Frequently asked questions about NavPak:
Is NavPak compatible with my GPS and other instruments? Probably. The only requirement is that it has an output port to connect to a computer and it sends or receives NMEA data. The User's Manual will state if the input and output is NMEA format and it should tell you what NMEA sentences it sends or receives. Almost all GPS units and other electronic navigation instruments are NMEA compatible. The only exceptions are stand alone units without an output port and units made for special purposes that may use a proprietary communication protocol.
What kind of GPS, RADAR, AIS, compass, log, and wind instruments do you recommend to use with NavPak ? For each type of instrument, we recommend that you select the price range and features that you want, and then get a specification sheet to see what NMEA sentences it sends and/or receives. The NavPak Pro help file has more detail about what the sentences contain. This should give you an idea of what information the unit sends and receives to help with comparison shopping. The NavPak Configuration panel allows you to select which NMEA sentences to use for input and output, so that it can be used with almost every combination of instruments.
What sets NavPak apart? Speed, Stability and Versatility are the main criteria in the design of NavPak. NavPak offers the fastest display speed, it will never crash, and it is compatible with the most nautical chart formats of any other PC charting program. NavPak is also one of the least expensive ECS programs on the market, but nothing has been compromised. In fact, it has all the features a navigator expects from an ECS program, and more! It's the least expensive program on the market to offer autopilot, AIS and ARPA and DSC interfaces. NavPak offers many traditional navigation features not normally found on other ECS programs such as ability to plot compass bearings; great circles; celestial sight reductions; star and planet finder; set and drift calculations; advance line of position; and change datum shift. Many of the above features can be used as navigational tools without the accompanying modern instruments. For instance, for celestial navigation with a sextant, the user can take sights and plot them directly onto the computer screen that's running NavPak. Since NavPak was written in spherical trigonometry, measurements are more accurate and precise, especially when involving high latitudes or over long distances. NavPak also contains a GPS, AIS and RADAR Simulator. This feature allows users to test the whole program without hardware. This is a good method of testing integrated instrument systems without the instruments. The Simulator formats and sends GPS, AIS, compass, log, and RADAR data sentences to the serial ports in the same way as if they were received by your instruments. This makes the Simulator behave exactly as if the instruments were connected.
I'm shopping for a PC charting program. What should I look for? First you should consider the availability of charts and maps for your area of interest. If you plan to stay within the US, then this is not a big consideration because full coverage is available free, but once you go out of US waters then chart compatibility becomes important. Some programs may only support one chart format for your area of interest, and that may be an expensive propriatory format, or may be encrypted, so buyer beware. Another important consideration is display speed with all the supported chart formats. While shopping for navigation software, you probably downloaded various demo programs and sample charts. This is the best way to compare the display speed of various programs. Subtle differences in panning and zooming may not be noticed at first, but will make a big difference in the long run. Probably the most important consideration for a navigation program is stability. Pull out a few memory chips and give those demos plenty of exercise. Many of the programs will crash if you work them hard enough with a big chart. NavPak will probably never crash after weeks of use. The Windows Resource Meter is a good tool to see the performance of a program. The Resource Meter can be set to show a real time graph of the PC resources that the program uses. When you pan or zoom with a large chart, the graph will spike to 100% to show that it is using everything that the PC can give it, then after the redraw, it should drop down below 5%. Some of the PC programs are based on plane trigonometry for Rhumb Line sailing instead of spherical trigonometry for Great Circle sailing. This may not be noticeable for short distances, but is misleading for longer distances, especially at high latitudes. To check this, measure and compare known Great Circle distances using the Measure function and the Range and Bearing to way point functions. You should be able to put a waypoint on the other side of the world, and get the correct Great Circle Range and Bearing from you GPS or simulator position. There should be some traditional navigation tools. When the GPS goes dead, the first thing you would do is plot bearings to find out your position or relative angle to an object. Plotting bearings can be difficult on some programs, especially if you need multiple bearing lines, all the way across the chart, so you should check to see how it works as a regular navigation tool without a GPS. Measuring should be easy over a large area and you should be able to measure between 2 points on different charts. On some programs you can not pan and measure at the same time. With many programs there is no way to manually set the variation (or datum shift), and the variation is not set when a chart is loaded. If you plan to scan your own charts, you should check to see how easy and accurate it is. Most programs either don't allow enough reference points to be placed or each point needs to be tediously typed in. The program should allow you to easily add points to your scan without too much typing. If you plan to interface anything more than a GPS, you should get a program that can use more than one port (serial or USB), otherwise you will need an external multiplexer. After considering all the above, your choice should be clear.
I noticed that NavPak doesn't have as many tool bars and status windows compared to some other ECS programs. Do you plan to add those? No, it is very important for the navigator to see as much of the chart as possible, tool bars and status windows take up valuable space on the screen. NavPak has an easy to use Search function, and keyboard control which allows quick access to information and easy program control, while keeping an uncluttered screen. Performance, speed and stability are affected by fancy things like tabbed menus, and tool bars. Most of these things seen on Windows programs are generated by the Microsoft function libraries. This is an extra layer between the hardware and program control, which will affect performance, and can also affect program compatibility. NavPak is kept as close to generic programming techniques as possible using ANSI C (American National Standards Institute). This is the same language that Windows is written in. NavPak uses a few simple Windows function calls, and the rest is generic ANSI C. NavPak looks like a simple window frame, but it is packed with features that are easily accessible, and it is very fast and stable.
Why are compass bearings important? If the GPS goes dead, you should plot bearings to find your position. NavPak is one of the very few ECS programs that plots compass bearings. Most programs will show a line from the boat to the cursor position, but what is needed is to plot bearings. You need to be able to click on a point, like a lighthouse or peak, enter the bearing and then the program draws a line across the chart, corrected for magnetic variation. Bearings can also be used to check the datum shift of a chart without a known position.
NavPak comes with MapSetup? What does this program do? MapSetup is a program that allows NavPak users to scan and calibrate their own charts and maps. It will work on everything from street maps to satellite photos. It comes with the ability to calibrate up to 96 points of reference. Many shareware / ECS programs that have similar capabilities, only cater from 3 to 12 points of reference. This is not adequate because all the source charts were hand-drawn in previous centuries and tend to be out-of-square, and the projection parameters are generally not known. Most charts require 18 to 24 reference points at least. As you add more reference points using MapSetup, the tolerances tighten so that the grid on the chart accurately geo-references. If you are using commercial chart formats, then they are already geo-referenced and it is not necessary to use MapSetup.
I have an old computer system by today's standards. What is the bare minimum configuration I need to run NavPak? NavPak is compatible with all versions of Windows (95, 98, 2000, ME, NT, XP, Vista, 7, 8). Our testing and code writing lab ranges from the most current computer configurations available to the least. This way we know we can offer all users a competent and reliable ECS program regardless of their computer's memory capacity and configurations. Our minimum recommendation is Windows 2000, Pentium CPU, and at least 64 megabytes of memory.
What is the difference between ENC, S-57, BSB, TIFF, RLE, and other chart formats? NavPak is compatible with many chart formats. The Raster formats that NavPak supports are MapTech, BSB, ChartKit, NDI, NOS, Softchart, RLE, BMP and Geo-Tiff. This includes the free NOAA BSB charts. Also, NavPak Pro and Pocket Editions support C-MAP and S-57 ENC Vector charts, which include the free NOAA ENC charts. NavPak CE is also compatible with S-57 ENC charts. NavPak Lite is not compatible with vector chart formats. The TIFF, BMP and RLE formats can be loaded into almost any image editor software. The other formats cannot be updated or manipulated with an image editor. The RLE, TIFF and BMP formats are useful for checking and correcting your own maps and charts and they are very useful for scientific applications. Vector charts consist of instructions to draw the chart. and raster charts are rows and colums of colored pixels.
It's noticed that some ECS programs offer 3D bathymetric maps. Does NavPak? At this time, there is very little data available. Some data is available for the coast of the US, but the resolution is low. This data is available at low cost from US government sources, but it is not directly useable as is. The bathymetric charts which are available from commercial sources, are based on government data which is interpolated to increase the apparent resolution, and converted into a proprietary format. When this technology comes of age NavPak will be incorporating 3D bathymetric data capabilities, directly readable from public domain sources.
What tech support can I expect from Global Navigation Software Co? Within the program itself, and also accessible from our website, is a detailed Help File. We are also available for tech support 7 days a week. We monitor email twice to three times daily, 7 days a week. We also offer 7 days a week phone support, including evening time (until 9:30 PM Pacific Standard Time USA). Please make sure of having ready your serial number and place of purchase.
How do I know when NavPak is upgraded? How is an upgrade done? What is the cost to upgrade? Upgrades are announced on the NavPak User Group and they will be described in the latest Help files, which are available for download here. Upgrades are available on CD at a cost of $48 US + $5 shipping fee for US domestic. Shipping outside the US is $14.
How long has NavPak been on the market? NavPak was 'officially' put on the market in 1994 with representation by Capn Jack's Software Source. Previous to that, NavPak was used as a teaching aid, distributed free to navigation students, and it was bundled with early KayPro portable computers sold by Silvergate Computers in 1984. As time has gone on, NavPak has become one of the world's best known and respected products. We offer attractive consignment rates and superior support to our retailers, and the same courteous and expediate service to the end-user as well. We are not a tax write-off business for any major company (as many of our competitors are). This is important to mention, as it means we strive for the best from ourselves and most importantly, the product we offer. We like to hear from NavPak customers and often they have been the source of adding new features.
How do I buy NavPak?
There is a purchase link on the website, but in short, the payment options are shown below. We don't use an automated system because each customer requires a different array of charts from different sources, or some other special requirements for shipping, etc, so old fashion phone and email works the best for these types of transactions.
For payment, we accept major credit cards, money orders, cashier checks, and personal checks. Personal checks will result in a delay until the check clears. Most people send a credit card number by email, and there has never been any problems. If you are concerned about security, you can send the name and expiration date of the card by one email, and the card number by another email. You can also phone the credit card details to us.
The phone number is USA (619) 225-0792.