevertheless, it was remarkably bug free and most of the features were fully operational. I did not get to examine several features that are promised for the shipping version of Solar Fire 3: an extensive context-sensitive help system, interpretations for more of the transits and progressions, additional styles of chart wheels, Lilith, the parallax-corrected moon, local space charts, and more advanced TimeMap features. Astrolabe is also adding the new ACS Mini-Atlas, which will automatically retrieve longitude, latitude, time zone, and time change data for over 14,000 places worldwide.

Solar Fire 3 is an outstanding astrology program. I have never seen a piece of software so easy to use, yet so powerful. The promise computers made to astrology, to enable anyone to explore the length and breadth of our vast field without struggle or time-consuming calculations, has finally come true.

Solar Fire 4

Created by Graham Dawson and Stephanie Johnson

$250 for the full program (no longer bundled with the ACS mini-atlas)

$149 to upgrade from Solar Fire version 2 $79 to upgrade from Solar Fire version 3

The new version 4.0 of Solar Fire full of enhancements and new features, while retaining the same easy-to-use elegant interface. Already the friendliest, and one of the most powerful, astrological programs around, Solar Fire is now just that much better.

The centerpiece of the new update is the Page Designer, a tool for building your own screens and printed pages. Imagine being able to position any number of chart wheels, tables, graphs, aspect grids, logos, captions, graphics, midpoint trees, and strip sorts (a bar of positions for any harmonic) wherever you want on a page, and save each page to reuse whenever you want. You can effortlessly resize each object (e.g. table, wheel, or graph) on a page, insert or delete objects, and even change the size of the page itself.

The makers of Solar Fire 4 have generously included a great many options in the page designer. You can choose from a variety of aspect listings, including tables of the strongest aspects within one or between two charts, Arabian Part, Fixed Star, and asteroid aspects, aspects made by the Moon on the date of birth, interaspects, grids, and more. Among the tables available for ancient astrology are planetary sects, essential dignities, planetary hour and day, mutual receptions, two types of firdaria, and dignity/almuten scores. You can insert any number of single, bi-, tri-, and quad-wheels per page, and the program comes with several excellent multiple wheel pages, including one containing twelve wheels! You can add a table of the names and symbols for each of the signs, or boxes with the present date, the name of the page form, and your own text. The bar graphs show the number of points in each element, mode, or ray quite colorfully.

Finally, the page designer offers two "flexible" tables, one for aspects and one for planetary positions, where you can select exactly what columns of data you want in each table, and the order of each column. For the flexible aspect table, for example, you can select columns with graphs or data that show you which aspects in a chart (or between two charts) occur more often (and less often) than by chance. You can add columns indicating the orbs you've set for the aspects, the aspect names, abbreviations, and glyphs. The flexible planet table is even more powerful, with options like Gauquelin sectors, planetary north and south nodal positions and speed, antiscia, the position of points in any modulus (e.g. 90 degrees), altitude, azimuth, declination, right ascension, latitude, daily travel, house rulership, and each point's dispositor and its house, as well as the more common factors such as house position, sign position, longitude, glyph, and name. All in all, people will have a field day with the page designer, creating all of the pages that they've wanted to see for years.

You can also now modify the colors for each point, aspect, and sign from a larger palette of up to thousands of colors, and even create new colors with the greatest of ease and enjoyment, using the new color editor. If you have a color printer, you're in for a real treat, as all of the colors can be printed in chart wheels and tables, too.

There are several other very important additions to Solar Fire 4.0. One of the most useful is the graphic ephemeris. While this module has all of the features one would expect, such as the ability to set the modulus (such as 45 or 90 degrees) and to show lines for the radix planetary positions, it also is able to show graphic ephemeride for transits, any type of progression, and for directions. But it's most clever feature is that when a transit or progressed line crosses the line of a natal point, it prints the aspect glyph for whatever aspect is formed. What a great idea! For me, it finally made graphic ephemeride both understandable and useful.

The already very powerful Dynamic Search function has been significantly enhanced. It already had a large range of capabilities including transits to natal, transit, progressed, and directed positions; progressed to natal and progressed, directions to natal, entering and leaving orbs, stations, eclipses, ingresses to house and sign, parallels of declination and latitude, and direct, precessed, and converse searches. Newly added are: mundane primary directions, transits and progressions by and to any number of midpoints, and transits and progressions to fixed stars, Arabian Parts, and asteroids. Solar Fire 4 includes an additional 38 asteroids, to be used in both natal charts and dynamic searches.

One feature that will be very useful for research is Planet Search. Here you can search your chart file for planets or other points in a specific sign, house, zodiacal position (e.g. 5 degrees Aries), or aspect to another point. You can even combine two or more criteria with and/or joinings, to create queries like "Who has Moon in Cancer and Sun sextile Mars". You can also search the comments that you've attached to charts for specific text.

The only important function missing from Solar Fire 4.0 is is the capacity to do mapping. For those who want eclipse path, Astro*Carto*Graphy, and other maps, you'll have to purchase Solar Maps, which works well alone or from within Solar Fire, and is the most capable mapping program in the World.

Other nice additions to the program include the expanded interpretations, well-written delineations of planets in signs that have more depth and information. Editing and adding to the interpretations has been made much easier in this update. In fact, without referring to help screens or manuals at all, I was able to modify an interpretation effortlessly. For those who have wanted additional sophisticated techniques, you can now define any number of additional aspects you want the program to use, as well as use aspects with orbs by planet, unidirectional orbs, and aspects by sign. The improved rectify assist allows you to generate charts for many different times and view each new chart as its created, plus step forward or backwards in time for whatever increment you wish (e.g. 5 minute increments) and to specify the exact degrees and minutes of arc of the Ascendant for a chart. Solar Fire 4 adds arc transform charts, Johndro and Geodetic charts, Wynn-Key and progressed return charts, and a report on the natal position and aspects to natal points made by points used by Charles Jayne and other astrologers such as Pan, Isis, Dark Moon W'math, and several others.

All in all, Solar Fire 4.0 is a very worthwhile and powerful update. Its new Page Designer will please novices and advanced astrologers alike, and its other additional enhancements will meet the needs of many a professional astrologer.

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