Getting started

From DXLog.net
Jump to navigation Jump to search

User interface

Contest loggers are a little like clothes. Some like a particular style, some don't.
DXLog has a classic look and feel and builds on a long tradition when it comes to
keyboard shortcuts and other UI elements. It is keyboard-centric and designed so you
should very rarely have to take your hands off the keyboard.

Contrary to e.g. N1MM Logger+, DXLog's default setting is to use a main window, a "desktop".
There are many benefits with this, for instance the fact that you can rapidly switch between
the logger and another application, such as a web browser, with [Alt][Tab].


Dxl prev2.png


DXLog follows the tradition of many other loggers and have one or two entry lines and the nine
most recent log entries in fixed locations in the main window. The entry lines are either on
top or beside each other and, unless you are using dual keyboards, you move between them
using the arrow keys.


Entryfields.png


DXLog shares many characteristics with other loggers but for those used to N1MM Logger+,
there are two noteworthy differences.

  • The log and the entry lines are connected. Using the arrow keys, moving up past the top
entry line will take you into the log.
  • You can modify a logged QSO but not delete it. In the spirit of old school contest logging,
you can only mark it invalid. This is done by navigating to the QSO and pressing [Ctrl][X].

Creating a log file

DXLog needs exclusive and unrestricted access to its log file and relies on
Windows' standard file permissions for this.

This means that some types of shared or synchronized folders, or folders in virtualized
environments, may not work for log file storage.

To create a log, select File|New. This opens the contest configuration window.


DXL ContestConfig1.png


There are many text boxes to fill and not all are used by all contests, but it is a good idea to
fill as many of them as possible since it will save you typing each time you create a new log.

Should DXLog miss information from you when you click the OK button, you will get a helpful popup
window and the cursor will be placed in the field with missing or invalid information.

After having clicked OK you will get a browser window that allows you to decide the name and location
of your new log file. It is good practice to use a separate folder for each contest since you will have
other files related to the contest, call history files, export files like Cabrillo, ADIF, SUM, etc.

It is also a good practice to include things like contest name, station callsign and year in the log's filename.

The first time a log is created after the installation, "factory default" colors and window locations
will be used. From this point on, every time you create a new log, the color settings, the active
windows and their location will be inherited from the most recently opened log. This means that if you
for instance run a weekly test in which you want a particular layout or color scheme, it is a good idea
to open the previous' weeks log before creating a new one.

You will find much more information in the contest configuration section.

Controlling the radio

The next step is to set up the communication with the radio. You reach the radio interface by
either clicking Options|Configure interfaces or by typing the text command SETUP
and pressing [Enter] on the entry line.


Portconfig2410.jpg


There are numerous settings and alternatives in how to set up your radio. On some models special
features like diversity, or the built in voice keyer, is supported. In this panel you can also
configure the control of peripherals such as SO2R controllers. You can find more information in the
Configure interfaces section.

You can also find general recommendations about settings for particular radio models in the
supported radios section.

Setting up DXLog for digital operation involves many settings.

John G4IRN has prepared an excellent tutorial on this topic which can be viewed here.

Databases

The next step is to make sure two important data bases are up to date; the country data base CTY.DAT
and the callsign database MASTER.SCP.

The menu Options|Data files|Country files opens a window that allows you to update the three
alternative country databases. Chose one at the time and click Download. Normally the most detailed,
CTY_WT_MOD.DAT is the recommended one to use.

The callsign database is updated with the menu Options|Data files|Super check partials|Update.

To make all updates come into effect, type RELOADNOW followed by [Enter] or simply
close and restart DXLog.

Operating techniques

The next step is to chose your operating method, Technique in DXLog terminology.

Each technique supports two operating "states"; Run and Search & Pounce or S&P.

Run means you call CQ. S&P means you call other stations. Each state has a set of unique
predefined messages (see below) and ESM behavior (also see below). The keyboard shortcut to
switch between the states is [Ctrl][Tab]. There is also some optional mechanics
that force an automatic change, such as the option Tools|Data entry|F1 returns to Run always and
Tools|Enable automatic Run/S&P selection.

In the sub menu Operating|Technique you can chose between SO1R, SO2R, Advanced SO2R and SO2V.

SO1R

is the most basic and it is also the method you typically use in a single operator setting using a radio with only one
receiver or in multioperator/multi-station setting.
With this technique, you have a single entry line and one radio with one receiver.
The band map shows the band map for the currently active VFO.
In the top of the bandmap the frequencies of VFO A and VFO B are shown in boxes. The boxes are clickable and you can
also switch between the VFO using [Keypad *]. If you want to make a rapid excursion to work
e.g. a multiplier, you can always jump back to your Run frequency with [Alt][F4].
SO1R only works for Radio 1 in the Options|Configure interfaces panel.
So1r-cqww.png


SO2R and Advanced SO2R

uses two radios which operate in parallel, each having a separate entry line. (Although you never transmit
with more than one at any time.)
In "standard" SO2R you operate by manually switching your "focus" between the two radios.
This is done using the up and down arrow keys or [Keypad *].
SO2R also supports external audio control by a large range of SO2R controllers such as all microHAM
keyers/controllers or devices such as the YCCC SO2R box or SO2R mini.
In Advanced SO2R the focus shifting is typically scripted, using up to eight different "scenarios" for different
situations such as hunting for multipliers, alternating CQ, or managing a large pile-up.
This feature is particularly appreciated by advanced contesters.
SO2R requires two radios (Radio 1 and Radio 2) configured in the Options|Configure interfaces panel.
So2r-cqww.png


SO2V

looks similar to SO2R at first sight but uses only a single radio (two "R" entry lines).
This method is primarily intended for dual receiver radios (such as Elecraft K3S, ICOM IC-7610, or Yaesu FTDX101D)
but offer some usability and efficiency benefits also for single receiver radios.
Like in SO2R, mastering having one receiver in each ear will maximize your efficiency.
The logical model of SO2V is two radios with a shared transmitter.
Unlike SO2R, the two radios are typically on the same band. This is because
antenna and power amplifier band switching may have a significant response time.
The most common way to operate SO2V is to switch focus between the two "radios" the same way
as in standard SO2R; using the arrow keys or [Keypad *]. However, dual keyboards is also supported.
It is common practice to run (i.e. call CQ) on the main VFO (left ear) and S&P on the sub VFO (right ear).
One of the reasons for this is tradition but another is that RIT is only supported on the main VFO on many radios.
More information about operating SO2V can be found in the SO2V menu item section.
On selected radios (such as more advanced ICOM radios), automatic VFO knob focus and sub receiver control
is supported. (More details can be found in the supported radios section.)
It is also possible to use SO2V with single-receiver radios. There is a benefit in having separate band
map for each VFO and being able to rapidly switch between VFO A and B.
SO2V only works for Radio 1 in the Options|Configure interfaces panel.
So2v-cqww.png


More information about the four possible techniques can be found in the technique section.

Standard messages

One of the most fundamental features of a contest logger for CW or digital modes is the ability
to send predefined messages containing e.g. a correct serial number.

DXLog has two sets of such messages; one for RUN and one for Search & Pounce.
You reach the set up panel for the messages with Options|CW/Digi|Modify standard messages
or the text command MSGS.

Each message is associated to a function key; [F1] to [F7], [Insert] and [+].


Standard messages cw2.png


The messages are composed by regular letters and numbers, special characters, and macro commands.
Macros always start with a dollar sign, e.g. $RST, $LOGGEDCALL, or $CORRECT.
Special characters are mainly used to control the CW keying, e.g. ^ means a half word space
and & removes the character space to allow the creation of prosigns.

Since the exchange, CQ etc. varies between contests, every contest has its unique set of default messages.
These default messages are however only used the first time a log is created for the particular contest.
To allow customization, all following logs created for a particular contest use the messages from the
last time a log was saved for this contest. This means that you never have to repeat customizations
such as adding $CLEARRIT to your CQ macro, etc. There is a very large repertoire of macros available.
You can even call own scripts in the message using the $!scriptname syntax.

A complete list of macros and special characters can be found in the message macros section.

Useful settings

Since this is just a quick-start guide, only the most commonly used or misunderstood settings will be covered here.

Operating|Bandmap|QSY Opposite radio instead of 2nd VFO

Makes operations normally affecting the other VFO instead affect the other radio.
For instance, in SO2R and SO2V this option should be enabled to allow jumping between
spots on the other radio with [Ctrl][Alt][Up/Down].

Options|Load contest at startup

Guarantees that the right log file is opened after e.g. a power outage or a reboot.
Very important to enable in a multistation setting.
Opening the wrong log file while networked with other stations will force
a merging of the logs which normally is highly undesired.

Options|Interface specific options|Use SPLIT command in SO2V technique

A very important setting for SO2V. Should be enabled for dual receiver radios and
disabled for single receiver radios.

Options|Interface specific options|Change band of both VFO

Makes band changes with [Alt][F1] and [Alt][F2]
switch the band of the selected radio's both VFO. Recommended.

Options|CW/Digi|Work dupes

Shall always be enabled. Not working dupes in a contest is a legacy practice and belongs with paper logs.
DX-peditions may however decide differently.

Options|CW/Digi|Add spacing when stacking messages

Should be enabled. Adds a word space when standard messages are stacked.
Please notice that [Enter] does not stack but restarts the message.

Options|Log|Show border on TX

Shows a colored frame around the entry line of the currently transmitting radio.
Recommended.

Options|Log|Show previous/current messages

Shows the current and previous messages sent on the screen.
Very convenient e.g. when running SO2R with low or no sidetone.

Options|Log|Show cursor in entry line without focus

Shows a shadow cursor in the unselected entry line. Recommended.

Tools|Data entry|Enable ESM mode

Makes [Enter] send relevant messages in both Run and S&P.
Also toggles with [Ctrl][M]. For for more details, see the ESM introduction.

Tools|Data entry|Enable Run/S&P switching

Allows switching between Run and S&P. Recommended setting unless in a DX-pedition.

Tools|Data entry|Enable automatic Run/S&P selection

Makes DXLog automatically switch to S&P when you move the VFO knob or grab a spot. Recommended.

Tools|Data entry|Exchange guessing|Automatic

Gives immediate feedback if e.g. the station is a dupe or multiplier when you type a call or grab a spot.
(The default is to not do this until you hit [Space].)

Tools|Data entry|F1 returns to Run always

Makes the [F1] key always switch to Run, mark the CQ frequency and send CQ.
Recommended.

ESM

With ESM, or Enter Sends Message, which the acronym stands for, there are different schools.

DXLog has a very straightforward and predictable ESM. It is stateless which means that it
does not try to guess the intentions of the operator based on past actions.

The message sent by [Enter] only depends on three factors: Operating state (Run or S&P),
the location of the cursor and whether the field is filled or not. This makes DXLog's ESM
very predictable and easy to learn.

Since ESM may be undesired on Phone the option Tools|Data entry|ESM mode only for CW
allows you to use it only for CW in e.g. a mixed contest.

The function is as follows:

Run

  • With the cursor in an empty callsign field, [Enter] sends Run F1, typically CQ
  • With the cursor in a partially or correctly filled callsign field, [Enter] sends the RUN INSERT message
  • With the cursor in the exchange field, [Enter] sends the Run PLUS message which (typically) concludes the QSO and logs.

When the party station has received the exchange correctly, focus is shifted to the exchange
field by pressing [Space]

For a big gun station, where correct reception of the exchange is (almost) guaranteed, you can
automatically shift focus to the exchange field after having sent the exchange by enabling the
menu option Tools|Data entry|ESM mode change focus on $LOGGEDCALL macro.

S&P

  • With the cursor in the callsign field, [Enter] sends S&P F1, typically your own callsign
  • With the cursor in an empty exchange field, [Enter] sends S&P F6, which is typically a request to repeat the exchange.
  • With the cursor in a filled exchange field, [Enter] sends S&P INSERT, which is typically a confirmation and semi-CQ, and logs.

For a big gun station, where correct reception of the exchange is (almost) guaranteed, you can
automatically shift focus to the exchange field after having called the station by adding the $SPACE
macro to the S&P F1 message.

You can find more information on ESM in the Data entry menu section.

The bandmap and other windows

Beside the entry lines, the bandmap is one of the most central functions in a contest logger.
The two bandmaps are enabled with Windows|Radio 1 and Windows|Radio 2.
(Note that only one is available in SO1R.)


Bandmaptherm.png Bandmaplist.png


With an internet connection to the DX Cluster you will see the spots spread out over an intuitive,
thermometer-like representation of a part of the current frequency band or as a color-coded listing.

The bandmap can be set up to contain a massive amount of useful information such as if a spot represents
a new multiplier, if it has been worked before, the required antenna direction, the sun's position at the
station's location etc. You can quickly jump between spots by holding down [Ctrl] while pressing
the up and down arrow keys. (There are many more keyboard shortcuts associated with the band map, for more
details, see the keyboard functions section.)
The bandmap can be zoomed in and out using the scroll-wheel on the mouse. The settings are available by right-clicking
the bandmap and selecting Properties. Further information about the bandmap can be found in the bandmap section.

Besides the bandmap there are many useful windows available. Check Partials and Check N+1 helps
you guess callsigns you are unsure of. Check Multipliers gives information on which bands you have
worked a certain multiplier.

Finally Clock is a very helpful little bar showing essential information like exact time, operating
state, logged in operator etc.

You may find the menu system of DXLog somewhat idiosynchratic. The development team has a long term
ambition to improve its structure and user friendliness.

After the contest

After the contest you typically want to create a Cabrillo or EDI file for submission and
perhaps an ADIF file to upload to LoTW or import in a bulk logger.

Cabrillo files are exported using File|Export|Cabrillo and ADIF files
using File|Export|ADIF. ADIF exports offers you the option to also include
X-QSO, which you normally do not want to do.

If your contest uses a prefill database, and you trust your log, you can update the database using
Options|Data files|Update database. It is possible to update data files of any supported type.

Be however aware that your own updates will be lost the next time an updated database is included
in a new DXLog release that you install. If you really want to preserve your updates, make
a copy of DXLog's database in the same folder as the log file. More on how to manage prefill
databases can be found in the prefill database settings section.

Entering postcontest mode with Edit|Postcontest mode will allow you to edit all
properties of the logged QSO using [Alt][F] and [Ctrl][F1]/[Ctrl][F2].
It also allows entering a paper log by opening the time field for direct entry.

Tips and tricks

On most radios [Shift][Up] och [Shift][Down] as RIT in Run and frequency adjustment in S&P.

[Ctrl][Up] and [Ctrl][Down] jumps between spots in the bandmap and grabs them onto the focused entry line.

[Ctrl][Alt][Up] and [Ctrl][Alt][Down] jumps between spots in the other VFO or radio,
depending on if Operating|Bandmap|QSY Opposite radio instead of 2nd VFO is checked or not.

[Shift][Ctrl][Up] and [Shift][Ctrl][Down] jumps to the next
spot that is a multiplier.

Double-clicking a spot or pressing [Ctrl][Space] grabs a spot from the bandmap.

[Ctrl][Enter] creates a spot using an entered callsign and the focused radio's frequency.

[Alt][K] opens a panel for sending CW or a conversational digital mode directly
from the keyboard. It is closed by pressing [Alt][K] or [Enter].

[Ctrl][Alt][+] or [Ctrl][Alt][Keypad +] forces a QSO to be logged,
disregarding all validity checks.

[Shift][Ctrl][F1] shifts focus to radio 1, switches to Run, and sends CQ in SO2R and SO2V.
In SO1R and SO2R Advanced it just sends the F1 message.
Depending on your operating preferences you may want to redefine [F1] to always execute this key.

[Alt][Q] activates "intelligent quick QSL" which is a very nice function for
DX-peditions and large contest stations. It uses rate statistics to send a short confirmation
at the end of each QSO but still regularly send the full callsign.

The text commands RELOAD and RELOADNOW reloads the current log. The latter skips the confirmation
popup. (Please note that this command also refreshes contest definitions and scripts without event handlers.)

RESET eller [Ctrl][Alt][R] resets all hardware interfaces.
When connecting/disconnecting equipment or in the presence of EMC or RFI issues, this can be very helpful.

To search for a certain callsign in your log, type the callsign in the entry field.
The Check Callsign window will show you which bands you have worked the callsign on.
Double-click the red checkmark to jump to the corresponding QSO in the log.
Return to the entry line with [Ctrl][End]

DXLog system files

Log and export files can be stored anywhere on your computer but in line with
Windows' application programming standard, DXLog keeps its internal system files
in a special, normally hidden, folder.

This folder can be opened either via Windows' file explorer, using the symbolic address
%appdata%\DXLog.net or using DXLog's menu item File|Open configuration folder.

NB. The only real need a regular user has to open this folder is to install urgent contest or
database updates between regular DXLog releases or emergencies.

The content of the configuration folder is the following:

  • Folder Contest
contains a working copy of all contest configuration files.
  • Folder Database
contains a working copy of all database, country, warning and regexp files.
  • Optional folder CustomForms
when exists contains custom form DLL files.
  • File DefMsgs.sdb
Default messages for all contests worked. Not editable.
  • File deftest.dxl
Default contest configuration. Not editable.
  • Optional file DXCSpotHistory.txt
Result of checking "Incoming spots logging" in DX Cluster Announcement window.
  • Optional file DXCStreamHistory.txt
Result of checking "Stream logging" in the DX Cluster window.
  • File DXLog.net.config.backup
A backup copy of the most recent working DXLog.net.config
  • File DXLog.net.DXC.config
DXLog.net.DXC configuration data
  • File DXLog-debug.txt
Crash and error logging file
  • File SERIAL-TRACE-...
Serial communications debugging log