Orphalese Tarot by Richard Jefferies                                               
Review by Mark McElroy

Orphalese Tarot 2.1.1
Shareware / Free Unlimited Trial
$12.95 registration requested


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.

Review At-a-Glance
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.

Detailed Review

The Ultimate Tarot Deck
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:

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:

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.

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:

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:

Please note: sharing scans of copyrighted decks with others is a violation of copyright law; scans should be for your own personal use only.

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.

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.

Other Features
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!

Nice Price, Nicer Programmer
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.

About .Net
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