Re: (IAAC) DSO observers software (long)
Sorry about the "double answer" to your question, Nick: obviously, both Jeff M.
and I are pretty quick on the keyboard... ;>>
Anyway, regarding your question, Jeff:
> The above quote seems to suggest that there might be a software solution
> to this dilemma. Could I ask for a brief discussion of the existing DSO
> observing softwares out there, their features, whether anyone has actually
> found them useful, and so on? I am not after information on charting
> programs here, but rather comments about the handful of DS observation
> planning and logging packages I have heard of.
The software I personally recommend is 'dObjects', by Jeff Bondono. It has a starting database of about 35,000 objects, easily extensible (as I've done) up to 100,000 or more... The database format is quite open and readable (unlike most such software) so it's easy to bring in your own catalogs of variables, double stars, galaxy groups, open clusters, or whatever.
There's a wide variety of sourced and calculated data available for each object, all nicely displayed on one Windows screen. Chart numbers, surface brightnesses, recession velocities, richness classification, etc., etc. And not just catalog data either: references into Sky & Telescope, Astronomy, Webb Society handbooks, WWW archives of sketches & images, etc. And of course, local position and time entry to calculate rise/set/transit, azimuth, etc.
Also, Jeff B. has thought of practically everything I need to help plan my sessions: the whole database can be sorted and filtered on over 65 criteria very conveniently, INCLUDING regular expressions and near-positions. Also, resorts are MUCH faster than with other software I've seen... There's a very nice report-writing interface, with total user-defined formatting. There's even automatic links with most of the Windows planetarium apps out there, and with automatic telescopes if you have the right interfaces.
By the way, the latest version of 'dObjects' lets you access IAAC's Web page (along with POSS, NED, and a bunch of other Web sites), and Jeff has promised his NEXT version will do automatic retrieval of IAAC observations AND automatic submissions to 'netastrocatalog'!
Finally - regarding your LAST question, Jeff! Bondono, myself, and a number of authors of other planning and planetarium tools participate in a (now mostly dormant) discussion group called 'astrolog': the basic idea of the list is/was to brainstorm a standard observing-log format, to let users of ALL our various software apps, maillists and Web sites share what they see! Jeff, Sue, and any other IAAC subscribers are WELCOME to join 'astrolog'...
Hope this helps!