Friday, January 23, 2015

Scythebill 11 - eBird, international names, and IOC 5.1

Scythebill 11 is here!   As always, download here, and please let me know if you have any problems, let me know either on Google+Facebook, or by email.

Scythebill 11 adds three big new features:
  • Much better eBird support - Scythebill can store start times, duration, distance, etc. - and rapidly get that data to eBird.
  • International names!  Tired of seeing bird names in English?  There's now 20 different languages available.  And if you'd rather use scientific names, that's possible too.
  • Last, but not least, the IOC 5.1 upgrade, announced last week.
There's lots of smaller improvements too!

(If you've been beta testing, the big change in this release is the IOC 5.1 upgrade;  the notes below describe everything that's changed for those that didn't use the betas.)

Full eBird Data

First, eBird is now much better supported.  Previously, you could only enter “Incidental” sightings, with rather little data.  Now you can choose a protocol, attach checklist comments, set start times, durations, distances, and the “Complete checklist?” field, and it'll all be included as you export to and import from eBird.  All of this extra data makes its way into the now-enhanced Scythebill export files too.




You can also get an eBird file saved off as soon as you finish entering sightings, sparing you a series of extra steps.


International bird names


Another big new feature is international bird names!  If you use the IOC checklist, you can get bird names in 20 different languages (plus English, of course).  Most of these are 90-95% complete, though a few (Portuguese, Estonian, and Hungarian) are a bit sparser.

You can also choose, if you wish, to tell Scythebill that you prefer scientific names over common names.

Just click on the new Preferences button on the main page to edit these settings.

IOC 5.1 - and undescribed species

The latest version of the IOC taxonomy is now available, and all checklists have been upgraded to follow its latests splits.  (The checklist ranges for the four new Fox Sparrow species are the best I could do with the data I had;  please let me know if you see anything amiss.)

I've also added - to both Clements and IOC - 26 different undescribed species.  (Two of these are, in fact, already described and have full names in the IOC checklist.)

Better editing of existing data



There’s now a much smoother experience editing data from your old outings.  Before, if you realized you’d made a mistake - missed some species, added some others incorrectly, forgot to enter a count, and so forth - you had to tediously find sightings one-by-one.  Now, just go back to Enter sightings, enter the date and location, click Next - and you’ll be right back where you were, with a full list of sightings from that visit.

Even better, there’s a menu on the Enter sightings page with your 10 most recently entered visits, so you can quickly make fixes to recently entered data:



Checklist improvements


These 5 countries now have fully reconciled checklists, including rarities:
  • Costa Rica
  • Iceland
  • Panama
  • St. Lucia
  • Germany (thanks to Jochen B.)

Zack W. did a huge job, reconciling checklists for 11 US states!  Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin all are up-to-date with rarities set.  And Bill D. reconciled the checklists for Georgia and Indiana - we're down to just five US states that need touching up.

Also:
  • The 25th ABA Checklist update is applied (e.g. Purple Swamphen is now an “introduced” species in Florida)
  • The Water/Brown-cheeked Rail split is now correctly reflected in checklists.
  • Daniel H. found an error in the Panama checklist
  • Jochen B. pointed out mistakes in a number of countries
  • Paul H. saw problems in the Western Australia and Norfolk lists.
  • Niall P. provided some South African corrections.
  • Johan L. identified an issue with the Trinidad and Tobago list.

Smaller things

The "Clements" checklist is now listed as the "eBird/Clements" checklist - it was renamed that a couple of years ago.


Several users found a (Mac-only?) bug - if you started Scythebill by opening a .bsxm file, instead of opening the Scythebill application directly, you saw an error message that your file was corrupt.  Files weren’t corrupt, and everything worked, but it was scary all the same.

In Show reports, when you create a date-based report “is after” and “is before” were wrong - if you asked for “is before 2010”, you got everything before 2010 and 2010 itself.  Now it does what it says.  Thanks to Steve C. for that report.

A nasty bug (Windows only) that could show an error dialog and lock up Scythebill altogether (you had to kill it with Task Manager) has been fixed (most likely - I couldn't personally reproduce it).  Thanks to Penny V. for reporting this.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Scythebill 11.1 - a quick beta update

Tonight, I've released another update for the Scythebill 11 beta.

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

This fixes a bug a few users encountered with the first beta - it failed to load if you had sightings without a location.  That's resolved here.

International bird names

There's also a big new feature - international bird names!  If you use the IOC checklist, you can get bird names in 20 different languages (plus English, of course).  Most of these are 90-95% complete, though a few (Portuguese, Estonian, and Hungarian) are a bit sparser.

You can also choose, if you wish, to tell Scythebill that you prefer scientific names over common names.

Just click on the new Preferences button on the main page to edit these settings.


And a few things more...

The Germany checklist now has full rarity data, courtesy of Jochen B. 
The Georgia (US state, not country) does as well, thanks to Bill D.
Browse by location now correctly omits escapees from species counts (a good catch from Jochen B.)

Coming next


The next update of Scythebill should emerge from beta, and include the (just-released) IOC 5.1 checklist.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Scythebill 11.0 - now in beta!

Scythebill 11 is here!  Or, rather, a beta version of Scythebill 11.  I’d love to get some early testing of this release before I announce it fully.  For one, the manual isn't yet updated;  for another, there's a couple of small things I'd like to improve.  So I'm not quite ready, but at the same time it’s got lots of new features and bug fixes.  (And it gives me the time to add one more big feature!)

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

Full eBird data


First, eBird is now much better supported.  Previously, you could only enter “Incidental” sightings, with rather little data.  Now you can choose a protocol, attach checklist comments, set start times, durations, distances, and the “Complete checklist?” field, and it'll all be included as you export to and import from eBird.  All of this extra data makes its way into the now-enhanced Scythebill export files too.



You can also get an eBird file saved off as soon as you finish entering sightings, sparing you a series of extra steps.

Better editing of existing data

Second, there’s a much smoother experience editing data from your old outings.  Before, if you realized you’d made a mistake - missed some species, added some others incorrectly, forgot to enter a count, and so forth - you had to tediously find sightings one-by-one.  Now, just go back to Enter sightings, enter the date and location, click Next - and you’ll be right back where you were, with a full list of sightings from that visit.

Even better, there’s a little dropdown menu in the first Enter sightings page with your 10 most recently entered visits, so you can make fixes to recently entered data fast:


How you can help


If you download this beta, I’d hugely appreciate feedback - positive or negative! - about these two features:

  • Do they work as you expect?  Is anything confusing?
  • If you’re an eBird user, do these changes make life better?  Does anything fail to work?
  • If you’re not an eBird user, are these changes too intrusive?  Do you wish you could hide any of it?


Checklist fixes

These 4 countries now have fully reconciled checklists, including rarities:

  • Costa Rica
  • Iceland
  • Panama
  • St. Lucia

Zack W. did a huge job, reconciling checklists for 11 US states!  Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennesse, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin all are up-to-date with rarities set.

Also:

  • The 25th ABA Checklist update is applied (e.g. Purple Swamphen is now an “introduced” species in Florida)
  • The Water/Brown-cheeked Rail split is now correctly reflected in checklists.
  • Daniel H. found an error in the Panama checklist
  • Jochen B. pointed out mistakes in a number of countries
  • Paul H. saw problems in the Western Australia and Norfolk lists.
  • Niall P. provided some South African corrections.
  • Johan L. identified an issue with the Trinidad and Tobago list.

Other bugs

Several users found a (Mac-only?) bug - if you started Scythebill by opening a .bsxm file, instead of opening the Scythebill application directly, you saw an error message that your file was corrupt.  Files weren’t corrupt, and everything worked, but it was scary all the same.

In Show reports, when you create a date-based report “is after” and “is before” were wrong - if you asked for “is before 2010”, you got everything before 2010 and 2010 itself.  Now it does what it says.  Thanks to Steve C. for that report.

A nasty bug (Windows only) that could show an error dialog and lock up Scythebill altogether (you had to kill it with Task Manager) has been fixed (most likely - I couldn't personally reproduce it).  Thanks to Penny V. for reporting this.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Scythebill 10.6.3 - IOC 4.4 checklist

Scythebill 10.6.3 is here!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

This release includes the new IOC 4.4 world checklist, released just this week.  The taxonomic highlights are listed here.


Beyond that, there are a few small improvements to the checklists.  And MacOS users that have upgraded to Yosemite will find a font more consistent with the rest of the system.

Bigger features are in the works... but my day job has been a bit more hectic than usual.  Stay tuned!

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

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Scythebill 10.6.2 - bug fixes

Scythebill 10.6.2 is here!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.

This release includes two important bug fixes.

First, a few users have seen errors when upgrading from 10.5 ("Taxa list too small for multiple").  If you've upgraded to 10.6.0 or 10.6.1 and haven't seen this, then you're entirely unaffected.  This was partly fixed in 10.6.1, but not all the way.  It should be fixed now - but if you're still having any problems, please get in touch with me!

Second, imports in the Scythebill format have been failing to read "Location 1", "Location 2", etc. columns.  This has been broken since 10.5.0.   Huge thanks to Keith M. and Stuart T. for the bug report.

There's also a few modest improvements to the checklists:

  • The Singapore checklist has been reconciled, and now includes rarities.
  • Massachusetts, South Carolina, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont checklists have been cleaned up by Scythebill users Zack W. and Bill D.

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

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Fast sighting count entry - new in Scythebill 10.6

Entering sightings counts in Scythebill has been a bit tedious, but a new feature in Scythebill 10.6 makes it easy and fast.

This quick video explains how it works:





Monday, September 1, 2014

Scythebill 10.6 - eBird/Clements 6.9, and lots of checklist improvements

Scythebill 10.6.0 is here!  Download it here, and please follow Scythebill on Google+ or Facebook for updates.


(A small update, to 10.6.1, was released a couple of days later.  It fixes one bug that triggered only during upgrade, and only if you had seen a species that was split in the new eBird/Clements list in a location not covered by a Scythebill checklist.  If you upgraded to 10.6.0 already, and didn't get an error message, you weren't affected by the bug, and don't need 10.6.1.)


eBird/Clements 6.9



The big ticket item in this release is an upgrade to the eBird/Clements 6.9 checklist.  This checklist was released a couple of weeks ago, in mid-August;  that's a little slower than my usual upgrade, but there's significant improvements in the upgrade process since the last upgrade.

In particular, Scythebill now uses its built-in checklists to automate much of the work in upgrading to a new taxonomy.  If you've seen King Rail anywhere in the United States, it knows that can't be Aztec Rail - so it'll automatically be assigned. If you've seen Clapper Rail in California, that's got to be Ridgway's Rail.  Or, for a more complicated example, take the massive 16-way split of Red-bellied Pitta!  

  • If you'd seen Red-bellied Pitta in Australia, Scythebill can determine that you've seen Papuan Pitta.
  • If you'd seen it in the Philippines, then you've seen either Blue-breasted Pitta or Sulu Pitta.  (Most of Scythebill's checklists are at the country level, so it can't know more than that, even though only a few birders have reached the home of the Sulu Pitta.)
  • And if you've seen it in Indonesia, well, that could be any of 9 species!

If you've entered subspecies for your sightings, this won't be as important - those sightings will automatically be assigned to species in the face of splits, just as they were in earlier Scythebill upgrades.


Once Scythebill has simplified the upgrade with its checklists, if there's anything left to clean up, you'l visit the standard Scythebill taxonomy upgrade page, where you can quickly clean up what's left.



Also as part of this release, I've preemptively added two species in the eBird/Clements revision to the IOC checklist - Omani Owl and Cryptic Treehunter.  A bit presumptive of me, but I expect one or both of these to appear in the IOC list in the near future, and this simplified life in the upgrade.

Checklist improvements

Scythebill's checklist data has had many improvements since the last release.  I'd highly recommend using Verify against checklists... again with this release, even if you have already done so before, especially if you've birded in South America at all.  I got an armchair tick out of doing so! (Mato Grosso Swift, aka Amazonian Swift, split from Chapman's Swift.)

Improvements include:
  • All of South America has been reconciled  (including the Falkland and Galapagos Islands checklists), including rarities.  These are the largest checklists in the world, so this took some doing..
  • New checklists are provided for
    • American Samoa
    • Anguilla
    • Cook Islands
    • Guam
    • Kiribati
    • Montserrat
    • Northern Marianas
    • Palau
    • Pitcairn Islands
    • St. Barthélemy
    • Tristan de Cunha
  • Rarities are now accurately provided for the US states of Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North and South Carolina, North Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
  • Further corrections are made to the checklists for the Federated States of Micronesia as well as "Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha".
  • The ranges of Tropical and Audubon's Shearwater have been clarified.

Some small eBird things

eBird exports now default the Protocol and "All birds observed" fields.  They're set to "Incidental" and "N", because at this point Scythebill doesn't give users a way to set these fields otherwise.  (Letting users set all of the eBird fields is a top priority for the next release.)  Scythebill also sets the number field in eBird exports to "X" (instead of leaving it blank) when there is no number.

One more feature...

There's one more feature I'll hold for its own post.  It's small, but a real timesaver.

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