Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Scythebill 13.1: IOC 6.3, extended taxonomy improvements, and more!

Scythebill 13.1 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.   

Highlights of this release include:

  • The brand-new IOC 6.3 taxonomy
  • Improvements for extended taxonomies
  • Several smaller improvements



IOC 6.3 taxonomy

The IOC 6.3 - just finalized in the last day or two - is now available in Scythebill!  You can see all of the species-level changes on the IOC website.  Some of the highlights include:
  • Two-way splits of Green Violetear, Vilcabamba Thistletail, Great-winged Petrel, Black-rumped Flameback , and Grey-breasted Wood Wren
  • Three-way splits of Plain-backed Thrush, Plain Wren, and Leach's Storm-Petrel
  • And a 10-way split of Red-bellied Pitta.
  • Plus the long-needed disappearance of Caribbean Coot as a color morph of American Coot
As always, all built-in checklists have been updated to follow the new taxonomy.

IOC 6.3 also includes support for several new languages, and they're supported in Scythebill 13.1 for species names:

  • Afrikaans
  • Catalan
  • Slovenian
  • Thai

Extended taxonomy improvements

Extended taxonomies were just released in 13.0;  this release includes some much-needed improvements.

Most importantly, it's now possible to update an extended taxonomy in-place without the overcomplicated workaround needed before.  Just re-add the updated taxonomy, and Scythebill will automatically upgrade all your sightings to the new version.  (If there's some sightings that it can't upgrade - because the taxonomy has changed too much - you may get prompted to save some sightings off to a Scythebill CSV format, so they can be manually re-imported after the upgrade.)

Other improvements include:
  • Extended taxonomies were not honoring the "Common, then scientific" (etc.) preference.
  • Importing an extended taxonomy from a CSV file broke if any of the lines were missing entries.
  • Opening .btxm files directly (instead of via the "Manage taxonomies..." menu) produced some confusing errors.


Other improvements

  • When exporting a report to a spreadsheet, you can now get "Heard only", "Immature", "Adult", "Male", and "Female" columns (select "Show sighting notes, count, etc.?")
  • The IOC and eBird/Clements taxonomies both now have English names for the bird orders.
  • Scythebill now includes a United Kingdom checklist (generated by merging the England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales checklists).
  • There's a new "not by me" sighting status which the masochists among you can use to record times you've been gripped off.  (Scythebill will not consider these sightings countable for your life list.)
  • The "most-likely subspecies" feature broke in 13.0;  it should be working again.
  • A small set of checklist improvements were included;  in particular, Scythebill has aligned its India checklist with the recently released official checklist.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Scythebill 13.0 - Extended taxonomies are here!

Scythebill 13.0 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.   (And apologies to triskaidekaphobics!)

The highlight of this release is a much-anticipated new feature:  extended taxonomies!  Now, you can keep track of your mammal sightings, your butterfly sightings, your bryophyte records - anything you want!


How extended taxonomies work

I've got my hands full keeping the eBird/Clements and IOC taxonomies up-to-date, so 
extended taxonomies are built by you, the users of Scythebill.

All of this is documented in full detail in the Scythebill manual, but a quick summary:
  • First, a Scythebill user creates a new extended taxonomy, by editing a spreadsheet to have the right columns and rows, then creating a CSV file, and importing that into Scythebill from the new Manage taxonomies... page (under the File menu).
  • Then, if they want to share that taxonomy with others, they export that new extended taxonomy as a ".btxm" file - a Scythebill taxonomy file.  These ".btxm" files are even easier to import.
  • And if they want to share that taxonomy with the entire Scythebill community, they'll share it with me, and I can make it available to everyone.  (I do need you to verify I have permission from the original authors to distribute the taxonomy - no copyright lawsuits, please!)
Once you've added an extended taxonomy to your sightings file, you can switch to that taxonomy at any time with the same Taxonomy menu used to switch between eBird/Clements and IOC.  Extended taxonomies are saved right inside your ".bsxm" sightings file, so there's no need to separately backup the taxonomy file or worry about transferring it between computers.

You can even import your existing sightings straight into an extended taxonomy.  Not only are Scythebill-format CSV files supported, but also Observado and Avisys!

To get you started, I've made available one extended taxonomy - a world checklist of mammal species, courtesy of Jon Hall at mammalwatching.com.

This is a first version, so I'd be surprised if there aren't some lingering bugs.  There's also a few limitations that I'll be working on.   The two most important limitations are:
  • There is currently no built-in support for upgrading an extended taxonomy to a new version.  This is an obvious hole, and one that will be closed soon with a coming Scythebill version.  (There's a workaround, explained in the manual.)
  • Extended taxonomies do not currently support checklists.  There certainly won’t be any built-in checklists - that’s inherent in the concept - but you also can’t write your own custom checklists.
Other limitations are mentioned in the manual.

Related changes

I've removed the Full Scythebill export… menu item.  This was never really the right way to backup or transfer your sightings - use Save as... for that, and with extended taxonomies, it was going to be a very poor choice, as it would only export one taxonomy at a time.  (If you really want exports in CSV format, they're still available inside Show reports.)

Scythebill's automatic backups are now stored as .zip files.  This makes them about 8 or 9 times smaller, which was useful before, but is very important now that extended taxonomies make sightings files even larger.

Import improvements

When an import contains some duplicates, Scythebill used to warn you, but only let you import everything or drop everything.  Now it'll let you drop the duplicates, and import the rest.

Avisys imports do a better job of importing Bonaire and CuraƧao sightings, and Scythebill should be generally better at getting your imported sightings into the right place for countries split across multiple regions (e.g. Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, etc.).

Avisys field note imports should also work more consistently.

Observado.org imports are better in a couple of ways.  Lat/long will be included (though one per location, not one per sighting).  Also, Observado "sp." sightings are supported - so "Phylloscopus collybita / trochilus" will be correctly imported into Scythebill as a "sp.".

Some instances were Scythebill would mistakenly import to a nominate subspecies instead of the parent species have been fixed.

Smaller changes

MacOS users should no longer see errors that Scythebill is "damaged".  Please do let me know if you're still seeing this.

Scythebill will now show the full path to a photo file as hover-text.  This is useful for resolving broken links.  And speaking of photo files, on Windows Scythebill should do a much better job of opening files in your desired photo viewer (and let you open PDFs or other non-image files).

Compact printing (still) does not work in Safari.  It's a Safari bug, not something I can fix, but Scythebill will now warn you.

Finally, there's the usual set of checklist tweaks, including improvements from the Seychelles, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, England, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, France, Armenia, Georgia, Nepal, Angola, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, United Arab Emirates, Guam, Canada as well as a few US states and Canadian provinces.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Scythebill 12.9 - IOC 6.2, Avisys field notes, and eBird/Clements international names

UPDATE (May 1, 2016): I released Scythebill 12.9.1 with a few additions and tweaks:

  • The "Print..." option in "Show Reports" has a new "Compact print?" option, which displays species lists in a much denser, 3 column form.  My life list required 131 pages the old way, but "only" takes 34 pages this way.  (I've seen a lot...)
  • County locations are more clearly marked throughout Scythebill, which helps disambiguate "Los Angeles" (the city) from "Los Angeles" (the county), and so forth.
  • I've fixed up a couple of IOC mappings, most particularly for the "poensis" subspecies of Western Barn Owl.
  • There's the usual batch of checklist tweaks, most particularly for Mauritania.
  • ... and some smaller things you might not notice.


ORIGINAL NOTE: Scythebill 12.9 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

This version includes the just-released IOC 6.2 taxonomy, support for importing Avisys Field Notes, international names for the eBird/Clements taxonomy, and more!


IOC 6.2

The IOC 6.2 taxonomy was finalized yesterday, and Scythebill already supports it, including updates to all Scythebill checklists!  You can get a full list of species-level changes - mostly splits in Cuckoo-Doves and (Australasian) Catbirds.  They've also mercifully restored "Diademed Sandpiper-Plover" to its rightful full name and made a lot of passerine subspecies changes.

Avisys field notes

Avisys let users store "field notes" - free-form text like Scythebill's "Notes' field.  But those notes never made it to the exports file, so Scythebill has been blind to them.

New in 12.9, Scythebill lets you import Field Notes too.  The process is a bit more involved (five more steps than an import without them), since you need to make Avisys produce a second file containing the field notes, then give both files to Scythebill.  The Scythebill manual has already been updated.

Please let me know if you have any problems with this new feature, or if the directions are at all unclear!

eBird/Clements international names

Scythebill 11 added support for international names in the IOC taxonomy.  Scythebill 12.9 adds support for international names in the eBird/Clements taxonomy!  You can now pick from 42 different sets of international eBird/Clements names, including 6 different English options and 11 different Spanish options.  Visit the eBird page about Common Name Translations in eBird to find out more.  To set this, just visit the Preferences page and choose the new Species names (eBird/Clements) preference.

Smaller features

When entering sightings, you'll get a running total of the species count in the upper-right. (It ignores hybrids and "sp's" and only counts multiple subspecies once.)

There's now a checklist for Kosovo, courtesy of courtesy of Qenan Maxhuni!  There's also a bunch of first-country records, many courtesy of the new Facebook Global Rare Bird Alert group.

Scythebill will now detect and warn you if you've set the Scythebill font size large enough that critical parts of the page are offscreen.

Scythebill now has a number of additional "- in part" alternate names;  as a practical effect, this helps Scythebill do a better job importing some recent splits, e.g. it can automatically import "Common Kestrel" in South Africa as Rock Kestrel.

There's also now a new "magic" location in Show reports - "Ireland (Island of)" - which will include sightings in either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Scythebill 12.8.3 - UK names, and better world support for lat/long


Scythebill 12.8.3 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

This is largely a bug-fix release, though the specific bug is one that's lately been a thorn in the side of many of Scythebill's users.  If you write lat/long coordinates as "37.7833 -122.4167", you've been fine.  But if you write them as "37,7833 -122,4167" (with commas as decimal separators), you've likely run into any number of problems, with error dialogs, or location maps not loading, or "Search nearby" failing...  These should all be resolved, though (of course) let me know if you're still seeing problems.

Scythebill also now includes an "English (United Kingdom)" preference for IOC bird names.  When chosen, Scythebill will use names the Queen herself would approve of - Arctic Skua (not Parasitic Jaeger), Guillemot (not Common Murre), and a simple Robin, Wren, Swallow, Goldfinch, etc.  These alternate names are only available for species on the British list;  for the rest of the world, you'll have to put up with the standard IOC names.   Also, this only affects naming, not taxonomy.  So Bean Goose is still split, "Hudsonian Whimbrel" is still lumped, and so forth.

Other changes include:
  • The Western Australia checklist is now in agreement with an official one, thanks to Martin Cake.
  • A wide variety of first-country records from around the world have been added, as well as some simpler errors (like Spot-flanked Gallinule's presence in Bolivia).
  • When adding a "remembered" report, you can overwrite a report with an existing name instead of being forced to choose a different name.
  • BirdLasser imports are a bit more aggressive at merging sightings into a single "visit".
  • Scythebill gives a more informative error if saving should fail.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Scythebill 12.8.2 - easier subspecies editing

Scythebill 12.8.2 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

This version was largely released to fix a bug that affected first-time users, but while in, I've fixed a few other things and added some small new features.

Easier subspecies editing

Previously, the only straightforward way to allocate sightings to subspecies after initial data entry was to visit Browse by species and manually drag species onto the desired subspecies.

Now, any time you've selected one (or more) sightings (from any page), you'll see a new menu:



You can use this menu to move that sighting (or sightings) to a new subspecies.  The range of each subspecies will appear when selected;  but if you'd like to see all the ranges at once, click (range summary...) and you'll get an overview of just that:



And if you're a true obsessive for subspecies entry, there's a new option in Show reports.  Ask for "subspecies" "is not allocated", and you'll get all the sightings that are not yet assigned to subspecies (but could be - monotypic species are not included).

Better multiple-file support

If multiple people want to keep lists with Scythebill on the same computer, they need to create multiple .bsxm files.  That works fine - but each time it's opened, Scythebill has only re-opened one of those files (the last one opened).

Now, Scythebill will re-open all the files, each time.

Bugs fixed

Scythebill 12.8.0 introduced a bug that affected first-time users;  those that imported directly from the first screen could fail with an error.  That's fixed (and that's the reason for this release coming when it does).

Observado/Waarnemingen imports now correctly support provinces identified like "Bruxelles/Brussel".

The "Verify against checklists..." report now properly ignores sightings marked as "Domestic".

The country code "ZO" is now supported for Avisys imports as "South Polar Region".

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Scythebill 12.8 - IOC 6.1, and even better imports

Note:  I released Scythebill 12.8.1 for a couple of changes that just missed the first release.  First, there's now a Delete all... button inside Show reports -> Bulk edit... which lets you delete a slew of entries all at once.  Second, there's a couple of bug fixes for the "First records (Lifers)" report option.

Original note: Scythebill 12.8 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email

This release features the just-released IOC 6.1 checklist, and makes import (of all sorts!) even more effortless.


IOC 6.1 checklist

The IOC 6.1 checklist was released just yesterday, and Scythebill's already upgraded.  For the world listers out there, highlights include splits to Sedge Wren, Striolated Puffbird, and Snowy-browed Flycatcher.  All the details are on the IOC website.

Imports are even easier

Scythebill has, historically, taken the English and scientific names of birds in your imports very literally.  This meant that splits and lumps could leave you with old sightings still attached to old species boundaries.  Scythebill now does a much better job, by using a wealth of alternate names (many pre-existing, and many newly added) and combining those with the Scythebill checklists to give you much better results.

For example, if you had asked Scythebill to import:


Common, Country, DateBlack-shouldered Kite,South Africa,Black-shouldered Kite,Australia,Purple Swamphen,New Zealand,Purple Swamphen,Philippines,Purple Swamphen,United States,Purple Swamphen,Spain,Purple Swamphen,Kenya,Purple Swamphen,Thailand,
... then earlier versions would have given you two sightings of the Australian "Black-shouldered Kite", and 6 sightings of "Western Swamphen".

Scythebill will now correctly assign the South African kite sighting to Black-winged Kite, the New Zealand swamphen to Australasian Swamphen, the Kenyan swamphen to African Swamphen, and so forth.  

It'll even assign the Thailand swamphen to a "spuh" - Grey-headed/Black-backed Swamphen - and take you to a window after import to pick which one was seen (if you want).

This should make getting started with Scythebill even easier, and applies to all imports - Avisys, BirdBase, Scythebill, BirdLasser, etc.  Let me know if you have any problems - there's still certainly many more alternate names to add, so if you find imports failing to choose a reasonable species, I'd like to hear about it.

Other fixes

BirdLasser imports were always importing sightings as January!  Thankfully, this is now fixed prior to February's arrival.

I've fixed how I package the MacOS download;  opening the .dmg file should automatically pop open a window, instead of forcing you to hunt for the mounted disk.  (Or, in other words, installing on MacOS is now easier.)

"Verify against checklists" used to produce corrections that bounced around the world at random;  it now outputs in a fairly predictable, sane order.

As always, some small improvements were made to checklists:
  • The Western Sahara checklist is substantially improved.
  • Smaller changes were made for Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.
  • A number of recent "firsts" for countries in the Western Palearctic and US states are added.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Scythebill 12.7 - "Search nearby", BirdLasser, and more

Update: I've released Scythebill 12.7.1, with two small fixes.  The new BirdLasser import failed for some date formats;  it now should reliably import.  Also, location detection would sometimes fail to detect the state/province of a location (only finding the country);  it should now be more reliable.

Original note: Scythebill 12.7 is here! As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Google+Facebook, or by email.  

This release adds a few relatively small features that you've been requesting:

  • Improvements in finding eBird hotspots
  • Easier access to visit data
  • "Domestic" forms of species
  • BirdLasser imports

Location entry improvements


When you were entering a new location, Scythebill previously would first show you a latitude and longitude from a Google service.  If you wanted to get information from eBird, you had to click another button ("Ignore Google result?") to get to it.   Now Scythebill will load from both simultaneously, so it's much easier to get to eBird results.

Also, once you have a latitude and longitude entered, Scythebill will show you a new Search nearby button.  This will look for eBird and Google results near that location.  This makes it much easier to pick eBird hotspots.

Easier access to visit data


Visit data - like comments, distance covered, duration, eBird protocol - used to be fairly buried, hidden away in Browse by location.  It's still there - but it's now much easier to get to.  Any time you're looking at a single sighting, you'll have a Visit data... button:

Click that button, and you'll get a dialog where you can see (and edit) the visit data for that visit.

Visit data's also more useful, as you can now create reports based on Visit comments text from Show reports:



Domestic forms

Scythebill now has explicit "domestic" forms of Mallard, Greylag Goose, Swan Goose, Muscovy Duck, Helmeted Guineafowl, Indian Peafowl, Red Junglefowl (aka "Chicken"), Wild Turkey, Budgerigar, African ("Ringed") Turtle Dove, and Cockatiel, as well as a feral form of Muscovy Duck (for the fully wild Florida population that is derived from domestic birds).

Domestic forms are never countable - they're used for those flocks of domestic ducks (and others) that might have some wild genes remaining, but are genetically not the same as wild individuals, even if they are established, breeding populations.  They are, nonetheless, very much part of the eBird taxonomy, and this will make it much easier to export to (and import from) eBird when you've recorded these individuals.

You can store domestic sightings of any other species as well, with the new Domestic sighting status option.

BirdLasser imports

Scythebill now supports imports from BirdLasser, an Android and iOS app for recording South African bird sightings.  This support is somewhat experimental, as BirdLasser has a very different location model (latitude/longitude for each sighting) from Scythebill;  Scythebill will do what it can to automatically find nearby locations using eBird and Google.   Let me know how this works if you can try it!


Other import improvements

Some eBird checklists wouldn't import (as they had a hitherto-unknown-to-me date format); that's now fixed.

Avisys exports now proceed smoothly even when most of the rightmost columns have been removed.

New features


There's a new Backup now... button on the preferences page, if you want to force an immediate backup after lots of data entry.

The "Complete list of sightings?" checkbox was far too easy to overlook when entering sightings.  I've added another place to select that option on the prior page, where the rest of the visit information is entered.

Scythebill now allows you to enter "Dead" as a sighting status, for those unfortunate occasions when you record a deceased bird.  Such sightings will never be counted as lifers or any other species totals, but will be included in eBird exports.

Finally, there's a new Location description field in Scythebill CSV exports and imports.

Checklist improvements

This time around, there's a number of small improvements to the checklists of the Azores, France, Sulawesi, Mauritania, Morocco, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, and New Zealand, as well as a number of first country records from the Western Palearctic and first provincial records from Canada.

Bugs fixed

The built-in state checklists for Indonesian states will now be available even if you've rearranged the built-in locations a bit (moving Indonesia to an "Oriental Region" or something similar).

Bulk date editing would fail if you only entered a partial date (e.g. changing the year of a large number of records).  That's fixed.

If you dragged photos into Scythebill on MacOS, those photos might fail to display when later clicked-on.  That's fixed too.

A couple of uncommon (and harmless but annoying) cases where error dialogs would appear have been fixed.