Getting Started

This section covers how to obtain the software, and how to unpack and install it, and how to configure it.

Obtaining Survex

The latest version is available from the Survex website: It is also freely redistributable, so you welcome to get a copy from someone else who has already downloaded it.

If you want some sample data to experiment with, you can download some from the Survex website too:

Installing Survex

The details of installation depend greatly on what platform you are using, so there is a separate section below for each platform.


We supply pre-compiled versions for x86 Linux machines in RPM format (suitable for Redhat, Mandrake, and some other distributions). Survex Debian packages are available from Debian mirror sites in the usual way.

You'll need root access to install these prebuilt packages. If you don't have root access you will need to build from source (see the next section).

Other versions of UNIX

For other UNIX versions you'll need to get the source code and compile it on your system. Unpack the sources and read the file called INSTALL in the top level for details about building from source.


The easiest way to install a recent release of Survex on macOS is by using the Homebrew package manager. If you don't already use Homebrew, you'll need to install it first. See the macOS download page on the website for installation instructions.

Microsoft Windows

This version comes packaged with an installation wizard. Just run the downloaded package and it will lead you through the installation process. If you want the file associations to be set up for all user, run the installer as administrator, or as a user with administrator rights.

The survey viewer that's part of Survex is called aven, and uses OpenGL for 3d rendering.

If you find that 3D rendering is sometimes very slow (e.g. one user reported very slow performance when running full screen, while running in a window was fine) then try installing the OpenGL driver supplied by the manufacturer of your graphics card rather than the driver Microsoft supply.

The installer creates a Survex group in the Programs sub-menu of the Start menu containing the following items:

  • Aven

  • Documentation

  • Uninstall Survex

Icons are installed for .svx, .3d, .err, and .pos files, and also for Compass Plot files (.plt and .plf) (which Survex can read). Double-clicking on a .svx file loads it for editing. To process it to produce a .3d file, right click and choose "Process" from the menu - this runs aven to process the .svx file and automatically load the resultant .3d file. All the Survex file types can be right clicked on to give a menu of possible actions.



Process file with aven to produce .3d file (and .err file)



Load file into Aven


Print the file via Aven


Produce extended elevation

Convert to DXF

This entry used to be provided to allow converting to a DXF file (suitable for importing into many CAD packages) but this functionality is now available from inside Aven with the ability to control what is exported, and this entry was dropped in 1.2.35.

Convert for hand plotting

This entry used to be provided to allow converting to a .pos file listing all the stations and their coordinates, but this functionality is now available from inside Aven with the ability to control what is exported. and this entry was dropped in 1.2.35.



Load file into Notepad

Sort by Error

Sort .err file by the error in each traverse

Sort by Horizontal Error

Sort .err file by the horizontal error in each traverse

Sort by Vertical Error

Sort .err file by the vertical error in each traverse

Sort by Percentage Error

Sort .err file by the percentage error in each traverse

Sort by Error per Leg

Sort .err file by the error per leg in each traverse


Selecting Your Preferred Language

Survex has extensive internationalisation capabilities. The language used for messages from Survex and most of the library calls it uses can be changed. By default this is picked up from the language the operating system is set to use (from "Regional Settings" in Control Panel on Microsoft Windows, from the LANG environment variable on UNIX If no setting is found, or Survex hasn't been translated into the requested language, UK English is used.

However you may want to override the language manually - for example if Survex isn't available in your native language you'll want to choose the supported language you understand best.

To do this, you set the SURVEXLANG environment variable. Here's a list of the codes currently supported:

enInternational English
en_USUS English
de_CHSwiss German
pt_BRBrazillian Portuguese
zh_CNChinese (Simplified)

Here are examples of how to set this environment variable to give messages in French (language code fr):

Microsoft Windows

For MS Windows proceed as follows (this description was written from MS Windows 2000, but it should be fairly similar in other versions): Open the Start Menu, navigate to the Settings sub-menu, and open Control Panel. Open System (picture of a computer) and click on the Advanced tab. Choose `Environmental Variables', and create a new one: name SURVEXLANG, value fr. Click OK and the new value should be effective immediately.

UNIX - csh/tcsh

setenv SURVEXLANG fr

UNIX - sh/bash


If Survex isn't available in your language, you could help out by providing a translation. The initial translation is likely to be about a day's work; after that translations for new or changed messages are occasionally required. Contact us for details if you're interested.

Using Survex

Most common tasks can now be accomplished through Aven - processing survey data, viewing the processed data, printing, exporting to other formats, and producing simple extended elevations.

A few tasks still require you to use the command line. And some functionality is available both via aven and from the command line, which allows it to be scripted.

The command line programs that come with Survex are:


Produces extended elevations - this is probably the most useful of these command line tools. Since version 1.2.27 you can produce simple extended elevations from Aven using the "Extended Elevation" function. However the command line tool allows you to specify a spec file to control how the survey is extended, which you can't currently do via Aven.


Compares the positions of stations in two .3d, .pos, etc files.


Sorts a .err file by a specified field.


Provides access to Aven's "Export" functionality from the command line, which can be useful in scripts.


Processes survey data, but since version 1.2.3 you can process .svx files by simply opening them with Aven, so you no longer need to run cavern from the command line. The main reason to run cavern directly is for use in scripts.


Dumps out a list of the items in a .3d file - it's mainly useful for debugging.