Cave Survey Software - An Overview

By Wookey, Last update 30 November 1999.
HTML by arb.

There is now a great deal of software available to help you with survey data reduction and survey plotting. Much of it is very good. Here is a list of what is known to me to be available at the moment. There is a big variation in both functionality and price (not that there is any relationship between these two things). The list is arranged by the sort of computer it is designed to run on, although a couple of the packages will run on more than one system.

If you are looking for some software (or some better software) then you should narrow down the choice by first deciding what machine it is to run on, and how much money (if any) you are prepared to spend. Next think about whether you want a simple to use program, or if you want a powerful application, which may not be so easy to get to grips with. Also check if there are any specific features that you want. If you are changing from another program, then perhaps the most important thing is how easy it will be to transfer the data from the old to the new format.

This list is permanently out of date as many of these programs are still being actively developed. I will continue to maintain this on an occaisional basis.

We also list some software which has effectively been discontinued (and is not maintained, and may no longer work on current platforms) for completeness. This is now on a separate page.

Name System/OS Author, Country Cost
SURVEX v0.90 PC (DOS) / RISCOS / UNIX / any Olly Betts, UK Free
Tunnel v2 Any (Java) Julian Todd, UK Free
!SURVEY RISCOS Juan Corrin, UK £15
CML PC (DOS) / UNIX / any Mel Park, USA Free
Vectors Macintosh Mel Park, USA Free
CavePlot 3.30 Macintosh Dave Herron, USA $40 (shareware)
Toporobot v8.5.2 Macintosh Martin Heller, Switzerland Free
CaveSurveyStandard UNIX John Rowlan, USA Free
CAPS v7.6 PC (DOS) Hubert Crowell, USA $35 (sharewarish)
CAVEMAP PC (DOS) John Beck, UK £12
CMAP v16.1 PC (DOS) Bob Thrun, USA Free
COMPASS v9909 PC (DOS) Larry Fish, USA $25 (shareware)
EXCEL 97 PC (Windows) Robin Griffiths, UK £5 donation
KARST256 PC (DOS) Gary Petrie, USA Free
SMAPS v5.2 PC (DOS) Doug Dotson, USA $99 to cavers
SMAPS Lite PC (DOS) Doug Dotson, USA $15 (shareware)
SURV93 PC (DOS) Martin Laverty, UK Free
SURVEY v2.3 PC (DOS) Steve Neads, UK £15
CaveView v4.0 PC (Windows) John Fogarty, USA Free
OnStation v3.1 PC (Windows32) Taco Van Ieperen, Canada Free
Pitter/Plotter v1.2 PC (Windows) Bill McIntosh, USA $25 (shareware)
Speleo Graphics PC (Windows) Steffen Pohlenz, Germany DM120 (shareware)
WINCOMPASS v9909 PC (Windows) Larry Fish, USA $25 ($38 for both Compass and Wincompass)
WINKARST v6.3 PC (Windows) Gary Petrie, USA Free

Software can generally be obtained from an FTP archive site, Wookey, or the software's author. See the notes below and the summary of each program below for details. The date given is the date of the last copy I have information about. The most recent versions are generally best obtained from the program/author homepage.

I have copies of all of these (except !SURVEY, CaveSurveyStandard, CAPS), but obviously can only distribute those which are free or shareware. For all the rest you will have to contact the author - addresses are given below where they are known.

The only programs I have really used properly are Surveyor 88 (discontinued), SURVEX, (Win)Compass, (Win)Karst, & SMAPS5.1. My comments on the others are based on relatively perfunctory examinations of what is on offer. I hope to review all of this software properly in due course. If you are looking for some survey software tell me what you want to do with and what computers you have access to and I will be happy to advise.

Program internals are described as 1st-4th generation, following Bob Thrun's suggested classification:

If you have FTP access you can get software directly from the remaining English language cavers' archive. All the free/shareware software (except CAPS, CaveView & CaveSurveyStandard) is there, however it hasn't been updated since late 1995 and thus is increasingly out of date.:


Other survey software sites: Jon Jasper's survey software page which keeps up to date links to many places for survey software download.


1994. CAPS can be obtained from Hubert C Crowell, Huco Systems, 3105 Mary Dr. NE, Marietta, GA 30066, USA.


1992. CaveMap is simple and menu-based. It is 2nd gen. which makes it very quick. This is fine for straightforward caves where you survey a centre-line and then bend the rest of the survey around that line. No printing - screen must be grabbed and printed. Copes with magnetic variations in mines. Available from John Beck, Glebe Cottage, The Hillock, Eyam via Sheffield, Derbyshire, S30 1RB, UK. Tel: 01433 631732


1996. Macintosh. 4th gen, with LRUD & wall drawing capabilities. Depth colouring. Text or editor input. GIS-type station attributes. Imports Compass, On-station, & CMAP text data, surface grid. Exports CMAP, On-station, XYZ & Rotater. Simple extended elevation display. A demo (of version 3.3) (can't save changes) is available from its website. The full version is available from Caver Dave (Herron) Speleo Resources, 1457 South 280 East, Oren, Utah 84058. Tel:(801) 224-7357.


199? Caveview is available from Wookey or John Fogarty.


199?. CaveSurveyStandard can be obtained from John Rowlan, Building 203, Maths computer Science Division, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 s.Cass avenue, Argonne, Il 60439, USA Phone(708) 252-7587, Fax: (708) 252-5986.


1995. CMAP is a command based system. 3rd gen. Very versatile text data input format. Optional data entry editor. New cave viewer gives good visualisation. Older versions available with source. Available from Wookey or Bob Thrun, 8123 14th Avenue, Adelphi MD 20783, USA. Email: Web:

CML (Vectors)

1993. CML is also a command-based public domain multi-platform program, with a GUI-based version 'Vectors' for Macs only. It is 4th gen., and capable of very complex & large caves. Takes text files as input. Can generate files for the Survex cave viewer. Available from the archives, Wookey or Mel Park,


1997. Compass is a good 2nd/4th gen. tool (it closes all the loops sequentially, but does the best ones first to reduce the effects of blunders). Has configurable WYSIWG data entry tool. Designed to be idiot-proof in use, and with helpful install program. An extraordinarily thorough manual (400K! long). Has GIS features for attaching data to survey stations. Works in 640K so good for old or small (eg. laptop) machines, but can still process caves of any length. New windows version now available. Available from Larry Fish.
Email: or send $10 for evaluation copy to Larry fish, 123 E.Arkansas, Denver CO 80210 specifying size & density of disk.
European mirror:


1997. Windows version of Compass. 4th Gen. Lots of good features - blunder detection, selective loop closure, surface generation. Pretty quick viewer. Facilities for colour by depth, and survey, draw walls in 4 different ways of varying realism and power, project viewer. Uses sequential loop closure to reduce effects of blunders. Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) can be incorporated into the survey.
European mirror:


An Excel97 spreadsheet to convert polar co-ordinates (distance, bearing and clino) into 3D Cartesian co-ordinates and generate standard Drawing Exchange Format (.DXF) centre line surveys for import into CAD packages such as AutoCAD.
Email:, Web:


1996. Very good with the nicest (ie. most intuitive) data-entry editor I have seen. It is 4th gen. (using separate closure program) and has very good graphics (now 256 colour SVGA) with extensive colouring of survey sections. Can import from SMAPS 4.x coordinate dumps. Export formats are DXF, HPGL & Postscript. Separate loop closure program included. A Windows version now exists. Garry Petrie, 19880 NW Nestucca drive, Portland, Oregon 97229, USA.
Email: Web:


1997. WinKarst is the new Windows version of the Karst program. You can open as many caves as you like, with multiple view windows and text editor windows. Draws walls, displays loops, surveys, depth etc. WinKarst can read and write four different cave data file types. Includes GeoMag software to find magnetic variation anywhere & anywhen in the world. Web:


1997. On Station is a cave mapping program which was written from the ground up as a 32 bit Windows 95 or Windows NT application. It will also run under Windows 3.1 using the 32 bit Win32s libraries. Only 1st Gen but with very nice front end. Perspective views, 3d coloured views, surface data and walls are all catered for. Competent generalised text-file import for survey data. Non-commercial users get it for free. Taco Van Ieperen, Canada.

Pitter Plotter

1993. Pitter Plotter is Windows based and thus very simple to use, although entering data is less than intuitive. Can draw Left & Right wall markers. Data entry only in native format. It is available from the archive, Wookey or Bill McIntosh, Concentrics company, 1109 Caminito Alegre, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, USA. Tel: (505) 988-4100


1997. This is not complete survey software - it's a Mac 3d viewer. It takes text co-ordinate files from other data-processing software and gives a high-speed 3d view. Can be used with CavePlot. Web:
DOS beta version (by Marijke van Gans) now available from


1994. SMAPS is comprehensive and professional, concomitant with the price, but rather cumbersome in use. 4th Gen. Quite good data entry editor, very versatile data display abilities. Somewhat slow and annoying interface compared with many of the other programs here. SEF & text import and export. Extensive printer & plotter support. There is now a cut-down shareware version, SMAPS Lite, retaining much of the functionality of the full program. SMAPS Lite is available from the archives. SMAPS can be obtained from Speleotechnologies, P.O. Box 504, Owings Mills, Maryland 21117-0504, USA. Tel: (410) 356-9076,

Speleo Graphics

1996. Available in German, or English & Slovenian for an extra 25DM (=$15). 2nd gen. Gives the usual data entry and display features, including the ability to add surface data, and display red/green perspective view. Data entry editor seems OK - fills in stations, and checks data. It does fill in loops by inserting the data that would have closed the loop, rather than the data you have - odd. OK but expensive. Data is stored in binary files. Available from SPELEOTEK, Max-Bruch-Straße 5, 82166 Graefelfing, Germany, or from Steffen Pohlenz Email:


1997. Survex is an all-platform 4th gen. surevy tool. It is currently available as PC or RISCOS applications, or as source for UNIX and anything else. A useful tool with fast processing, thorough error and warning reporting, a very fast rotating cave viewer (CGA, VGA, VESA, SVGA for PCs, X-windows for UNIX), and thorough printer support: HPGL, Postscript, Epson/Proprinter dot matrix & PCL (for inkjets & laser printers). Cave complexity only limited by computer memory. Input/output from/to text files, and HTO data-interchange standard supported. Very good for complex multi-system surveys. Source available. Command-line based :- No menus or helpful user interface yet (except a minimal desktop front-end for RISC OS). User group for updates and support. Mailing list at Available from Wookey: 734 Newmarket Rd, CAMBRIDGE, CB5 8RS Tel: 01223 504881


1994. Archimedes software. It is not a multi-tasking RISCOS app, nor does it follow the RISCOS style guidelines, but it is generally easy to use. It is first gen. but has good visual feedback (cave plotted as data entered, depth colouring, cave rotator) and is very effective so long as you don't want any loops closed. Entered data is logged to both disc & printer (making it pretty well power-cut-proof). Produces !Draw files for printing. A separate cave rotator is provided. Juan Corrin, Tel:01706 874669 Email:


1995. Survey is capable of extremely 'loopy' nets (eg. mines and maze caves) and is menu-based and friendly. 3rd gen. Text-based data, but data entry within program. Very helpful coloured output by loop accuracy. HPGL output with 3rd party utility for converting to other printers. There is a demo version available by FTP or the real thing from Steve Neads, Studio House, 23 Ash Lane, Wells, Somerset, BA5 2LR, UK Tel: 01749 676077


1993. 1st gen. Survey program. Primary feature is included drawing facilities, which allow annotations to be made to the underlying line survey. Text files can be input & output. No printing - screens must be grabbed. Available from Martin Laverty, 23 Brunswick ST, Canton, Cardiff, CF5 1LH. Tel:01222 372819


1996. This is a very professional Mac-only system. Arguably the most advanced of any cave survey software. It is designed with the general Mac philosophy of being very easy to use. It is 4th gen., does walls very effectively, including hidden line removal, cross section, and passage end options, and extended elevations with an interactive editor, and has point and click info from the cave plot. It is the closest thing to a program that produces finished cave surveys. No English manual yet, but you generally don't need it anyway. The menus and errors etc. can be configured to English. Has support user group. Toporobot can be obtained from: FTP:


Tunnel is a Cave Survey program which extends the data format used by Survex by associating a realistic passage volume to the centreline survey. It has its own graphical editor and is able to produce output in VRML form. Current developments are working towards a ray-tracing algorithm to render grey-scale images that could in theory replace hand-drawn surveys, and stereolithography output so that an actual physical model of the cave could be built. Web:
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