I have been absent from the forums for a while, but not inactive. Crawling into the figurative hole to focus on some things that are non-simplistic seems to help me focus…
The following is a brief outline of upcoming SGPro 4 changes. Before we start though… let me address the most common question to any announcement; “nice, but what about the stuff I want?” (I promise I’m not being glib here). It’s a valid question, but please start a new thread so that we can gather thoughts about these new features here.
As will be the case from here on forward, all of these changes are freely available to anyone with an active SGPro Maintenance Plan.
THIS IS CURRENTLY BETA SOFTWARE (will be available to download and install in the next 1 to 2 weeks)
- Themes (light, dark, black, system, follow Windows)
- At-a-glance readability of targets
- Sequence background load optimizations
- SGPro Update Checker modified to work with 32/64 bit releases
- Many misc changes and bug fixes (will detail closer to release)
Over the years we have had many requests for “dark mode” in SGPro. Let’s talk about this for a moment… We have always been averse to “Dark Mode” because depending on SGPro to help preserve your night vision will likely fail you in short order. There are too many things outside the bounds of our control to guarantee that a big white window won’t suddenly open or show itself (open file dialogs, minimizing with bright windows behind it… even just flashes of white as the default Windows colors load and before SGPro can override them). It’s just not ideal. If you need these assurances, nothing can beat a $10 slip of red acrylic.
To be clear… none of this has changed. SGPro should still not be used to absolutely positively preserve night vision. So, why did we do it? A few reasons:
- Despite all of the above, dark themes are still better than the normal Windows colors for astronomy related software.
- The work done here is also preparatory for for several other features and enhancements)
- We now have the ability to easily modify and customize any of the controls used in SGPro (because we no longer use the default Windows controls).
- SGPro should look nice and should look like it has been cared for…
- The current interface is pretty dated and adding themes during its modernization was not much more difficult than the upgrade itself.
- In 2021, it is almost an expectation that applications have an optional dark mode.
At release, we intend to provide four fairly distinct themes:
- Light Theme: Mostly lighter windows and backgrounds with dark text
- Dark Theme: Definitely darker than the current UI… lots of dark grays, a mixture of lighter and darker text
- Black Theme: Mostly black windows and backgrounds with lighter text
- System theme: If you still like using the Windows-provided theme manager, this theme will use colors as defined in the Windows Theme.
In addition to these themes, you can also choose to have SGPro follow the theme you set for Windows. Each of these themes can also be rendered with solid or gradient based backgrounds.
Here are some example screen shots:
The new options dialog for selecting your theme:
For each theme, you can enable or disable gradients.
In other words, how can SGPro provide you at-a-glance information about your target set without having to force opening the settings window for every one. We did a few things here:
Visual icon-based feedback for each target. Below each target name, four new icons exist where a colored icon represents “enabled” and a dim gray icon “disabled”. These icons represent properties of the target, specifically, at target start, if a slew is performed, if centering is performed after the slew, if camera rotation is used and, finally, an icon that indicates if a target has an end time (and then when that end time is).
Target tooltips. Hovering over a target for 1 second will cause a tooltip window to open. This new tooltip offers a wealth of information about the target… location, start and end information, a summary of target start actions and completion data for that target. The tooltip will be dismissed when the mouse leaves the tooltip area. Easy access, no mouse clicks.
For those of you who keep and use sequences with lots of targets it is likely annoying that SGPro only displays 5 or 6 at a time. This option will dock the target list down the left side of the sequencing window and make lots more targets readily visible with no need to scroll. Of course, for those of you who would rather have the screen space back, the current target list display still exists (and is the default). Lastly, whether you use the short or tall target list is now a property of the sequence. Meaning that if you have a sequence with three targets, you may want to use the short list and if you have another sequence with 50 targets you may want to use the tall list. SGPro will remember the chosen view for each and open them accordingly.
Larger sequences, during load, can take a while to allocate its required resources and calculate run-time information. Because of this, SGPro can load only necessary parts of a sequence and let the rest open in the background while you do other things. When you are doing something, the background load pauses or goes slower and when you’re not, background load uses all available resources to complete its task. This has been the case now for almost 2 years, but sometimes it feels like interrupting the load to do something is sluggish to respond. Because of this, we have refactored sequence load to be more responsive to your parallel activities so you shouldn’t notice a background load at all.
We dropped the ball here. Our update checker was broken with the release of SGPro 4. Specifically, it broke because it did not understand the differences between the 32 and 64 bit releases so it just grabbed onto what it did know about (unfortunately an older SGPro 3 build). This is function again and works as follows:
- If you are using a 64-bit build, you will only be notified about new 64-bit releases (same for 32-bit). If you want to switch from one to the other, you will need to do so manually.
- You will only be notified about new BETA software if you are currently using a beta or you have the option to always check for beta software enabled (in app options)
- You will only be notified about software your are eligible to use (based on the status of your license).