Solar Fire Deluxe

by Graham Dawson and Stephanie Johnson of Esoteric Technologies Pty Ltd

Solar Fire Deluxe is a wonderful upgrade. It adds many great new features as well as important enhancements of existing functions. The authors have thoughtfully included capabilities that will appeal to everyone, as well as more specialized and advanced modules. Upgrading from a previous version of Solar Fire is easy, because at the time of installation, the program allows you to import all your previous settings (e.g. house system, aspect set, wheel style, default place, etc.) as well as the wheels or pages you've designed, into the new version. It also can import and convert to the new file format all of your chart files. This feature is so well designed that it allows you to choose to overwrite files in the new version with the same name, or never overwrite them, or choose whether to use the old or new setting or file on a case by case basis.

One of the most appealing new features is the program's ability to preview charts, via its Chart Preview, in many places in the program. When you open a chart file, if you click on any chart in the list, you can see a preview of the chart appear. As you move down any list, each chart is shown in the preview window. Similarly, on the main screen, you can see a preview of any of the charts in the calculated charts listing. After doing a time or chart file search, you can see previews of any of the charts in the results window, i.e. that meet the search criteria. (Click here to see Preview Chart) The Chart Preview also shows you whether the chart has been saved or not, and whether it has any events or comments attached to it.

Another really valuable asset is the improved ability to search for a person in all of your chart files at once, and then preview any chart in the resulting list. Solar Fire Deluxe has a new file system that saves comments and an unlimited number of life events in the main chart file. This enables you to keep all of a person's important experiences in one place and you can instantly see biwheels of each event around the natal chart in Solar Fire's biwheel animation module.

One of my personal favorites is the ability to "highlight" the aspect lines drawn in a chart wheel. The highlighting feature allows you to control the thickness of the aspect lines to a remarkable degree: you can select from many options how the closeness of the orb of each aspect thickens a line (i.e. the tighter the orb, the thicker the line), from a linear thickening, to one based on the square root or square root squared, or only highlight partile aspects, or actually specify for each degree of orb how thick the line should be. You can also choose to have the software draw lines between conjunct planets. Finally, this function wonderfully allows you to show separating aspects as dotted lines. Click here to see a wheel with highlighted aspects. All of these are great features that enable you to instantly see the strength of aspect lines and whether they are applying or separating. Wonderful!

The place where highlighting really shines, especially the displaying of separating aspects as dotted lines, is in Solar Fire's superb animation module. You can watch, for example, the transits move around the natal chart, and watch their aspect lines thicken as they get stronger, and then turn to dotted lines when the transiting planet's aspect starts separating from the natal planet. Truly excellent!

Perfectly complementing highlighting aspects is the ability to filter aspect lines. Filtering means to show only some of the aspect lines, instead of all of them. The filtering options include the ability to display only one type of aspect line (e.g. trines), one type of aspect harmonic lines (e.g. hard aspects or quintiles or septiles, etc.), or only applying or separating lines, or only aspects to a specific point, or only a specific aspect pattern (e.g. ranging from simple T-Squares through to the more complex Kite and Star of David chart patterns), or only aspects within a specific orb or percentage of maximum orb.

While you probably will choose a style of highlighting to use for every chart, you will most likely use the filtering feature as a way of quickly analyzing charts onscreen for specific types of aspects. That's why the filtering can be set to turn off when you close the filtering window. Note: if you are running Windows 2000 or XP, you can make the Aspect Highlighting & Filtering window transparent, so that you can easily see the charts underneath.

There are actually too many enhancements in Solar Fire Deluxe to cover them all in this review, but among them are the ability to create several birth charts in a row without leaving the data entry screen, and the ability to create several subsidiary charts (e.g. returns, progressed charts, etc.) again from within the appropriate screen -- you just hit the new Apply button each time you want a chart to be calculated. Backing up charts files and restoring them to Solar Fire is now simple, too. Because most screens can be resized and positioned, you can arrange Solar Fire's windows to see, for example, a Time Map and birth chart at the same time.

It has become easy to select which transiting or progressed planets you want displayed in the outer ring of a biwheel. You can also, while viewing any chart or table, edit the settings for it, e.g. change the aspect set, orbs, modulus, frame style, points used, etc. and then save the new settings. You can save wheels, pages, and graphic ephemeris screens to the PDF format, which is ideal for use in publishing, and can be scaled to any size. The creators of Solar Fire have even added a whole new set of interpretations - of progressed charts -- to the new version! (Click here to see a section of the Progressed Report)

For those who create and save customized predictive searches -- e.g. transits by the outer planets for four years -- the new version allows you to specify (and save for future sessions) whether you want the search to begin on a fixed date, the current date (or the start of the day, month, quarter, half year, year or any number of days before or after from the current date), or the birth date (or any of the intervals, e.g. year before, days after the birth date). This feature will be invaluable to those who want their searches to automatically begin at a specific date.

Solar Fire Live is an important new capability added to Solar Fire. In order to use this feature, you must be connected to the internet. Solar Fire Live notifies you when new updates to Solar Fire become available (and allows you to automatically install them), when and where workshops on Solar Fire will occur, the latest news and reviews of Solar Fire, a Tips and Tricks and Frequently Asked Questions column, links to online astrological tutorials and a wealth of other reference materials, and a forthcoming Charts in the News page, showing the astrological charts of newsworthy events and people.

In order to meet the growing interest in Vedic astrology, Solar Fire Deluxe has added several Vedic features. When you create a Vedic chart, if you haven't switched to the Sidereal Zodiac, the program alerts you and assists you in choosing the Sidereal Zodiac. The program now defaults to the most accepted ayanamsha (Lahiri), instead of the seldom-used Fagan/Bradley ayanamsha. You can now create any of 20 divisional charts easily with Solar Fire, including Iyer's variation on the D-11 chart. You can also, at the click of a button, switch a chart back and forth between the Tropical and Sidereal zodiacs.

Two of the most powerful additions to Solar Fire Deluxe, which share a lot in common, are the Chart Search and The Electional Search. Chart Search looks for astrological factors in the charts on file, while the Electional Search looks for the same factors in the sky, for specified date and time ranges. In both cases, you can combine two or more searches with logic operators like AND or OR or NOT, e.g. search for charts or dates with Mars conjunct Saturn AND Mars in Aries.

The Chart Search can search the chart file that is opened, or all of the chart files, or just selected chart files. You can search chart files for a huge number of factors including person's name, birth date, birth time, time zone, birth place, longitude or latitude of the birth place, comments, number of days until their birthday, coordinate system, house system, birth time accuracy rating, the file the chart is in, and more.

Both Chart Search and Electional Search allow you to search for all of the basic astrological factors, such as planets in houses or signs or aspects, and you can restrict aspect searches to applying, separating, or partile, as well as search for phases between planets. Searching by Dignity allows you to look for ancient factors such as triplicity, term, face, peregrine, is planet of hour or day, accidental dignity, combust, Cazimi, under the Sun's beams, and Oriental. Horary consideration searches include Void-of-Course Moon, Sun above horizon, Moon waxing or fast or in the Via Combusta, and the Ascendant near a sign boundary. You can also search for dispositors and house rulers, and planets greater, equal, or less than a particular position in longitude, latitude, RA, speed, declination, azimuth, or altitude.

The planetary patterns search finds the following patterns: T-square, grand trine, Thor's hammer, grand cross, kite, mystic rectangle, hard rectangle, focused Yod, rosetta, square key, diamond, stretched pentagram, grand quintile, square key, hele (trines joined on one end by a semisextile and a square on the other end), double yod key, and yod. Wow!

By clicking on the Show Advanced Options checkbox, additional choices appear, you can preface most of the searches with: the modern, traditional, hierarchical, or esoteric ruler of, the almuten of, or the antiscia or contra-antiscia of. For example, instead of searching for Jupiter in the First House, you could search for the traditional ruler of Jupiter in the First House (i.e. the dispositor of the sign Jupiter is, in by traditional rulerships).

You can use Electional Search to find the birth data for a person whose chart (but not their data) is printed in a book or magazine. Then you can construct the chart with extra points, look at harmonics or divisional charts, etc. You can also save and restore any specific search conditions that you create, to use at a later date.

Solar Fire Deluxe has so many nice touches within these two search methods. While building a set of search criteria, for example, you can add new searches, replace old searches, clear all of the search criteria, and delete specific searches at the push of a button. You can change the location (i.e. time zone and coordinates) for any search, select the aspect set, and specify any time range for the search to the minute for both the beginning and the end of the search.

For the more technically-minded astrologer, Solar Fire Deluxe has added age and age + 1 harmonic charts, longitude equivalent declination charts, direction arc multipliers for Solar, Ascendant, and Vertex directions, precessed and/or converse transit charts, and in the Dynamic Searches, Jayne's directions of declination, void-of-course Moon events (last aspect and sign ingress), and van Dam primary directions.

Finally, Solar Fire Deluxe adds new wheels, such as tri- and quad-wheels that show degrees and minutes for every point in each ring., has an aspect analysis report that includes all of the aspect patterns (e.g. rosetta) present in a chart, and a display of the configurations that make up each pattern. Additionally, the cursor for the graphic ephemeris shows date and zodiacal degree and you can move forward or backward in time while viewing a graphic ephemeris, as well as see a lifetime graph of declination arc directions

Solar Fire Deluxe has indeed earned its name. It is an awesomely powerful and versatile program with more features than most astrologers will ever use! Its enhancements will empower both novices and advanced practitioners, and keep Solar Fire in its place as one of the most valuable astrology programs ever created. Bravo!

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