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Comparative review - observatory planning software

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#26 tomdean

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 10:52 PM

Mark,

Thank you for providing a better answer than I can. I agree completely with all of your answer.

I was very disappointed by the casual neglect Thomas Fowler gave in his review. (bite my tongue!)

Tom Dean
 

#27 gdd

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 01:02 AM

Hi Mark,

The OP said SkyTools was "easier to learn" and "more intuitive". Would you say the SkyTools UI is designed to hide functionality unless you know how to activate it (such as right clicking or special tricks such as typing the letter "i")? While this would present a less cluttered view and would make beginners tasks simpler, some may conclude certain advanced functionality does not exist if they do not dig deep enough or look in the wrong places. Like others have pointed out, it is a good idea to ask for help.

Gale
 

#28 Mark Martin

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 09:32 AM

Hi, Gale.

As I indicated at the beginning of my letter, there is an avalanche of documentation associated with SkyTools that the author of the review seemed to be completely unaware of. And this documentation is not hidden. There is a small dialog box that opens the first time that you start SkyTools, and every time thereafter if you don't permanently dismiss it, that points you toward the "Getting Started" and "Tutorial" documents as well as the video tutorials and the Skyhound web site that contains all of the other related documentation. Also, an entire quarter of the buttons on the toolbar (4 out of 16) in the major portions of the program provide access to the help facility. These resources very prominently describe important ways of working with the program, including right-clicking, which is one of the main actions required for operating the software. The keyboard shortcuts, such as typing "i", are also displayed prominently on all of the menus. This is not at all hidden or seldom-used functionality. There is also context-specific help available at every point within the program. SkyTools is a sophisticated piece of software and it requires at least a little time and effort to learn. The confusion expressed in the review makes it seem like the author never even read through the most basic documentation, which would be the "Getting Started" and "Tutorial" documents I mentioned above.

Beyond the documentation, I wouldn't characterize the advanced functionality within SkyTools as hidden. It is often accessible by just pressing a prominently displayed button on a tool bar. It seems like there are a lot of buttons that the author of the review just never tried pushing. Or maybe he didn't understand what he was seeing when he pushed them. Or maybe he satisfied himself that he understood how to operate the program after attempting only the most basic tasks. Although "easier to learn" and "more intuitive" are generally thought to be complementary descriptions, they might be mischaracterizations of SkyTools in this context and really only reflect the author's surprisingly superficial experience with the software. In any case, right-clicking, in particular, is one of the primary ways you interact with the program and is absolutely not hidden or advanced functionality.

Mark
 

#29 Kyphoron

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 11:27 AM

I would also like to add that the program is very user friendly but the author of the article as mentioned did not take the time to "play" with the program to learn what its capabilities are. I will not hide the fact that this program is BIG. Its extensive and has everything that any astronomer be it amateur or pro could ever want or need.

I have been using this program for years and I am still learning new things about it and how it seems to adapt to my needs. This is not to make it sound like the documentation is inaccurate but to say you grow with the program

One thing that I will say is that Greg is open to new ideas and if you do have a question about a feature of the program that you don't understand you can simply ask him in the yahoo group and under normal circumstances you will get an answer within a few minutes to a couple of hours at most. Also customer support is A+ in my book. The two times I had to contact Greg by filling out customer support it was not anything wrong with the program but what I had entered in the fields that I forgot to reset after an observing session. In other words I still had the day before date imputed into the program while looking for a comet and didn't realize it so the comet was in the wrong position for the night I was observing.

So can anyone take Skytools and open it for the first time and use it right away? YES!!!! Will it benefit you to watch the tutorials and read through the documentation? YES!!! But this is true of any new item you get even an astronomy program. Will you continue to learn and grow with the program? YES!!! If you go to the Skyhound website and click the Skytools 3 tab at the top there are some tutorials that you can look at and I think there still is a demo of the program that you can try before you buy. So I urge people to check it out for themselves and you be the judge.

Finally I will say this program is made for functionality for use by Star-Hoppers and Goto astronomers alike. Don't expect to see pretty screens like Starry Nights. Its not that kind of program.
 

#30 will w

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 01:00 PM

I for one. anyone who is going to write a review on any product should do a little research on the product. if possible use the product for a while. get to know how it works inside and out before writing a review.all so as Ron said someone else can write another review. will w
 

#31 Cames

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 03:47 PM

My original post in this thread may have been misinterpreted and I am attempting to clarify. My concern is that the integrity of the CloudyNights library of articles and product reviews is at stake here. The proceedings that I have read so far cast a cloud over what I might be exposed to when researching within the CN library.

I do not in any way object to the author’s opinion of the superiority of one product over the other. His preferences and his right to express them here without coercion are unchallenged. Nor am I implying that the author acted deliberately to malign a product.

What I object to is that the false statements about the features of SkyTools 3 that have now been published (as if written in stone) are allowed to stand without warning the unaware reader or novice.

The fact that there are misstatements has been clearly demonstrated in this thread. Almost anyone who has had hands-on experience with SkyTools 3 knows immediately that multiple assertions that the author has made are clearly and demonstrably not true! The published misinterpretations and untruths of how SkyTools works are egregious. They rise to the level of being deal-breakers for almost any unsuspecting customer trying to make an informed choice. However detailed the rebuttal in this current thread, that unsuspecting customer Googling his/her way to the review article in question won’t have the benefit of these discussions to point out the misstatements of fact. He/she will have been deceived. That deception will eventually come to light for that reader and; when it does, the stature of the CN library is irreparably diminished.

I would like to see the author, Fowler, and experts on the two software packages reviewed here to collaborate in order to correct the misinformation that has been put forth. Then, preface or annotate the article in such a way that makes it clear to the unsuspecting reader where the errors lie.

Respectfully
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C
 

#32 Natty Bumppo

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 08:07 PM

Will, I have to disagree with you and Ron (rboe) on this one. As a newbie to this site, but not a newbie to this hobby or the scientific community, I expected when I joined CN that the articles and reviews here would at least be factual to the best of the reviewer's ability. In addition, as a "newbie" I expected at least somewhat of a peer reviewed before publishing. If for no other reason to CN than to relieve them of liability of bad and inaccurate reviews such as this. But even more so, that those who are new to the hobby aren't misled by bad or misleading reviews, whether unintentional or otherwise. As Cames says above, the very integrity and reputation of CN and their published articles are at risk; but how is a brand new user to know if they aren't credible?

Unfortunately I didn't encounter that on this article. If I'd not already been a longtime user of SkyTools I would've thought it was an entry level product by the writeup, bought the wrong product, and likely become very unhappy with my choice. I've also been an AstroPlanner user since v1.x on Mac and now 2.1 on Windows. So I'm very familiar with both products.

But, to do as you and Ron suggest, a bad/biased review doesn't mean to me we should clog up cyberspace and this site with more and more repetitive reviews of the same product. Nobody would want to weed through the "noise" to find the good ones then.

The best suggestions I heard above and agree with are those who ask the OP to spend more time familiarizing himself with the products and do an honest evaluation, setting his own bias and preference aside first. That last part I understand is hard to do. Lastly, my own wish, if possible would be for some sort of mini "peer review" or fact check when someone submits an article/review, before it's posted.

Forgive my post here and thanks for letting me vent. I know my first couple posts here weren't as positive as I'd like. My first one actually went unanswered, not unusual in and of itself. But within a day of that, I saw another post making fun of an entire group of people here because of one person's misguided acts (almost bordering on hate - here), just to make the OP of that thread feel superior. These were quickly followed by seeing this comparison article, and the anticipation of looking forward to reading it, only to be absolutely shocked by how wrong everything was about it. Sorry, but I've not exactly had a best entry or welcome of any kind into CN.
 

#33 Richard McC

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 01:37 AM

This post is my reply to some of the discussion above but not to the original article (I have never used either piece of software so I'm in no position to sensibly talk about them or the comparisons made in the article). Reading the preceding posts I think that some of you misjudge (in a perhaps flattering way) what CloudyNights is or the resources we have at our disposal. This is a (privately owned) public forum and the reviews and posts displayed here are the opinions of the authors of those reviews and posts, no more and no less. Some of those opinions are very useful and illuminating (see any of Ed Zarenski's articles on binoculars to give just one example) while others are less so or even plain wrong (despite my best efforts the last class almost certainly includes some of my posts over the years!). CloudyNights relies on a relatively small group of unpaid volunteers to keep things ticking over and even if we wanted to "fact check" or "peer review" every submission that we received we don't have the resources to do it. I'm afraid people will have to "weed through the "noise" to find the good" stuff and I hope you find the signal to noise ratio high enough to make that endeavor worthwhile. One advantage we do have over a company like Elsevier (whose peer reviewed journals still require some weeding through despite their astronomically high prices) is that we can allow alternative opinions to be presented promptly for the reader's attention. That is where threads like this and Ron Boe's suggestion above come in.
 

#34 Kyphoron

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 07:35 AM

I think weeding through post is a good idea but I also think that this post in the forum should be directly attached to the article. In other words instead of it being in the forum it should be attached comments like Youtube has. So after reading the article a person is able to scroll down and look to see comments posted. In doing so a person can make an informed judgment based on other user comments.
 

#35 ScottAz

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 09:30 AM

I have used very nearly every software package that is out there for observing and logging and I have been observing for over 40 years. While I currently use SkySafari Pro and AstroPlanner on my iPad and sometimes use them in the classroom as a physics teacher, I always use SkyTools in my observatory. :bow: I can't imagine getting by without it. It is frequently updated and I have never had an issue running any of my goto telescopes or using it in the field alongside the 18" Obsession. The program does take some time to master as does a LOT of very cool things -- amazing things really -- and the author of this review should probably take more time to get to know the program. I don't see any need to get aggravated over this but SkyTools really is the best and I look forward to an updated and fair review. :cloudy:
 

#36 Astrosetz

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Posted 15 September 2013 - 09:37 AM

I just read the review, and I'm very surprised at how factually incorrect the author is about Skytools; the author couldn't have been more than casually familiar with the software. I'm very disappointed that this was posted as a "review" on CN -- the implication of a published review is that the writer is knowledgeable on the subject, which is clearly not the case here.
 

#37 CounterWeight

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 11:40 AM

I suppose this at the heart of my objection to the article. If someone reviewed two telescopes and for whatever reason concluded that one could not focus because the were clueless about collimation - would CN allow it to stand? Confuse alt/az with GEM? Obvious errors and showing a total unfamiliarity with the subject.

The errors in this review are on that level but what I am at this point curious about and I sincerely do not mean to violate any TOS, but seriously, how wrong, how misguided, how bad does something have to be here.... how many objections from solid members of the forums here... before anything is done to remedy?

I get the impression that whoever decided to put it up, it's now somehow etched in stone and beyond remedy.

I for one would have no problem if I'd authored something that upon casual review was found to be missing fundamentals to the point of being misleading, was at least taken down for correction by me with some note to that effect.

If I insisted it be published as is with the errors, then it should be up to someone somewhere to make the call "does it serve our community well". If the community does not think so then why the odd deferment to not taking responsibility about leaving it up?

Again please I mean no disrespect to the powers that be with regards to forum article content and what is allowable and what is not.
 

#38 theskyhound

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 12:14 AM

Post deleted by theskyhound
 

#39 7331Peg

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 01:48 PM

For what it's worth, I had been debating whether to buy SkyTools 3 for some time and was on the verge of it when the review was published. After reading it, I was puzzled by several things that didn't match with what I knew of the software, so I held off until reading through the discussion in this thread. I've since bought it and couldn't be more thrilled with it. If it wasn't for the fact that I was already somewhat familiar with SkyTools, I would not have been inclined in the least to purchase it based on the information in the review.

Greg makes a good point, and I've mentioned it before. There's a lot of information in the CN threads that is just plain wrong, and to a lesser extent, that happens in some of the reviews. Incorrect information that paints an erroneous impression of a product can, and I'm sure often does, lead to a loss of sales for the people or small companies that make these products. And keep in mind, these are small companies, not large corporations that can absorb a short term loss with less disruption.

I'm in agreement with Greg. I've read the explanations of why it's not possible for the moderators or administrators to check every review for accuracy, and I totally understand. But in this case, it's clear the review has painted a very misleading picture of SkyTools 3. If ever there was a case where a review should be retracted or re-written, this is it.


John :refractor:
 

#40 theskyhound

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 02:23 PM

From the review: "SkyTools will only generate lists of a certain type (solar system objects, showpieces, NGC objects, etc.). Only one type at a time can be selected, so you may have to append several lists to get what you want."

I have attached a screen capture showing the Database Power Search in SkyTools. Note that more than one type of object is selected, and this tool hardly seems limited.

Attached Files


 

#41 gdd

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 02:35 PM

Hi Greg,

I assume in the screen example above you can use the control key to select non-consecutive items from the lists.

Gale
 

#42 theskyhound

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 02:40 PM

From the review: "These two charts look significantly different because SkyCharts doesn’t actually give an eyepiece chart, but rather just shows the object itself at close to the size of the chart..."

I have attached a screen capture showing a proper SkyTools finder chart. The eyepiece view is on the right. Note the circle that displays the field of view for the eyepiece selected (at the top). This is the default setting. The reviewer had to manually zoom the view close such that the eyepiece FOV was outside of the window. The arrow points to the west (the direction of drift) and the user can grab it and rotate the view if necessary. Note also that the view is displayed with the proper orientation for a telescope. Again, this is the default setting; the reviewer would have had to have inexplicitly changed it, perhaps in an attempt to match the view of the other software. These charts work great for finding objects, which is their purpose. A telescope with a magnifying finder would have three views; you go from the naked eye, to the finder, and if necessary, to the eyepiece view to locate a difficult target. Unlike other software the sky brightness is modeled as well as the extinction near the horizon. For example, if the moon were up, the field would be washed-out and fewer stars/objects would appear.

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#43 theskyhound

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 02:44 PM

Hi Greg,

I assume in the screen example above you can use the control key to select non-consecutive items from the lists.

Gale


I Gale. That's not necessary. A simple left-click will suffice to select each object class. The reviewer wrote about another tool called the Nightly Observing List Generator. Even though the Database Power Search is right next to it on the tool bar, the reviewer apparently was unaware of it.
 

#44 theskyhound

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 02:51 PM

From the review: "(SkyTools has) no way to export observing lists to other formats than text."

The attached screen capture speaks for itself.

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#45 theskyhound

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 02:56 PM

From the review: "(SkyTools has) less flexibility in data to show in observing list columns."

The attached screen capture shows the columns available for the Planner. You can sort by any column, resize them the way you want, and drag them to be displayed in any order.

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#46 theskyhound

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 03:08 PM

From the review: "(SkyTools has) less information about objects."

I have attached a screen capture of the Object Information dialog, which is available for any object in the database via a double-click on the object in the observing list (and elsewhere). Note the many tabs at the bottom. Apparent Data includes alt/az, airmass, apparent coordinates, extincted magnitude, etc. Visual Difficulty tells you how easily the object is seen in each of your telescope/binoculars. The NightBar tab is a graphic that displays the visibility of the object on any night. The YearBar tab displays the visibility of the object during the year. The Chart Numbers tab lists the page numbers for the object on various printed charts. There are additional data tabs for other types of objects. You can attach your own notes, images, and web links to any object, and export these in an observing list to be shared with other users. Finally, the Synopsis tab tells you about the current and projected visibility of the object. This is automatically generated. Note that it even suggests that ISON may not survive perihelion. This is based on the Bortle limit. This sort of attention to detail somehow got lost in this review.

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#47 CounterWeight

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 07:11 AM

It was suggested / recommended that us 'angry pitch fork welding folks' should reason with the author. Try as I may I cannot locate this person on the site with any certainty. Is this person even a member here? I cannot locate anyone by that name in the user list. As I asked in my first post - who is it? Is that name a pen name?

I am someone who would like to reach the person with reasoned corrections, as I am sure would Greg.

Asking the only way I know, here, in print for someone who can to answer. I don't think that angry pitch fork welding. It was my first question and remains unanswered.
 

#48 Natty Bumppo

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 08:49 AM

Really? "Angry pitch fork wielders"? Really that's the moderators' opinion? Sounds a bit like being called a "bitter clinger". Guess I'll wield my fork by doing as Greg, NEVER buying from Astronomics.
 

#49 Kyphoron

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 09:55 AM

I don't expect moderators to know everything about this hobby or the products that this hobby creates. But I think when glaring errors are pointed out and a large number of forum members start to speak out about errors that they need to step in and either have those errors corrected or retract the article completely. I think its unfair that Greg should suffer because of one misrepresented article that has the facts all wrong. I tend to wonder if an article was written about how inaccurate articles are posted on this site and not opinions if it would ever get posted.

If the author had based his article on a fair comparison followed by the authors opinion I don't think even Greg would have had a problem with it. but when it clearly seems the author is not knowledgeable about one of his comparisons it clearly looks like playing favorites. Something I would have thought would have been discouraged.

That article is not a review, it is a butchering of a very fine program. Perhaps the best astro program out there. It really does it all and because of that there is a learning curve but it is an easy curve to learn.

I know in the past I have written authors to express a good review or even to ask a question about something they may have said. But if the author is not listed and has made no rebuttal on the forum if this wasn't just an advertisement for Astroplanner. My question is shouldn't someone be checking to see if the person is legit before posting their review?

Where is my pitch fork if that's what the moderators think is happening.
 

#50 C_Moon

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Posted 20 September 2013 - 02:47 PM

Really? "Angry pitch fork wielders"? Really that's the moderators' opinion? Sounds a bit like being called a "bitter clinger". Guess I'll wield my fork by doing as Greg, NEVER buying from Astronomics.


Well that sounds like cutting off your nose to spite your face. I am thankful that Astronomics provides the resources to run Cloudynights.

I'll keep supporting Astronomics and Skytools.
 






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