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Charlie HeinAdministrator
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Comparative review - observatory planning software
      #6069198 - 09/08/13 10:14 AM

Comparative review of observation planning software

UPDATED 10/12/2013

By Thomas B. Fowler

Edited by Charlie Hein (10/12/13 09:18 AM)


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CounterWeight
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6069495 - 09/08/13 01:17 PM

Hi,

I wanted to ask the author of this review how much time he spent using the software reviewed - I find the SkyTools review extremely shallow and completely lacking some basic and important features - would be interested in anyone else's opinion on that.


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #6069994 - 09/08/13 05:47 PM

I'd like to point out that the author of this article mistook the outline of the cluster on the SkyTools chart for the eyepiece field of view. Of course SkyTools shows the proper field of view! It would be an enormous error if it didn't. The reviewer should have double checked something so basic, resulting an an extraordinarily misleading review. While I am here, I would like to point out that SkyTools has a much larger and much more accurate/corrected set of databases than the other software.

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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6070282 - 09/08/13 09:23 PM

I agree, I found the Skytools review very shallow and missed some key points. I also think the lack of object info was very unfair as well. All the important aspects of the object are there. Just under different tabs within the object info. Not to mention it will tell you based on the fields you entered (scope, mag skies, date, etc.) if this is an object that you can hope to see on any given night. Skytools also tells you when will be your best window of opportunity to see the object that a person wishes to observer.

I just felt after reading the review there was an unfair bias to astroplanner and that Skytools was left hanging in the wind with a lot of its key features not listed at all.

----------
Paul

Edited by Kyphoron (09/08/13 09:25 PM)


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JimK
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6070314 - 09/08/13 09:45 PM

Quote:

Comparative review of observation planning software

By Thomas B. Fowler



I am a registered user of both AstroPlanner2 and SkyTools3 Standard -- I now only use SkyTools 3 because it has the planning and logging features that I need/use. And I don't use any telescope control features, only starhopping. AstroPlanner is nice, but as Greg mentioned, the single database is fantastic for tracking down those obscure faint fuzzies to view, and without getting multiple databases "hits" to make confusion. This is also the Achilles' Heel of SkyTools, such that errors or missing items are difficult to correct, but a workaround was provided -- the Supplemental Database. I also do not think that the strengths were comprehensive, and weaknesses were not accurate, for SkyTools.

Everyone has their own preferences, and the reviewer showed his bias. *My* bias is for SkyTools3.


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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: JimK]
      #6070549 - 09/09/13 12:51 AM

Greg,

I'm also amazed at the lack of mention on right clicking on objects in the interactive atlas sky chart, the object details and other features that can be right clicked on the object lists, the list is LARGE and why I have to ask if the author actually used the software for any time and took the time to learn what is 'low hanging fruit', let alone the power under hood on doubles and all the DB power search capabilities along with being able to select specifically from some or all the catalogs to create custom lists... planetary solar system almost entirely neglected...

Bias is one thing but error of omission another issue IMO that shows this doesn't pass muster, by that I mean that if there is a basic feature and they didn't like it that is one thing but to omit basic features is at best poor research.


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Eagle923
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #6070858 - 09/09/13 08:58 AM

Just a quick note other than what comments are already here.

ST3 will export the ".skylist" format as well for Sky Safari.

I've used both and prefer ST3 by a wide margin.


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Cames
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Eagle923]
      #6071370 - 09/09/13 01:55 PM

Please add me to the list of readers that find the description of the functions of Skytools 3 to be incomplete and misleading to the extent that a retraction is in order.

I don't even know where to start with my objections to the author's assertions. IMO a disservice to readers of the forum.


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Natty Bumppo
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Cames]
      #6071821 - 09/09/13 06:08 PM

Add me to the list also, of users who now use SkyTools exclusively on the desktop. SkyTools is just what I was looking for some years back. Moved to it due to being disappointed with the planner modules (and false hits) of both AstroPlanner and Starry Nights. SkyTools (Win8) & SkySafari (Android) work well together and are all I use now.

And add me to the list of those who thought the "review" was unnecessarily biased, and contained many errors and downright false and misleading statements.


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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Natty Bumppo]
      #6072552 - 09/10/13 02:45 AM

I don't think that the article should be retracted but I think the author would have been better served to just review astroplanner rather than omitting items to make Skytools look worse than astroplanner.

At least make a fair side by side comparison rather than picking out certain things.

Like astroplanner requires an outside program for an atlas. Skytools has an interactive atlas built into it.

Astroplanner has limited database and if you want complete star list you have to pay. Skytools has a very large database and you do not have to buy add on list.

Astroplanner has a single field chart. Skytools has a 3 panel chart which can all be customized.

A side by side like I just did would be a fair comparison of both programs.


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Fox1971
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6073014 - 09/10/13 11:14 AM

Has anyone tried Deep Sky Planner?

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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Fox1971]
      #6073584 - 09/10/13 05:10 PM

Frankly I don't know why the supposed review, IMO it does not qualify as one by any measure, was ever posted on the site. I don't understand why because no-one fact checked it and etc it should lower the bar so far just because it is a 'software review'. Does a huge disservice to the CN site AS WELL AS the fantastic work done by Rod Mollise on the same topic here on CN. That is what really hurt, there are some great reviews and reviewers here - to add this to the mix isn't just unfair to the readers -it's far more unfair to those who take the time and effort to get things right.

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gdd
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: CounterWeight]
      #6074729 - 09/11/13 10:08 AM

Quote:

I wanted to ask the author of this review how much time he spent using the software reviewed - I find the SkyTools review extremely shallow and completely lacking some basic and important features - would be interested in anyone else's opinion on that.





I have not used either software, so I don't know what he missed or whether he focused on the most important features. However his review was more detailed than several other software reviews I found on this forum (there were only 3 or 4 since about 2009). Some were not even a full screenful, some had no pictures, but no one complained.

I think the OP has more experience with AstroPlanner so he his comparing SkyTools to it rather than the other way around. Also, a lot of people in my opinion form their opinions on how a genre of software should work based on what they successfully used first. Perhaps he should have given the review a narrower title so the reader would not expect an exhaustive feature-by-feature comparison. The features he chose to discuss seem to be based on what he personally needs the tool to do.

From what he wrote, I think I would prefer SkyTools because he says it is easier to learn and he said the integrated DB avoided confusing duplicate information.

Some readers said some features the OP said were missing were actually there if you looked hard enough. I did not see interfaces to other planetarium software listed in on their site (unless ASCOM compliancy handles that). Are these features available only in the Pro version? (The OP reviewed the standard version).

Gale


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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: gdd]
      #6074900 - 09/11/13 11:25 AM

Does anyone know if there is a mechanism here at CloudyNights to complain about factual errors in a review, and perhaps have them addressed? Opinion is one thing, factual errors, even errors by omission, are quite another.

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Kyphoron
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6074961 - 09/11/13 12:08 PM

Greg,

TOS are through Astronomics and if its not them maybe one of the postmasters can give you an answer. Ultimately I bet you they just balk at it and say its the editors opinion.


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Charlie HeinAdministrator
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Kyphoron]
      #6075560 - 09/11/13 05:22 PM

Folks, I just now responded to an angry PM form one of the folks posting to this thread. It prompted me to read through this thread to see what all the fuss was about. I think that rather than rehashing my thoughts about this, I'll just copy the text of my reply to this thread, and caution the angry pitchfork wielding crowd to apply some perspective to this situation. This is an amateur review. This is not Sky and Telescope or Astronomy magazine. I believe you folks have squandered a good opportunity to discuss the review with the writer and work politely to change any factual errors that may exist by presuming that there is some deliberate malice at work here. If I were the author the last thing I'd want to do is try to work with this crowd.

Quote:

Subject: Re: SkyTools Review

Sir, I think you're operating under a misunderstanding or two. First, I did not write the review you're referring to. I am merely the editor.

Most reviews should be read as being the reviewer's experience while performing the review and regarded as personal commentary. For the most part we are not talking about professional writers or editors here.

For example, I certainly do not have the resources or time to fully vett every statement made in an article or review, and your garden variety reviewer won't be in a position to do a rigorous peer reviewed and professionally edited piece either.

That said, we do provide the opportunity for polite discussion and fact correction of every article and review. I've checked that forum and see that the general tone being used in this area is anything but polite, and as of my last reading there has been mostly angry and strident grousing about the review rather than reasoned attempts to correct the writer's errors or misunderstandings about the software. That is unfortunate.

If I were the writer, the last thing I'd be likely to do is enter into a discussion with the group that is posting in there right now. Put yourself if the writers shoes for a second and ask yourself if you don't agree. I think that the tone in that thread has made it very difficult for a reasonable outcome... That said, I'm not in favor of pulling the review unless the author decides he wants it pulled and he does not appear to have been badgered or otherwise coerced into doing so. He may have made some factual errors and his personal preference may be for AstroPlanner, but you people are treating this as if it is some form of malicious act, and frankly in my opinion that is shameful. Please step back and apply a small bit of perspective to this.

Charlie




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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: Charlie Hein]
      #6075623 - 09/11/13 06:05 PM

Charlie, with respect, after reading the comments above I see only strong disagreement with the article over largely factual issues.

Beyond the factual misrepresentations, such as the claim that SkyTools does not compute an accurate field of view, there is a larger issue here that people are responding to. SkyTools is a much more capable product with many more features. Any comparison must take this into account. The review glosses over the many features in SkyTools that are not available in the other product. That is an unfair comparison.

Please, at the very least fix the obvious factual errors:

1. "AstroPlanner has more capabilities and flexibility with respect to observing lists." It is easily demonstrable that the reverse is true.

2. "No way to export observing lists to other formats than text." Sky Safari export is supported by SkyTools.

3. "Views shown in (SkyTools) charts are not actual eyepiece fields of view."

This last is a very strong assertion. It is a claim that a basic feature simply does not work, much like claiming that a finder scope cannot be aligned with the main telescope in telescope review. If someone is going to state something this significant, they need to look at the circumstances very carefully and be certain they are right. This was not done.


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gdd
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: theskyhound]
      #6075643 - 09/11/13 06:23 PM

Hi Greg,

The article puts a quite a bit of emphasis on eyepiece fields of view. A problem I have when looking at star fields is even when I think I have the FOV referred to on a chart, the eyepiece view may show many more or many fewer stars making it difficult to match star patterns. I saw a sample AstroPlanner screen shot on their site showing that they can filter the stars by magnitude to solve that problem. I assume SkyTools can do the same?

Thanks,

Gale

Edited by gdd (09/11/13 06:24 PM)


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rboeAdministrator

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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: gdd]
      #6075668 - 09/11/13 06:44 PM

You know, any one of you folks are more than welcome to write up your review and submit it. Having reviews from multiple sources with differing strong points when it comes to reviewing would be a big asset to our community.

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theskyhound
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Re: Comparative review - observatory planning software new [Re: gdd]
      #6075695 - 09/11/13 07:01 PM

Quote:

Hi Greg,

The article puts a quite a bit of emphasis on eyepiece fields of view. A problem I have when looking at star fields is even when I think I have the FOV referred to on a chart, the eyepiece view may show many more or many fewer stars making it difficult to match star patterns. I saw a sample AstroPlanner screen shot on their site showing that they can filter the stars by magnitude to solve that problem. I assume SkyTools can do the same?





SkyTools uses a different approach. You enter your telescope data, eyepieces, how much light pollution you have, etc. The program computes the limiting magnitude based on a scientific model. It also displays only the extended objects (galaxies, nebulae, etc.) that can be seen in the telescope at that time under the expected conditions.

The same capability is applied to your finding device and what can be seen with the unaided eye. The resulting three-view finder chart makes it quite easy to find things in the sky, because the magnitude limits, scale, and orientation all match what you see in the field.

Clear skies,
Greg


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