Survex 1.4.3 Manual

This is the manual for Survex - an open-source software package for cave surveyors.

Table of Contents
Getting Started
Survex Programs
Survex data files
Contents of .svx files: How do I?
General: How do I?
Working with Larry Fish's Compass
Mailing List
Future Developments


This section describes what Survex is, and outlines the scope of this manual.

About Survex

Survex is a multi-platform open-source cave surveying package. Versions 1.2 and later run on UNIX, Microsoft Windows, and macOS. We're investigating support for phones and tablets.

We are well aware that not everyone has access to super hardware - often surveying projects are run on little or no budget and any computers used are donated. We aim to ensure that Survex is feasible to use on low-spec machines. Obviously it won't be as responsive, but we intend it to be usable. Please help us to achieve this by giving us some feedback if you use Survex on a slow machine.

Survex is capable of processing extremely complex caves very quickly and has a very effective, real-time cave viewer which allows you to rotate, zoom, and pan the cave using mouse or keyboard. We have tested it extensively using CUCC and ARGE's surveys of the caves under the Loser Plateau in Austria (over 25,000 survey legs, and over 140km of underground survey data). This can all be processed in around 10 seconds on a low-end netbook. Survex is also used by many other survey projects around the world, including the Ogof Draenen survey, the Easegill resurvey project, the OFD survey, the OUCC Picos expeditions, and the Hong Meigui China expeditions.

Survex is still actively being worked on. Version 1.0 was complete in some sense, but development continues - initially in reshaping Survex into a more integrated GUI package.

We encourage feedback from users on important features or problems, which will help to direct future development. See the "Mailing List" section of this manual for the best way to contact us.

About this Manual

If there's a part of this manual you find hard to understand, please do let us know. We already know Survex well, so it can be hard for us to spot areas where the manual doesn't given enough information, or doesn't explain things clearly enough to follow when you don't know what's going on. It's helpful is you can suggest a better wording, but don't worry if you can't, just explain the problem as precisely as you can.

The master version of this manual is an SGML document written using the docbook DTD, and automatically converted to a number of other formats. If you are going to send us major changes, it's much easier to include them if you work from this master. You can get it from the source archive (docs/manual.sgml) or from the Survex website.


Throughout this document we use British terminology for surveying.


a point in the cave that you survey from and/or to


a line joining two stations


a group of legs surveyed on the same trip