(c) Skyhound

A Note From The Author

When I first began thinking about writing a computer program for observing I tried to imagine the ultimate in observing software.  I had recently seen an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I considered: if I could talk to the computer in plain English, what would I ask it for?  This is what I came up with: 

"Computer, make me a list of every planetary nebula that will be visible in my 6-inch Newtonian from my favorite site before I go to bed at 1 AM tonight.  They must be at least 30 degrees above the horizon, and unhindered by twilight or moonlight.  Oh, and mark the planetaries that I have yet to observe.  Now compute the optimum time to observe each object and sort the list in that order.  Finally, print the list as well as a finder chart for each object, customized for my 6-inch scope." 

That was back in 1993, and this question was the guiding principle behind what eventually became SkyTools.  In time, SkyTools came to represent a complete rethinking of the traditional approach to software for observing. 

The core of the SkyTools approach is to consider the task as a whole rather than as individual pieces jammed willy-nilly into a star charting program.  While other programs may have similar lists of features, SkyTools integrates these features into a well thought out observing system.  

The goal of SkyTools is to empower you, the observer, no matter your level of expertise, to get more out of observing.  This is accomplished as efficiently as possible, minimizing your time spent at the computer and maximizing your time under the night sky. 

SkyTools 3

SkyTools 3 represents a further blossoming of the program, moving many steps closer to the ideal.  The most obvious additions are support for imaging and the introduction of the Pro Edition.  The extended stellar database, provided on the Pro Edition DVD, takes our one of a kind integrated stellar database all the way to 20th magnitude.  This extended database became necessary to support imaging, but even as primarily a visual observer myself, when I go back to the standard edition all those extra stars are sorely missed.  The new visual detection and sky brightness models create a new standard for observation planning and star hopping charts.  The Context Viewer is a really nice addition, particularly when observing with a computer controlled telescope.  It's so cool moving the telescope from galaxy to galaxy by dragging the eyepiece circle on the computer!  The new Thumbnail Viewer has proven to be very popular and  I personally get a kick out of the observing synopses.  It just goes on and on with the new features.


But beyond these obvious new features are the numerable minor enhancements.  Nearly every dialog has been redone, adding small touches suggested by users.  Yet at its heart SkyTools hasn't really changed that much.  This is what I set out to do: to add features, enhancements, and to smooth over the rough spots, yet keep the essence of the program intact.  My goal was to simplify the basic operations while at the same time making powerful new things achievable.  A key piece of this effort was the work the volunteer beta test team, who worked tirelessly with me for 18 months.  Without their help and feedback my goals would not have been achievable.  I am very happy with the result.

Greg Crinklaw -- SkyTools author