The first major update (v220.127.116.11) to Deep-Sky Planner 5 has taken longer to develop than anticipated, but hopefully the changes will be worth the wait. More will appear in this blog over the coming weeks about what to expect in the updated version when it is released. As usual, a 'point release' update like this one will be provided at no charge to owners of the major version being updated (in this case version 5). For the record, the update is not feature complete, but it is in early field testing.
Why so long?
First, the code base has been migrated through two compiler upgrades. The compiler upgrades included support for Unicode which affected all text strings in the program. That one alone took all of last summer. On the positive side, some nice new tools and features came along with the upgrades. For example, a new Regular Expressions library allows greater flexibility in looking up an object designation in the database. A user can enter 'n7000' and get a proper match for NGC 7000. This designation finder isn't a mind-reader, but it allows much more flexibility in user input.
Second, there have been some changes in the office. Thanks to my son, we've built two new computers this spring to serve development and testing needs. Getting these ready for prime time has taken a little time but the productivity improvements have already begun.
What is in the update?
This question will be answered more thoroughly in the coming weeks, but the biggest change will be the new plan document. Generally speaking, the plan document can contain a mixture of objects from any source. Object information in a plan can be entered manually or looked up in the database and transferred automatically. Once a plan is composed, it can be run while observing so that ephemeral data is refreshed automatically. This is an extensive change and will be the subject of future posts.