Orphalese Tarot by Richard Jefferies
Review by Mark McElroy
Orphalese Tarot 2.1.1
Shareware / Free Unlimited Trial
$12.95 registration requested
Microsoft .NET software (free 21 MB download)
Windows 98, 2000, NT, ME, XP
Internet Explorer 5.1 or higher
9 out of 10 - This is a near-perfect program that every serious Tarot enthusiast should own.
PROS: The Orphalese Tarot is a powerful and flexible tool. The free, unlimited trial is generous, and the Shareware purchase price, at$12.95, is an amazing bargain. I know of no other program on the market that matches its flexibility and simplicity.
CONS: The required .NET download is huge, and installing .NET may not be easy for some users.
Simply put: Orphalese Tarot is the most powerful and straightforward Tarot application on the market. The cards can be shuffled and dealt into canned spreads or dragged from the deck to any on-screen location. Switching between decks is quick and easy, and you can designate any 78 images (including card scans or even personal photos) to use as a deck.
The program offers no canned meanings of any kind. Spreads and your personal reading notes can be saved (notes can also be exported to your favorite word processor). The program requires the Microsoft's .NET software, which must be downloaded separately, and may prove difficult for some users to install.
While the free trial is generous, users should support the responsive, enthusiastic creator of this program by registering the software for the incredibly reasonable sum of $12.95.
Here at last is a virtual deck that behaves exactly like a physical deck of cards. Run the program, and a deck of cards appears on your computer screen, superimposed on the desktop or against a colored background of your choosing.
At this point, you can:
Shuffle the deck with a click of the mouse. You may also perform a "seeded shuffle," which bases the shuffle on a number, word, or phrase you supply. Behind the scenes, the computer converts the word or phrase into a number, then uses this number as the starting point (or seed) for randomizing the order of the deck. Using the same word twice won't give you the same card order, because the seed contributes to, but doesn't completely control, the randomization of the cards.
Put the cards in sequential order (Warning: this feature will make you lazy – you’ll never want to put a real deck in order again once you become accustomed to performing the task with two clicks of your mouse!)
Deal cards face-up or face down. Cards dealt face down may be turned over with a single click of the mouse.
Deal the cards into any spread you like, or use any one of several canned spreads, including the Celtic Cross, the simple three-card spread, and a complex Yin-Yang spread. If you use your own spreads, saving them for future use (or to share with others) is quick and easy. You may also request that the computer deal the cards face up or face down.
Fan the deck to search quickly and easily for exactly the card you want.
Return all cards to the deck with a single click.
Switch to any deck in your collection with just two mouse clicks. This makes the Orphalese Tarot especially valuable for those of us doing comparative readings. I now regularly deal the cards from the Universal Waite, then quickly and easily review how the same spread will look in the Thoth deck or the Navigator’s Tarot.
Don't Try This with a Printed Deck!
Unlike a printed deck, the Orphalese Tarot can be quickly and easily customized to suit your preferences. You can:
Change card backs. The program comes with a selection of 32 x 32 pixel tiles to choose from, but you can easily add (or, if you have a photo-editing program) design your own. Hundreds of web sites offer free "background tiles" for web sites; all of these can be selected as card backs. Just copy them to the "Backs" subdirectory of the Orphalese Tarot program and click to select it.
Alternatively, you can associate a scan of an actual card back with any virtual deck … but if you resize the cards for better viewing, the back will not resize. Instead, it will "tile" itself across the back of the enlarged cards.
Change card sizes quickly and easily. Using a control panel (revealed with two clicks of the mouse), you can enlarge cards for better viewing or make them smaller (useful when arranging complex spreads on the screen).
Change card edges from square to rounded.
Alter any of the above settings, and the entire deck (including cards dealt and those still in the pack) changes to reflect your choices. In addition, the Orphalese Tarot is smart enough to associate certain changes with individual decks. For example: once you associate a specific back or corner style with a particular deck, the program will always use the settings you selected when you call for that that deck.
A Truly Universal Tarot
The program comes with a black-and-white copy of a public domain TdM as the default deck. Perhaps the most fascinating feature of the program, though, is its ability to use any set images you specify as a Tarot deck! As a result, creating a virtual version of any deck you own is as simple as scanning in each card and saving the images as .gifs, .jpgs, or .bmp files.
The only constraints are:
the files must be named as numbers (from 00 to 77). The program creator suggests associating 00 with the Fool, 01-21 with the Major Arcana, 22-35 with the Ace through King of Wands, 36-49 with the Ace through King of Cups, 50-63 with the Ace through King of Swords, and 64-77 with the Ace through King of Coins. Adopting this numbering scheme as a standard isn't necessary (you can associate any card with any number you like), but aids in consistency when trading decks with others.
the files must be loaded into a subdirectory within the program's "Packs" directory. Placing all your scans of the McElroy Tarot into a subdirectory named "McElroy Tarot" results in the McElroy Tarot becoming available from the program's main menu. Switching to the McElroy deck, then, becomes as simple as pointing and clicking.
Once the numbered files are saved and in their directory, you can use the images exactly as you would a deck of cards. From the program’s control panel, you may also indicate whether a particular deck is a standard Tarot deck (with 78 cards), a Majors-only deck (with 22 cards), or a pack of playing cards (with 52 cards).
The importance of this feature cannot be overemphasized, as it makes the Orphalese Tarot into a powerful tool for:
Collectors. Scan your collection into the computer, and you'll be able to use any of your decks with point-and-click ease.* (No more rummaging through the Tarot cupboard to find the deck you want – and you can use even your most fragile decks on a regular basis without fear of damaging them!) You could also create your own "Personal Patchwork" tarot, including in your seventy-eight card deck the images you love best from several different decks.
Please note: sharing scans of copyrighted decks with others is a violation of copyright law; scans should be for your own personal use only.
Deck Designers. Artists having difficulty finding a publisher for their decks could circulate virtual copies to build buzz. Designers of out-of-print decks (Arnell Ando, for example) could circulate virtual copies of their decks for use with this program. Designers of any deck could release virtual copies of their decks to help generate buzz and increase sales of decks now on the market.
For example: Paula Gibby's wonderful Animal Tarot, Carol Herzer's Illuminated Tarot, or even the unreleased Watercolor Tarot could all be made available for download from the artist's web site, encouraging the use of the decks and driving demand for the physical cards themselves.
Publishers. US Games and Llewellyn, take note: making virtual versions of your deck images available for use with this program would be an excellent way of promoting them. Once attached to a virtual version of a deck (which could be downloaded for free or at a reduced price), collectors and readers would be very likely to purchase the cards themselves. This might also be an excellent venue for a "sampler deck"-- seventy eight cards from seventy-eight different decks.
Hobbyists. Want to create your own deck? Do so ... and using it with or distributing it for the Orphalese Tarot engine becomes a quick and easy process. Remember: the program doesn't care what images you use. As a result, a user could choose *any* images (personal photos, copyright-free web images, even scans of soup labels, for that matter) and use these as an electronic oracle! (It does help if the images are roughly the same size and shape; the program will make the deck be the size of the first image "drawn," then force other images to conform to those dimensions.)
Removing borders and keywords from cards. Hate those borders on the Sacred Circle? Scan in the cards, use photo-editing software to remove the borders, and enjoy the electronic version of your customized deck in minutes. Love the Lo Scarabeo Tarot of the Master, but find the multi-lingual keywords on the left border distracting? Scan the cards in and crop out the offensive material.
Fresh -- not
Canned -- Readings
Programs like Visionary Networks' TAROT MAGIC CD-ROM, the automated Tarot readings at Tarot.com, and other Tarot-reading software also randomize card decks. Unfortunately, even when these packages go so far as to reflect slightly edited meanings based on card position, the readings are still "canned." The text provided never varies, and the prescribed meanings may or may not correspond to your needs.
The Orphalese Tarot does not serve up canned meanings. The program makes it easy to work with a virtual deck, period ... an approach I find refreshing. As a result, the program may not be of interest to some beginners, who sometimes want guidance as to the meaning of the cards. However, for intuitive readers, those who prefer to refer to a specific book of meanings, or those who prefer to work out their own meanings for each card, this program is perfect.
Spreads and work sessions can be printed. Notes, insights, and interpretations can be entered into the program's basic word processor, then saved or exported to the word processor of your choice. You’ll want to save your notes, though, in the Orphalese Tarot’s own format … because, when you call up past readings, the program automatically pulls the cards for you and arranges them into the spread that inspired the saved reading.
An especially thoughtful feature: if your boss walks up while you're doing Tarot readings instead of working on the spreadsheet he assigned you, one click will collapse the entire program, cards and all, into a tiny icon in your Windows computer's system tray. Another click restores your layout, notes and all. Try doing that with a physical deck!
The Orphalese Tarot is Shareware -- the author has agreed to distribute it free of charge, and allows you to use the software for an unlimited free trial period.
(Unless you register, a "Please Register" screen will pop up every time you run the software, and every ten minutes or so while the program is in use.) If you don't like the Orphalese Tarot, you should erase it ... but if you do find the program useful, you should thank the author by registering the program (it's just $12.95, after all).
Richard Jefferies, the creator of the program, says, “I really want the development of this program to be driven by people in the Tarot community who will use it as a tool on a day to day basis.” After downloading and registering version 1.0 of the program, several of us took Mr. Jefferies at his word, sending him a list of changes we felt would dramatically improve the value and usability of the Orphalese Tarot.
Three days later, I received via email version 2.0 of the program – implementing almost every suggestion I’d made. Try getting that kind of response from Microsoft!
Since that time, Mr. Jefferies continues to make small (but important!) improvements to the Orphalese Tarot on a regular basis. As a responsive programmer who genuinely cares about his customers’ opinions, he very much deserves the optional $12.95 registration fee suggested for this software.
For all its strengths, the Orphalese Tarot has one major weakness: it requires the installation of a new Microsoft Technology called "Dot Net"(.NET). Without going into technical details, .NET is part of Microsoft's effort to promote the use of its own proprietary programming technology.
What does this mean for you? Ultimately, if you want to use the Orphalese Tarot software, you'll have to download and install .NET on your computer. (If you use a Mac or a Windows 95-based machine, you're just slap out of luck. You must be using Windows 98, NT, 2000, or XP.) You'll also have to use Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.1 or higher.
.NET is a free download -- but a big one, weighing in at 21 megabytes. This is not a huge hurdle for those with high-speed access, but the program can take hours to download over dial-up connections. And while the installation process is straightforward, it may prove challenging for some users. Links to the .NET download are provided on the Orphalese site. In addition, Mr. Jefferies provides detailed installation instructions and tips on the Orphalese web site in hopes of making the process go as smoothly as possible.
You can't beat the price of this amazing little program ... no other Tarot software I've seen matches its flexibility, power, and ease of use. If the idea of installing the .NET software doesn't phase you, the Orphalese Tarot is a program you shouldn't be without.
Mark McElroy works as a writer, creativity consultant, and multimedia designer in Jackson, Mississippi. He began his study of the Tarot in 1997, after travels in Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and Thailand introduced him to various methods of divination, including the I Ching. His approach emphasizes using the Tarot to generate insights, spark creativity, and plan action. His upcoming book, Putting the Tarot to Work, explores practical applications of the Tarot in business and corporate environments. His first Tarot deck, a work in progress, can be seen at his personal website.
Review © 2002 Mark McElroy
Page © 2002 Diane Wilkes