We’ve just released our latest update to our app! We are very excited about this release, we added quite a few new features and we really hope you will like them.
I guess you are eager to find out what’s new in this version. So, let’s take a look at our latest release!
Map rotation mode
We added a new mode for manipulating the map (which is on by default), that feels more natural when stargazing. In this mode, dragging the map horizontally will rotate the map (instead of translating it). You can still translate it vertically.
So here is how you use this mode:
- make sure you are using the rotation mode (it is on by default; you can change it from using the quick settings bar or the the “rotate on horizontal” drag setting in the settings page)
- (if needed) drag the map vertically so that you can see the sky limit circle on the bottom side; when you launch the SkyMap application, there is a short map animation that brings the map into this position
- click on the compass bar, to set the direction you are facing (e.g. if you are looking North select the N button from the compass bar)
- as you turn to the left or right, drag the map horizontally accordingly
- as you look up or down, drag the map vertically (this will be done automatically for you in the “point to sky mode” using the phone’s accelerometer)
Point to sky (beta)
The problem we are facing currently, as application developers, is that the compass functionality is not exposed to applications, so applications can’t use the compass. Because of this limitation, we can’t provide currently a complete implementation of the point to sky feature.
However, due to popular demand, we’ve decided to offer a partial implementation as a beta, that uses the phone’s accelerometer. We hope that you will find this partial implementation useful.
The good news is that, as far as we know, all Windows Phone 7 devices contain a compass sensor that will become available to applications in the next major OS release (also known as Mango). At that point, we will be able to provide the full implementation of the point to sky feature.
Meantime, you can use the phone tilt, but you will need to adjust the map orientation manually (using horizontal map drag or the compass bar.
Astronomy Picture Of The day
NASA showcases some amazing astronomy photos on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website http://apod.nasa.gov/. We added for you a convenient way to check these pictures directly from the SkyMap application.
Here is how to use this feature:
- press “previous” / ”next” buttons (or swipe) to move to the previous / next image
- double tap on the image to enter/exit a zoomed in scrolling mode – please note that the swipe gestures are disabled in the scrolling mode
- use the “hide application bar” menu item to see the image in full screen; press the phone’s back button to show the application bar again. Please note that in this mode you can still use swipe left/right to move to the previous/next image
- the “info” button will open the info pane, displays information about the current image; pressing the “more info” link at the bottom of the info pane will open the corresponding web page on the nasa’s apod web site
- you can chose a random date using the “random date” menu item in the application bar
- you can set a specific date (between Jan 1997 and today) or change some of the settings (whether the title/date of the image should be displayed) using the “settings / select date” menu item
- you can go to today’s image by using the the “today” menu item
One of our customers (thank you!) wrote us that he would like a flashlight inside the SkyMap application. We liked the idea, we thought that it is indeed very useful to have a handy flashlight when watching the sky. And, if you are using the night mode, it displays a red light (so that you don’t lose the eye adaptation to the darkness)
You can access this feature from the quick settings bar.
Lock screen orientation
We added this button to the quick settings bar to make it easier to tilt the phone without the map getting rotated. Press again the button to unlock it.
Please note that this feature is not available in the point to sky mode.
While we do our best to make our app easy to use, we realize that it may be difficult to discover and understand all the features that we have. So we added a help page inside the app.
The “Bars” button
We wanted to make accessing the various bars easier. So we added the “Bars” button to the application bar (it replaces the previous Zoom bar button).
The bars button cycles through the following settings:
- press once – it opens the quick settings bar
- press twice – it opens the zoom bar (this bar is not available in the point to sky mode)
- press the third time – it will close the bar
Map orientation improved for stargazing– using the direction you are facing instead of the map direction
The compass bar now represents the direction you are facing (instead of the direction of the map) to make it easier to use outdoors.
This means that if you are facing North, you press the “N” button in the compass bar (instead of “S” in the previous version). The map will get rotated with North facing down.
If you want to go back to the previous behavior, you can toggle the “flip vertically” button from the quick settings bar
Other fixes and improvements
- improved the performance of the auto completion box in the Search dialog so it is more responsive
- the map can properly display sky object names that contain characters from the greek alphabet
- all bars (quick settings, zoom, compass) are scrollable now, to accommodate more settings
- the buttons in the quick settings bar are smaller and take less space
- setting to show/hide the stars colors
- each bar has its own menu item in the application bar, to make it easier to discover