Software Review: Traverse PC

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series February 2014

I have been using Traverse PC (TPC) since its inception in 1987. I’ve used it in my work as both a private surveyor and as a county surveyor in Idaho. I stopped using other programs for the same reasons so many other surveyors have.  I rely entirely upon TPC to do my survey work and to prepare all my deliverables, such as drawings and reports.

COGO, Closure, Adjustments Drawings, and File Sharing are all here. Curves, right-of-way, least squares adjustments, GPS interface (including lat/lon, elevations, etc.) are all helpful. Everything I need in the drawing side of the program works well, also. I do some GIS work, so exporting to .dxf, .shp, or .txt files is another plus. I also work with aerial photos, and bringing in images is very manageable.

Traverse PC’s latest release, TPC Desktop 2014, has extended the core technologies that they call the Smart Survey System. They added an exciting feature: the ability to integrate geodetic measurements from GPS-derived data to grid/ground/project measurements, and they addressed the cadastral methodology to integrate GLO/BLM plats and measurements. I’ll talk about these and other features in this review.

View and Managers

What you notice first about TPC is what it isn’t. It isn’t overwhelming like other programs can seem.  It’s built around views that expose different parts of your survey, such as points, surfaces, and drawings. This is absolutely the most efficient way to work with surveys.  It is fundamentally different from CAD, where you manage everything through a drawing.  This makes TPC fun and easy to use while being powerful and intuitive. The software provides the tools that help you make the decisions you have to make on every survey.

TPC Desktop 2014 places all the menus and toolbars for a view right in the view itself. If you are working with multiple monitors and place a view in the second monitor, you don’t have to switch back to the first monitor to find a tool. Views can even have their own status bars. Now you can stay focused on the view you are working with even though you may have many views open.

TPC uses Managers. These are views you use to manage parts of your survey that come in multiples. The Drawings Manager is a good example. It lists all the drawings in the survey (you can have as many as you want). Open the Drawings Manager, select a drawing to work on, duplicate an existing drawing, or add a new one.

Managers use a Windows feature called Groups. The Traverses Manager shown in Figure 1 displays the traverse groups for GPS [14] and Imported [10].

The functionality of groups makes it very easy to organize complex surveys.  

The Tasks Manager (Figure 2) is like Grand Central Station. It lists the most recent surveys, displays information about the current survey, and provides links to help topics, learning guides, and online videos.  My Surveys takes you to your primary survey location and, with the Shared Surveys folder, takes you to a secondary location like a file server or VPN. Now you can work in the office, in the field, or at home and easily access the surveys you want.

TPC Desktop

Everything you do in TPC is done inside the TPC Desktop. TPC Desktop 2014 extends the TPC Desktop with conventions such as docking, autohide, tabs, and embedded menus to help you work more efficiently with views. These are not user-interface gadgets that come with one version of Windows and leave with the next. These are best-practice conventions that TPC has selected because they work.

If you are working on a notebook with limited screen space, auto-hiding views will maximize your work space. On a desktop computer with multiple monitors, docking and tabbing views will give you maximum access to your survey data. You’ll actually enjoy arranging the TPC Desktop the way you want. Of course, you can also save your desktop layouts and switch between your favorites.

TPC’s Quick View technology has gotten better with each release, and TPC Desktop 2014 is no exception. The Smart Survey System does away with the CAD paradigm entirely.  

Because the drawings become a subset of the data (rather than the data becoming a side-effect of the drawing), drawings update automatically when you update your data.

The Drawing Data manager (Figure 3) lists every object in the drawing in a familiar tree structure. Drawing data is organized into branches for layers, traverses, blocks, raster images, surfaces, and fonts. Expand a branch to see all the layers, then expand the layer to see the objects on it.
Tag or untag any object to add or remove it from a drawing.  Right click any item in the list and choose Properties to open that item for editing. Want to see which symbols and fonts you used in a drawing? Just expand those branches and take a look.

As I mentioned, one of the most exciting features is the ability to incorporate your GPS work with your conventional field traverses. You can set the project factors (Figure 4) of distance and direction.  

You can choose grid, ground, or project distances or enter geographic data with latitude and longitude. You can incorporate OPUS solutions directly into TPC, with the ability to include records of survey and plat data.  You can also establish several different bearing references, grid or true, or establish your own mapping or project-bearing reference.

These same distance and direction types can be selected for any drawing, as well. The result is line labels that show ground distance, true bearing, chains, feet, or whatever else you want (Figure 5). TPC makes working with geodetics very easy.

Another addition to TPC is the ability to work directly with G.L.O. and B.L.M. surveys in accordance with the accepted survey practices of the manual.  You can establish grid or true mean bearings, or you can create a project bearing or establish your own mapping angle.

For You CAD Folks

Several years ago, Traverse PC came out with the “NoCAD Zone” approach. Traverse PC is a field-to-finish program, with the ability to incorporate all your survey data, text, aerial photography, legend, line and curve tables, images, other surveys, and symbols to simplify the making of the final survey map or plat. This is accomplished without the need for a separate CAD program.  

For you CAD people, insert a symbol and trim the line to the symbol. You have to trick your CAD program with phantom layers or other work-arounds to report the true length of the line. The TPC survey map is all about points and their associated coordinates and elevations. Insert a symbol at the end of a line, then trim the line to the symbol. No matter the size of the symbol, the bearing and distance of the line are based upon the coordinate value.

If you are interested in TPC Desktop 2014, watch the online videos on Traverse PC’s website. And if you get a copy, I can almost guarantee you will be working efficiently right out of the box—as long as you take off your CAD hat first. 

If you have used Traverse PC before, rest assured that TPC Desktop 2014 uses the same views as previous versions so you don’t have to re-learn the software. Even the hot keys (like F6 for Closure View) are the same.

I give TPC Desktop 2014 a thumbs up. When you call Traverse PC, you talk with a live person. And because they are surveyors themselves and very knowledgeable about the program, you get all the help you need. The folks at Traverse PC are committed to making their users successful with the program, and the learning guides, help files, online videos, and online training give you all the tools you need to learn the software.

TPC Desktop 2014 comes in three editions, Personal $799, Premium $1399, and Professional $1999. Purchase the edition that has the features you need, and if you need more features, you just pay the price difference to upgrade to the next edition.


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