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Revision History: 99-21
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COMPASS for DOS is a complete software package designed to edit, process, analyze and view cave survey data using an IBM PC compatible computer. The programs in the system allow you to enter cave data, revise the data, generate statistics on the cave, close loops, view plots from various angles on the screen and finally, print finished quality plots on almost any of dot matrix, laser or ink jet printer.

COMPASS for DOS is highly optimised for the DOS environment. It was written to take advantage of the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of the DOS environment.



COMPASS is user friendly. Even a novice computer user will find it easy to use. Every screen has brightly colored windows and simple options similar to those used in PCTOOLS for DOS. A simple set of easy to understand menus guides you through every step of the process. There is always a complete list of commands on the screen so you don't have to run to the manual every time you want to do something.

Some programs force you memorize the names of your cave files and laboriously type them in. If you can't remember, you have to go all the was back to DOS and try to find the files. In COMPASS you never have to type a filename. You browse through disks and directories with a few keystrokes. All the files appear in a window. When you find the one you want, just move the highlight and press a key.

There are no cryptic error messages like:

Runtime Error @ 2095:2034

Instead, clear error messages tell you exactly what you did wrong and what you need to do to correct the problem. Over 200 pages of documentation is included with the system. It covers every aspect of the system; from philosophy, to file format, to practical problem solving.


COMPASS was designed with an emphasis on easy data entry. The entry format is very flexible. Data can be in decimal feet, feet and inches, meters, decimal degrees, degrees and minutes, quads, and percent grade. Data can be entered in almost any sequence to match the format of the survey notes. Clear and friendly messages guide you through every step of the data entry process.

The COMPASS editor is very powerful. It can be configured to match any survey book. It has two modes of operation: One Shot Mode and WYSIWYG Mode. In One Shot Mode, only one shot is displayed on the screen at one time. WYSIWYG stands for "What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get." This means that the entry layout looks like a page from a normal survey book. In other words, each survey is on a separate line, and you can see up to ten shots at a time.

One shot mode has the advantage of giving you a less cluttered display, where it is easy to see each shot item. WYSIWYG mode has the advantage of looking like the survey book, which makes it easier to check for errors. You can instantly toggle between One Shot Mode and WYSIWYG Mode by hitting a single key. Both modes can be configured so that the order of the data items matches the survey book. For example, azimuth, length, inclination, and up, down, right, left, can be in any order you specify.

The editor can auto-sequence station names. In other words, if the last station was AB24 then the editor will tentatively set the next station to AB25. This can save many keystrokes and speed up data entry. The feature works with both alphabetic and numeric parts of the station name. Thus, COMPASS would anticipate that MM24a would be followed by MM24b.

The editor also has the ability to reverse individual survey items to deal with backsight situations. Single keystroke commands can swap the survey stations, reverse the compass angle and reverse the inclination.


COMPASS was designed with the limitations of the micro-computer in mind. It was designed to be lean and fast and the programs were written to conserve memory. Although multi-megabyte PCs are commonplace these days, it is still very useful to carry a cheap laptop underground and enter data. The main programs in COMPASS's program package only require 188K of disk space. This means that processing a 30-mile-long cave can be done on a SINGLE 720K floppy disk. Thus, a cheap laptop with no hard disk is the perfect surveying tool. COMPASS even supports inexpensive CGA and Hercules display adapters.


COMPASS is fast. It compiles survey data 7.5 times faster than SMAPS, closes loops 8 times faster than SMAPS and draws line plots 8 times faster. Processing Lechuguilla cave data requires 5.5 hours on 4.77 MHZ PC XT using SMAPS. Under COMPASS the same computer and data only takes 45 minutes.

The speed difference can be particularly dramatic when there are multiple caves and surveys. Even on a Pentium processor the difference in speed can be dramatic. For example, processing the Huautla cave data requires 20 minutes in SMAPS on 90 MHZ Pentium processor. Under COMPASS the same cave system in processed in 24 seconds. This is a difference of 50 times!

On more powerful 386, 486 and Pentium computers, COMPASS really shines. With a VGA display and a fast 386, you can perform real time three dimensional rotation of small and medium sized caves. You can literally walk through parts of a cave as fast as you can hit the arrow keys. You can even hold down a key and watch the cave spin like a top.

To give you an idea of the speed, drawing all 80 miles of Lechuguilla Cave on a 25 MHZ 386 takes about 4.06 seconds. On a 66 MHZ 486 with a fast video card, the drawing time is less than a second. Of course, as you zoom in, drawing is much faster since there is less passage to plot. A zoomed view on the "Far West" in Lechuguilla takes less than a second to on the 25 MHZ 386 and .16 seconds on the 486.

The interactive cave viewer allows you to view the cave from any angle. You can instantly color surveys, label stations, look at station elevations, magnify profiles, and color by elevation. Want to know what survey you're looking at? Just move the cursor to a passage and the program shows you the whole survey and tells you its name. Other special cursor modes allow you to find surveys, measure distances, measure azimuths and inclinations, and clip off parts of the cave for easy viewing.


COMPASS was designed to handle the most complicated and confusing cave surveys. The programs can handle all kinds of complicated backsights, side shots and shots with weird tie-ins. Shots can be entered in almost any order, even random, and the program will sort it out. COMPASS has been extensively tested on large cave systems like Groaning, Lechuguilla, Wind, Carlsbad Caverns, The Huautla System and Cheve Cave.


COMPASS can handle caves of unlimited size. If the cave has less than about 5000 stations or about 25 miles of passage, COMPASS will process the cave as a single file. Caves larger than 25 miles are broken up into separate modules and processed sequentially by linking the files together.


Unlike other survey programs, COMPASS uses a simple DOS compatible file structure. This simple ASCII compatible format, means that you can operate on COMPASS files with normal DOS tools like word processors, spread sheets and data base managers.

COMPASS allows each file to hold dozens of surveys. Other programs put each survey in a separate file. This means that a cave like Lechuguilla will put more than 1000 separate survey files on your disk. This may seem like a trivial point, but wait until you try to copy all 1000 files to a floppy disk. Even on a fast computer it takes nearly an hour to copy all the files.

COMPASS allows you to build multiple, hierarchical file structures. This is done with a special "master" file. Master files allow you to link together separate data files into a single line plot. In other words, each master file can bring together different passages, caves or surface features. In this way, you can plot a small section of cave, a single cave or a whole cave system without modifying the data. Since you can have any number of master files, there is no limit to the way you can organize and display your cave data.


COMPASS features a powerful loop closing system that prevents errors from bad loops contaminating the data in good loops. Most survey programs use a loop closure process called "least squares" that simultaneously closes all loops in a cave. The problem with this technique is that it contaminates good loops with the errors from bad loops. In COMPASS, the good loops are closed first and then "locked" down so they cannot be affected by the bad loops.


COMPASS features special software to convert data to and from SMAPS, CAPS and KARST format. It can also convert data to AUTOCAD format. This means that all the power and features of Autocad can be used on your favorite caves.


COMPASS software allows you to produce finished line plots on any dot matrix, laser or ink jet printer. Plots can be made at any scale using any conceivable units:. feet per inch, meters per inch, meters per centimeter and ratios like 1:5000. A legend can placed at the bottom of the plot. It includes a scale bar, a title, a compass and values for pan, zoom, and rotation. You can highlight or excluded surveys and clip by depth. You can also, mark or label stations in a variety of ways including junctions, and every Nth station.


COMPASS has powerful GIS and Feature analysis capabilities. Cave data can be linked to databases, inventory lists and any other collection of information. Features such, minerals, geology, trades routes, chemistry etc. can be plotted and highlighted on any map. Features that have values associated with them (such as parts per million pollution) can be displayed by smaller and larger symbols.

COMPASS allows you to flag each shot for special handling, such exclusion from length measurement, exclusion from plotting, exclusion from closure, etc. COMPASS features extensive statistical analysis of the cave including:

  • length
  • exclusions
  • depth
  • closure errors
  • average shot length
  • loop stations
  • number of stations
  • suspended stations
  • number of shots
  • parent stations
  • number of loops
  • rose diagrams
  • station coordinates
  • surveys per year
  • cave size (x,y,z)
  • standard deviation
  • blunders

Utility and Support Programs

COMPASS features several utility programs that are used to handle special tasks like editing large cave systems. The utility programs include:

a. A special program that produces a tree diagram of all the surveys in a cave. This program is especially useful for finding routes through a cave and to see how the surveys in a cave connected.
b. A special high-level editor for survey files. It allows you rearrange, delete and combine surveys at the file level.
c. A special program that finds all the common shots and stations between any two survey files.


COMPASS features a completely professional setup program that makes installation easy. You just type "INSTALL", and a series of menus guides through the installation processes. It's simple, just highlight the items you want installed, choose a printer, and COMPASS does the rest. In a few minutes you are viewing caves. With a few keystrokes, you can even do custom installations for laptops and floppy based systems.

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