Product Survey Preview

November 25, 2002
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The updated annual CAD/Surveying Software Survey.

The POB CAD/Surveying Software Survey has been updated for 2002. The software offered these days is highly sophisticated, robust in options and strong in capabilities. Rather than ask if the software can set points, edit points and report on points, it seemed more advantageous to seek out where the conceptual differences exist in the software sold today. Most of the software provides similar basic functionality. This year’s survey focuses on maturity in the workflow, stable functionality and increased productivity. Additionally, there are new functions available in some software packages that deserve to be included, such as XML importing and exporting, sending 3D data to excavating equipment for “machine control,” intelligent objects and other concepts.

Questions have been modified to include workflow issues and data management issues along with technical issues. Questions have been added so participants can respond on how diverse the software is when used by related disciplines. Surveyors must review data for all aspects of the project and then move that data into the field for stakeout. The CAD/Surveying Software Survey is meant to reflect these characteristics.

The survey begins by asking for non-technical information about the product, such as training requirements, type of documentation, technical support options and if it interfaces with a CAD system.

Hard copy documentation has been largely replaced by electronic documentation, but is it effective and usable? Further, a software package can be very sophisticated but if it crashes three times in an hour the user may decide it is not worth using. And if a question arises on the use of the software or how certain answers were derived, how strong is the technical support on the software? Keep in mind that technical support does not replace training and can be achieved via telephone, manufacturers’ consultants who perform onsite consulting or on the Internet through guilds, websites, knowledge bases, etc.

The survey continues by updating references to operating systems. Windows 3.x and DOS references were eliminated and current operating systems were added including Linux and more current Microsoft Windows systems.

Items pertinent to the System and Project Setup were updated to reflect the improved interfaces that most manufacturers’ products have now. Geodetic capabilities have become more important to users as has the ability to access project data via open databases such as Microsoft Access.

Most software today has basic COGO functions. They can all compute bearing/bearing or distance/distance commands. Therefore, the survey has been modified to ask questions that reflect the increased intelligence the data has and how the workflow of the user changes based on methodologies applied. Is the data stored in external databases? Are point groupings and point locking available?

The Traverse Analysis questions were updated to reflect the increased sophistication that exists for such items as balancing using least squares, 2D or 3D, and networked loops.

The area in the survey on electronic data collection has been updated to inquire about new, yet practical, concepts such as “machine control,” GPS, etc.

DTM features were expanded to include modern concepts involving terrain modeling and earthwork take-off computations. Again a small amount of workflow questioning was added because terrain models are so important to the project lifespan.

The command feature set within survey software is fairly comprehensive and often bridges disciplines. So, some inquiry into these abilities was included because surveyors often perform design functions either during the project work or the review of data. As a result the user and reader will benefit by knowing if the software contains related functionality in alignment creation, profiling, grading, and utility design and drafting. If it does, then the surveyor may be able to maximize review and minimize recomputing. Is the new XML import/export included for sharing design data? If they can extract needed data from other team members’ computations, then review becomes vastly more efficient.

The revamped survey also gets into drafting and annotation and tries to touch on some of the dynamic labeling that most agree is now ready for production application.

Additionally, some of the software available today is highly customizable and in fact, even programmable! The survey asks about these capabilities as well.

Finally, the survey touches on the software’s ability to migrate its data to other applications such as ArcInfo, AutoCAD and Microstation.

Click here to view the results of the 2002 CAD/Surveying Software survey.

Click here to view the results of the 2001 CAD/Surveying Software survey, with answers to different questions about some of the same products that are in the 2002 survey.

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