A little more progress

I’ve finally managed to make some progress on the core application (I’ve been working on importing data via CSV and tab-delimited text) but I’m hoping to make v0.0.2.0 available soon – this will be the biggest increment in functionality since the first alpha.

What this will open up is the ability to manage locations – to this point the locations tab has been hidden from alpha versions but I’ve got enough feedback on the species selection features to open things up a bit.

I’ve also been refining the management of locations and added some new functionality around categorising locations by habitat.

Editing Locations













The above screenshot shows the edit location dialog. From here you can change the name, description, set the location (currently only via latitude and longitude but I’ll work on other formats eventually), change the region, and pick from pre-defined habitat types (again… eventually this will be a customisable list but at the moment it comes from the BTO survey codes). I’ll also be extending the List page to allow you to see a view of species seen in different habitats.

A slightly larger view…

Edit Location













The other thing you may note from the initial shot is that I’m working on integrating with Google Earth to provide mapping capability – in this example it is just to shot the location of the site ou are editing, but this will also extend to being able to view your records and reports on a fully interacive map. More on this soon….

Google Earth

Importing Data from other applications

I’m currently refining and extending an import routine that I wrote for one of the volunteer testers to allow the import of several years worth of data from an RSPB piece of software that is no longer maintained, with the intention of making it a fully flexible import routine to take data in either comma separated values (CSV) or tab-delimited text format.

You specify the source file and the Nature Recorder database that you want to import into and then (hopefully) you get a screen a bit like this :


Once the data is loaded into the grid you are prompted to select the column in the grid corresponding to common name, scientific name, location and count (at least one of common or scientific name, plus location are needed, the others are optional), and an example of the data in each column is shown to confirm.

The main challenge is in mapping species names to ensure there is a match and for this purpose it compares “common names” and “scientific names” where available from the exported data with the names in the database that you’re importing into, and if there is a match on either name then that is used. If there is no match then currently it will flag up the fact that there’s no match and that the record won’t be imported. I will probably extend it to allow you to select the species you think it should match with in due course but its a low priority right now.

I would be interested in getting hold of a wide range of samples, so if you have any data in other software packages, or indeed spreadsheets that you manage manuallyand you would like me to test out importing the records and giving you an updated database please let me know.

Year List and Life list – report now available in v0.0.1.4

A few simple enhancements but quite useful (in my humble opinion anyway) are now available in v0.0.1.4 from the website (www.naturerecorder.com)

First up – the buttons to add and remove individual records from a report once the wizard has been completed have now been implemented (up til now they’ve been there but not enabled).

Next – the graph display below the news on the home tab has been the source of some confusion amongst those testing so far, so I’ve elected to make a change. As it stands this chart is supposed to be the cumulative year list progress, so for example today is Jan 15th and I’ve got around 70 species on the year list so January shows 70 species. I haven’t got any extra species in Feb as it hasn’t started yet so Feb shows the 70 from Jan, as does March etc). I’ve now added an option – available from the Settings dialog – to switch that to showing a simple histogram showing the number of new species seen in the month (this means I now have 60 species in January but nothing for February through December).

The main change though is the additon of the Lists tab.

It struck me the other day that while I show on the home tab the current totals of life list and year list, there’s no actual display of whats in the list.

To this end I’ve introduced a new lists tab which currently has two lists available – Year List and Life List. These reports should be largely self-explanatory, but with one caveat… unlike much of the program these reports are static, ie if you view your year list and then add a new report featuring 5 new species for the year, the report will not automatically update to show the new species.

Year List

There is a refresh button in the toolbar on the tab which allows you to manually refresh, or you can just select the report again from the dropdown. The reason the lists are not dynamic is down to performance – it would slow the system down too much to dynamically re-do the reports. Note there are also toolbar buttons for print and save – neither of these are implemented yet so are disabled until such point as I write the code for them!

v0.0.1.3 Available to download now

I’ve uploaded v0.0.1.3 to the website (www.naturerecorder.com/downloads.aspx), which features a couple of updates that people have asked for…

On the species page there’s now a new Details tab which exposes two key features :

  1. Allows you to amend the common name for a species, so if you’re tired of typing in “swallow” only to find the taxonomy lists the species as “barn swallow” you can simply edit the name to suit your preference (you cannot currently change the scientific name)
  2. Allows you to set up and amend “Quick Codes” for each species, ie you can set “GGS” for great grey shrike and then if you type GGS in any species selection box and hit enter the program will select the shrike

I’ve dropped the idea of synonyms for now as I’m not sure how much advantage they would offer – I was planning this feature so that users could add “Redpoll, Common” as an alternative to “Common Redpoll”, however I’ve come to the conclusion that if you find the default name confusing then you would just rename the common name and I’m not convinced anyone would need to have both variants in there. If you disagree then let me know.

There are also more options in the settings page, which allow you to specify whether you want to move straight from concluding the “Add Report” wizard to editing the report (so that you can enter counts, notes, photos etc), and also how many months worth of news to show on the home tab.

Also a bit of behind the scenes work… on startup the program now checks against the website to see if there are any updated versions available (by default it will check once a week and this will be editable in the settings menu in due course), and I’ve written a schema upgrade utility so that if I make changes to the database design to allow capture of different types of information you will be able to upgrade existing databases (very useful at this stage where I will likely be adding more database tables regularly).

I’ve also fixed a couple of bugs.. firstly Jan 1st gave me a bit of a surprise as my year list wasn’t re-set, so I’ve sorted that, plus there was also a crash if you deleted the location of stored photos when you try to view a record that should have a photo (I discovered this when setting up my new laptop as it doesn’t have a D: drive which is where all my photos were on the old laptop.

If anyone wants to try it and hasn’t tried the earlier versions please let me know… if you’ve already been testing the earlier versions feel free to go ahead and try it out – you’ll need to uninstall v0.0.1.2 first but won’t need to reinstall .net or the access drivers.

Updated version coming soon

I’ve had a bit of a delay in making progress on the latest update, largely due to the demise of my previous laptop. I’ve not lost anything , however its taken a while to get things up and running, and I’m in the process of making a couple of changes under the hood.

First – I’ve added in functionality so that the application checks the website (www.naturerecorder.com) to find the latest version and will flag up if there’s an update available. Second – as some of the changes that i want to make -(including adding synonyms for common names ) will require database schema changes, I’m writing a utility to take existing databases and upgrade them to the latest schema version so that anyone creating records with old versions of the DB don’t have to start again from scratch if they don’t want to.

Work on this is nearly done, so as soon as thats available I’ll implement the synonyms feature and then I will look to make available.

Tehnical hitch!

Aargh – this morning my faithful laptop decided to give up the ghost without warning… fortunately I have everything backed up but I had hoped to get some development work done over the next couple of days and that won’t be possible until I have my new faithful laptop set up.

I was aiming to have a new release with more functionality on display for alpha testers by new years day, but sadly that looks unlikely now.

I’ll post an update once I have one…

Version now available

Following on from user feedback so far I’ve uploaded an update to the alpha test version – it can be downloaded from www.naturerecorder.com/Downloads.aspx

This will be the last build of the current incarnation and shortly after Christmas I’ll release the next increment which will allow access to a lot more functionality that is currently hidden away to allow people to focus on the species selection aspect of the program.

Thanks again for those who have contributed their time and opinions so far.

(oh and Happy Xmas!)