Hardware and Software Considerations for Astrologers
Click here to go to my article on: How to Get the Best Astrology Software
How to Choose an Astrology Program
by Hank Friedman
The question that I'm most often asked by astrologers is, "With all of the astrology software out there, how can I choose the program that's best for me?" The purpose of this article is to help you to understand the issues at hand, and what choices are available to you.
Please read my recently updated article (September 2006) on the computer hardware best suited for astrology software by clicking here.
If, like many beginning astrologers and students, you are on a very limited budget and need to get a program that is either free or very inexpensive, please beware of "bargain-basement" programs (those that sell for under $100) and shareware. At least 90% of these programs simply do not calculate charts correctly. I've had readers write in to me raving about the great deal they got on a cheap program, only to find that all of the Ascendants were as much as 20 degrees off, and wrong for most of the charts they've painstakingly inputted.
Let's focus on some products in this price range that ARE worthwhile: The Electronic Astrologer Does Your Natal Horoscope is an excellent birth chart interpretation program for $59.95 and the Electronic Astrologer Reveals Your Future is an excellent transit and progression interpretation program for $59.95 both available thru me, Astrology for Windows is very easy to use and fine at both displaying and printing chart wheels, biwheels, transit hit lists, Solar and Lunar Return charts, aspect and interaspect tables, etc. and has the longitudes and latitudes for 2700 cities included, all for $26.50 from Halloran Software (available thru me), [Note: You can try out Astrology for Windows before you buy it, by downloading it from http://www.halloran.com. Astrolog 5.2 for Windows (and the Mac) is a free program that is a remarkably powerful, albeit quite a bit harder to use, with excellent accuracy and a wide range of calculations but no atlas or time changes (and it is designed more for onscreen work than for printing) that you can download the Windows or Mac version for free at this URL Download Astrolog Free.
Most of the more advanced programs cost between $130 and $300, and either perform many types of calculations, or prepare well-written astrological interpretations. The words either/or in the last sentence are important, as professional astrology programs almost always are either excellent at a range of calculations or they interpret one area of astrology (like birth charts or relationships or transits). Don't expect a program to do both. The exception to this statement is the program Kepler, which is a top-notch calculation program that includes many well-written smaller interpretive reports and couple of large reports too. Most professional programs include longer time ranges for their calculations, and have built-in electronic atlases, to look up longitude, latitude, time zone, and time changes for you (but ask!).
What many astrologers don't realize is they can get free demos and printout samples (and copies of reviews) for virtually every program sold. Why buy a program and later find out that you don't like the way it prints charts, or interprets them? If you can get to an astrology convention, or go to a local distributor who can show you how several companies' programs work, you'll be able to make a much wiser choice. At least get (and run) demo disks of the programs you're interested in or look at sample output. Don't let anyone talk you into a program you don't like. Even the distributors who try to be objective have their own favorite programs, but your personal tastes and needs are unique, and in the end you have to trust your own judgement. (Note: Besides contacting me and receiving my expert help in selecting the best software for you, you can look at my astrology software reviews on this website, all of which were published in The Mountain Astrologer or other astrology journals.)
D. Areas of Specialization.
In many cases, it will be easy to choose the right program because only one program has the feature or capability that you need, or one program is far superior to every other program for that task. Here are some examples:
1. Locality Work. In previous versions of this article, I recommended Solar Maps at $200 (available thru me) as the program of choice for studying the astrological effects of locational shifts. The program is simple to use, zooms in on any area, can plot cities, and does Astro*Carto*Graphy, Cyclo*Carto*Graphy, Local Space, and Paran maps, eclipse paths, local space charts, and Geodetic charts, and can draw and interpret lines for both the major points and for many fixed stars, asteroids, Uranian points, the comet Chiron, Vulcan, and more. Since I wrote this article, many great locational programs have become available. Please read my extensive comparison of them by clicking here.
2. Medical Interpretations. Astro Med, Medscan, and the Medical Forecast are the only astrological programs that analyze a chart for health factors and print out detailed interpretive reports. They are each priced at $200 from Cosmic Patterns (available thru me). Cosmic Patterns also markets the only program that does astrological Flower Essence & Gem delineations ($150) and the best Karmic Insight Report ($125). All of these interpretation programs require the purchase/ownership of Kepler at $200 or the new Kepler for Windows at $300.
3. Advanced Predictive Analyses. StarTrax for Windows at $150 from A.I.R. Software (available thru me) offers calculations and techniques not available anywhere else, including dynamic aspect lists from Fortuna or the Angles to chart points, transits to and from midpoints, a Time Tunnel graphical representation of predictive events and their convergences, and the ability to work in a variety of coordinate systems, create your own user points (and formulae), and also search for predictive events to all points, including the asteroids, TransNeps and user points, using transits and many types of progressions and arcs.
4. Ancient Techniques. For astrologers who wish to test the ancient Greek and Latin predictive astrological techniques being uncovered by the Project Hindsight translations, ChartWheels
3 for Windows - presently being developed -- from Astrolabe (available thru me) is the only program that will be able to calculate prefections, Alfridaria, Decennia, and other ancient analyses.
5. Color Charts. Astrologers who want to view and print out their charts in color can use any Windows program to do so, but WinStar ($250) and WinStar Plus ($300) from Matrix Software (available thru me) offer the largest number of styles and best quality color printouts. In any case, if you are particular about what you want on a chart page, remember that most companies' programs offer very few styles of wheels to choose from, so look first. Both versions of WinStar are also the only programs that offer combined hit lists, where you can view (and print) the transits and/or progressions for two or more people in one listing, and they include astrolocality functions along with all of the other major calculation techniques.
6. Laptops. For those who travel, and want an astrology program for their portable computer, Solar Fire 4 ($250 from Astrolabe available thru me) is the best choice. It has large, very clear and readable chart wheels, tables, and astrological symbols, you can easily customize the colors for the planets, signs and aspects, it's fast even on less powerful systems, has a tremendous range of functions, and is incredibly well designed for working onscreen.
7. Vedic Software. To fill the growing interest in Eastern Astrology, programmers have created many fine Vedic astrology programs. Look at my review of the best Vedic programs on this website, or contact me for more guidance.
E. Ease of Use.
While many astrologers are very computer literate, and can find their way around any program that they buy, most astrologers are not as familiar with nor as comfortable with computers and software. That's why, incidentally, Windows (and Macintosh computers) were developed, to make computers easier for everyone to use. Not all Windows astrology programs are created equal, however, and some are MUCH easier to use than others. If you are a novice or a little afraid of your PC, get a program that's simple to run, like Solar Fire 4 -- which I chose as "the Best Astrology Program of 1995" -- (described in the paragraph above), or the inexpensive AstrolDeluxe for Windows -- reviewed in the last issue of American Astrology -- ($149 from Halloran Software available thru me), or the upcoming Kepler for Windows ($300 from Cosmic Patterns available thru me), which comes with a complete electronic World time change atlas worth $200 by itself.
If your needs are basic, and all you need are birth charts, transit hit lists, return charts, and progressed charts, most professional programs will do. If, on the other hand, you want to (or will want to) explore a wider range of techniques, and want a program that will keep on meeting your needs, you will need to get one of the most powerful and versatile programs. Of the programs mentioned in this article, Solar Fire 4, WinStar, and StarTrax for Windows each offer an incredibly wide range of astrological techniques, and continue to be developed and improved.
When I started using astrology software in 1978, there was only one company producing astrology programs (Matrix Software). Today astrologers are blessed with so many more choices of fine programs, with incredible graphics, great features, and amazingly low prices. You get a lot for your money at every price range, and can be thankful to all of the hardworking and dedicated programmers who have designed these wonderful creations.
Please email me if you want help in selecting the best software for you. Or Click here to go to my article on: How to Get the Best Astrology Software.
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