In Review: VisionPlus by Geo-Plus
February 1, 2010
220 Delaware Ave. East
Newark, DE 19711
Suggested Price List: The retail price for the first license is $4,250; additional licenses are offered at a 50-percent discount. A required maintenance program, which provides updates, upgrades and support, costs $850 per year for the first copy and $425 for each additional copy. Geo-Plus operates within AutoCAD, Microstation or IntelliCAD, so firms that don’t currently use one of these programs will also need to factor in the cost of the additional software.
Geo-Plus, headquartered in Laval, Quebec, with offices in Canada and the United States, has been developing software for civil engineering and surveying since 1987. The company’s VisionPlus software, which combines COGO calculations and drawing functionalities in a single interface, is marketed as “the most intuitive and easy to use land surveying software.” After testing the product, I find it hard to disagree.
I received an evaluation copy of the software in October 2009, and our firm’s IT department loaded it without incident. The software can operate on AutoCAD, IntelliCAD and MicroStation. I chose to run the software in AutoCAD’s Land Development Desktop (LDD) since I am most familiar with that platform.
I opened several existing drawings and projects and noted that I still had access to all of the menu bars from LDD as well as additional pull-down menus from VisionPlus. While LDD is a point-based application, VisionPlus uses a separate database, so I was not able to access the existing points directly through VisionPlus. However, a command in one of the pull-downs allowed me to easily transfer the points from one of my existing projects into the VisionPlus database. With a few clicks of the mouse, I had data in the database and was able to begin experimenting with the software.
Routines and Capabilities
The setup of the COGO routine was one of the features I liked most about the software package. Selecting the COGO option opens a separate window with its own set of pull-downs, output display and buttons for quick links to standard functions. I was very at home in this environ-ment, which is actually a stand-alone COGO program that can be opened outside of CAD. I was able to adjust the size of this window so that I could view both the COGO routine and the actual drawing simultaneously.
The COGO routine had most of the functions I expected such as inverse and geodetic inverse; intersections of various combinations of points, directions and lines; offset; curve functions; traverse; rotation/translation; various adjustments; and other common tasks. I experimented with many of these functions and was able to pretty easily deduce what input the software needed. I also found the graphical quick links very clear. There was virtually no learning curve to get up and running with the COGO functions.
The program includes transit, compass and full least squares adjustments. You can use least squares to calculate best-fit lines and curves and to perform coordinate transformations. Performing coordinate transformations also manipulates all of the lines, parcels and other data that are linked with the points through the software’s database.
It is also possible to download data directly from total stations or GPS receivers into Geo-Plus and vice versa. According to the manufacturer, the program supports most current instruments, and the company can customize drivers for any equipment that isn’t automatically supported. In addition to current formats, the program supports older hardware such as Sokkisha SDR2 and Wild GIF10, among others. The downloaded data are imported into an electronic field book where they can be displayed, checked and manipulated. I did not have an opportunity to experiment with data collection through the program, but at face value, it appears to have full capabilities.
One of the strengths of the VisionPlus program is that it is built around a database that contains all of the point, line, drawing, connectivity and feature data and allows the features to be assigned a degree of intelligence. Manipulations are performed in the database, so a user could open a drawing in CAD, open another drawing in MicroStation and continue working on the project in the same database.
This database system also allows parcels to be “topologic.” Once a parcel or series of parcels is defined, manipulating the boundaries of the parcel will automatically update measurements referenced to it such as dimensions, bearings, and the area for that parcel and the adjoining parcel. The program also contains routines to define a building or envelope and to site that structure within a lot or parcel. Calculated setback dimensions are automatically updated as the building is manipulated on the site, thanks to the intelligence of the data. Metes and bounds descriptions of individual parcels can also be generated in an automated fashion and output to a .txt file.
Digital terrain models (DTMs) and triangular irregular networks (TINs) can be processed to create surfaces in various formats such as LandXML and Inroads surfaces in addition to the Vision format standard to the software. The creation of the surface can be automated by importing breaklines directly from field data.
A Powerful Package
VisionPlus appears to be a very powerful and complete package containing most of the features of competing packages and even a few unique functions. Since I didn’t use the program for production work over an extended period, I am not sure what issues might arise with specific projects. However, the software seems fairly easy to work with. I particularly liked the COGO routines and the fact that the program is geared directly to land surveyors. The integration of the information into a database and the creation of topologic parcels for intelligent data are also very powerful features.
Firms that are interested in VisionPlus would need to evaluate its compatibility with existing software used by its clients and team members, as with any software. However, for any firm that is considering purchasing a new surveying software package, I would recommend investigating VisionPlus for yourself.