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Sunday, March 18, 2012

5 Reasons Every Geocacher Could Benefit From GSAK

If you’ve been geocaching for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard experienced cachers talk enthusiastically about the PC software application GSAK. And no doubt, if you’ve asked them what’s so special about it, and what it can do that your GPS cannot, you’ve received some vague answer that hasn’t had you completely convinced.

GSAK stands for Geocaching Swiss Army Knife and it’s a very apt name, because GSAK can do a lot of those fiddly things manipulating your Pocket Queries and ‘found caches’ data in a way that you wish your GPS could.

So for those of you still unconvinced, I give you five reasons why any geocacher would want GSAK as part of their Geocaching kit.

1. More Flexibility Creating Pocket Queries

There was a time when the nearest 500 caches would cover the majority of cachers’ regular haunts. But then more caches started popping up, and more and now even the nearest 1000 doesn’t seem to cover a wide enough area.

If you’ve ever been invited to go Geocaching at a moment’s notice, you’ve probably found yourself cursing at your computer as you try and find the cache discussed and create a Pocket Query using it as a centre point, before waiting for the notification of its creation to arrive in your email.

It’s possible to build scheduled pocket queries that you load into GSAK to create an easy-to-maintain, up-to-date database of all the caches in your area. You can then search by GC number or cache name, make it the centre point for your search with just a right click and tell it to upload any type of subset you care to imagine (everything within x miles, only certain cache types, only one with a certain level of terrain, etc.) direct to your GPS.

2. Detailed Statistics

One of GSAK’s major strengths is that it is extendable. There are a large number of macros created for the program which act as mini apps, bringing additional features. One of the most popular of these is the Find Statistics Generator. This produces detailed statistics with copy and paste HTML code that you can insert into your Geocaching profile or blog page.

Whilst Geocaching isn’t all about the numbers, cachers are generally obsessed with some metric or other, whether they be finds to placed ratios, terrain / difficulty grids, caches found by days of the year, or just pure number of finds.

By loading your finds into GSAK, it can show states and counties you’ve found caches in, which months the caches you’ve found were placed, which cachers have found the greatest number of your caches, greatest and lowest altitudes and just about any other metric you care to challenge yourself and others over.

Click image for larger version

3. Post More Detailed Logs, Faster

GSAK used to offer this via a macro, but with the latest iteration it is now part of the core GSAK functionality. You can create a template and then get GSAK to automatically read from your GPS to create your logs including information such as the time you found it, what number find it was that day and what number find it was overall.

You have the opportunity to customise the logs, referring to any notes you typed into your GPS, dip and drop any trackables. And then, once you are happy, with a single click, it will publish the whole lot to Geocaching.com.

I’ve used this method to post unique logs for over 100 caches (dipping a Travel Bug into every one) in under 20 minutes.

4. Find Duplicate Logs

I know many cachers, including myself, that this has happened to. You’ve reached an important milestone or completed an important challenge and create your stats to show this off, only for it to tell you that you’ve logged one more cache than your number of distinct finds. You’ve managed to log a cache twice somewhere!

Ordinarily, trying to find this, especially if you’re an active geocacher with a large number of finds, is time consuming and frustrating. Even worse, the longer you leave it, the more likely it is to affect important upcoming caching milestones.

Using GSAK, it takes just a few clicks to search your found caches for any where your find count is greater than 1 and identify any double logs.

5. Store Solved Puzzle Caches

The vast majority of puzzle caches require you to solve the puzzle from the comfort of your own armchair and many a time I’ve solved a cache, derived the final co-ordinates and then promptly lost the piece of paper I wrote them down on.

Using GSAK you can change the co-ordinates of any cache so that when you send them to your GPS they get sent with the final co-ordinates rather than the co-ordinates of the icon. If you decide you want a day clearing out local puzzle caches, it’s very easy to filter your PQ to just your solved puzzles. And when you run a new pocket query and update, GSAK is clever enough to keep your corrected co-ordinates. There is also plenty of space for user notes, allowing you to keep details of your progress on any puzzle caches you’ve yet to solve.

Whilst it’s true that GPS software and updates are constantly improving the geocaching experience by adding new features and functionality, GSAK is constantly updating with improvements, new features and macros, keeping one step ahead of the pack.
GSAK is free to download and use, the only restriction being that after 21 days you will get a nag screen encouraging you to register the software for $30. A large number of users find it so useful that they gladly register, so give it a try!

Click image for larger version

About Adrian Faulkner

Adrian Faulkner is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. He is an active geocacher with over 9000 finds to his name. You can find more by Adrian at AdrianFaulkner.com and on his Google Plus page.

Comments

  1. Great write up! I love using GSAK!

  2. Glonch'sPride says:

    GSAK rocks – I do many Geocaching events in NH/VT/ME on it – great fun.

  3. Nice to see a good response to our first guest author post. Thanks to Adrian for a job well done!

  4. I use a Mac, and while I’ve tried running GSAK in a virtual environment, I find the interface totally cluttered and unintuitive. I’m currently using iCaching as a replacement for the no-longer supported or developed MacCaching. A redesigned GSAK with a more Mac-like interface would be an interesting alternative

    • Interesting. I’ve only got a little macbook and not tried to use it for caching. If there are products you recommend for Mac or Linux, let me know and I might feature them in a future article.

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