Reviews of Solar Fire version 3, 4, and 5
Solar Fire 5
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.
Solar Fire 5
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.
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
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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