Saturday, July 19, 2014

Scythebill 10.5 - a manual, better checklists, reporting, and more!

Scythebill 10.5 is finally here!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

It's taken a bit longer than I expected to ready (life and work have intruded!)  A huge thanks to all the users that sent in bug reports and lots of great ideas for new features.  If I didn't get to your requests in this release, rest assured I haven't forgotten you, I just had to draw the line somewhere.


Scythebill, now with a manual

I'm very happy to announce that Scythebill, at long last, has a user manual.  You can access it from the help menu, or just by visiting http://manual.scythebill.com.  The manual is a Google document, but you don't need a Google account to view it.  If you do have a Google account, then you can comment on it in-place.  Anything that's unclear or confusing or missing, please let me know!  (This is an experiment - I'm assuming this won't be a spam or phishing vector.  If it proves to be, I'll have to use more conventional techniques for receiving feedback.)

I'm proud of how many users have been able to learn and use Scythebill without any sort of a manual, but I'm sure even the most adventuresome users will find something they didn't know existed.



Checklist improvements

Scythebill's checklists, first made available in 10.0, are even better in Scythebill 10.5.

First, something a lot of you have asked for - checklist entry!  Whenever you visit Enter sightings for a location that has a checklist (built-in or custom), you'll see a new option near the top of the screen - Use <location> checklist?  Set that to Yes, and a full checklist will appear.  You can then rapidly key through and select species:





Checklists also support a new status code: "Rarity".   This will be set species requiring rarity committee documentation.  This has to be manually reconciled, list by list, with authoritative sources - which don't exist in many countries! - so it'll be a long time before it can provide significant coverage.  That said, this release does list rarities for the United States, Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and South Africa.  (State and provincial checklists generally have rarities naively derived from the country, but rarities have been explicitly set for 12 US states, with more to come.)

Checklists have been reconciled with the official lists in Mexico, Panama, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the US states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.  (Thanks in particular to Bill D. for help here with several of those states.)  There's also lots of African corrections from Joël R. and Niall P., and Tanzanian and Australian corrections from Steve C.

Finally, you can now send me corrections to built-in checklists in a form I can easily incorporate back into Scythebill.  Read about it here in the manual.  If you're wondering how you can contribute to Scythebill, this is a great way to help out.


Reporting improvements


Scythebill now lets you generate more complex report conditions.  Before, you could only choose between satisfying "All" rules or "Any" one of the rules.  Now, each rule can either be marked as And or Or.  All of the "And" rules must be satisfied, and at least one of the "Or" rules.  This lets you build rules like year lists for more than one location - ("And", Date is 2000, "Or" Location is in Peru, "Or" Location is in Ecuador).  (Thanks to Joël R for the idea.)





It's also now easy to answer questions like:

  •  What are the earliest and latest Spring migrants to arrive?
  •  What are the last species to depart in the winter?
  •  What was your 500th or 2000th or 5000th lifer?
  •  What species have you gone the longest without seeing?


Just Export to a spreadsheet from the reports page, and choose one of the new Sort by options.  (Thanks to Angela B. and Joël R. for this idea.)

But wait... there's more!


  • There's a new Southern Africa region for the African listers out there.
  • You can now query for female/male/adult/immature sightings
  • Reports looking at the notes field are now case-insensitive (by default - you can get case-sensitivity if you want)
  • Ever tried to issue a report for wintering birds, say, sightings between December and March?  It didn't work.  It does now.  (Thanks to Yann M. for pointing this out.)
  • You can now bulk edit locations in a report, so if you accidentally put a few hundred records in Swaziland instead of Switzerland, it's easy to fix.



Importing improvements



The Scythebill import format has proven useful for getting data into Scythebill.  Users have taken advantage of it to get data out of Wings or custom Access databases.  And it's even easier to use now.  In particular, almost all of the columns are now optional.   You can import with a mere three columns of data!

  • One (or both) of "Common" or "Scientific"
  • "Date"
  • "Country"

and "Date" can even be blank!  

It also knows to ignore blank lines (which previously did some odd things), and can re-import Scythebill exports containing hybrids and "sp." records without any manual entry.  (Thanks to Dave C. for pushing on these imports!)



Odds and ends



Scythebill's now greatly improved at keyboard interaction, particularly when entering sightings.  Tabbing is much more predictable, keyboard focus should be visible in many places it was not, and keyboard focus doesn't disappear in annoying ways after adding species or changing subspecies.  And species entry is much better at keeping the field you're working with entirely on-screen.  There's even keyboard shortcuts to simplify moving around the table.

The count field had issues;  they've been fixed. In some circumstances, numbers might not be saved.  And deleting a number that was inadvertently added was much harder than it should be.  (Thanks to Susan M. for the bug report.)

Scythebill's also better at keeping windows sizes, instead of constantly snapping down to the minimum needed size (the main window snaps down, but others don't).  (Thanks to Philip F. for this request.)

Some rarer (and harmless) bugs reported by Melissa H., Harry R., and Peter W. have been expunged.

What's next?

Barring the discovery of any particularly interesting bugs, the next update is likely to be for the IOC 4.3 release.  And I think the feature at the top of my stack is per-report  fields - protocol, start-time, duration, and comments.  Long missing, much needed.

As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+, Facebook, or by email.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Scythebill 10.4 - IOC 4.2 support!

Scythebill 10.4 is now available!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

Scythebill 10.4 includes the IOC 4.2 checklist and a few small tweaks and bug fixes.


IOC 4.2 list support


The IOC World Bird List version 4.2 was released last week, and is now available in Scythebill.  If you're wondering what's been split or lumped, you can see here.  Gory details follow...

Scythebill makes some modest additions to the IOC list to support interoperability with Clements/eBird - in particular, to support a number of the species described by Handbook of Birds of the World.  Those additions were also made in Scythebill's IOC 4.1, but a number have now been demoted to subspecies status to align with SACC decisions (or an apparent trend in such decisions):
  • "Western Puffbird" is demoted to ssp. obamai of Striolated Puffbird.
  • "Xingu Woodcreeper" is demoted to ssp. retentus of Amazonian Barred Woodcreeper.
  • "Tupana" and "Tapajós" Scythebills are demoted to ssps gyldenstopei and cardosoi of Curve-billed Scythebill
  • "Bamboo Antwren" is demoted to ssp. oreni of Ihering's Antwren.
The following HBW descriptions are retained as full species pending a clearer resolution within SACC and IOC:
  • Inambari Woodcreeper
  • Roosevelt Antwren
  • Sucunduri Flatbill
  • Campina Jay
  • Inambari Gnatcatcher 
In addition, I've preemptively added Tropeiro Seedeater to the Clements/eBird taxonomy (and the Brazil checklist), as this newly described species in IOC 4.2 will almost certainly be added in the next revision of Clements/eBird.


Other bug fixes

A couple of small issues in Browse by location were resolved - a particularly dangerous one allowed users to inadvertently add "sightings" of families, which led to a variety of problems.

Small checklist improvements were made to Serbia, Spain, and Brunei.



As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+, Facebook, or by email.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Scythebill 10.3.0 - Lifer reports and eBird improvements

Scythebill 10.3.0 is now available!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

Lifer reports


This latest version adds an oft-requested feature - better reporting for lifers.  Now, Scythebill can quickly answer questions like:
  • How many lifers have you ever gotten in Peru?
  • What new birds did you get for your ABA list in 2010?
  • What new subspecies have you recorded this year?
Lifers show up not only in the report screen, but also when you print or export to a spreadsheet!

To try this out, visit Show reports, then:
  1. Choose your report (in that first example, "Location is in Peru")
  2. Click the + button to add one more field, and select First records (lifers).  You'll see all your lifers highlighted - 
    • If you're looking for new records for a subregion (new birds for your ABA list, for example), choose a location after My first records in
    • If instead of highlighting, you only want to see those first records, change should be... highlighted to included.

Here's two examples of how this looks:

319 lifers in Peru

3 new ABA species in 2010 (guess which made me happiest?)

This feature works with the "Remembered reports" feature from the last Scythebill release, so if you want to be welcomed every day with how many species you've added to your Western Palearctic list this year, you can.


eBird improvements

Scythebilll 9.3.0 includes a number of small but important improvements when importing data from eBird.

Most importantly, eBird data downloads appear to have started using a variety of date formatting, varying from one user to another.  (Seriously, eBird, cut it out...)  I've added support for all the date formats I've had reported to me, but I doubt I've got them all.  If you have any issues importing data from eBird, please let me know!

Also:
  • It now accepts data downloaded from the "Your lists" section on eBird (for example).  It should successfully import whether your preferences request common names, scientific names, or both (but only English common names).
  • eBird is inconsistent across all its export formats with how it encodes non-English characters - like é, or ç or ñ, and so forth.  Scythebill should now use the right encoding for each import, so location names with those characters should be imported correctly.
  • Scythebill is no longer tripped up by the "Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)" name in eBird.
If you export data to eBird from Scythebill, one change will affect you.  Instead of a dedicated button for exporting to eBird  you'll have to first click Export... at the bottom-left corner of the reports screen.

Checklist improvements

In the Browse by location screen, when saving a checklist with Save as spreadsheet..., Scythebill now correctly pays attention to the "Show everything", "Potential lifers", etc. option;  so you can now save a checklist with just potential lifers, just endemics, and so forth.

There's also a new option, "Species you haven't seen here".  This would let you see, for example, all the birds in California that you haven't seen in California, even if you have seen them somewhere else.  This lets you easily generate hit lists for sites you haven't visited yet.

The Chinese checklist has been reconciled with the official checklist, as have the state checklists of Massachussetts, Connecticut, and Oregon.

The world range of Eurasian Siskin should now be accurate (it was incorrectly omitted from many countries), and Wild Turkey is no longer marked as "introduced" in North America where it is clearly "reintroduced".

In addition, there've been small corrections to the checklists of New Zealand, India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Russia, Nepal, Namibia, Mexico, Ecuador, French Guyana, and Rhode Island.

Thanks again for all the corrections, and again, please keep the "Verify against checklists..." results coming!

Scythebill exports - not all-or-nothing anymore

Prior versions of Scythebill supported a "full" export format, with all Scythebill's data, with an Export... option in the File menu.  However, it was all-or-nothing;  you couldn't just export a subset of your data.

Now, the Export... menu item just takes you to the Show reports screen, where you'll find Scythebill exports in a new Export... menu item at the bottom left:


This is particularly useful if you need to share your sightings between two users. 

As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+, Facebook, or by email.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Scythebill 10.2.0 - Remembered Reports

Scythebill 10.2.0 is now available!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

Remembered Reports


Scythebill 10.2 makes it easy to save the reports you use most frequently.  If you're a lister, you'll get up-to-date species counts immediately on the main window;  even if you're not, you'll get one-click access to your most used reports.

It's just a few steps:
  1. Go to "Show reports"
  2. Choose your report.
  3. Click "Remember...", and choose a name.
That's it!  Once you've done that, you'll have an entry on the main page!  Repeat as needed for all the reports you frequently refer to.  Once you've done this a couple of times, you'll have a main page like this:

Remembered reports!
Any time you come back to the main screen, these totals will appear nearly instantaneously.  You can click on the report name to go straight to the full report, or click on the red "X" to delete the report.  And, of course, you can toggle between Clements and IOC and see all your report totals update immediately.

There's a more subtle improvement to "Show reports" as well.  Now, if you enter a report, then leave, and come back, your report will be just how you left it.  Thanks to Keith M. for the suggestion!

Checklist corrections

Scythebill 10.2 has another 365 checklist corrections.  The most noticeable are:
  • Philippines, Hong Kong, and Arizona have had their checklists aligned with their relative checklist bodies.
  • Green Warbler, Japanese Tit, Vega Gull, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, and the Grey-cheeked Fulvetta complex have been cleaned up.
Again, thank you to the users who continue to send me their checklist corrections with the "Verify against checklists..." menu item.

Bugs too...


Bugs fixed in this version include:
  • AviSys imports would go very, very badly if the data was exported with a two-digit year - you had to use four-digit years in the export from AviSys.  This is fixed - you can import with either format, and Scythebill will import correctly.  Thanks to Rick M. for the report.
  • A few U.S. states have separate political entities for cities and counties, and these cities and counties sometimes had the same name;  for example, Saint Louis in Missouri.  These are now distinguished - it's "Saint Louis" and "Saint Louis City".  Thanks to Ben M. for the report.
  • Some users ran into an exception after renaming or deleting locations.  The exceptions were harmless but very annoying, and are now gone.  Thanks to Ben M. for this report too!
  • Scythebill exports from the United Kingdom would place England, Scotland, or Wales in the "Location 1" column, demoting the actual location to "Location 2".  They now go in "State" (which is imperfect but far better).  Thanks to Emile K. for the report.

As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+, Facebook, or by email.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Scythebill 10.1.2 - IOC 4.1 support!

Scythebill 10.1.2 is now available!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

IOC 4.1!

Scythebill 10.1.2 includes the IOC 4.1 list.  This list was released only two days ago!  So not only are taxonomy upgrades always free (of course), but they're also released faster than any other program.

IOC ranges should be much better in this release, especially for species with large ranges - whereas earlier versions might merely say "Widespread", Scythebill now says "Widespread Africa" or "Widespread Pacific Oceans" (to give two examples).    

Of course, since Scythebill now includes checklists, this also means that all the country and state checklists have been upgraded to IOC 4.1 and ranges adjusted for the new splits.  So I'll take this as another opportunity to plug "Verify against checklists..." in the File menu:  please, try this against your life list and send me the results!  Users' submissions have been invaluable in improving the quality of the checklists, so please keep them coming.

Other changes

  • When exporting reports as spreadsheets, you can now get a column containing counts.  Thanks to Sharon W. for the feature request.
  • Location entry now includes a (hopefully) more informative and intuitive display of the location hierarchy.
  • Dragging "sp." sightings to species resulted in weird UI glitches and the potential for error dialogs;  this has been fixed.  Thanks to Ben N. for the report.
As always, please let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+, Facebook, or by email.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Scythebill 10.1.1 - bug fixes

Scythebill 10.1.1 is now available!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

Scythebill 10.1.1 almost entirely consists of bug fixes, some of which are significant.

The most noticeable change only affects MacOS users, where a long-standing and painful issue with the "Open..." dialog is finally fixed.  It now opens and shows results instantly.

There's a few fixes that affect custom checklists:

  • Custom checklists could not be imported for built-in locations.  You got an error stating the file was corrupt, even though it wasn't.
  • The combination of custom checklists and deleted locations could produce files Scythebill wouldn't load.  They'll load now.  (Thanks to Jonathan B. for the report)
  • The "auto-magic copy-and-paste" feature is better at finding species.


There's also a few fixes in importing data from eBird:
  • eBird imports were not always properly finding states (for example, you'd get a location named "MT" in Brazil instead of having records put in "Mato Grosso").
  • If you took the Scythebill eBird export, and reimported, it would drop the first record, and not always re-find locations correctly. Thanks to Keith M. for reporting.

One small feature was added: when you're choosing dates in "Show reports", you can choose "is today" or "is this year".

Other changes include:

  • Scythebill now generates much better default names for exported .csv and .xls files.
  • New Zealand, Kiribati, Malta, and the Maldives all now have built-in states.
  • When saving files, Scythebill will warn you if you're saving over an existing file.
  • Another 50 checklist fixes have been made.  In particular, the Washington state checklist has been overhauled, and the Pygmy-Owls of the New World should now have accurate ranges (especially those in the "gnoma" complex).

What's coming next?

The next release (barring any urgent bug fixes) should incorporate the IOC 4.1 list.  This will be a lengthier process than my usual rapid IOC uptake, as this will be the first time I've had to reconcile the IOC update with the worldwide checklists.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Scythebill 10.1.0 - Custom checklists and more

Scythebill 10.1.0 is now available!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

Custom checklists

Scythebill now lets you build your own checklists, and share them with your fellow Scythebill users.  I'll tell you more about it in another post (I'm rushing a bit to get this out before the new year), but here's a quick teaser.  All you need to do to build a checklist for a location is:
  • Click "Create checklist..."
  • Choose "Use copy-and-paste auto-magic?"
  • Find a webpage or PDF anywhere on the web - think checklists or trip reports - and paste its text in
  • Click "Start"
That's it!  Scythebill will find all the species named in the text (common or scientific).

Once you've created checklists, you can save them as a .csv file and share them with other users.

If you'd like to play around with an example, you can download a checklist for San Francisco city and open it using "Import checklists..." in the File menu.

An important bugfix

In some unusual circumstances, Scythebill could "forget' some of its entered locations.  This resulted in a scary warning about corrupted files.  If you haven't seen this error message, you are not affected, don't worry.

The underlying issue has been fixed, and Scythebill gracefully handles loading such corrupted files.  (You'd lose some location names, but none of the underlying sightings, and Scythebill will tell you if this happens.)

More checklist corrections

Scythebill has another 375 corrections (42 removals, and 333 additions).  Please keep the corrections coming ("Verify against checklists...") in the File menu, they're invaluable.

Easier importing (MacOS only)

One for the Mac users:  if you've got an eBird .csv file or one of the new shared checklists, you can just drop that file on the Scythebill application (in the Finder or the dock), and it'll be automatically imported.

I try to keep all the features cross-platform, but this one was just easier to implement on Macs (sorry).  

Other fixes

  • The "New location..." button was broken. (Reported by Richard A.)
  • "Verify against checklists..." properly ignores sightings that are marked as "Uncertain identification" or "Not accepted".
  • The "Import" and "Export" menu items have shortcut keys now.  (Thanks to Tim B. for the suggestion)
  • Imports from eBird containing things like "Crow sp." would fail, fixed.  (Thanks also to Tim. B for that one)