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What makes any program different from the others is the variety it offers in terms of technique, and how smoothly all of its complex pieces work together to make it a useful and practical everyday tool. John Halloran's AstrolDeluxe ReportWriter is just such a useful and practical tool, one which offers a great deal in a surprisingly simple package. I have had it sitting surreptitiously on my desktop I'm still with Windows 98 SE, and have an "ancient" MHz Pentium 3 with MB of memory , and when I click on the icon to check out a chart of one type of another, it just does its work, with no fuss.

It is highly capable, very flexible, and includes enough options that it could well do everything most people need a piece of astrological software to do, including basic charts and subsidiary charts like progressions and returns. It will even, as the name indicates, turn out nice-looking reports which you can modify to fit your needs. And all of this happens at a price that is close to half what you will find being charged for some similar programs.

When I started using it, I did what I often do when trying out a piece of software: I just jumped right in without reading the instructions, just filling in dialog boxes and pressing buttons. This is what might be called the "crash test" phase that any software I try out has to be subjected to. Whether I buy a program, download it, or get it as a review copy, I find this approach useful not only as a means of understanding the program itself, but also as a way of getting to know its strengths and its weaknesses.

Crashing around like this can, after all, hang up a piece of software or cause it to crash in some weird way, or even produce odd output of some sort, so a program's behavior under this kind of stress can be very informative. In the case of AstrolDeluxe, it did none of the bad things, but rather did what it was supposed to do without either crashing or hanging, and when it didn't do exactly what I expected, the easily available help file plus the included printed documentation always nudged me in the right direction.

The main screen from which you do all charts and calculations is self-explanatory, but pulling down the menus at the top was a bit of a surprise at first, as there are a wealth of options you can set beyond the basics of house system, sign, and aspect orbs. Most people won't need to change any of these options, but they do allow you to fine tune the program to your exact specifications.

Charting is very straightforward, as once you have filled in the birth date, etc. One of those choices, an aspect chart, is shown below. Any chart you can see on screen can be copied to the clipboard as text or as a graphic, though of course these can be printed as well, and when printing a chart wheel, you are given the choice to include grids. There is no chart-designing facility as with some software, but the charts are good, clean and readable.

Aside from printing a chart or copying it as a graphic, you can also save the information it contains in a variety of forms such as an old-fashioned ASCII chart or as a web page version of this, or you can write it to a dbase file, or even something called an "XML" file. Though that last is an option most people might not understand or might not think they need, XML is a cutting-edge means of shaping information into a kind of universal format. Information technology people are probably gritting their teeth at that explanation, but if I get more technical than that the review will start to wander.

The main reason I mention it is that it shows how the programming fits and finishes allow for little options like this. Such things may or may not be useful to most people, but they are there for those who need them, and the ones I've tested work well. If you want to go beyond charting to doing a report, you'll find the process entertaining, and the reports themselves quite useful and well-written.

When you give the instruction to do the report, you can watch AstrolDeluxe build it on screen. Several reports are available, but the program comes with one called "Personal Path" which gives a good standard chart reading. The astrologer who wants to sell these reports or provide them to clients can individualize them in a variety of ways, including choosing the fonts, settings the footers, and including or excluding various interpretations.

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As with the main program, even though you can do reports without altering the standard settings, if you want to you can configure both content and output to suit your personal taste. Finally, along with utilities such as an ephemeris generator and a compatibility search, AstrolDeluxe has a very useful research module that allows you to search for charts with similar features in order to study how something like, for example, Sun conjunct Uranus in the 1st house works out in practical terms.

The research module is designed for "chart file" research of the sort that most astrologers do, and though it takes a bit of learning, the help file is very clear and will answer most of your questions. Altogether, AstrolDeluxe ReportWriter 6. Even though many aspects of it are geared to the professional user, it is simple enough for a student of astrology to learn, as the program's standard settings make it easy to use the program "out of the box.

Oh, and one more thing which I haven't seen in an astrology program before is a handy utility that allows you to synchronize your computer's clock with the U. It's a nice touch in a nice program, and another of many reasons I can recommend AstrolDeluxe. One of them is a favorite of mine: Gauquelin sectors and power zones.

The positions of the planets in this framework are given in a listing easily available from the "Display" menu while viewing a chart. The table shows both the actual sector a planet is in and the zone plus or minus , along with some other useful information. Going a step further, however, AstrolDeluxe 6.

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It's not possible to go into this further in this limited space, but I'll be using this feature from time to time in "New Astrology" columns, starting next month. Another new feature worth mentioning is a Boehrer Declination Graph, a type of display that makes it much easier to see the role that declination plays in a particular chart. The February through April issues do discuss using AstrolDeluxe to research Gauquelin sectors and power zones in a collection of famous charts. I have been mainly using both Winstar and Solar Fire programs over the past 12 years, but was recently invited by Halloran Software, Los Angeles to review their latest report writer with "Kidzone" child natal reports and "Journey Returns" Solar Return reports.

I'm glad that I invested the time to do this task. I must say that I was very impressed to experience such a quality chart program at a reasonable price, coupled with a thorough yet simple report writer series, which will certainly be quite useful in my work. There are many astrology programs available, but very few with good professional report writers that I could recommend. However, I can quite strongly endorse these as being suitable for professional astrologers in Australia. Halloran programs are quick-loading and don't gobble up enormous chunks of computer disk storage space, so its very feasible and economical to buy it as an "add on" to your current chart program or suite of programs, just for the sake of the professional report writers.

As a bonus, it includes the latest version of the ACS atlas.

Many astrologers in Australia and New Zealand are familiar with Halloran through their large ads in the bi-monthly " Mountain Astrologer " magazine. Halloran has been supplying astrology programs since the 's and about astrologers in Australia and New Zealand have bought from them direct over the years. The first thing that struck me about the Halloran program is its basic simplicity and down to earth, practical approach. Most chart programs and writers have quite a challenging learning curve, especially for those who find computer programs daunting.

This one makes it very easy to set up and configure individual astrologer's requirements and to feel confident about using the program and all that it offers. The data entry screen layout is good and offers loads of options plus an editor. You can choose from eleven standard house systems, plus a "user" system.

The reports themselves use a practical approach and are easy for clients to read and understand.

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The quite extensive Kidzone child reports are written by a New Zealand Astrologer and personalised for the child's name. This report covers approximately 55 pages including a concise introduction and it may be easily edited on screen before printing. It's comprehensive, yet a good one for non-astrologically inclined parents to understand.

As most of you know, child report printouts are very popular with people seeking simple yet accurate insight into a child or new baby, especially as a gift or for people who are not yet willing to pay the cost of a full live consultation or individual report. I tried this one out on a few "non-astrology" clients who have had various printout reports before.

They were all very happy with it and more than favourably impressed, commenting that they were sure that it would a helpful guide. The basic Report Writer program includes a first-class unabridged world atlas with a database of , cities, plus a great "lookup" option.

One very good feature is that you key up the place and state and it immediately selects the right one, which can avoid confusion where there is a town of the same name in more than one state.

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Also included is an instant chart "now" button and a "sunrise" button for unknown birth times. It's also easy to change planetary orb widths. On the other hand, the chart generator only offers a standard graphic chart format with editable features, although I find that it's simplicity and clarity are adequate.

There's the usual bi-wheel and tri-wheel display option for transits and compatibilities and you can easily swap the inner and outer charts. You can produce Harmonic and also composite and Davison charts for synastry work. The chart options offered within Report Writer are surprisingly extensive, including a few special ones such as:. Novien Charts, a chart used by sidereal astrologers, derived by multiplying the primary chart placements from the start of sidereal Taurus by nine. A simple chart research option is useful for quickly locating planets by sign and house location. It's also possible to import charts from other programs.

The transit summary list printout is quite complete, listing both transiting and corresponding natal aspects, but to me, it seems a bit crowded and "dos-ish" and could have a neater and more appealing windows style layout for both clients and astrologers. The Solar Return report writer is well-based astrologically, thorough and easy both for astrologers and their clients to read. As an astrological guide for the year ahead, it's realistic, with very practical advice and comments.

There's not too much preamble for the practising astrologer, yet there is enough explanation for the lay person to gain helpful insight into potential opportunities and challenges for the whole period of the report. The report explores the return chart itself as an entity and the potential impact of the return on the natal chart. The advanced version includes transiting aspects from the Sun out, to the Solar return. This, of course, can be edited. It also includes progressed Solar Return angles as timing devices, which is helpful for people who wish to use the Solar return in conjunction with planetary transits for accurate astrological forecasting.

The report is indexed, with some good explanatory notes for clients. It allows you to select a simple standard report of around 40 pages or three other more advanced levels - Intermediate, Concise Advanced or an Advanced report of pages. The advanced version is far more copious than most people would require.

The standard report version is quite enough for most people. They also have a "Famous Charts" program with charts plus Biorhythms Cycles, and TimeSearch reverse engineered horoscopes search for planetary cycles. John Halloran seems to have his finger well and truly on the business and is quick to respond to queries. Program review by Anne and Peter Button who work together in Melbourne as professional consultants and teachers of Astrology, Numerology and Tarot, with clients throughout Australia and overseas.

Anne's client approach is towards encouraging and facilitating personal growth and self-empowerment.

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