Interface

StarTools main screen interface example
Example of the main screen's interface.

Navigation within StarTools generally takes place between the main screen and the different modules. StarTools' navigation was written to provide a fast, predictable and consistent work flow.

There are no windows that overlap, obscure or clutter the screen. Where possible, feedback and responsiveness will be immediate. Many modules in StarTools offer on-the-spot background processing, yielding quick final results for evaluation and further tweaking.

In some modules a preview area can be specified in order to get a better idea of how settings would modify the image in a particular area, saving the user from waiting for the whole image to be re-calculated.

Exclusive to the main screen, the buttons that activate the different modules, reside on the left hand side of the main screen.

In both the main screen and the different modules, a toolbar is found at the very top, with buttons that perform functionality that is specific to the active module. In case of the main screen, this toolbar contains buttons for opening an image, saving an image, undoing/redoing the last operation, invoking the mask editor, switching Tracking mode on/off, restoring the image to a particular state, and opening an 'about' dialog.

Exclusive to the main screen, the buttons that activate the different modules, reside on the left hand side of the main screen. Note that the modules will only successfully activate once an image has been loaded, with the exception of the 'LRGB' module. Note also that some module may remain unavailable, depending on whether Tracking mode is engaged.

Consistent throughout StarTools, a set of zoom control buttons are found in the top right corner, along with a zoom percentage indicator.

Panning controls ('scrollbar style') are found below and to the right of the image, as appropriate, depending on whether the image at its current zoom level fits in the application window.

Common to most modules is a 'Before/After' button, situated next to the zoom controls, which toggles between the original and processed version of an image for easy comparison.

All modules come with a 'Help' button in the toolbar, which explains, in brief, the purpose of the module. Furthermore, all settings and parameters come with their own individual 'Help' buttons, situated to the right of the parameter control. These help buttons explain, again in brief, the nature of the parameter or setting.


Zooming, panning and scaling

The StarTools main screen with a nebula and a striped pattern.
StarTools' astrophotography-optimised scaling algorithm can highlight latent pattern issues. It also was designed to show constant noise levels regardless of zoom level.

Even the way StarTools displays and scales images, has been created specifically for astrophotography.

StarTools implements a custom scaling algorithm in its user interface, which makes sure that perceived noise levels stay constant, no matter the zoom level.

StarTools implements a custom scaling algorithm in its user interface, which makes sure that perceived noise levels stay constant, no matter the zoom level. This way, nasty noise surprises when viewing the image at 100% are avoided.

The main screen of the StarTools interface showing a nebula with a barely visible horizontal pattern.
At 100% zoom level a barely distinguishable horizontal pattern can indeed be seen.

Even more clever, StarTools scaling algorithm can highlight latent and faint patterns (often indicating stacking problems or acquisition errors) by intentionally causing an aliasing pattern at different zoom levels in the presence of such patterns.



Changing parameters in StarTools

An example of a levelsetter control in StarTools
An example of a levelsetter control in StarTools

The parameters in the different modules are typically controlled by one of two types of controls­;

  1. A level setter, which allows the user to quickly set the value of a parameter within a certain range
  2. An item selector, which allows the user to switch between different modes.
Alternatively the user may click on the label area of the item selector to see the full range of items which may then be selected from a pop-over menu.

Setting the value represented in a level setter control is accomplished by clicking on the '+' and '-' buttons to increment or decrement the value respectively. Alternatively you can click anywhere in the area between the '-" and '+' button to set a value quickly.

An example of a selector control in StarTools
An example of a selector control in StarTools

Switching items in the item selector is accomplished by clicking the arrows at either end of the item description. Note that the arrows may disappear as the first or last item in a set of items is reached. Alternatively the user may click on the label area of the item selector to see the full range of items which may then be selected from a pop-over menu.


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