Software Review: Digital Nature Guide

Summary: Not worth the download.
Digital Nature Guide is free software that allows you to make and to view natural history guides.

You can make a field guide for any type of animal or plant. When viewing a guide you can select species on the basis of characters or geographical distribution. A guide can include species texts and other illustrations.
It's a nice idea: I would like to be able to collect the photographs I've taken over the decades and assemble them into a nice field guide, with my own notes on the dates and locations of the photographs, descriptions of the plants (or animals), linsk to other sources, and so on. The software notes that it has a "flash card" feature, which would be nice for me to be able to print off and study with.

However, the software is completely standalone. You can only run it on your own computer. There's no ability that I can find to even print the photographs or text. The "flash card" feature can only run within the program, one species at a time. There's no way to publish or export the information to any other format or make it available to any other program.

You can view a list of species alongside the photographs. But you can sort the list only once. Once you take any other action, the program reverts to its default sorting, which is random as far as I can tell.

The non-standard, non-resizeable windows and frames, inability to zoom in on images, buttons rendered as text boxes ... all of this adds up to a poor and non-intuitive interface, one which does not encourage the sort of exploration and experimentation which a field guide should.

Far better results are available from mashing up combinations of existing public services, such as flickr, technorati, del.icio.us, and so on. It would be more accessible, it would be more shareable, the data at least would be open to further search and transformation, and the interfaces would be ones with which folks are already familiar.

No comments: