This page summarises the changes that have been made in the various versions of Virtual Belfry so far released.
Version 3.8 (December 2020)
Version 3.8 introduces the following new features and bug fixes:
- The yellow ropesight flashes on the Ropes window have been enhanced. They can be colour-coded to show if you're about to move up, down or stay in place. They can be shown only when you're following the treble. They can be shown only when you are out of place (to a degree that you can control).
- An arrowhead graphic is available on the Ropes window to indicate the placement of your own bell during simulator ringing. This is most effective (and intended for use) when ringing rounds.
- When ringing touches of random calls, you can now control the relative frequency of plain leads, bobs, singles (and other types of calls if there are any).
- Delete buttons on edit dialogs have been moved to the relevant list dialog as that is the more natural place to find a delete button.
- The relative positioning of common buttons - OK, Cancel and Help mostly - has been standardised across all dialogs.
- The files of methods, compositions etc., while still installed for new users, are no longer included in upgrade patches, meaning that there is now no risk of accidentally losing your own entries in these files when installing a patch.
- All the screenshots in the help file have been recaptured - not because the content was out of date (the help file is always updated with every new release), but in order to give them all a consistent look based on Windows 10, rather than a patchwork of screenshots from XP, Vista and so on.
- 'x' is no longer permitted as the letter for calls in methods as it clashes with the use of 'x' in compositions (meaning a pair of consecutive bobs in some methods).
- Unwise place notation rules such as "35" or "26" (expecting an odd number of bells to swap between the places) no longer cause the program to crash.
- A bug has been fixed that was preventing replay from working unless the Want Sound option (on the Main control panel) was ticked.
- If ringing is already underway when the Ropes window is made available, the ringers no longer remain stood behind their ropes as if no ringing is happening.
- The Bells option on the View menu is now ticked, as it should be, when the Bells window is made available.
Version 3.7, 3.7a (April 2020) and 3.7b (June 2020)
Version 3.7 introduced the following new features:
- Random touches can be rung, either one method with random calls or multiple methods (spliced) with random calls;
- It is possible to nominate a start row other than rounds;
- The + and - keys are now functionally consistent and opposite to one another, with one and two presses providing Start/Go and Rounds/Stand respectively;
- A bug has been fixed that prevented "Simple" compositions that involve method splicing from working for certain choices of method label;
- A bug has been fixed that caused the striking to become uneven after continuous ringing in excess of 100,000 changes;
- A bug that upset the Firing and Pause functions, introduced in 3.6a, has been fixed.
Version 3.7a adds a new choice of tower offering faster peal speeds suitable for mini-rings and small dumbbells.
Version 3.7b adds another new tower featuring recordings of the bells of St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol.
Version 3.6 (May 2019) and 3.6a (November 2019)
Version 3.6 introduced the following new features:
- The program can record and analyse real ringing;
- An option on the control panel turns sound off when analysing open ringing (as opposed to silent practice);
- Stroke corrections can be entered for signal times to match the clapper timing for open ringing;
- Pairs of bells that strike in the wrong order can be swapped, automatically adjusting the statistics;
- Real ringing can be summarised by bell (as well as by position) on the Striking window;
- The Striking window has a new graphic showing how the speed of the ringing varies through a touch;
- Additional details can now be entered when saving touches;
- Saved touches can now be edited at any time;
- When selecting a touch from the History window, the appropriate number of bells is chosen automatically;
- The logic for mapping sensors to bells has been improved, fixing a bug that sometimes caused sensors to be inactive;
- If you change the COM port for a sensor, the program will (optionally) make the same change for other sensors using that port;
- A bug has been fixed that was causing the program to occasionally freeze at unpredictable times;
- A bug has been fixed that rendered sensors inactive if the Blue Line window was not one of the selected windows.
Version 3.6a fixes a bug that was crashing the program in evaluation mode when analysing real ringing less than 21 rows in length.
Version 3.5 (April 2018)
- Multiple ringers can now participate in a simulator touch, with individual and aggregate results available at the end;
- A Replay function has been added to the Blue Line control panel so that ringing can be played back;
- The program can ignore a number of initial signals in a touch so that they don't count in the final statistics;
- The History window has a Delete button for deleting individual touches;
- Saved touches have been restructured and are now stored as plain text;
- The main control panel maintains a dropdown list of recent choices of touches, exercises etc.;
- The Striking window now has buttons on the window surface to view the various graphical results;
- The Blue Line and Striking windows have a reset button when the current touch has a different mix of user bells
(Backspace is a keyboard equivalent);
- There are now separate volume controls for bells and voice;
- A new keystroke for manual call changes makes the program work well with hand-held trackball gadgets;
- An option has been provided to shift all the separate windows back to their original size and position;
- The ticks against sensors on the Sensors control panel now act as on/off switches for sensors in simulator mode as well as silent practice mode;
- Half-muffled simulator ringing was not working properly due to a bug that has now been fixed;
- A bug has been fixed that was preventing original exercises from being restored when the "Restore" menu option was chosen.
Version 3.4 and 3.4a (June 2016/May 2017)
- High-quality photographic animation of ringers;
- New statistics on the Striking window (the mean+SD graphic split by stroke, by position and by bell followed);
- The View control panel has a new option to automatically use the full screen during ringing (and revert afterwards);
- The volume of the treble can now be emphasised;
- Voice commands can now be turned off if desired;
- A bug has been fixed that caused the program to say "Go" for no reason after the Generate function had been used;
- The program was not properly handling some models of dual RS232 USB adaptors; this has now been fixed;
- A bug has been fixed that was causing accidental final blows (after the ringing has stopped) to be included in the statistics;
- Some other minor bugs have been fixed.
Version 3.3 and 3.3a (November/December 2015)
- Support has been included for control switches (Start/Go, Rounds/Stand, Stop, Bob, Single);
- Multi-bell interfaces (MBIs) can now use any printable ASCII characters as signals from sensors and switches;
- Generic MBIs can have their ASCII characters changed directly on the control panel - to suit the wireless Belfree sensors;
- Bagley MBIs are now sent a minimum 10ms delay if zero is specified, to conform with their specification;
- The order of sensors (or switches) within a group can now be changed (make your tower anticlockwise very easily!);
- A bug has been fixed that was sometimes corrupting the list of available COM ports on the Edit Sensor dialog;
- The length of the handstroke gap can now be adjusted between 0.7 and 1.4 times the default 1-beat pause;
- Control panels can now be scrolled upwards to reveal controls that may be hidden (e.g. on a small screen);
- A bug sometimes causing erratic striking on startup, introduced in version 3.2, has been fixed (I think!);
- Images for the Hobart "Twelve Bells" tower and the Maryborough tower can now be downloaded for trial.
Version 3.3a restores the "Simple" mode on the striking window, which a bug in 3.3 had disabled.
Version 3.2 (July 2015)
- A signal monitor has been provided on the Sensors control panel for diagnosing sensor problems;
- A button has been provided to quickly generate the rows and blue line for the selected method or composition etc.;
- A combined Rounds/Stand button has been included on the tool bar and control panel;
- The minus key now has a 3-stage function: Rounds, Stand, and Stop (instant);
- Shift+Up and Shift+Down permit scrolling through and comparing results without having to go to the History window to do it;
- A selection of kaleidoscope exercises from Learning the Ropes (module 2) have been added to the Exercises menu;
- Half courses of some standard surprise methods (major to maximus) have been added (with a "Plain Hunt" call to bring the bells round);
- After pressing Escape to stop the ringing, a (probably inadvertent) second press within 2 seconds of the first one will not now quit the program.
- A long-standing bug with call change sequences (crashing the program if they don't return to rounds) has been fixed.
- Calls every whole pull (e.g. in Original) were failing to show on the blue line window. This has been fixed.
- Solo Go mode was not working when there was more than one sensor listed on the Sensors control panel. This has been fixed.
- The program was not properly staying in simulator mode when there was only one sensor listed. This has been fixed.
- The invented names "strikometer" and "beatometer" have been replaced with simpler labels on the Striking window.
- A bug potentially causing the program to crash when starting ringing a method has been fixed.
- The project has been rebuilt using Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 (upgraded from VS 2003).
Version 3.1a and 3.1b (May 2015)
- Fixed some bugs in version 3.1 relating to support for new sensor types (e.g. Bagley);
- Removed support for the DigiBee sensor type, introduced in version 3.1, as it was found to be unsuitable for bell sensors.
Version 3.1 (April 2015)
- Support for sensors using a data interface, such as the Bagley Multi-Bell Interface and the wireless Belfree sensors.
- A list of available COM ports is shown on the sensor entry dialog.
- Support for sensors using the DigiBee interface [Note: support removed in version 3.1b].
- Automatic sensor detection for simulator usage.
- Silent practice.
- Manual call changes can now be made by clicking on ropes or blue line columns (useful when teaching).
- Slightly fatter ropes to improve visibility.
- An option on the ropes window to show only selected ropes when the bells are stood.
- Improved rendering of the one-line histograms on the History window.
- The help file has a search facility.
Version 3.0 (October 2014)
- Simulator! The program can function as a simulator, connected to a tied bell (or dumbbell) with a sensor attached.
- The program can be downloaded and tried before purchase. All functions can be tested, but ringing will stop after eight whole pulls. (Full functioning can be enabled by obtaining an Activation Key, which requires purchase of the program.)
- A smoothly-scrolling Blue Line window shows the line unfolding in real time, so the ringer can self-correct when lost.
- The Blue Line window also superimposes the ringer's own actual line over the blue line (during and/or after ringing, as preferred), allowing any consistent striking mistakes to be reviewed.
- A Striking window provides clear visual feedback of striking accuracy during ringing and a histogram to summarise the entire touch afterwards.
- A History window accumulates all the ringing during a session and presents a one-line graphic of the striking for each touch. Individual touches can be saved to a file and can be re-loaded at any time (appearing in the Blue Line and Striking windows as if just rung).
- The Ropes window has an option to hide your own rope, useful when ringing in front of a monitor or TV screen.
- All the views can be opened in separate windows if desired.
- The user interface has been completely changed. Tabs across the top determine what fills the main display and there is a control panel on the left of the main display that provides all the controls and settings you need to drive the program.
- The bell images are now available for installation separately. The bells integrate smoothly with the new user interface (the Bells window is another window along with the ones already described), but they are no longer the central concept of the program.
- You can configure any number of sensors in groups. This is useful if, for example, you use your computer in more than one location.
Version 2.2a (July 2012)
- Some structural changes were made to allow for the installation of the Maryborough images as a new tower.
- A bug that caused "simple" compositions with a #comment on line 2 to fail has been fixed.
Version 2.2 (January 2012)
- Recordings of the bells of St. Paul's, Maryborough (Queensland) have been added as a new option (still using the Hobart bells for the animation on the screen).
- A bug relating to use of the "Go Again" option has been fixed.
Version 2.1 (December 2011)
- Recordings of the bells of St. Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide (the second heaviest eight in the world) have been added as a new option (still using the Hobart bells for the animation on the screen).
- After having chosen a rope for tapping or practising ropesight, you can reduce the volume of the other bells while keeping your own at the maximum, making it much easier to hear which bell is yours.
Version 2.0 (October 2011)
- Twelve Bells! All new photography has been taken of the (augmented) bells of St. David's Cathedral, Hobart, giving you a full twelve-bell tower. Video was used to capture the images this time around, and at a frame rate of 30fps the animation is much smoother than before. The original eight is still available, as are other options such as the bells tuned to the harmonic minor scale and configured to sound like Worcester Cathedral's harmonic minor ten.
- Methods, compositions and call-change sequences for cinques and maximus have, of course, been added to the program's lists.
- New, professional sound recordings have been added to the program, giving a much richer stereo sound (especially through headphones). The program has also been modified so that different recordings can be selected quickly and easily. This feature will grow over time as more recordings are taken and made available by free download (St. Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide, is likely to be the first addition, possibly by late November 2011).
- Another new sound option that has been included is of the notes of a piano (perfectly-struck changes on a piano sound surprisingly pleasant).
- Volume control. An independent volume control is provided so that the output level from the program can be controlled (and remembered between sessions).
Version 1.4 (May 2010)
- Ten Bells! As well as the original eight bells, you can now choose from two different ten-bell options: one a straightforward ten, the other a harmonic minor ten tuned and configured to sound like Worcester Cathedral's harmonic minor ten.
Both ten-bell towers use the same photography as the original eight, with two of the bells cloned to bring the total up to ten. You can "see the join", but only if you look carefully!
- New methods and compositions for caters and royal have been added to the program's default stock. And a new style of composition is now supported - one that is used frequently for touches of Stedman Caters.
- The Moving Numbers window has been improved with some new display options, preservation of text proportions and the elimination of some confused graphics when the window is revealed mid-touch or after reverting to rounds.
- Rows generated during ringing can be copied and pasted into a spreadsheet or other external program. The rows are formatted so that when they are pasted into a spreadsheet the rows appear in a column by themselves - calls and changes of method are in separate columns.
- The letter 'c' (for opening the edit window of the composition or call change sequence that has just been rung) has been replaced by 'x' (for reasons not interesting enough to go into!).
- F9 and F10 have been implemented to augment the other function keys (F5 to F8), displaying menus of Caters and Royal methods.
- Two or three more options on the Preferences dialog have been changed so that they take effect as soon as OK is pressed (rather than having to stop the ringing before they take effect).
- A bug has been fixed that prevented My Rope from being selected from the belfry view before the ropes window had been displayed for the first time in a session. Another bug has been fixed that interfered with the correct interpretation of certain compositions of the Numbered Course style.
Version 1.3a (October 2009)
- Half-muffled ringing can be selected as an option (sound only - the clappers appear unmuffled, unfortunately!).
- Methods or compositions can be rung whole-pull style (i.e. changes occur at the handstroke only). This is a good option to try in conjunction with the half-muffled sound.
- The ropes used to appear in a window of their own. While this is still an option, the default is now for the ropes, when shown, to replace the bells in the main window, so that the program shows either the bells or the ropes.
- A new ropesight game allows you to practise ropesight. If you're pointing at the correct rope when the flash occurs, you score a point. A "hit rate" bar shows how well you're doing as you go along, and some more detailed statistics are available at the end to compare your hunting up and hunting down hit rates.
- A new menu contains options relating to ropesight and the new scoring game;
- Call change sequences have been introduced, along with new menus, lists and edit windows to maintain them.
- The ropes are drawn a little fatter than they were before, making them stand out more clearly.
- Calls and changes of method appear as text in the centre of the ropes view.
- With the ropes in a separate window, the moving numbers display (if you are using it) now stays above the ropes at all times, rather than being obscured by them sometimes. (The same applies to the manual control window.)
- Several of the buttons on the toolbar lead to drop-down menus of options. The behaviour of these buttons when clicked has been changed to conform to the standard for such things.
- A bug has been fixed that caused the program to display an error message at startup ("Create Surface8 Failed") and then refuse to work. This has only ever affected a very small number of PCs.
- The timing of the ropesight flashes can be adjusted. Make them occur with no delay to guide your eye to the correct rope at the earliest opportunity and thus help develop your ropesight. Increase the delay when playing the ropesight game (see above) to give yourself time to point at the rope before the flash occurs.
- You can choose whether or not you want the program to remember that the ropes were on display when you last used the program and (if so) to display them again for you automatically when you next start the program.
- The menu option for displaying statistics after playing the ropesight game is disabled when there are no statistics available (which is the case at the start of any touch).
- A bug has been fixed that caused the program to crash when choosing "My Rope" from the belfry view when the ropes window had not yet been displayed.
Version 1.2 (December 2008)
- Aids to ropesight have been incorporated in the rope window. With one of the bells nominated as your own, flashes appear around the other ropes to highlight them when you would normally notice them during change ringing.
- The rope window now behaves like the main belfry window, accepting mouse clicks to raise and lower bells, make call changes and display the context menu. It also shows the 'tips' that reveal which rope is which.
- Ropes for lowered bells are shown in a faded-out style. They can be hidden during ringing (the default), or remain visible.
- The rope window now refreshes properly (instead of sometimes leaving traces of menus on it).
- The program must now be registered with the author before it will run.
- The ability to Silence a bell and sound it by tapping the space bar has been restricted to the rope window only (i.e. removed from the belfry window).
- Call change tips are now an option, revealing the call change that would be made by clicking on a given bell ("2 to 3", for example, when pointing at the 2nd in rounds and calling up).
- Changes to the pitch of the bells are capped at one octave above or below the default F# (in previous versions, holding an arrow key down would rapidly change the pitch far beyond what is sensible and sometimes being difficult to restore to a normal pitch afterwards).
- After ringing a composition (and with the bells set) you can now bring up the edit window for that composition by pressing 'c' on the keyboard.
- The default methods file has been modified to support bobs in Erin Doubles. The default compositions file has been modified to include two 120s that use those bobs, as defined in Standard 70. If you are upgrading an existing installation (by running the patch) and you want to incorporate these changes in your own set of methods and compositions, you will need to use the File..Restore Defaults option, or edit the files manually.
Version 1.1b (July 2008)
- Function keys F1, F3 and F4 have been reconfigured to display Help, Full Screen and Ropes respectively.
- An option has been added to the File menu allowing you to restore the collection of methods and compositions to the originals supplied with the program.
Version 1.1a (June 2008)
- The ropes window has been given an off-white background, and it now refreshes itself properly when the window is being resized and when the bells are not ringing.
- The ropes window can be opened or closed by pressing F1.
Version 1.1 (June 2008)
- The ropes window has been introduced.
- Options on the Ringing menu have been re-grouped to improve useability.
- The setup process for "Full Installation" was not replacing the method and composition files as it should. In effect both installation options were the same: installing the method and composition files the first time, then leaving them untouched thereafter. This has been fixed (but may not be fixed for users who originally bought 1.0c and have upgraded to the later versions by downloading a patch).
- Dragging the moving numbers or the manual control window until the window was partially off the screen caused animation in those windows to cease. This has been fixed.
- In some cases, dragging or moving the windows could cause them to vanish altogether and be difficult to get back. This has been fixed.
- A bug in the menus has been fixed that caused the program to display a particular method menu (say the doubles methods) regardless of which stage was requested.
- The status bar now includes a progress bar while images are being loaded. If a subset of the bells are raised and ringing is begun before loading has finished the bar will be hidden, but it will reappear once ringing stops and loading recommences.
Version 1.0b (April 2008)
- The Moving Numbers window was preventing the main window from detecting keystrokes (such as 'b' for bob). This has been fixed. The Manual Control window has been altered similarly.
- It is now possible to raise and lower bells or issue call changes by typing the numbers of the appropriate bells using the keyboard.
- The '+' key can be used to call "go again".
- The tab key can be used to pause and resume ringing.
- The online help for keyboard shortcuts has been corrected (it used to claim that pressing the Enter key would start the bells ringing and perform other functions, whereas it is the space bar that does these things).
- The RAM limitation has been removed. Apart from computers with rock-bottom memory configurations for their particular version of Windows, Virtual Belfry should run. If memory is short, the images are scaled down appropriately when they are loaded from disc into RAM (so a very low memory configuration might result in some pixellation).
- A question mark can be typed to discover the amount of RAM scaling that has been applied to fit available memory. A value of 1.0 means no scaling was necessary and the images have been loaded at their full size. A value of 0.7 would mean that the width and height of all the images have been reduced to 70% of their actual values, implying that the available memory is approximately half that required for full-scale operation (0.7 x 0.7 = 0.49).