My Solar Fire 5 Review from Mercury Direct

Important Note: Because Solar Fire 5 is now a 32 bit program, it requires Window 95, 98, or NT to run. The advantages of 32 bits include much faster calculations than previous versions of Solar Fire, increased stability, and long filenames.

Version 5 is a major upgrade, packed with many significant new features, and with enhancements of previous functions. The program is now bundled with the full ACS PC Atlas; therefore birthplace data will no longer have to be entered by hand. It also includes astro-mapping Astro*Carto*Graphy and Local Space with maps for the World, the major continents, and the United States. Giving it the greatest accuracy available today, Solar Fire 5 employs the Swiss Ephemeris by AstroDienst for all of its calculations, and has an extended date range of 10,000 years.

Several of the new features were made to be used together. For example, many astrologers want to view or print out two or three types of progressions (e.g. secondary, tertiary, and minor) in one listing or graph. With Solar Fire 5, you can now merge dynamic searches, as well as to look at events for two or more people in one list or graph.

If you want to run this type of job for every client, selecting and merging dynamic searches over and over again would become laborious. Enter the Astrologer's Assistant. This incredible tool is essentially a superb task recorder. You turn the recorder on, enter a series of jobs you want the program to do, and then name and save the whole set. From then on, every time you want to execute this series of tasks automatically, you simply choose the set and press Play (i.e. click on the Run Tasks button). You can even tell the program to execute a specific set of jobs every time you run Solar Fire, e.g. show you a graphic ephemeris or time graph for your own chart for today. For astrologers who want specific groups of printouts done for each of their clients, e.g. a birth chart, Solar Return, transit graph, bi-wheel with transits, and a secondary progressed chart, the Astrologer's Assistant is a godsend. Perhaps the most exciting module for many astrologers will be the Animate feature. You can select a single, bi-, tri-, or quad-wheel, or even a custom-designed page with graphs and tables, and then have the software "make it live." Each set of planets in each wheel will automatically move forward or backward in time, as fast or as slowly as you like. You can also press a key to step one increment at a time, in increments ranging from one second to several years. You may most often want to animate the bi-wheel, because then you can watch the transiting, progressed, directed, or profected planets move around a birth chart, and see the aspect lines form and disappear in time.

With Animate, you can place up to four different people's charts side-by-side on the screen, and watch their progressed or directed charts unfold. Or watch your own (or another's) secondary, tertiary, and minor progressed charts move forward in time, all on the same screen. Animating a page offers even more information, because you can watch graphs of elements, modes, and aspects change, as well as any of the available tables (which include planetary hours, lunar aspects, midpoint trees, dasas and bhuktis, mutual receptions, closest aspects, firdaria and other ancient techniques, and more). The Animate feature is both powerful and fun.

Another pair of new features that can easily be used together are the eclipse search and the eclipse mapping. The eclipse search allows you to find any eclipses that have occurred within a 5,000 year period, by date, Saros number, type of eclipse, or aspect to a specific zodiacal position or chart. You can then view the eclipse chart, as well as many details about the eclipse, such as duration, exact date and time, magnitude, zodiacal position, and aspects to a chart or position. If the eclipse occurred after 1951, you can then enter the astro-mapping module and see the exact eclipse path, including totality and partial eclipse lines, on a map of the World, the U.S., or of any continent.

Solar Fire 5 comes with many new custom-designed pages, and new elements to add to your own custom pages. The extra ring points page, for example, deserves special mention. Here you can select exactly what points you want to appear in an extra ring around a birth chart. For example, you could choose any mixture of major and minor asteroids, TransNeps, Arabic Parts, fixed stars, hypothetical points, midpoints, planetary nodes, lunar phases or eclipses prior to birth, or fixed zodiacal points; and place any of these points in the extra ring. You can create as many sets of extra points as you wish, for different purposes. The built-in Arabic Parts editor allows you to create both new Parts and Uranian planetary pictures, that you can also view in the extra ring.

The ancient astrology pages will appeal to many astrologers. There are tables of firdaria, Arabic lunar mansions, sect, Egyptian directions, hyleg, almutens, Greek lots (a.k.a. Arabic Parts), essential dignities, and fixed star aspects, as well as traditional square wheels. For beginning Jyotish students, there are basic Southern and Northern Vedic charts, and Vimshottari dasa and bhukti tables. Accessing all of these pages has become easier, as they are now organized by category in a directory tree format.

Most astrologers have still not exploited the incredible power of Solar Fire's page designer (added in version 4). Do you realize that you can add your own graphics and backgrounds to any page to create your own beautiful masterpieces? You can also move around and resize every table, graph, and wheel until each page is just what you envisioned.

The authors of Solar Fire have done many things in version 5 to make their users' lives easier. For example, when the time zone changes from daylight savings to standard (and back again), the software automatically gets this information from Windows and incorporates the change into Solar Fire, so that you won't have to change it manually twice a year. Want to keep regular backups of your chart files? Now all you have to do is select the "backup important files" option, and voila! you're protected from hard disk crashes and other computer failures.

If you prefer to select jobs by clicking on icons instead of using pull-down menus, you're in luck. The new version has an optional toolbar, which you can configure by selecting which icons/jobs you want to be shown, and their order. Viewing and changing the program's settings has been made much easier, too. You can go through all of the settings quickly and can, for example, alter your logo, preferred house system, default method of progression, or whether to use the true or mean node, effortlessly.

If you're connected to the Internet, you can readily email charts to anyone you want, either a graphic wheel or as data. You can go to the Solar Fire website to get the latest update at the click of a button. You can also export chart data for individual charts or groups of charts, so that they can be used in spreadsheet or database programs, etc.

For those interested in having their astrology software interpret charts for them, there is now a full synastry report module. It produces complete and well-written delineations of all of the interaspects between two people's charts. The quality of the text is excellent and comparable to stand-alone professional astrology report programs.

For those doing their own synastry work, the multiwheel superimposition feature will prove handy. Bi-wheel charts usually show two people's planets displayed in concentric rings, using the inner chart's ascendant for both rings. Now you can actually view bi-wheels with each ring having their own ascendant, enabling one to see, for example, conjunctions by house instead of just by sign.

Finally, Solar Fire 5 has enhanced the graphic ephemeris, by adding the ability to graph latitude and declination, and its ephemeris generator, which can now include Arabic Parts, asteroids, transiting midpoints, hypothetical planets, and the Ascendant and M.C.

Solar Fire 5 is perhaps the most advanced and complete astrology program on the planet, and yet remains so easy to use that both beginners and professionals alike will find it a total joy.

My Solar Fire 5 Review from American Astrology

Note: this is a portion (about 1/3) of the upcoming review I wrote for the September 2000 issue of American Astrology magazine. Please purchase the magazine when it comes out to see the full article.

The newest version, 5, adds major enhancements to Solar Fire. The program has been recompiled for 32 bits (and so requires Windows 95, 98, or NT), which makes all of its calculations and searches much faster. You can label files with long file names, and it's even more stable. Solar Fire 5 now uses the Swiss Ephemeris planetary algorithms from AstroDienst for its calculations, providing 10,000 years of the highest accuracy available today. The software also helps you to get instant updates to Solar Fire via the Internet, and you can email charts and chart data effortlessly to anyone in the world.

The program now comes bundled with the full ACS PC Atlas, the stand alone version that can be used with most other astrology programs, and includes longitudes, latitudes, time zones, and time changes for 252,000 places world wide. You'll never have to look them up again.

The interactivity of the program is better than ever with the new animated chart feature. You can view any single chart, or bi , tri , or quad wheel or even chart page, and watch the chart(s) and aspect lines (and aspect grids and other graphs and tables) change as the planets move forward or backwards in time. Imagine, for example, that you want to watch the outer planets transit your birth chart for the next few years. You can specify the planets and points you want to watch, the increments at which time moves (e.g., a day per step, seven weeks per step, a year per step, etc.), and control the rate of movement, or even manually move forward one step at a time. As you start the animation, you'll see the planets move around the chart and the aspect lines form and disappear. You can watch Secondary, Minor, Tertiary, and user defined progressions; Solar, Ascendant, Vertex and User Arc directions, Annual Profections, and Transits. You can also observe the sky unfold in real time. This is an excellently implemented module.

Solar Fire 5 adds basic astro mapping, making Solar Fire a truly complete program. You can view and print maps for Africa, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Europe, Middle East, South America, the UK, the U.S. and the world, with locality map and/or Local Space lines drawn in for the planets, and optionally for points such as asteroids.

I was particularly surprised and amazed at the depth of the included new Synastry Interpretations Report by Stephanie Johnson. This report interprets the compatibility of any two people, with the insightfulness and extensiveness one might expect from a professional level compatibility report.

My favorite new feature is called the Astrologer's Assistant. This tool essentially automates your work. Let's say that for one group of clients, you always want to print out a birth chart, progressed chart, Solar Return, and transit graph. You simply enter the Astrologer's Assistant, record this series of jobs once (by choosing them one by one), and push the Save button. From then on, you can run the same series at the push of a button. When you want to record a second sequence, you just follow the same steps and save them under a different name. What an incredible time and effort saver! You can even select one set of jobs to be run every time you enter Solar Fire, if you'd like (e.g., display your transits for the month).

The extra ring points feature allows you to display a chart with an extra ring around it, and place in that ring Arabian Parts, Fixed Stars, TransNeptunians and other hypothetical points, midpoints, the lunar phases or eclipses prior to birth, planetary nodes, major or minor asteroids, and fixed zodiacal points. You can completely control what points are displayed in the extra ring, so that whatever points you find meaningful can be accessed easily for any chart you calculate.

Solar Fire 5 is a masterpiece. Its awesome power is balanced by exceptional usability so that both novice astrologers and advanced professionals will be equally overjoyed to own it. Never has an astrology program been this impressive, and this easy to use.

And from my April SoftStar News online article:

The long awaited Solar Fire version 5 is about to be released, and it is a very major update! While the main additions to Solar Fire when it went to version 4 were the superb page designer and a wonderful graphic ephemeris, Version 5 adds many features users have wanted for years. Here are a few of my favorite additions:

1. Astro-Mapping. Finally, Solar Fire comes complete with a mapping module. You can create beautiful color maps for any continent, the World, and for the U.S. While the mapping lacks zooming and other details, it does both Astro*Carto*Graphy and Local Space mapping, and will meet the astro*mapping needs of most astrologers.

2. Animation. Here you can watch the planets move around the sky (and around a chart) in time. The animation features are very powerful, with speed adjustments, aspect lines drawn in as each aspect forms, animation of single, bi-, tri- or quad wheels, forward or backwards animation, and much more.

3. New Precision. Solar Fire 5 add the unsurpassed accuracy of Astrodienst Swiss Ephemeris. Now Solar Fire has the best planetary algorithms available.

4. Internetting. You can now easily email any charts or chart data to anyone with Solar Fire, which can be very useful. You can also automatically go to their website to update your software.

5. Eclipse Search. The program now can search for Solar and Lunar eclipses, in general, to specific zodiacal points, or those eclipses that aspect a specific person's chart (using any aspect set and any set of natal points). You can set the span of the scan, and see the exact zodiacal position, Saro's number, type of eclipse, aspects formed, exact date and time, duration of the eclipse (partial and total), umbral and penumbral magnitude, and a chart for any eclipse.

6. Synastry Report. Most programs anywhere near this powerful come with either no interpretation or rudimentary delineations, but Solar Fire 5 includes a truly powerful chart comparison report that can generate (depending upon the orbs you use) a 16 page excellently written printout!

7. The Astrologer's Assistant. I saved the best for last. The Astrologer's Assistant allows you to record a series of jobs (e.g. a birth chart, transit graph, Solar Return, natal report, etc.) and then save the set to be re-executed for any chart that you choose, whenever you want. You can create as many of these "tasks" as you want to, for different purposes, and save yourself literally hours of time by automating all of your procedures. I love this feature!

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