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Brews & Views Bulletin Board Service * Brews and Views Archive 2003 * December 9, 2003 * Hard talk on software < Previous Next >

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Ken Anderson (24.55.255.75)
Posted on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 10:08 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I purchased ProMash some time ago, and recently purchased BeerSmith. So right now I'm using them both. Being the new kid on the block, will BeerSmith always be behind the eight-ball? I think it deserves some credit, as it seems pretty easy to use. Any opinions?
Ken
 

Brandon Dachel (216.177.117.110)
Posted on Sunday, November 16, 2003 - 11:01 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

> Any opinions?

Never heard of/used beersmith. I'll have to check it out. My opinion is to use whatever you like more.
 

Streb (68.166.203.51)
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2003 - 01:08 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I am pretty new to all grain, but tried the evals of both programs. Although I think they are both great pieces of software, the interface on BeerSmith seemed more intuitive.

FWIW, I would have been happy with either of them, but BeerSmith got my $20.00.
 

Bill Pierce (24.141.63.119)
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2003 - 01:56 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

BeerSmith is less well known. Most people I know use ProMash or StrangeBrew. There is also Suds. I can't comment on BeerSmith because I haven't seen it. I happen to be extremely happy with ProMash but I know satisfied StrangeBrew users as well. Among the advantages of both is the high level of support from the authors who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable brewers as well as software developers.
 

Greg Beron (66.47.129.204)
Posted on Monday, November 17, 2003 - 08:24 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I downloaded BeerSmith to try it. My initial impression is that the authors have put a lot more attention into ease of use than did the authors of ProMash (can you say counter-intuitive?). Finding out whether it's ultimately as capable as ProMash will take more exploration, though.

For now, I'm giving it a tentative thumbs-up for use by the average brewer.
 

Paul Hayslett (64.252.34.35)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 12:25 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I like ProMash and don't find it counter-intuitive. But I did try the eval of BeerSmith as well. The one major advantage I can see is the ability to search on all fields in recipes. I'd love to be able to find all the recipes where I'd used Cascade hops or Windsor yeast. Can't do that in ProMash; can in BeerSmith.

But ProMash is excellent and I've come to trust its calculations completely and I'm not going to re-input all my old session notes in a new program. So I'll do without search until Donovan adds it to Promash.
 

Walt Fischer (24.221.196.114)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 12:54 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Ive messed with BeerSmith abit..
I like n use Promash.

But really, whatever helps ya make beer, works :)

Walt
 

Greg Beron (66.47.129.204)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 01:14 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

OK, I may have been a little harsh on ProMash's user interface but the title of this thread is "Hard talk..." after all. It's just that for the past 15 years I've been involved in one way or another with the design, testing and/or support of software products. If a piece of software had hit my desk with a user interface like ProMash's, I'd have sent it back to the programmers. In fact, every time I try it, it pisses me off so badly I've never bothered to fully explore the program's capabilities.
 

Jeffrey Donovan (68.6.78.211)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 02:30 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

The fact is, the interface in ProMash (and several revisions of it) have been completely user-base driven. We did not sit around and think about the inteface soley by ouselves, we've had teams of people both brewers and software engineers on each and every revision.

So, I guess ya either love it or hate it (don't know what could be so bad as to piss someone off who is computer literate though). I've heard comments from both sides of the spectrum. Problem is most who complain about the interface do so only on public Message Boards and not to us, so we never really know how they feel or what really bothers them, only that they don't like it. If they did write to us about a specific issue, it's very likely they would find that issue resolved in the next release.

Now, granted ProMash does not currently have the most modern of Windows interfaces (straight C so no MFC support classes), and it DOES have a learning curve, freely admitted. The fact is, once most people actually understand what it is capable of the more they realize why the design makes sense (or at least what we were striving for). There's a lot under the hood there, and certainly we could do some things differently but for the compexity of the tasks we think it's fairly intuitive, if you are willing to spend a little time to understand it.

The other side of this is that our primary focus on the software was/is the brewing functionality. We don't use formulas and equations found on the web (with the exception of Glen Tinseths hop formula) or other sub-standard literature. We use (as closely as possible) the guidelines laid out in the American Society of Brewing Chemists Methods of Analysis, reference by deClerk and Balling, Malting and Brewing Science - HBS&Y, etc. This means things like not basing efficiency on SG numbers, but by converting everything to wieght, mass and/or HWE for all things related to gravity. This is just one small example and there's a lot more to it than that, but rest assured the calculations found in the program are as accurate as can be. In many cases, we've had to invent the math (such as being able to specify the qts/lbs ratio of a decoction pull regardless of the ratio in the main mash). This will continue to be the dominant force of our software development. Bells and whistles are nice and all, but we still have work to do in some core brewing related areas.

So, if'n you got a complaint, PLEASE LET US KNOW. Go ahead and post specifics, hey it's the only way we are ever going to make it better is to know what bothers you, ya know? Anyone in the software industry for any amount of time knows that you can't use feedback you never get.

Cheers!

- Jeff
 

Skotrat (24.61.120.214)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 02:35 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Jeff,

You indeed are what makes your software different.

Thank you for writing the best piece of Brewing software out there.

Thank you also for continuing to listen to the user community and nutty people like myself.

I have no problem with the other software packages listed. They are fine products that have been written by good programmers.

As for myself... Promash is the only program that does everything that I need it to do in the brewing realm and when I feel it does not meet my needs you listen to the suggestions.

There can only be one!

C'ya!

-Scott
 

Tom Gardner (198.81.26.39)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 04:50 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I can't say enough about ProMash. And free upgrades to boot! NAJASCYY. Thanks Jeff
 

Dan Mossman (171.75.169.221)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 05:26 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I will absolutely reflect what Skotrat wrote. Promash is the best software I would want to use. True enough, the interface does take some getting used to, but there are a lot of details in the package which still amaze me. Admittedly, I don't have much experience with other programs, but after purchasing Promash, I don't really feel much of a need to look.
I also give Jeffrey a huge kudos for not resting on the laurels of his past success, but actively looking for constructive advice and answering questions (on a daily basis) from the brewers who use his product in order to make it even better. I would recommend Promash to any serious brewer; it is *well* worth the money I paid for it. I bought Promash because of the recommendations others have posted on this board, and I will continue the positive feedback. Just do yourself a favor- buy something great, and learn something new. Besides, I bought Promash to grow into, not to grow out of. Thank you, come again! (I will now step off my soapbox).

---Brew it up!
-Dan

Jeffrey- BTW, I want to let you know that I really appreciate the lengths that you go to try to figure out the actual formulas appropriate in specific situations, and not just taking other's results as a basis of truth. I didn't realize that there was so much sleuthing going on behind the scenes! Thanks for getting to the bottom of it, and keep up the great work.
 

Walt Fischer (24.221.196.114)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 05:44 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Jeff,
Well said, and right on the money...
Skot, well said as well..
It does everything i ask of it, and more..
I am programmer, and the fact that you even listen to us "nuts", then incorporate changes, is good enough for me :)

BrewON!
Walt
 

MJR (24.217.160.77)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 07:14 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I use and like ProMash.

I've never tried Beersmith, so I can't comment.

-Mark
 

Paul Hayslett (64.252.34.35)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 07:23 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I'm sure I'd have been happy if I'd bought StrangeBrew or BeerSmith instead of ProMash. They both seem like excellent programs. But I did buy ProMash first and I see no reason to change.

The one and only UI issue I had was really a documentation issue -- it took me a while to realize that I'd get more accurate numbers for extract-with-grains recipes if I called them "partial mash" recipes. But I didn't RTFM, so it was my own fault.

JD, if you want to make ProMash perfect (for me), just add a cross-session search. Or maybe a way to dump all sessions to HTML in a batch so the user can use grep to simulate such a search. Thanks for a great program.

Paul (18.5 years in professional software development)
 

aquavitae (134.84.195.46)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 02:01 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Alright, this luddite needs some help. Chisenbop has worked well so far, but it sounds like its time to move beyond associating "software" with velour. Problem is I can't get any of these programs loaded (and it's probably not a good idea to call in tech support here at work). I am on a Mac G4 running OSX 10.2.6. if that is relevant.
Thanks, robert.
 

Jeffrey Donovan (68.6.78.211)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 02:45 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Paul, your search item is already on the 'todo' list. Hope to have something along those lines soon...

Aquavitae, yes it is relevant....All of these programs are native Windows OS applications. They will run on the Mac but only using Virtual PC.

Cheers!

- Jeff
 

Drew Avis (209.226.137.107)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 03:32 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

And if you're on Linux, you should be able to run them using something like Win4Lin.
 

Bill Pierce (24.141.63.119)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 04:07 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I can't fault the developers for not writing native Macintosh and Linux brewing applications. The market for brewing software is small and they have to concentrate their efforts on what the overwhelming majority of users have. Fortunately there are good Windows emulators for for both of the other operating systems and the brewing software runs well on them.

We are fortunate to have good software for what is a tiny niche in terms of the total number of potential users. I greatly appreciate the continuing efforts of the brewers/software developers who have created these applications for a very small price in comparison to the functionality they provide.
 

Gary Muehe (64.12.96.42)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 04:39 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

heh...if Bill Gates developed and sold Promash it would probably cost $300.00. Thanks Jeff.
 

Mike Kessenich (165.189.92.23)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 05:14 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

...and it would be full of bugs that we would have to fix for him.
 

Mike Kidulich (147.177.7.233)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 06:15 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I've been using Promash for nearly one year (I used Suds previously). The numbers in Suds never quite added up, and I really never quite hit my gravity/volume targets. Once I got past the learning curve, I found that Promash gets me right on target every time, both volume and gravity. It did take me a few batches to figure out where some things were hidden, but it finally all made sense eventually. (I suppose the tutorial would have made life easier, but I like to do things the hard way;-) I've tried Beersmith, and liked the interface, but I really didn't feel a need to switch. And if I want to search, I just open up the text outputs in Ultraedit and use it to search across the files.
 

Brandon Dachel (63.238.222.190)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 06:17 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

> if Bill Gates developed and sold Promash it
> would probably cost $300.00.

That would make no sense as most homebrewers would not buy it. A professional version, yes, but a standard version, no.

> ...and it would be full of bugs that we would
> have to fix for him.

riiiight...because 1) MS is the only developer that allows defects to get out the door and 2) we as consumers 'fix' the bugs for MS.

That's not to say that I haven't had to 'code' around MS bugs, but nearly EVERY tool I develop software/firmware with has bugs that cause frustration - and almost NONE of those are MS products.
 

Adam W (128.125.6.113)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 07:01 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Hmmmm.....

I've been brewing since '94 and I've never seen the need to use anything other than Excel. (I used to use Quattro Pro ages ago...but you know how it goes...).

There is something to be said for understanding the formulas on a personal basis, as it really helps you understand the brewing process. There is nothing that can't be done with a regular spreadsheet that can be done with dedicated brewing software (not counting some of the graphical bells'n'whistles that I personally don't care about, anyway).
 

Michael Boyd (66.81.211.156)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 10:43 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I will gladly second (third?) the accolades for Promash. I used Suds for a couple of years before receiving Promash for Xmas two years ago. It is like comparing a tube radio with a plasma TV. Jeff’s devotion to his work is readily apparent when dealing with him. To wit; he answered on this board when his software is being discussed, and he’s personally walked me through two problems I was having. (Both my bad.) Email MS and see if you get a reply from Bill!
I am not trying to denigrate the other programs, but let's hear from them.

Michael
 

Eric B. (24.119.11.180)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 10:52 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I have to give major props to Jeff for customer service.
I bought Promash several years ago. I then quit brewing about 2.5 years ago and sold the computer during that time. I'm now getting back into brewing and decided I needed to reorder Promash. I ordered Promash and he sent me an email saying that since I previously owned the program I didn't need to repurchase.
Kudos Jeff!
Eric
 

Doug J (67.73.179.100)
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 11:02 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I used to do recipe calcs on paper with a calculator and it would take me at leat half an hour to work one out.

I won ProMash at the Ratfest raffle two years ago and couldn't be happier. I had some problems with the floppies that I won and Jeff solved the problems for me within a day.

I also have to admit that I haven't used the other programs listed, but it is a testament to ProMash that I haven't felt the need to try anything else.
 

Brad Smith (68.100.188.150)
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 12:44 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Michael Boyd Wrote: "...not trying to denegrate other programs, but let's hear from them."

I'm the author of BeerSmith. I was reluctant to dive into this (I'm active on a number of other forums...) but I would like to take a moment to describe what I've tried to accomplish with BeerSmith.

My first design goal was to create the best possible user interface while maximizing the brewing functionality. This was no simple task - a multipane interface with unlimited undo, print preview, etc...that generates detailed brewing instructions from the recipe was hard for us but makes it a lot easier for the brewer.

Along the way we did not sacrifice on functionality or precision. BeerSmith includes over a dozen independent calculators and a series of profiling tools built right into the recipe system. All are very accurate.

As for support, we have a very active forum, recipe exhange with >100 recipes, large web site with the entire manual online, and we have already released a second (1.2) version to address specific features (refractometers, arbitrary unit entry, more) that people asked for after the initial release. Read our support forum - you will see that 1.2 was the direct result of user comments. Version 1.3 is also well along in its development.

Let me also say that Jeff Donovan has done a great service with his product over the years and has been a true gentleman in all of my correspondence with him. He and I agree there is room for healthy competition.

My consistent advice has been to have an open mind and try out all of the popular brewing programs. After you have used them for a few sessions -- then decide which is right for you. If you happen to find BeerSmith lacking in any way then let us know - I'm working on the next version tonight!

Cheers!
Brad Smith
www.beersmith.com
 

Walt Fischer (24.221.196.114)
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 01:06 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Welp.. there ya go!
2 good products with good support...

BrewON!
Walt
 

Gary Muehe (152.163.252.67)
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 03:58 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Brandon, the key word here is "if", as in "if my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle". See, it's just like comedy!
 

grant curtis (216.249.85.106)
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 05:23 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Well hell, I was just playing with ProMash (free version) just the other day to decide if I should upgrade and better control my beers.

Not only do I like the fact the that owner listens to the big mouths that use the product, but also replies to this thread.

I like knowing who I am doing business with, especially as a business owner myself.

Jeff, ole boy, you have a new customer.

Thanks for the frankness and ability to put your nuts where your mouth is in public.

Sold.
 

grant curtis (216.249.85.106)
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 05:51 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

One last thing, you like mtn biking and I am a huge mtn biker (love Cold Springs, Tunnel, Jesuita and Buckhorn).

I'll buy two copies for that alone.

Double sold.
 

Brandon Dachel (63.238.222.190)
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 01:19 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

> I used to use Quattro Pro ages ago...but you
> know how it goes...).

Now there's a blast from the past. I thought I left all knowledge of that software in a physics lab.
 

Drew Avis (209.226.137.107)
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 03:56 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Since Brad replied to this thread, I won’t feel guilty about it.

StrangeBrew has been around for 3 years, and has a relatively small but very loyal and enthusiastic user base. I wrote it as someone who is interested in interface design and homebrewing. All the calculations used in the program are available in the help – you can easily see how the software comes up with the numbers it does – which I think is very important for transparency, and for users to be able to request additional calculations.

Transparency is something I’ve always aimed for. The file transfer format for StrangeBrew is xml, a plain text format that anyone can use for display or data exchange (another software vendor has adopted this format and supports it for sharing recipes). A recipe archive is available on Alan McKay’s web site at www.bodensatz.com/sb/

Like the other programs mentioned here, you’ll find StrangeBrew available as a demo on the web. After 30 days some of the features are disabled, but many are not – there are thousands of brewers who use StrangeBrew in “free” mode. I’m very proud of some of the unique features I worked hard to build into StrangeBrew – I won’t list them here, but I’ll encourage you to try it out to discover them yourself. Version 1.8 is under construction and will be available after Christmas.

Finally, I’ll mention that I donate 20% of registration fees from SB to the HomeBrew Digest Server fund.
 

Bill Pierce (24.141.63.119)
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 04:23 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

When three authors of homebrewing software take the time to respond to a message on this board it's difficult to complain about a lack of interest and support on their part. As I suggested, we are very fortunate to have such good tools available.
 

PalerThanAle (65.168.73.62)
Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2003 - 04:35 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I agree with Bill (there, I admitted to it, step 12 is now complete). It is very nice to have 3 excellent products for such a particular small niche. Unfortunately once a product is purchased, the brewer seldom looks at the others effectively making the market even smaller for the other 2 software makers.
Now if one of the others (I have Promash) would hop on the bandwagon and abandon the beer part and just focus on the wine part you could have something.....

PTA
 

Randy McCord (216.174.177.159)
Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2003 - 05:35 am:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I've been thinking of buying some brewing software for a couple of months now. Just haven't done it yet. I'm impressed by the response of the writers of these programs on this board. It's good to know they care about what they've created. I think I will have to try all 3 for a month and go from there. As of right now though, I'm leaning towards a certain one(not telling). I may be a little biased by hanging out hear so I'll just try them and then decide!
 

Jeff McClain (137.201.242.130)
Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2003 - 05:52 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

One thing that I found while first using Promash was how LITTLE I understood about brewing. I think this made me feel a little overwhelmed, and it wasn't Promash's fault. Promash offers SO much that it can make a beginning brewer become a little intimidated. Having said that, however, I have to say that Promash is EXCELLENT and one of the best software packs I've seen (Cudos Jeffrey) for brewing. The help files are VERY complete and informative. Honestly, people simply need to spend some time with the program and with thier own brewing a little while to begin to fully understand and appreciate this great software package.

Regards,

-Jeff

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