SpiroGenic Divine Tarot Software
Review by Mark McElroy
PROS: A version of the program with limited functionality is free. The software incorporates unique educational features for Tarot beginners. The programmer admits the software is a labor of love and a work in progress, so users have the opportunity to help shape the program’s evolution.
CONS: Installation of Microsoft’s .NET can be tricky. As yet, the programs that make up the “suite” don’t fit neatly together. A puzzling user interface makes working with the program more difficult than it should be.
THE SCOOP: While promising, this tarot application isn’t quite ready for prime time.
RATING: 1 out of 5 possible stars.
Let’s face it: as a technology, plain old Tarot cards – those faithful seventy-eight pieces of laminated cardboard – are pretty convenient. They’re portable, durable, and inexpensive. If lost, they’re easy to replace. Because they fit in the palm of your hand, they’re easy to shuffle. Generating readings with a standard tarot deck is a snap.
Tarot software, then, faces a real challenge: how to improve on something as elegant and user-friendly as a Tarot deck?
This all-important concept – ease of use – isn’t as evident as it should be in the current version of SpiroGenic’s SG Divine Tarot (one program in the SG Divinatory Suite, which will eventually include an astrology program, too). Installation is tricky. Often-used options are buried deep in multi-level menus. The software behaves unpredictably. Worse, the various pieces of the suite don’t fit together smoothly, and moving from one program component to the other is more difficult than it ought to be.
These issues deserve attention, because they overshadow the one or two really cool features this program has to offer.
Like another, far superior program (the Orphalese Tarot), SG Divine Tarot requires the user to install a special extension of Microsoft Windows – Microsoft’s .NET platform – before using the software.
The latest versions of Windows – including XP – usually have .NET in place. If you’re running an older version of Windows, brace yourself: you’ll have to download and install .NET. That’s no small feat; the installation file for .NET weighs in at a whopping 23 megabytes. If you’re a dial-up user, you’ll spend about an hour just downloading .NET.
Then, of course, you’ll still need to install SG Divine Tarot. I tried installing the program on two different computers, both of which were running the latest version of .NET. On one computer, the SG installation program couldn’t detect the .NET installation and wanted me to download and install “a newer version.” I declined.
While the program did install on my second computer, it behaved rudely. Without asking for permission, it installed itself in my start-up folder (so that the program will run every time I restart Windows) and planted a program icon in my Windows task bar. That’s generally considered bad form – users should be given a chance to limit changes made to their own computers.
I encountered a number of other challenges during installation. Screens and dialog boxes (those little windows that ask you questions) didn’t update properly. Frequently, blocks of background would “come loose” and float around my screen, or a heavily patterned background would “bleed through” and obscure information in the foreground. As a result, I was often unable to answer questions or read labels on buttons.
To be fair, the programmer positions this version of the suite as “beta software,” and these are exactly the sort of issues one would hope updates will correct. That said, the current version is pretty rough around the edges. Given the issues I experienced (and I’m a fairly sophisticated computer user), I’d advise technophobes and the faint of heart to wait for version 2.0 before giving SG Divine Tarot a try.
SG Divine Tarot is actually a suite of programs, linked together by an initial menu screen. That sounds fine in theory … but as implemented here, it’s a problem. Here’s why: once you select one of the programs in the suite – the Deck Learner, for example, or Reading Viewer – you’re stuck. There’s no easy way to get back to the main menu; instead, the user must shut down the entire program and start over from the beginning.
The result? Currently, the various components of SG Divine Tarot, despite being cobbled loosely together by the main menu, feel more like a group of stand-alone programs than a suite.
Among these programs are some intriguing choices, including the Deck Learner application. Deck Learner is one of the more promising applications in the suite, offering the beginner the option of learning traditional, assigned, or “book” meanings by:
Given that other programs (most notably, the Orphalese Tarot) offer a far superior “virtual deck” experience, SG Divine Tarot’s educational applications are by far this package’s most interesting feature.
Most users, though, are more likely to want to use the software to generate readings. This, unfortunately, brings us to the biggest obstacle to this program’s success: with the current version of the software, readings aren’t particularly easy to do.
To get to the program’s reading space, users must select Start, then Divinatory Suite, then Tarot & Rune Readings, and then read through a long list of options (including Create a Deck and Create a Spread) before finding the last entry of all: Perform a Tarot or Rune Reading.
The reading space itself is a vast, featureless screen with
no obvious controls or menus.
On the right is box, topped by what appears to be a title: Advanced Info. Beneath this title is a short novel: several paragraphs of text (almost three hundred words) of basic information. Issues abound:
Back in the reading space, there’s no deck, no “Click here to Start a Reading,” and no other apparent means of getting started. In fact, my only option – far from obvious, as it’s written in tiny blue text on a rose-colored background in the upper right corner of the screen – is a link labeled “Add Profile.”
In order to use the program, I had to figure out that the programmer refers to the first step in the reading process as “adding a profile.” The problem? This terminology and approach is foreign to tarot enthusiasts; we work with readings and cards, not profiles.
Worse, once you figure out that “adding a profile” will get things under way, you must then complete a lengthy survey (in which you choose a deck, a spread, whether or not to use reversals, what to call the profile, and whether or not to save it) before the program will actually allow you to begin the reading process.
Future versions of this software should call tarot things by tarot names … and make the most frequently used options – like starting a reading – easier to find and identify.
The software came with two decks installed: the “New Wisdom Tarot” and the “Standard Rider Waite.” In my copy, no matter which deck I selected, I was presented with the familiar Rider Waite images. The deck is used without copyright attribution, so it’s unclear whether the images have been properly licensed or not.
The reading process is fairly straightforward: the deck is displayed face down and spread along the top of the screen; the user can shuffle the cards or pick them from the deck, dragging them to a spread template and dropping them in place.
Interpretation is a matter of clicking the Interpret link, which launches a Reading Viewer. (Be happy with your selections before clicking the “Interpret” link, because doing so launches the Reading Viewer … and closes everything else. Once you’re in the viewer, you’ve no other option but to close the program and start over again.)
The viewer serves up a nice full-screen image of the spread. At this point, the reader may click on cards to reveal whatever canned meanings have been associated with them. (I got the same meanings for both the Rider Waite and the “New Wisdom” cards.) The meanings given for each card are taken from an unidentified book from Avalon Press. They are also static – no matter what the position of the card, the meaning remains the same.
SG Divine Tarot pitches itself as “one of the most powerful Tarot applications available…capable of advanced card interpretation.” After reading this kind of advertising copy, I found this level of performance disappointing. (Even the free readings at Tarot.com offer positional meanings.) For now, the programmers should invest less time in formulating grandiose marketing claims … and invest more time in making the program more stable and easier to use.
Mark McElroy is the author of Putting the Tarot to Work (Llewellyn, 2004), a quirky, irreverent book that positions tarot as a visual brainstorming tool for business. The sequel, Putting the Tarot to Bed (Llewellyn, October 2004), applies the same brainstorming techniques love, sex, and relationships. Currently Mark is working on The Idea Deck: A Brainstorming Tarot (Llewellyn, March 2005) and Putting the Tarot to Test: An Experimental Approach to Tarot (Llewellyn, June 2005). He can be reached through his professional website and/or his personal website.
Review © 2004 Mark McElroy
Page © 2004 Diane Wilkes