Thursday, May 7, 2020

Scythebill 14.8.4 - small features and fixes

Scythebill 14.8.4 is now available, with a few small features and fixes.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

This is a small update, with two new features:

  • There's a new "Oriental region" option in reporting - you can choose it as a location name.  It follows the Oriental Bird Club's region as best it can.  It is a bit off in two specific geographic regions.  First, it includes all of Indonesia's Maluku region - but the Aru Islands are not part of the Oriental region.  Second, it includes all Russian districts that are at all east of 90° longitude, when technically those portions west of 90° should not be.
  • There's a new "Signs only" sighting status option, which you can use for times when you've observed signs of a species - an abandoned nest, footprints, mammal spoor - without seeing the species itself.  Such sightings are not countable.
There's also a few bug fixes:
  • HBW Alive imports are now much more accurate, just in time for HBW Alive to shut down ... (The site is closing on May 11th.)
  • Saved reports that used "Or" or "Never" on the first row wouldn't restore properly - they'd show as "And".
  • Some Linux users were seeing "File has been modified!" warnings very shortly after saving.  These should (hopefully) be resolved.


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Scythebill 14.8.3: eleven small fixes

Scythebill 14.8.3 is now available, with a number of small fixes.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

Font changes

Scythebill now uses a font for Windows and Linux that supports Japanese, Chinese, and Korean characters (as well as some other languages) which were not supported before.  There may be some slight visual changes associated with this;  let me know if anything seems markedly worse.

eBird improvements


Scythebill now uses the latest eBird breeding bird codes.  Most interestingly, "Singing male" is now "Singing bird" - did you know that in most songbird species, females sing too?  Also, there's new "Used nest" and "Wren/woodpecker nest building" codes..

Scythebill had a bad habit of importing some eBird groups as "spuhs" - when the scientific name of the group listed two subspecies (like "Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) - Junco hyemalis hyemalis/carolinensis").  This is fixed.

Scythebill also now gives a much better error message when it gets a "MyEBirdData" import where the dates are formatted strangely.  This most often happens when users edit this CSV file in Excel.  As a reminder, you can always import an entire MyEBirdData file into Scythebill, and Scythebill will automatically exclude the already-imported sightings.

Finally, Scythebill Life List imports were largely failing, starting in 14.8.2.


Other improvements

Scythebill now tries to save window locations when you quit and restart, so if you'd like to keep your windows on one side of your screen or another, Scythebill will try to keep it there.

Scythebill, for at least some users, was showing an error screen when dragging images in from Chrome for photos. (You can attach photos from your disk or a website.)

The File menu looks a bit different in this release.  Most notably, I've moved and renamed the old "New..." and "Open..." menu items;  an occasional user would think that "New..." was the proper way to enter new sightings, which it most definitely is not!  ("New..." creates a new sightings file altogether.)

German translations are a bit better, thanks to advice from a native speaker.

Observado imports should now support the French language.

The Linux installer now asks before putting a shortcut on the desktop.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Scythebill 14.8.0 - IOC 10.1, iNaturalist, editing improvements, and more!

Scythebill 14.8.0 is now available, with the just-released IOC 10.1 taxonomy, iNaturalist import and export support, and a lot of other smaller improvements and fixes  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

Scythebill 14.8.1 was released on February 18 with a handful of fixes, and 14.8.2 on February 22 with a few more;  please scroll to the bottom section ("Other changes").

IOC 10.1 taxonomy

The IOC 10.1 taxonomy was just released, and is now supported.   As always, Scythebill will handle the process of upgrading automatically.  And you can visit the "Splits and lumps" special report after upgrading to see how you did!

This taxonomy includes the usual set of splits and lumps.  One likely to affect most people is the split of Whimbrel into Eurasian Whimbrel (Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia) and Hudsonian Whimbrel (the Americas).  There are a fair number of records of vagrants of each form into the range of the other, which will make it harder for Scythebill to automatically choose which half of the split you've seen.

Those who've birded in southeast Asia may also encounter a two-species turn into five-species split - Brown and Striated Prinia are now Himalayan, Deignan, Swinhoe's, Burmese, and Annam Prinias.

Editing improvements

First, the species table in Enter sightings. has two new columns.  One shows the Number (if any), and the other shows the sighting status (Introduced, Escapee, Dead, etc.): 


These columns should make it much easier to scan your entered data for important information without tediously expanding each row.

Second, there is now a "Delete all..." button when you've selected a visit in Browse by location.  This makes it much faster to clean up improperly entered or duplicate data.

Backups - please turn them on!

Scythebill has long had a feature to back up your data weekly or monthly, but I'd like to see a lot more users turn this on! Over the years, I've had messages from several users who've lost track of their .bsxm files, and while I've been able to help some of them find their data and get back on track, others have lost everything. This is painful to me.

Scythebill 14.8 will nag you to turn on backups if you haven't.  If you click "Ask me later", it won't nag you again for a week, and you can also tell Scythebill not to ask ever again.  But please do enable backups.  Your data is precious;  take care of it!

iNaturalist import and export

Scythebill can now import from and export to iNaturalist, a widely-used website supporting observations across the entire "tree of life".

To import from iNaturalist, visit https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/export.  Choose a query - probably setting User to your iNaturalist user ID, and choosing a single group of taxa with "Show only", then "Create export". The imports will automatically link Scythebill to any photos you uploaded on iNaturalist.

To export from Scythebill to iNaturalist, go to Show reports, create a report with the sightings you want, then use Export... (at the bottom left) and ...to iNaturalist.  This will give you a CSV file.  Visit https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/import, click Import from CSV, then choose the CSV file you just created. Note that these imports do not include any photos you have;  you'll have to upload those manually if needed.

Other import improvements

A long-standing bug is fixed;  Scythebill imported four "sp." imports to incorrect species.
  • Sitta sp. was imported as Sulphur-billed Nuthatch!
  • Pionus sp. was imported as Scaly-headed Parrot!
  • Dicaeum sp. was imported as Fire-breasted Flowerpecker!
  • Rhipidura sp. was imported as Mindanao Blue-Fantail!
The underlying cause is a bit embarrassing - it was code in Scythebill that was attempting to gracefully handle small typos interacting poorly with a few very particular three-letter subspecies names.  There's multiple layers of protection against this happening again.

eBird imports in general no longer ask you to import "sp." entries (e.g "Gull sp."), since these are not supported by Scythebill.  The eBird importer is also more successful at dealing with "eBird" files as generated by Wildlife Recorder.

As of 14.8.2, eBird checklists that have a latitude and longitude in the name should automatically extract that information for you (and often use it to automatically pick a country and state).

Wings imports should be successful much more often.

As of 14.8.1, BirdBase imports now can import to non-bird taxonomies.

Across all imports (and particularly important for imports of custom data), Scythebill's better at supporting country and state/province abbreviations in place of full names.

Other changes

  • 14.8.2: The "backup begging" code now pays attention to "Don't ask again", and will only ask once a week if you click "Ask me later".  (It was always supposed to work this way.)
  • 14.8.2: Saving a report as a spreadsheet with subspecies and both a common and scientific name column no longer shows the subspecies name twice.
  • 14.8.1: Family reports don't count undescribed species if that's disabled in Preferences
  • 14.8.1: The new "Number" and "Status" columns also appear for Checklist species entry
  • 14.8.1: The "copy-and-paste magic" way of building custom checklists had some glitches, especially around defaulting statuses, when using the IOC taxonomy.
  • 14.8.1: Checklists saved as spreadsheets would sometimes generate broken files;  this should be fixed.
  • Scythebill has fully incorporated the 2019 IUCN Red List updates.
  • For users with multiple observers, Scythebill 14.7.4 added an Observer field at the top of the window.  A bug with Observer fields and "Lifers"/"Species you've seen" in Browse by location has been fixed.
  • Some reports with a Sighting Status field would fail;  this is fixed.
  • Report spreadsheets used to replace the sighting status ("introduced") with "heard only" for such sightings.  That won't happen anymore:  heard only will either be appended, or put in its own column (when "Show notes" is enabled).
  • The folder you use for exports and imports and reports is now tracked separately from the folder for your .bsxm file.
  • For MacOS users, Scythebill is now fully "notarized" for MacOS Catalina. 
  • As always, there's the usual set of checklist updates.  Most notably, I think, I'd had omitted Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo from the Bhutan checklist - while Fork-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo does appear to be present too, Square-tailed Drongo-Cuckoo seems the far more commonly reported species.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Scythebill 14.7.4 - eBird import is fixed, and better Multiple Observer support

Scythebill 14.7.4 is now available, with some critical fixes to get eBird imports working once more and an improvement to Multiple Observer support.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email.

eBird import fixes

At some point in the last week or so, eBird changed the name of the column header containing species comments in both their Checklist and MyData export formats.  This broke Scythebill, which relies on those column header names to find the data.

(Scythebill should also have given a better error message than it did, instead of just saying the .csv file might not be valid.)

This has been fixed, so new files (and old files) should import cleanly.

Multiple Observer improvement

Scythebill added support for recording sightings for multiple observers in a single .bsxm file back in 14.0.0.  If you've never seen it - and want to use it - you can check out the section in the Scythebill manual that explains it.  (If you don't need this feature, don't worry about it - it's well-hidden, and none of it appears at all unless you go to the Scythebill Preferences page and turn it on.)

New to 14.7.4, though, is a quick way to toggle between those observers for all the reporting Scythebill gives you.  Now, just to the right of the Taxonomy chooser up top, is an Observer field, where you can pick a single observer:


As soon as you've done so, all the sightings will automatically be filtered to just that one observer - whether you're in Show reports, Browse by location, Browse by species, any of the Special reports, or even the "Remembered" reports whose totals show up on the main menu page.  You can always leave it blank to get a report for all the observers in your file.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Scythebill 14.7.2 - bug fixes and Trip Reports improvements

Scythebill 14.7.2 is now available, with a variety of small bug fixes and a few improvements to Trip Reports.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email

Update: Scythebill 14.7.3 had one bug fix beyond 14.7.2.  No need to update if you already have 14.7.2 and it's working for you.

One point of caution for MacOS users:  this version is the first MacOS release that is "notarized" by Apple. This should make it much more likely for Scythebill to work properly on MacOS Catalina - though I have not yet tested with that version! - but also makes it possible that it might not work on some older versions.  I expect that any issues would happen as soon as you try to open Scythebill, so if it opens, you're good.  Please let me know if you encounter any issues.

And for Windows users - Scythebill will now warn you when your .bsxm file is in your Scythebill application directory (at least, if you install in the default location).  Doing so works sometimes, and sometimes makes Windows very unhappy, generating errors and generally making user's lives difficult.  It is recommended that you put .bsxm files in your Documents directory, or in cloud-based storage.

Trip Reports improvements

Trip Reports support two new options.

First, Include species from other taxonomies - which will generate an extra species list for all the other taxonomies where you recorded any observations, one per taxonomy.  (The species table is only for the current taxonomy.) 

Second, Include favorite photos (experimental) - which will take any photos that you have starred to mark as favorites and include them in the species list.  This has a few restrictions
  • It won't work for RAW photos
  • It will only work for photos stored as files, not on a website.
  • Also (and this is the most important reason for marking this as "experimental") when pasting into word processors, results are very inconsistent.  Most drop the photos altogether.

Bug fixes

  • If you upgraded to 14.7 or 14.7.1 and then tried to run with an older version of Scythebill, you got a cryptic error message.  Once you upgrade to 14.7.2, running with older versions should give a clear error message.
  • Wildlife Recorder importing is now much, much better.
  • The "Add sighting..." button (in Browse by species) no longer jumps the list of species back to the top in some cases.
  • Family reports might have better results when pasted into spreadsheet software, depending on the software.  (It's better in Numbers, unchanged in LibreOffice, and I haven't tested Excel.
  • Scythebill should no longer generate incorrect warnings that you can't see all of the content of your windows when you have multiple screens.
  • MacOS Numbers in a Chinese locale couldn't view dates in spreadsheets created from Show reports.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Scythebill 14.7 - eBird/Clements update, German, and more

Update: Scythebill 14.7.1 was released on August 28, 2019.  Most importantly, it fixes a bug that broke all "save as spreadsheet" features.  It's also got some small improvements to checklists and the new German translation.

Original post: Scythebill 14.7.0 is now available, with the brand-new eBird/Clements 2019 taxonomy, translation into German, continent checklists, "tick" maps, and more.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email


eBird/Clements 2019 taxonomy

This taxonomy was released two days ago, and it's a big one with more than 80 splits (some of them into as many as six ways, and 12 lumps.  Do you love White-eyes?  If you do, you'll love this update!  (If you've been using the IOC taxonomy, many of these will be old news to you - but it's excellent that these two taxonomies are now a fair bit closer.)

If you're interested in knowing more about what happened, I strongly recommend the (inherently lengthy) overview on the eBird website, especially if you need guidance with some of the more complicated changes (again, White-eyes!).   

As always, Scythebill will work hard to automate as much of the update as possible.  And when you've updated, visit Special reports, then Splits and lumps, to see just what happened.  (I got 17 armchair ticks, and lost one.)


German translation, and more Spanish translations

Scythebill is now available with a translation into German!  As is still the case with the Spanish translation, I need all the help I can get cleaning it up to use proper German.  If you speak German, and see anything off, please let me know.

Also, the Spanish translation is now more complete - in particular, there's translations for all the continent and country names, and a few pieces of text I'd missed in my previous efforts.


Continent and region checklists

Scythebill finally supports automatic checklists for each of its built-in regions (North America, West Indies, Pacific Ocean, Europe, etc.).  This means you can finally get answers to things like "what West Indies endemics have I seen?  which haven't I seen?".  These checklists work with the Family report too.

As a critical part of this, Scythebill now has separate checklists for European and Asian Russia, and Asian and Australasian Indonesia.


Country and state "tick" maps

The "Total ticks" special report has a new trick:  you can see color-coded maps of countries or states of the world, and how much you've seen in each place.  Just visit Special reports, then Total ticks, and click the new Total ticks map button.  Here's a country map (you can use a small menu at the upper-left to zoom in on various regions):


It's pretty clear that I need to spend a lot more time in Africa and Asia!

And if you switch from "Country" to "State" total ticks, and click that Total ticks map button again, you can look at your total ticks at the state level (switching between countries with that menu in the upper-left).  Here's Brazil:


I'd really love to visit ParanĂ¡ or Rio Grande do Sul!

Total tick maps are not supported for county ticks, unfortunately.  (They also don't show up for states in a few countries, like Kenya, Indonesia, or the UK).


Trip report improvements

There's a few subtle improvements in Trip Reports.
  • The itinerary is now much smarter about ordering and merging visits to the same location on consecutive days
  • The trip report title will now include the year (if all visits were in a single year)
  • Pasting the species table into a plain-text editor (one that doesn't support fancy styling) will now give you a nicely aligned table (at least with a monospace font like Courier)


"Wings" imports

Wings was birding software for MacOS (and perhaps Windows too?).  It's been defunct for some time, but Scythebill can now import directly from its exports. To prepare the exports from Wings, you'll need to do a series of exports, all in XML format:

  • All your sightings
  • ... and all seven kinds of locations (from Continent down to Station)
From there, go to Imports in Scythebill, choose Wings imports, and in the file chooser that opens, select all eight XML files that you produced in Wings.  (I wish Wings had chosen to support a simpler export format for its locations, but alas it did not!)

Smaller fixes

  • Scythebill will try to warn you when you've got the same file open (and are editing it) on two difference machines.  This should make it much safer to save Scythebill's .bsxm files in the cloud.
  • The Windows installer will now recommend that you quit Scythebill before it installs, which was always a good idea.
  • Macedonia and Swaziland are now listed as North Macedonia and eSwatini, respectively, matching their official names.
  • A long-standing bug in Browse by location has been fixed: editing a location name (at the bottom of the window) would drop latitude/longitude and location descriptions.
  • An occasional error message when dragging sightings between taxa has at last been tracked down, and a couple of other sometimes-reported error messages have been cleaned up.
  • The usual checklist updates have been made.  In addition, the 100-or-so most commonly reported "escaped" species from eBird have been added to checklists as escapees, meaning that when you enter those as sightings they'll automatically be considered uncountable.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Scythebill 14.6.0 - IOC 9.2, trip and family reports, and more


Scythebill 14.6.0 is now available, with the brand-new IOC 9.2 taxonomy, new trip and family reports, favorite photos, and more.  As always, download here, and let me know if you have any problems, either on Facebook or by email


IOC 9.2

The IOC 9.2 taxonomy - just released - is now supported.  There's some higher-level taxonomic changes, like a few new families, and the usual suite of splits and lumps.  As always, Scythebill will handle the process of upgrading automatically.  And you can visit the "Splits and lumps" special report after upgrading to see how you did! (I gained five new species.)


Family reports

If you pay attention to recording species families, you'll be pretty interested in this. The "Show reports" screen has a new option in the "Export..." menu at the bottom left - "as a family report".  It's pretty simple - you'll get a few options, then a screen with a list of families, how many are possible, and how many you've recorded:

You can display these in three ways:
  • Taxonomic order: starting from ostriches, continuing through the passerines at the end
  • Most recorded: ordered based on how many you've recorded (most at the top), secondarily by number of possibilities (starting with fewest possibilities at the top).  That screenshot above uses this order.
  • Greatest fraction: ordered based on what percentage of possibilities you've recorded, secondarily by number of possibilities (starting with the most possibilities at the top).  This makes it easy to see all the monotypic families (in two blocks - one with all the recorded monotypic families, another will all the not-yet recorded ones).
The window that opens automatically puts all the text in the clipboard, so you can take all the text and paste - with formatting intact -  it into Word, Pages, OpenOffice, or even GMail.


Trip reports

Yet another new option in the "Export..." menu is "as a trip report".  This lets you get a quick start on writing a report for an entire trip - pick a report like "Location" is in "Brazil" and "Date" is in "2010", then create the trip report.  This feature is early, and I'm extremely interested to hear about whether it's useful for you, and if you have ideas for how to improve it!  The report is made to be copied and pasted into an editor so you can format or clean it up.

Trip reports have up to three sections;  each is optional:
  • An itinerary
  • A species table
  • A species list
The itinerary shows, day-by-day, where you visited:

(If you enter "start times" for visits, the itinerary is ordered correctly within each day.)
After each first appearance of a location name, there's an abbreviation for that location (which gets used in the species list).  If you had comments attached to a visit, they'll be included in this itinerary.

The species table shows a table with one row for every species, and one column for every day.  A number shows how many individuals were seen, "X" means seen without any specific number, and "(H)" means heard-only.



Finally, a species list shows all species seen, using the location name abbreviations (if the species was recorded at more than three locations, locations are omitted).



If there's just one sighting, and there's sighting notes, the sighting notes are included.
Lifers will be bolded if you add a "First records (lifers)" ... should be "highlighted" to your report parameters.

The window that opens with the trip report automatically puts all the text in the clipboard, so you can take all the text and paste it - with formatting intact - into Word, Pages, OpenOffice, or even GMail.


"Favorite" photos

Photos now have a star icon next to them - click it to mark the photo as a "favorite".

The "Photographed" reporting option now has two new options:
  • "has a favorite": includes sightings that have at least one photo marked as a favorite
  • "has no favorites": includes sightings that don't have any photo marked as a favorite.
Huge thanks to user drewbenn for implementing this feature.

Smaller features and bug fixes

  • The "AOU" reporting region has been renamed to the "AOS Area North" region (in keeping with the ABA Listing Areas).  And Scythebill's added the "AOS Area South" region.
  • The import code for "my eBird Data" (eBird exports of all of your sighting) had some bugs introduced in 14.5.1 that would result in imports failing.  These are fixed.
  • The combination of photos for a sighting and sighting notes meant that extra blank lines and spaces would get added to the sighting notes every time you saved!  Thanks to user drewbenn for drawing attention to this.