Starry Night 7: Motivation, Process, Future


    As many of you have noticed, we're back with a brand new version of Starry Night! Rather than list all of the cool new features, I thought I'd take a moment to make clear our motivations for the changes in SN, our process getting to where we are now, and plans for the future.

    For many of our loyal, longstanding users, the new user interface is a big change from what they're used to. Our motivation for the change was simple: the interface had gotten to the point where users were spending more time looking at (or looking for!) controls, than looking at the sky. We needed something new, cleaner, less obtrusive.

    In our redesign, we followed the general philosophy that the UI should "be there when you need it, disappear when you don't."  The focus should always be on the sky view, never the controls. This for example, is why we moved the Find pane from the left to the right... in general, people read left-to-right. Left is more prominent, so the sky view should always be at the left.

    Our move to a "Universal Search" function was similarly motivated. 

    We found that over the years, so many of the great new features that we had added were buried under layers of user interface, that not only were they hard to use, but people often never found them in the first place.

    With the ability to do a textual search for control items (not just named objects in the night sky), we have opened up a host of existing features to users who didn't even know about them! No longer do you need to know exactly what setting you're looking for, open the Options panel, visually search for it, and click to make a change... simply search for the word (or even a related word) that you're looking for, and you'll probably find it.

    While I think we have succeeded in many, many ways, we still have much work to do.

    Going forward, we plan on continuing with the idea of "less is more." Not in terms of what you can do (indeed, we are adding features and data) but in what ways you are distracted from what you are doing. Think: more of what you want, less of what you don't.

    While we have released it into the wild, we're far from done with it. Starry Night 7 should be thought of as a journey, not a destination.

    By David Whipps


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      Dave Whipps

      Dave, why the decision to cancel Windows XP compatibility?  Since this is Open GL, it shouldn't matter which Windows OS, they should all be compatible.

      There were a number of factors that went into this decision, but the primary one was that Microsoft itself has said that it will no longer support Windows XP! That in and of itself isn't a deal breaker, but it will prompt the graphics card developers to cease support for divers for this OS (which is our biggest issue). That is, they just won't develop drivers (or perhaps good drivers) for their newer cards for windows XP.

      Further, saying we support Windows XP puts us in a position whereby for the lifetime (say 5 years!?) of this brand new product we will have to continue to support a deprecated OS.

      Requiring Vista (SP3) also allows us to take advantage of new APIs available in this OS (and later) without having to try to replicate the behaviour on the older OS.

      Additionally, we're a small shop. Only a few developers and support people. We already support OS X (10.7-10.10) and Windows (Vista, 7, 8, 8.1). That's a lot of QA and testing. Adding another, older OS to the mix adds days to our testing cycle.

      Finally, while they're not all "free", upgrading to newer OSes is nearly free, compared to the cost of the hardware (and SN!). Indeed Apple and Microsoft have both taken the position that most updates/upgrades to their OSes are now free, so it shouldn't be a huge cost to upgrade.

      Hope that answers your question! You can always stick with Starry Night 6 (a great, stable product) for your Windows XP computers.