I am the proud owner of all versions of Solar Fire, right back to version 1, so it gives me great pleasure to bring everyone up to date on the latest version. Over the last ten years, Solar Fire has established itself as the market leader in astrological software. A "kitchen sink" program for windows PCs, Solar Fire gives you the basics of calculation and a whole host of options. There is everything you would expect to find: progressions, returns, ingresses, harmonics, composites and various permutations around lunar phases and eclipses. All of these have untold options that you can experiment with. If you have an experimental idea about how to progress a chart, Solar Fire gives you the tools to try.
So onto the new features, the first you notice is the preview of the selected currently calculated chart, see screen print below. This allows you to see the chart before you display it with which ever options you have chosen. Very handy if you're working with lots of charts.
You can also have a floating chart window. In previous versions, your chart windows had to fill the screen, now you can have it floating so you can see more than one thing on screen at once. This is when a larger screen is useful.
There are many ways of customising the display. Aspect Highlighting and Filtering differentiates between applying and separating and weights the tighter aspects in bolder lines. This is great fun to play with but beware the separating aspect of just a few minutes.
There has been a lot of work on the display and the degree to which you can customise it. Solar Fire has always been easy to follow. Now they've given you more options allowing you to set up the programme as you want to use it. You can change the menus, you can set up your own pages with the information that you want to see, in the place you want to see it. Some of this takes a little bit of getting used to but it's quite addictive.
The improvements I really appreciate are the upgrade to the Graphic Ephemeris and the addition of the Electional Search.
The Graphic Ephemeris now allows you to include all sorts of bodies and midpoints in your selection, both within the selected radix and as a transiting point - yes that means you can plot transiting midpoints - but the bit I really like is that when you hover your mouse over an area of interest, you get to see the date and the degree value, see screen print. This allows you to see exactly where that pile up will take place.
There is also a Date Options button which allows you to set all kinds of relative dates. For instance, you can run the ephemeris with regard to the natal date or the current date and ask it to go the start of the day, the month or the year.
The Electional Search allows you to search for a period of time which meets certain criteria. There are a whole host of things to choose from: planets in dignity, planets in particular place and the presence of aspect patterns.
However, you need to realise the limitations of this with regards to electional astrology. It won't give you the house rulers, and you can't get away from the need to use your own skill and judgement.
I have found this particularly useful for mundane research. Want to find the dates when Pluto went into Capricorn in the past? Just run an electional search and up it comes.
Saving charts when you exit the program is easier than in previous versions. You get to choose which folder to save your chart into and the chances of you getting multiple copes of the same chart because you're in a different folder are much reduced.
Solar Fire 6 has a different file format so if you have existing charts you need to convert them. This could be clearer.
The Events feature allows you to keep track of events associated with a particular chart. This takes a bit of getting used to and I don't think I'm quite there yet. This is a great idea and should, when you've got it to work, allow you to keep the events and the base charts tied to each other.
I would definitely recommend this. If you have Solar Fire 4 or below it is really worth the upgrade. If you have version 5 you should think seriously about it; there were a few wrinkles in 5 which have been ironed out.
This is a super program, we just need to get down to it and see exactly what it can do. How about we learn to use our software?