Why would you use software with the Yijing at all?
To my mind, there’s not a huge lot of point in using a computer to cast a reading. My button-clicking mindset is all about hurrying and getting through things quickly, which is really not a good fit for divination. Picking up the beads to run through my fingers is actually quicker and easier than opening a program, but it shifts me to a different, quieter mentality.
However, using a computer to store readings is a whole other kettle of fish; it can be tremendously useful. Firstly because there’s more to learn from a reading than I can absorb in one go, and storing it on a computer rather than in my illegible handwriting hugely increases my chances of finding it again. And also because there are vast amounts to learn from a series of readings: how imagery and trigrams and hexagrams (all the hexagrams, primary and relating and nuclear and paired and complementary and steps of change and so on…) recur and evolve and create contrasts and point out changes and tell stories…
There’s simply no way I can possibly follow all this in my readings (let alone my clients’ readings) if I just rely on my colander-like memory.
Well… a handwritten journal is better than the back of an envelope, and a word-processing document is better than a handwritten journal (as at least you can search it). Software made for the purpose, though – provided it’s easy and natural to use – beats all other options by a mile.
(If you particularly like keeping a handwritten journal – and I agree there’s something to pen and paper that pixels and screen will never have – then I’d still recommend software to keep a quick record of questions and answers. It’ll make your handwritten journal infinitely more useful.)
I reckon the basic requirement for I Ching software is that it not get in the way. It needs to make it easy to
- enter your readings (so you’ll actually do it)
- store and access information about the reading (so you have the essentials in one place)
- find your readings again
- find patterns in a series of readings
Oh, and if you change your mind and want to stop using the software, it should of course make it easy to extract your readings. You don’t want to find your readings held to ransom by an obstreperous database.
Here’s a short review of Justin Farrell’s I Ching Journal software: it does all the above.
A longer one – it does all the above, and other very, very useful things, too.
Remember I have a hibernating brain? I’m not about to attempt a comprehensive feature list for the software; you can read a full, clear ‘guided tour’ at the website.
This is pure journal software, so it doesn’t cast your reading for you. You do that, click the ‘enter new reading’ button, type in your question, enter your primary hexagram and check boxes to identify the changing lines. The software will do the rest: give you your relating hexagram, and also nuclear, contrasting, opposite and steps and patterns of change. No more embarrassing sessions spent looking at the wrong relating hexagram because of brain failure. (I know I’m not the only person who does that…)
(Yes, I know not everyone wants to look at all those hexagrams of context. Probably that’s why there used not to be any software that would show them to you. Then I emailed Justin my ‘wish list’ for some imaginary ideal Yi journal software – and the next thing I knew, it existed. Magic!)
You can type in notes on your reading: there are mini-tabs for background, thoughts and developments, which is encouragement in itself to revisit your readings and learn from good old Prof. Hindsight. (Tip, though: store developments in the ‘thoughts’ tab instead if you want them to be searchable.)
You can also click ‘read hexagram’ to open a new tab and access hexagram and line texts. Initially you’ll find the James Legge translation, but you’ll also find you can type/ paste in translations and notes of your own. That’s notes on the hexagram or line, in addition to your notes on the individual reading, which means the journal software doubles as a place to store your own ideas and insights on each hexagram. (I can’t seem to find a button to bring up the index of hexagrams independently of a reading, but if you click ‘read hexagram’ on any reading, this opens a tab that allows you to browse hexagrams.)
So – storing and accessing readings and information about them: nice and easy, with the added bonus of creating your own translations-and-notes database if you’re so inclined. Then comes finding readings: click the ‘search’ button, and enter I Ching diviner Disneyland.
You can search on keywords in your notes, and/or you can search on Chinese characters or pinyin. You can specify a date range and which hexagrams to search in. Find all the readings about X in the past 6 months that mentioned misfortune in the primary hexagram, for instance.
You can search by question (all the readings about X… or how about all ‘how to’ readings?). You can search by hexagram (choose whether or not to include all the hexagrams of context), or by hexagram plus keyword, or by trigram, or trigram plus keyword.
So when it comes to finding patterns among your readings, you’re all set. I find Yi really does use the relationships between readings – sometimes over months and years – to point out patterns in my reactions, changes (and failures to change when it would be a really good idea) and shifting circumstances. And it does this with a combination of themes, trigrams, words and hexagram structures, so having the means to track all these things is fantastic.
This is the moment in the review when I should be comparing the software to other options and giving a recommendation.
For pretty much the first time ever, we’re actually spoiled for choice. The main ‘competition’ would be Ewald Berkers’ software with journal, which I’ve recommended before, which is super-intuitive and natural to use. It doesn’t have as many search options, though it does allow you to search by change pattern alone – eg find all readings with lines 1 and 6 changing in any hexagram – which can’t be done in Justin’s software. It also includes the means to cast a hexagram within the software as well as entering one you cast yourself. However, since it’s basically intended as a vehicle for Ewald’s own translation, you don’t have the option of adding your chosen texts and hexagram notes.
Both are really good and thoroughly usable. I can’t decide which I prefer.
However… Justin’s comes with a free 30 day trial. At the end of your trial, the program does not shut like a trap with your readings inside: they’re still viewable, editable and exportable, which is great. Also, it defaults after the trial to a free version that still allows you to enter new readings – ie that’s still actually useful. (You pay a stupidly low fee to keep using all the search functions, or both search and translation database.) So I’d definitely recommend downloading, installing and experimenting. (Oh, and sending Justin feedback. You may find your requests get incorporated in the next version.)