These are major updates taking both Extra Keys and Extra Keys Pro to version 3.0.0. The user interface of the panel has been extensively revised to give a cleaner and more consistent appearance regardless of the operating system release it’s run on. There are a number of other changes plus some improvements for the Armenian and Georgian key sets.
This release of the Pro edition of Extra Keys adds a new key set for the International Phonetic Alphabet. There are also a couple of other very minor changes such as adding selection options to the pop-up menu on the System Tray icon.
A new update of Plant Base has been released today and available on the Download page. This is for desktop/laptop editions – Windows, MacOS and Linux.
Primarily a maintenance release with the main objective of cleaning up and optimising some of the code. It also improves synchonisation between OS editions where a few sections had got out of step. The changes result in some improvement in run-time efficiency but the end-user will be very unlikely to notice any difference!
It is another maintenance update with a few small bug fixes plus some other little changes.
On the Plant List Details tab, the records can now be sorted by almost any of the fields (all except the GPS co-ords). This can be useful when doing project planning and was requested by several users.
There is also an enhancement to the local language selection, which has an additional option to replace common data records with translations, that is for things like colour names and plant types. It’s important to understand that this updates the database, so “power” users who make a lot of changes might need to consider this. Just like the text translation files, these new common data translation files can be created or amended by end-users – information is in the Help.
The Linux edition is now at Beta 11 and a free life-time licence is still available on request. This version has a few tweaks to the user interface to improve appearance for some desktop environments and themes. Certainly will not be perfect on every system, but looks very good on many! The more traditional DE’s such as Xcfe, MATE and Cinnamon tend to give the best appearance out of the box, but it’s often worth experimenting with the theme settings.
A revision of the plant data is included, bringing the database release to 31. There are some new plant records and pictures along with a large number of updates. Many of these are for plant name changes and plant family classifications. Some familiar plants now have different names – please don’t blame us for these, we are just trying to follow the main taxonomic authorities who make changes according to the latest scientific research (there are even more in the pipeline!). Of course we always include the older names as synonyms, so they can still be found in the database!
We recommend that all existing users update the new program version – easy, quick and safe. Loading the new database files is an optional choice, as usual all recent database releases are compatible with all program versions. Instructions to merge personal data are in the support section of the website.
This is only a minor maintenance update with a few small bug fixes and other minor changes. For the Windows edition this includes support for the recently released update of Extra Keys.
However, there is one significant addition which is a new UI language option for Swedish. This excellent contribution was made Plant Base user Kenneth Williams and I’m very happy to include it in this release.
The Linux edition is now at Beta 10 and a free life-time licence is still available on request.
There is no change to the plant data at this time, it’s the same as the last two versions – but work on the next database release is in progress!
The most noticeable change is that the key panel window no longer gets the desktop focus when a button or other control is clicked. This means that the active window does not change, which is most likely the target application for entering a character with Extra Keys. It prevents the annoying focus switching between Extra Keys and the target window, especially apparent when entering multiple characters.
Another small change involves the “refresh” button for the target drop-down box. Instead of setting the default “nowhere – Copy only” the refresh will attempt to set the currently active window, on the assumption this is probably the desired target. Of course any other choice from the drop-down list can be selected manually if preferred, as before. If the program cannot determine a valid target window then “Copy only” is set as previously.
There are no other changes for Extra Keys, but Extra Keys Pro also gets six new key-sets. These are not aimed at mainstream users and are not planned for the standard Extra Keys. Perhaps the most significant set is the additional of Polytonic Greek with the large number of diacritic letters used in classical and medieval Greek. So it is now easy to correctly type Ἀλέξανδρος (Aléxandros/Alexander), Ἄρης (Aries) or ᾠόν (egg). Of necessity this key panel in unusually large – apologies for this inconvenience but it is the only way to show all the accented characters in a single view.
The other additional key-sets for Extra Keys Pro are Ogham, Runic, single character Roman numerals and unicode Emoticons. The Runic set has all unicode Runes which cover several historical variation, so a filter tab is provided in the settings to enable/disable those required. The Old English runes used by J.R.R. Tolkien in the Hobbit are included, but not the later invented Cirth runes. As normal, it is essential to ensure the target application is using a suitable font to properly display all these less common characters.
These are maintenance releases only and are otherwise the same as the previous recent versions. However, they have some modifications that may help resolve a problem where the keys window fails to open on a few Windows 10 systems. Not all systems were affected and the exact cause for this happening only on particular machines is somewhat uncertain. The new versions include multiple checks and run-time compensations to provide improved resilience.
If the previous versions run without problem on your system, then there is no need to update.
Two new key sets have been added, both in the Latin character range – Austronesian and Esperanto. Austronesian covers a very wide range of indigenous languages spread across the the Pacific and the islands of Australasia. So it is now easy to correctly write words from Māori, other Polynesian languages and useful when transcribing words for example from the Australian Aṉangu such as Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa. Esperanto is a bit unusual because it uses accented characters not common in other languages and also does not naturally fit in with any other grouping. So it has therefore been given its own very small key-set which might be handy for the many Esperantistoj around the world.
There are a few other minor program amendments plus of course one very significant change for Extra Key Pro in that it is now completely free to use.
It is essentially a maintenance release with some bug fixes plus a few small changes for the user interface.
It also includes updated plant database files, data release 30, which has some new plant records and pictures as well as many amendments to existing records. A lot of these are due to more plant name changes and reclassifications from the taxonomy authorities such as the RHS and Kew. Some of the name changes are quite controversial and maybe not welcomed by traditional gardeners. For example rosemary is now a Salvia rather than Rosmarinus. However, they do have a scientic basis and I guess that we will all have to get used to them! In all cases the previous names are kept in the database as synonyms.
For existing users updating the program version is, as always, very quick and easy. To update the database files please follow the instructions on the website and in the Help file.
For all editions, Windows, Mac and Linux, there are a number of bug fixes. For that reason I would recommend that all users update the program. It’s quick and easy and does not need to have any effect on the database.
There is also an updated database release – 29. Existing users can choose whether to update now, or later, or stay with their existing data. It has some new plant records and pictures, but yet again most amendments are due to plant name and classification changes.
There is an additional function that enables selecting plants from within an existing Plant List. This can be quite a handy thing for anyone who uses Lists extensively. It’s implemented only by a simple extra drop-down box on the Select Plant tab. The List used for a search is complete;y independent from the current active Plant List – this is important because it enables plants from the search result of one List to be easily added to a different List.
For the Mac edition there are two other significant changes. The normal application is now a 64-bit build. This is a requirement for the latest versions of MacOS. An equivalent 32-build is still available and included in the install files. User with old hardware may need this, specifically models with “Core Solo” or “Core Duo” processors. Also other elderly machines with limited RAM may be better running the 32-bit app. The other big change is that a separate folder to hold the application files is no longer needed. All the help and language files are now contained within the PlantBase.app package bundle. This makes it more like other typical Mac applications.
For the Linux edition, which has by far the newest program code, there have been numerous extra bug fixes and small user interface improvements. As for Windows and Mac it is available in both 64-bit and 32-bit form. While I still regard the Linux edition as a Beta test release, it has been running very well on my own systems. It is certainly equivalent to the Windows and Mac programs, with which much of the code is shared. Due to the huge number of different Linux distributions and desktop environment, it’s impossible to ensure running on all variations. Distros based on Debian, such as MX, Mint and Ubuntu, should be no problem and I’m hoping to find time to test on others.