As the industry changes, so too do the processes we use to accomplish our tasks. The biggest changes appear in the areas of automation and the use of the Internet. Software continues to be more user-friendly through the use of graphics in the user interface. Automatic or semi-automatic updates for programs on the Internet make it easier for users to keep current. In fact, some of the programs are automatically updated whenever the user connects to the Web. Database connectivity, object linking and embedding capabilities are all becoming more common. The ability to launch a program from within another and to automatically insert the results in a document is seen more and more, especially in administrative type programs. Automatically linking to sites on the Web for data such as updated GPS and GIS is a normal way of operating for many. A large pool of surveyors are accessing courthouse records through the Internet or other electronic means, greatly reducing the time it takes for travel and manual searches through paper files. The ability to connect to developers’ websites for specific information about products and to download time-limited, but fully functional demo software lets potential buyers make intelligent, and perhaps quicker choices for software purchases.
Equipment changes substantially, too. Networked computers make processes much easier. PDAs and laptops have made mobile computing more practical. The ability to synchronize files between desktop and mobile devices makes file management much easier, but lends to an increase in the illegal copying of software. Users should always read the license agreement to be sure they can put a second copy on their mobile devices. Data exchange between different packages, such as tables, text, pictures, etc., is becoming more common. POB’s Miscellaneous Software Survey covers a wide range of applications, including hydrography, mapping and graphing solutions, legal description software and coordinate conversion software, among others. Our mission in creating this survey was to provide an opportunity to those manufacturers that sell programs in categories other than conventional surveying equipment and software. In doing this, it was difficult to create the questions to encompass these many applications in a generic sense. In looking at our current survey, we made a few important changes, including:
- Under Operating Systems, we dropped DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Macintosh since most users don’t operate on these systems these days. In addition, we added the more common platforms: Windows 98, 2000 and XP. We may break down Windows ME and XP in the future into the categories of home or small office (Windows 95/98, Windows ME, XP Home Edition) and large office (Windows NT, Windows 2000 and XP Professional Edition).
- We replaced the question, “Is the database 3-D?” with “Does software have 3D editing capability?” The origi-nal intention for the 3D question was to determine if the program maintained the elevation component of the survey information. There were some software programs a few years ago, mainly CAD programs that did not maintain the elevation.
- We eliminated the metric or English question, as this should be a given in relation to the surveying group.
- Under Programming Languages, we added C++ and VBA to accommodate these common languages.
- Under File Import Ability and File Export Ability, we added the question of whether the programs are XML-compatible. As XML is becoming a common schema that facilitates the exchange of data creat-ed during the land development process, vendors are adding it to its software capabilities.
Thoughts of the FutureAs more and more data is exchanged in a digital format, data integrity is a major concern. Users are urged to not forget the purpose of their work. The need for documentation of decisions made is still important to maintain. A major loss of electronic data can switch a profitable operation to a bankrupt one overnight. Computer programs often don’t leave a record of what was tried and abandoned, or the reasons why particular solutions were tried over other possible choices. Think of the times where notes in an old file gave you the clue you needed for a better decision. Think, too, of those who will follow in your footsteps.
People are still an important resource. A major loss of communication can great-ly hamper productivity. Don’t forget to keep all people in the loop. Having only one person who knows the details about an important project or how to run a key software program can lead to disaster.
The bottom line: embrace the new digital world, but don’t jump into the boat without your life preserver.
Click here to view the results of the Miscellaneous Software Survey.