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Sharing the Love With GSAK January 14, 2009

Posted by kinzuakid in Education, Geocaching, Mobile Caching, Software.
Tags: , , , , ,

I’m not a big GSAK user (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife).  That probably makes me a GSAK bigot, but I am here to change all that.

Many people who use GSAK are familiar with its ability to rapidly review cache lists, assign nicknames to cache entries and it is not a bad filtering tool, either.  In another post I mentioned a key feature of “Watcher”, its ability to rapidly and automatically filter out undesirable (or desirable) cache entries from your GPX Pocket Query.  Now it’s time to take a look at one feature from GSAK that makes it second to none among utilities: its file export capabilities.

GSAK offers excellent file sharing tools for the Geocacher.  In the latest version of GSAK (, the number of file formats supported is staggering.  What possible use could this be?  If you and your cache mates don’t use the same GPS or have differing preferences/needs for map view or printouts, the best way to make sure you are operating from the same cache list is to start from the same GPX and use a software tool like GSAK to “translate” for you.

You could simply send the original GPX to everyone, but that would defeat the purpose of reviewing, filtering and culling the Geocache list down to just the ones you want to see.  In another case, if you and your friend have different gear and you want to search for Geocaches that neither of you have found, you must combine the output from at least two (and perhaps more) Pocket Queries to produce the new, unique list.  Adding to the trouble, not all file formats are created equal.  Th4tguy has a nice explanation on the differences between LOC and GPX files, here.

Using GSAK’s comprehensive file format support, getting that Pocket Query from its raw GPX format to a filtered and sorted version perfectly compatible with the software you or your friends prefer to use is, well, possible.  Trust me, it was not always thus.

Here’s a little cheat sheet


What’s it For?

When You’ll Use It

CacheMate PDB CacheMate software running on Palm PDAs When you’re exporting for a Palm (NOT Pocket PC) CacheMate user.  Probably not so much, though, as CacheMate on Palm now supports GPX and LOC files, which are recommended.
CSV/TXT (also GSAK SQL) Direct viewing and editing with a text editor, spreadsheet, or GSAK When you are trying to create checklists or simple ordered lists of WPT IDs, or when you feel brave enough to edit data yourself.  Note: GSAK SQL is just another separated text output.
Custom People who really understand the GPSBabel.exe command and switch approach, and who want total control over the output format. You probably won’t unless you are working on a highly customized application and have detailed option notes to use.
Delorme Topo Users with a Delorme PN-Series GPS and/or using Topo USA mapping software When you want to map WPTs to a Delorme device or upload using Topo USA
Fugawi TXT People using Fugawi mapping software with their GPS You probably won’t, unless you extensively use the Fugawi package to upload WPT information to your GPS, since GSAK can already upload directly to most devices.
GPX/LOC Maintaining the original file fortmat(s) from Geocaching.com Constantly, since GPX and LOC are the de facto file format standards in use
HTML Reading the data with a browser or for online publication. Not often, since most GPS devices and software does not know what to do with HTML and it can be confused with XML or GPX under some horrid situations.
Lowrance USR Lowrance GPS owners This is a custom waypoint format for Lowrance owners.  I am not familiar with that manufacturer’s software or limitations, so any help here is good.
Magellan eXplorist and SD Card Users with Magellan eXplorist GPS Simple really, when you are using a Magellan eXplorist!  This format gives you options to format for the SD card, as a set of “POI” data only, or as Geocaches (to pick up the correct icon)
MapSend WPT Users with Magellan GPS units using MapSend (any version) This is a waypoint only format which means you’re probably using an older GPS.  I would try to avoid this format unless you have to use it for your unit/software.
MapSource Users with Garmin GPS using the Mapsource (e.g., City Navigator North America) Use it only when you need to upload to your Garmin and not if you need to reuse the PQ data somewhere else.  The Mapsource format strips out everything useful other than the name.
Maptech eXchange MXF If you’re using Maptech Terrain Navigator, Terrain Professional, Take a Hike, or ExpertGPS software Not often used unless you have those packages.  Since MXF is just another text format, use CSV/TXT instead, it’s more common and useable.
Memory Map This is yet another comma separated values format.  Direct viewing and editing with a text editor, spreadsheet, or GSAK Who knows when you’ll use this one; probably some time after you finish with the others.  Any hints here would be helpful.
MSFT Streets and Trips Text Owners of the Microsoft Streets and Trips software Somewhere between “hardly at all” and “never”.  Your GPS software or Google Earth already does routing and mapping.  This aging software is probably not in your toolbag.
Nat’l Geographic TOPO! TPG Users of the National Geographic Topo, Topo 2.x or Topo 3 / 4.x software. Rarely, since if you’re using topographic software you are likely using the topo package that uploads to your GPS.  But…this is handy if you print the topo maps and just use the GPS for roads and directional bits.
OziExplorer WPT OziExplorer WPT and map manipulation software users of any supported GPS When you’re creating maps or uploading waypoints using OziExplorer.  It is a lot like GSAK, so if you are using one, you are probably not using the other.  What it does do that is novel is some interesting map creation for your PDA/PPC.
Pocket Streets PSP Microsoft Pocket Streets users who haven’t upgraded their PocketPC or GPS in over 5 years. Never.  Pocket Streets is discontinued and never had routing capabilities, either.  You don’t use this, you use Streets and Trips.
Street Atlas TXT Delorme software (Street Atlas) manipulation of waypoints. When you’re a Delorme user all the way.  Many Geocachers stick to the free software, so this is unlikely to be important unless you just happen to have a Delorme GPS and/or the software it demands.
TomTom POI Uploading waypoints (Geocaches) to your TomTom GPS as POIs. When you are trying to marry the best of street routing with directional routing for a Geocaching outing.  This is actually not a bad idea if your non TomTom GPS does not do street routing on the fly.

Now all I have done here is go through the list to capture a quick blurb for each of the supported formats.  If you want to know more because you’re an insufferable geek like myself, just read the GPSBabel site for more information, here.

Why the GPSBabel site and not GSAK?  Well…GSAK is built ON TOP of GPSBabel, as are a half dozen other programs you probably had no idea about.  GPSBabel does the heavy lifting of processing data while the GSAK “look and feel” makes it easier for you to navigate around.  It’s all very cool, and it works well.  GPSBabel can convert almost any GPS file format to almost any other.  More on all that, later, but in the mean time-

I got some caches to get.



1. kinzuakid - January 14, 2009

Man, the WYSIWYG editor didn’t tell me it was going to nerf my table up. All better now (and it’s readable).

2. How to Use GSAK « Telephone Poles on the Moon - May 2, 2009

[…] a number of queries around “How to use GSAK”, or Geocaching Swiss Army Knife.  I have talked about the power of GSAK before.  It’s a great package, even though it’s not one of the regulars in my toolbag.  I […]

3. Free GSAK Key For the Taking « Telephone Poles on the Moon - May 9, 2009

[…] This is GSAK, or Geocaching Swiss Army Knife.  I’ve written about GSAK before, both here and […]

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