This review is reprinted from Volume 17, Summer edition of Homoeopathic Links with permission from Homeopathic Links.
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Three homeopathic computer programs tested
RADAR - MACREPERTORY - ISIS
(Plus: Encyclopaedia Homeopathica and ReferenceWorks)
Reviewed by: Jorg Wichmann
Eigen 81 D-51503, Rosrath, Germany
Here are three excellent and highly sophisticated professional programs, each one brilliant in its own right. The issue of this review is not to say which one is better or worse, but to show different advantages and features for the practitioner to use in their own specific work.
A comparative review like this has to assume that the reader has general knowledge about the workings of a computer repertory and what to expect of them, as well as a working knowledge of how such programs function. This is not an introduction into working with computer repertories.
Abbreviations of programs: Radar = RD, Encyclopaedia Homeopathica = EH; MacRepertory = MR, ReferenceWorks = RW; ISIS = IS.
MR/RW by KHA, David Warkentin, provided the latest professional version 6.12 of MRand 3.12 of RW.
ISIS (the forerunner was Cara) by Miccant, David Witko, provided the latest version 2.0.
RD/EH by Archibel, Frederik Schroyens, provided RD 9. 1 and EH 2.1. All tests were done on a PC, Windows XP.
A personal word in advance
Testing computer programs as a homeopathic practitioner is a critical thing, since when I compare my personal experiences with and wishes for these programs, this reflects not only the way the programs work but also the way I work. But since I consider myself being quite an average user, my experiences might be useful for others as well, even though their personal choices and style of working may be different.
I did work with RD for several years (until 6.1), then with MR and RW for several years until now. ISIS is new and I have only, of course, experimental knowledge of it.
Before publishing I sent a copy of this review to the three programmers to get comments and integrated those.
I will try to keep this review as practical as possible and focus on those features that are important for everyday work, naming those items and features that are positive in any of the three programs (and only stating a few wishes under Desiderata) .
Let us begin with the 'youngest' of the three. Since IS is the newest of all programs we should expect its makers to have learned from all those who have gone before including their own former product, Cara, which was one of the earliest homeopathic software of all. And as far as I can see IS really meets these expectations finely.
The concept of IS is to have all material available on one screen: all the literature and single remedy information. IS is made to be simple and straightforward for the user, not giving more confusing possibilities than you really need in everyday practice.
All the books IS offers can be read and searched in full text without having to change to a different program. And you can change between the chapters (Head, Mind, Rectum) and different repertories directly without having to switch windows while repertorising.
It is possible to drag and drop between all windows, so to jump back to the repertory from the rubric you see in the analysis, etc.
Clicking on any remedy in a rubric gives you further information about that remedy on the right hand side of the screen: name(s), all families (to go into with a click), materia medica, pictures, multimedia, etc. From there you can directly go into the books that give information on that remedy and read about them. You also see the author who put the remedy into that rubric.
The whole library (with more than 300 volumes) - usually part of a different program - is an integral part of IS and always directly accessible. From your repertory and analysis you have direct access to the full range of literature. Repertorising within all the books is not only possible; it happens on the same platform as the standard repertorisation. The rubric, which is constructed from the word-search in the library, is automatically part of the clipboard of the case you are working on. There it can be edited with filters (kingdom, generals, families, etc.) like all other rubrics. As clever new filters you can also choose only thirsty/not thirsty or warm/cold remedies for the analysis. And what is important: the filters can be combined so you can search for an animal, that is thirsty and hot and apply this to your rubrics with only one click. The filters and strategies for the analysis can be easily set in the window of the analysis itself with one click.
The browsing can either be done by a little tool that can be applied to any of the repertories no matter where in the rubric the word you look for is positioned. So you don't need to know the wording of the rubric in advance. Or you can choose a hierarchical structure of the repertory like in the other programs and jump up and down the 'tree' of symptoms.
And there is a simple and editable synonym search and a dictionary for unusual meanings of homeopathic words. The new version 2.0 of IS offers the possibility of clicking on a remedy and a rubric and the search function jumps to the book and sentence which placed this remedy in the rubric.
IS makes it possible to add personal information, records, imports from your text program, media, etc., to the materia medica and have the program search this information in the same way as the other books. Even new magazine articles and fresh seminar information can be handled on the same screen as your repertorisation. Many parts of IS are editable. Within the repertories you can choose authors from a list so to remove those authors whose additions you don't trust or don't want to see during your current work. And you can also edit as 'my connections' themes in the repertory which are connected to several rubrics that you find fitting. You can backup (and restore) you personal changes and additions in a very easy way and in that manner, easily exchange material with colleagues.
A tutorial is added as AVI-file to listen and watch on the screen like a basic life-seminar.
Automatic life update and Internet facilities, like direct support, questions, homeopathic chat rooms, etc., are part of the program structure and can be reached from the main menu.
Desiderata: more cross-references in the repertories (except Rep. Universale).
Originating in the sophisticated Apple computer system, MR uses the full possibilities of Windows. You can go from anywhere to anywhere else with one single click and also drag and drop rubrics, jumping between all the windows, no matter if you're analysing, repertorising, viewing clipboards, and you can keep all the windows open. So you don't have to remember how to get from one procedure to the other - you can see everything at a time, like working on your own desk.
MR gives you a lot of materia medica right in the program. You drag a remedy from your analysis to the keynote symbol and you are straight in the text of Boericke, Phatak, Vermeulen, Kent or whomever you choose to consult from a very long list. With help of the context sensitive right mouse button it is possible to switch betWeen them directly.
For me the major asset of repertorising in MR is, that I am able to collect rubrics on a clipboard in a simple way and see them with their remedies there. So I can make an individual repertorisation I need for a case and see all the full rubrics with the remedies on one page and print them. If you want to work with the full content of rubrics and not only with some expert's analysis system, this is a crucial feature. Putting the printout into your patient's folder gives you access to the repertorisation independent of yesterday's ideas of an analysis.
Besides grouping symptoms into different clipboards or joining several rubrics into one, which all three programs can do, MR offers the possibility of putting rubrics in small groups into a 'theme palette' and repertorise that with a special system: So in the analysis you can split between large general rubrics which are put into groups of the theme palette and give you a pool of all remedies that fit your case by generals. Among these you do a specific search with smaller rubrics to point to the remedy you look for - all in one analysis, but using two different types of clipboards (the usual and the theme ones) which are analysed differently.
Another special feature, the Concept Search is developed by M. Mangialavori, and makes it possible to compare remedies or groups of remedies according to their presence in certain sections of the repertory, certain modalities or qualities of mind. This tool is especially useful for studying new remedies and families and comparing where the centre of action of a remedy or group of remedies lies.
The user surface of MR is easy to understand and to handle intuitively. You can influence all the colours and fonts, so to make it appear as you wish. You can not only change the repertory but also keep the changes in a separate file, so to save it or to transfer it to another computer or update. And you can also define, alter and add families, even export them.
Those who often travel with their notebook can run the programs on 'softkey', disconnect the dongle (CPD) and leave it at home - putting an end to the fear of losing the precious dongle somewhere on the train or breaking it while it sticks out of the back of the notebook.
Desiderata: a good help function; an emergency memory to save your work in a crash.
RD bases its concept on the accessibility and variability of the repertory Synthesis on one hand and on expert systems for analysis on the other.
RD enables the user to choose the authors of their repertory's additions and the only software that allows you to choose or cancel out certain stages of the development of the repertory. So you can restrict the repertory to a given time limit, say, not later than 1913. Or you want symptoms only from Hahnemann's time plus Kent and Vithoulkas. All this is possible with a click. Since RD has also added the Complete Repertory and others it is possible to do a search over all open repertories at the same time. And you can combine rubrics of different reps into one super rubric, as in the other two programs as well.
RD has a very sophisticated and extended system of cross references which carries you through the repertory, helping you to find many a rubric that you would never have thought about. It is even possible to draw a reference into the symptom clipboard together with the rubric or group it together with one click, saving the time to actually go to the symptom (in case you know it well anyway).
Everything else is also hyperlinked. Just click on it, you're there - a cross-reference, a remedy or an author's abbreviation, you get the information immediately.
A new feature among the programs is the confidence level of remedies, in which you can attach a well-defined grading to specific authors, texts or provings to distinguish whether you really trust this addition to the repertory and want to rely on it with your prescription or whether you just want to see it as a suggestion. This grading system can be edited by the user.
Radar has also included many 'concepts' under which several rubrics are summarised that carry the same central idea, which can be a clinical disease or a mental state. These concepts are collected into a kind of parallel repertory for easy access so you can create your own concepts and save them into this rep.
You can open the file that defines the families like a repertory and edit it. If you want to add newly proven remedies to the family structure, you can as easily do that, as you can change rubrics.
The analysis of all three programs follows certain algorithms, which can be changed by the user (giving more emphasis on small remedies, or on small rubrics or on certain families). In RD you can also analyse by different expert systems, which were prepared by Vithoulkas or Herscu. The Vithoulkas' system, e.g., gives you hints as to which area you have not asked enough questions about or where your rubrics are too general.
Radar has a SOS function in case your machine collapses.
Desiderata: possibility of viewing all rubrics together with all remedies on the clipboard; more materia medica included in the repertory for quick reference; working of mouse wheel.
RW and EH are huge library programs enabling the homeopath access to hundreds of old and new homeopathic books and magazines, many times the amount of literature than anyone could store at home, not to mention carrying around to seminars and to patient's bedsides. (This is also available in IS with around half the number of books.)
Both double-programs are growing more and more into one. The latest versions make it possible to integrate searches, rubrics and analysis from the one into the other with only a mouse click. If you don't find a symptom in the repertory you can continue searching in the library of several hundred books and magazines with a click; no need to type in the symptom again.
In both programs you can also do full analysis of your searches as you are used to doing in the repertory (and then export the analysis into your repertory program if you wish). While searching you have the possibility to choose in which set of books you want to search and in which not. E.G., you can cancel out the repertories, because you have already searched them in the other programme; or you only want to search original proving symptoms or only clinical information or only new or old books etc. It is also possible to search through specified families or miasms.
Reference Works: (to be combined with MacRepertory)
The main idea of RW is to use the whole homeopathic materia medica as one huge repertory. The books are taken apart into remedies and their chapters from mind to generals.
RW gives extended family information of different relationship-systems and has a 'get info' choice to switch to special remedy information files that give additional information on remedies and families. There are around fifty family graphs for analysing your searches and you can even design your own graph. Among these families are many you don't see anywhere else: for example Massimo's groups, Bj6rndal's archetypes, Vega's boxes, evolutionary schemes of plants to click on one of the groups to find which of your analysed remedies fits.
Desiderata: a button 'read full book' upon which the sections are put together with foreword, etc., to view the complete original book text.
Encyclopaedia Homoeopathica: (to be combined with Radar)
The Encyclopaedia is, more than the other programs discussed here, a classicalliterature program, which is made to search and read many books easily and in full text. EH is not so specialised in making the books available as repertories, but for reading them and finding information within. EH gives all the additional information that a book usually gives: introduction, footnotes, quotations, different authors, etc.
You can also create your own materia medica within EH, putting in your seminar records, your own ideas, etc., save it and open the search tool. EH searches your personal information as well as the materia medica belonging to the program.
Features of all programmes compared:
Repertories: RD now offers Synthesis as well as the Complete and the Rep. Universale" as repertories, plus others. Synthesis you can extend with your own additions or reduce by certain authors you don't want to see. MR offers the Complete Millennium as default repertory plus Rep. Universale*, also with the possibility of additions, plus many other repertories of different authors to choose and use parallel. IS offers the Complete Millennium and Rep. Universale plus several others. Open search through all repertories is possible.
* Roger van Zandvoort's new extended Repertorium Universale (with Boenninghausen's information as well as methodical structure fully integrated), the largest repertory ever.
Libraries: RW and EH are specialised library programs (like their forerunners Zizia and ExLibris, that many a reader will still remember), whereas IS has a large amount of literature included right away, in which you can read and analyse. In EH and IS you can read the complete books, including foreword, footnotes, etc. RW is specialised on analysis through all the libraries, and its analysis function works very similarly to that in MR, with which it can actually be linked very easily.
Saving patients' files: With MR and IS each patient gets an individual window file, which is convenient for working with several computers as well as for building archives. You can transfer these files between laptop and desktop computer with your Windows Explorer. In MR you save the repertorisations of one patient on different dates into one file with the patient's name, so you can easily go back and see what you worked on two years ago. Within IS you start a new file with each session or use different clipboards for different dates of one case. RD does not save into a file for each patient but puts all patients into a catalogue, which can be moved and backed up at a time. Access to a certain patient's file is possible only from within RD.
Multimedia: All programs have started to incorporate photographs, videos, seminar recordings, etc. Modern technology makes this possible. Nevertheless as a user I ask myself if these possibilities really enhance my prescriptions. Many of them are interesting without question. But if they are necessary is another question. Personally I'd rather use a faster program with less multimedia. But the direction of the current development seems clear.
Printout: The print functions of all three programs don't make me too enthusiastic. As much as the programs have been developed since their first days on the computer, their printing functions haven't. They leave few options to the user only, if any.
Language: For our German speaking readers: If you depend on German language mainly, RD and EH are the programs you want. RD publishes the German version at the same time as the English one, and consequently it has much material in German. RD has a very good support in the German speaking area. Additional you get Radar in more languages, like Italian and French.
MR also offers the Complete in German; older versions of the program itself are available in German, and there is a bit of German materia medica included, a small German version of RW is said to be out, but couldn't be obtained for the review. IS will be published in German in summer 2004, program as well as Complete and much materia medica.
Money: Comparing the prices of different programs is a very difficult thing, because they are delivered in many stages from basic to full, total or professional versions. On top of this, local dealers make their own offerings and there are always many special offers for different events, etc. So please take the comparison of prices just as a hint and - if interested - ask your local dealer.
Internet: By now all three programs give you the possibility of downloading updates from their websites, where you also find their regular newsletters with tips and tricks for easier working etc. Additionally, KHA offers free teleconference trainings thrice a week worldwide for MR and RW. Radar has basic intermediate and advanced free tele trainings and a German and English tutorial CD is available with spoken examples of all functions, as well as videos. Within IS you only need to click the Web-button to be connected to their websites where downloads are automatically performed and installed.
Desiderata all programs:
-An 'undo' or 'back'-button or better a 'history' where you can follow back a few steps of your work or at least undo a step that you did by mistake (RW has a 'history'-feature and IS an 'undo'. Radar has a backtrack function, which allows you to jump back to your last word or remedy result).
-The possibility to open several patients' files at a time
-An editable print function
Let us now make a practical test on the programs to show you, how they work under 'live conditions'. Of course all three programs are able to do direct repertorisation and analysis easily. But I will ask a few everyday homeopathic questions and show you what you have to do:
1) Compare the fears of Belladonna and Hyoscyamus!
2) Which other remedies are closely related to Calcarea carbonica, the oyster sheIl?
3) Which is the original proving symptom for jealousy in Lachesis?
1) MR / menu-search-remedies and words / type 'bell' and 'hyos' and 'fear' / click search / get: 25 rubrics from the mind section of the selected Repertory Complete in one clipboard with all remedies to be seen.
2) MR / menu-search-families / go to famiIies-animaIia-mollusca-bivalvia / get: 'caIc./ven-m./conch./pect.' under Gastropoda 'murx./helx.' and under Cephalopoda 'sep'.
3) RW / click search icon / type 'jealousy' / click on the limit icons below and choose provings and Lach / press CtrI+F (find) / get: 'Towards evening very unusual almost crazy jealousy, as foolish as it is irresistible (after 6 hours).' from Allen's Encyclopedia. Could not find out who did the proving, etc.
1) RD / menu-search-comparative remedy search / click remedy 1 and type 'bell' / click remedy 2 and type 'hyos' / choose common rubrics and mind section / select area to search as 'fear' / click search / get 24 rubrics from Synthesis or any other open repertory.
2) RD / click analysis icon / click limit to and window to choose families / click kingdoms-animalia-mollusca / get: 'calcarea carbonica, . conchiolinum, helix tosta, murex purpurea, pecten jacobaeus, sepia officinalis, venus mercenaria'.
3) EH / click search icon / choose provings / type 'jealousy' and 'Lach.' / click search / get: 'Towards evening very unusual almost crazy jealousy, as foolish as it is irresistible (after six hours), [ala].' in Allen's Enc. proved by Hering, even prover name given; and same quotation from Hughes and Dake. Plus six more occurrences given by mistake, which were not provings but different kinds of MM.
1) click icon compare or extract remedy information / choose mind section / choose Bell and Hyos from remedy list / type 'fear' into keywords / choose similar / click compare / get: 25 rubrics of the selected rep. Complete in a list (to see the remedies in a rubric, click right mouse button and show).
2) click on the remedy list in left window / choose Calc / get a screen full of remedy information, among which you can choose the level of family relatedness you want to see: 'mollusks' (conch, murx, pect, sep, ven-m) or 'bivalvia' (pect, ven-m) or sea-creatures in general. 3) click icon search / choose card MM / type search for 'jealousy' / choose from list remedy 'Lach' / click search / get a list of 25 books with Lach and jealousy in them. You click on the little tab at the bottom of the list, reducing your search to proving books only and find the original proving information in Allen's Encyclopaedia: Lachesis 'Towards evening very unusual almost crazy jealousy, as foolish as it is irresistible (after six hours),1a.'
Task 1) is easiest performed by MR, where you directly get all rubrics wanted onto one clipboard with all their remedies. From there you can use them further, delete some of them, etc.
Task 2) is easiest performed by IS, where you can directly see the whole of the remedy information on one screen and choose levels of relatedness as well as any other information. - Surprising: all three programs only a give the few 'classical' mollusc remedies and none of them any of the extended family with modern provings like Kauri, Loligo, Octopus, etc.
Task 3) is easiest and best performed by EH, which gives you the quotation as well as the book information immediately. The task is only a bit longer to perform in IS. / RW gives the symptom but no information regarding its source.
So what is the result of all my testing? The result is that - against my own expectations - the difference between the latest versions of these professional programs has become very small. It's more a matter of personal taste than of proficiency. You have to know what your personal style of working is to make a choice (difficult for beginners).
I will try to give at least a few hints in this direction as a summary, maintaining that this is a very personal evaluation and touching only few aspects of these programs:
If you are looking for a full, multilingual, homeopathic library, which could even replace your material book collection, Encyclopedia Homeopathica is your choice. If you are looking for a program to repertorise all available books most sophisticated, ReferenceWorks is your choice. If you are looking for an all-inone solution giving easy access to all information integrated on one screen, ISIS is your choice. If you love working with prepared, expert, analysis systems, Radar is your choice. If you love an open system which allows you to repertorise 'as if by hand', Mac Repertory is your choice.
After having tested these three concepts I must say that I would love to work with each of them depending on which task I want to solve.
A big 'thank you!' to the programmers of all three who have given these great gifts to the homeopathic community and in this way, changed our way of working and our possibilities fundamentally, and who were willing to co-operate and help in many ways to make this review possible.