When the Solar Fire astrology software was first released, it was revolutionary. It was the first astrology program designed from the ground up as a Windows program.
That meant that it was easier to use, had a lovely visual design, and created excellent graphics. For example, charts were incredibly easy to read, and many of their features, like the colors of the planets, aspects, and signs, were simple to customize.
Even at its inception, it was clear that Solar Fire was created by artists, and not just programmers, who kept the needs of those who would use the program as the top priority. After having seen so much astrology software that had been designed by programmers who had no esthetic sense and no real understanding of how to make software more user-friendly, Solar Fire was a revelation.
But Solar Fire goes far beyond that. So many of its functions and modules are "best of breed", i.e. the best implementations of specific features available.
So I was inspired today to write this article on why Solar Fire captured both my heart and my mind.
Very early on in my life as an astrologer, I had a pivotal life event that permanently transformed me. (What started off as the worst day of my life became the best day of my life.)
When I looked back at the time period when that event happened, I saw that there was a "pile-up" of (transiting planet) aspects, many major transits happening at once.
The ability to see the superimposition of aspects is crucial (i.e. the times when transits overlap each other). And Solar Fire's Time Map is the best depiction of this of any astrology program. You can select the transiting (and progressed and directed) planets, you can add eclipses and a slew of other events, you can set the time period to depict to as short as one day or a whole lifetime or more, you can turn on and off entering and leaving dates...
The Time Map is simply a brilliant, brilliant tool in the hands of virtually any experienced astrologer.
(Because of its excellent, I created a YouTube video about Solar Fire's Time Map feature, which you can view by clicking here.)
2. The Page Designer.
For Western astrology software, Solar Fire's Page Designer is the best in both ease-of-use and versatility. Making a chart wheel bigger or smaller, adding a table (from the largest choice of tables of any Western astrology program), adding graphics including background graphics, arranging objects on a page, all of these are simple to do. The Page Designer is phenomenal.
It enables me to create pages that are perfect for a variety of uses, e.g. incredibly effective compatibility analysis pages, pages for natal chart work, etc. It's a wonderful tool, by far the best in its class.
[I created two videos showing the features and operation of Solar Fire's Page Designer which you can watch by clicking here and here.]
3. Importing Charts and Bios from AstroDatabank.
Astrologers who own AstroDatabank are especially blessed because not only do they have the largest collection of accurately times charts, but also detailed biographical material for each chart. Most of the major Western astrology programs that can import the chart data from AstroDatabank cannot import the biographical notes.
Solar Fire, on the other hand, does a complete import, enabling you to not only read all of the biographies, but even search for specific words or phrases in them, as well as use the Chart Search module (that I'll describe below) to conduct research on the imported database.
4. The Electional Search.
In Solar Fire Electional Search is actually a module that enables you to search the past or the future for simple or advanced astrological configurations. It gives you the ability to search for planets entering signs or houses, arriving at specific degrees, forming aspects to either other transiting planets or the planets in a natal chart, at midpoints, in specific aspect patterns (like T-squares, Grand Trines, etc.), etc.
The searches are incredibly fast and easy to create, and you can even design complex searches with AND/OR logic, such as find when the Moon is in Scorpio and the Moon is New and the Moon is square Mars.
Once the search is complete, you can view charts for each time the criteria are met or see an animation for any of the dates. This is an outstanding feature.
5. Eclipse Search.
In this module you not only can search for Solar and Lunar eclipses (for any date range), but you can search for eclipse that form aspects to a natal chart. I.e. which eclipses are going to impact a person's chart.
As you probably know, eclipses happen often, and in general don't impact people unless the eclipse conjuncts or opposes (within a degree) a planet in a person's birth chart. Solar Fire makes it effortless to find the eclipses that will impact each person. You can specify which aspects (and orbs) to use, and which natal points to include. Amazing!
6. The User Interface
I wrote the article, The User Interface and Astrology Software in part because I was so inspired by the quality of Solar Fire's user interface.
For those who don't know what a user interface is, it is simply the way a program is designed (which enables users to interact with the software).
In other words, how the menus work, what you can do with the mouse, how easy it is to move charts and other graphics around the screen and make them smaller or larger, how fast you can learn to use the program, how easy it is to customize its features to your liking (colors, calculations, etc.) and such.
Solar Fire's menu system, Page Designer, right-click menu options, and mouse options (especially in the Solar Maps module) are all examples of superb program design.
Please read my article on the user interface, by clicking here, to understand just what makes Solar Fire so user-friendly.
7. The Wheel Designer
While Solar Fire's Wheel Designer is definitely not the easiest module to learn to use, it is incredibly powerful.
Very few programs offer any wheel design features, and Solar Fire's are the most extensive and the best implemented.
Because using the Wheel Designer takes some technical skill, effort and study, I strongly suggest downloading the Solar Fire version 5 manual here as it documents its features in much better detail than the current manual. The Wheel Designer is covered (in the version 5 manual) in Chapter 38, pages 267-279.
What can you do with the Wheel Designer? You can modify any pre-existing wheels, increasing or decreasing the glyph sizes, circle diameters, etc. as well as specify specific sets of planets, aspects, etc. to always use with specific wheels. You can also create your own chart wheels (single, bi-, tri-, and quad-wheels).
I've used Solar Fire's Wheel Designer to design many wheels, and can say that it's definitely worth exploring.
8. Solar Fire's Graphic Ephemeris
The graphic ephemeris in Solar Fire is so simple to use and so powerful that I decided to create a new article showing each of its features and options, and a sample screen.
Backing up your data easily might not be a thrilling feature of an astrology program, but if you need to change computers, or your hard drive crashes, you'll be very thankful that Solar Fire has the best and easiest backup feature of all astrology programs.
To use it, all you have to do is run Solar Fire Gold, and click on Utilities, and then select Backup Chart Files or Backup All User Files. (The latter backs up all of your personalized settings, e.g. house system, colors, pages you've created, etc.)
You can back up your data to a flash drive, CD, or external hard drive.
(Please do so regularly, so if your computer does crash, you still have all of your data intact.)