GSAK is a Geocaching management tool available for download. It is only available to Windows users, and restricted to Geocaching.com. Several guides have been published in our Seeker magazine over the years; we have collected them to form an ultimate GAGB GSAK Masterclass below. We hope that you will find it useful.
GSAK Masterclass: Introduction
By Cass Flowers
GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife) is software that allows you to store and manage an offline database of geocaches and waypoints. To be honest, GSAK can seem a bit daunting at first, because there are so many features packed into it, so anyone in their early days as a geocacher may want to come to terms with Pocket Queries and Bookmark Lists to begin with, before graduating to GSAK. Once taken, however, the step into GSAK-World, will prove a revelation. The software is free to use with no restrictions for 21 days. You may continue to use GSAK after 21 days, but then you get a ‘nag screen’ and, if you want to remove that, then you need to register: registration costs $30 USD, just over £18, and that's a one-off fee. The cachers who will benefit most from GSAK are those who go out to find a high number of caches in a day; those who travel to a lot of different places to geocache, and those who like data. In other words, GSAK is for the dedicated, long-term geocacher. This short guide starts at the very beginning and covers a few of the ways to import geocaches into GSAK. In future issues, I'll deal with more complex matters.
But first, why use GSAK?
Well, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you're happy with Pocket Queries and Bookmark Lists, that's the way to do things. But GSAK gives you so much more.
- Pocket queries are limited: you can only get 5 logs per geocache. If you use GSAK you can have an unlimited number of logs per geocache. When I go caching, I export 6,000-odd caches to my GPS each with 25 logs.
- You can combine the use of pocket queries with geocache retrieval via GSAK. Grab 5,000 caches per day via PQs and 6,000 caches via GSAK means you can pull 11,000 caches into your database per day.
- You can find a particular subset of caches in GSAK, which you can't do using PQs. This is how I generate my list of challenge caches and underground caches. (e.g. search for unknown caches with the title ‘Challenge’, or search with caches with the word ‘Cave’ in the title).
- You can store all corrected co-ordinates for puzzle caches in your GSAK database. It's easy to filter and find those that you have already solved. You can't easily do this via www.geocaching.com unless you create you own bookmark list and then generate a PQ. The filter is very versatile - You can filter for almost anything to do with geocache data.
First Steps After Installation:
- When GSAK is initially installed on your computer you will be set up with a database named ‘Default’. You can create additional databases, but for the purpose of learning how to import caches we will just concentrate on adding caches to this ‘Default’ database.
- When you first load the software you will be asked if you want to populate your database with some sample data. Select ‘No’, and continue following this guide.
You may then be asked to update your settings so that GSAK is able to identify which Geocaching.com caches in your database belong to you and which you have found. Click ‘Yes’. You will be asked to authorise your account via the Groundspeak API. Enter your username and password as prompted followed by ‘Allow Access’.
Importing GPX Files:
Cachers that don't use GSAK will probably be used to downloading a pocket query from Geocaching.com,
downloading individual GPX files from geocache pages, or downloading a selection from the map on Opencaching.com and then copying
them onto their GPS. Wherever or however you acquire the GPX files of caches you can import the downloaded files into your GSAK
database using the following method.
To import each file one at a time:
- Click the ‘File’ menu.
- Click ‘Load GPX/LOC/ZIP’.
- Click the yellow folder icon to the top right of the dialog box that appears and point to the file that you wish to import.
- Repeat this for each file that you wish to import.
To Import All Files from a Folder:
- Click the ‘File’ menu.
- Click ‘Load GPX/LOC/ZIP’.
- Untick the ‘Use Defaults’ checkbox.
- Under the ‘Load Type’ heading, select ‘Folder’
- Click the yellow folder icon to the top right of the dialog box that appears and point to the folder that contains all of the files that you wish to import.
Depending on how many geocaches you are attempting to load, it may take a minute or so to import the caches. Once complete you will see a dialog box summarising how many caches have been found. Select ‘OK’, and the caches will be appear in the GSAK database and page template.
GSAK Masterclass: How to Get Geocaches
By Cass Flowers
Since GSAK version 8, GSAK has been ‘linked’ to geocaching.com and allows direct access for downloading caches. Along with this you will find that you have a much nicer interface to use in order to select which geocaches to download. You can use a map to accurately outline the area to retrieve caches from.
This retrieval method will also download data on how many favourite points caches have so you can quickly sort for the best caches in an area. You can initially download up to 30 logs per geocache (instead of just 5 that pocket queries give.
To use GSAK to Directly Download Geocaches:
- Click the ‘Geocaching.com access’ menu along the top, to the left of ‘Help’.
- Click ‘Get Geocaches’
- Under ‘Reference’ click either ‘Circle’ or ‘Rectangle’.
- Click the ‘Google Map’ button.
- Position and resize the shape so that it covers the area that you wish to retrieve geocaches from - it's restricted to 50km, but in some parts of the country that would contain far more than the 6,000 caches you can download; so use a smaller area.
- Click the ‘Return Coordinates’ button near the bottom of the map
- You can further customise the retrieval by selecting whether to exclude disabled caches, found geocaches, certain geocache types, certain container sizes, certain difficulty/terrain ranges, etc.
- Once happy with the settings click ‘OK’
- GSAK will communicate with Geocaching.com and eventually download all of the caches in your chosen area. These will go into the default database in GSAK on your machine.
Connect your GPS to your computer. Once it's connected, go into GSAK: all the existing caches in your database should now display.
- Go to ‘GPS’ on the top menu bar.
- Select ‘Send waypoints’. This opens a small screen ‘Send Waypoints to GPS’. Ensure that ‘Use defaults’ is selected.
- Select ‘Send’, and all the caches in the database will be sent to your GPS...job done!
GSAK Masterclass: Sorting and Filtering
By Cass Flowers
Sorting is as simple as clicking the column header of the column you want to sort by. To find the oldest geocache in your database, click the ‘Placed’ column and it'll appear at the top, or click the ‘Fav Points’ column header to sort by caches with the highest favourite points in your database.
Filtering is an enormously powerful feature of GSAK and something that every GSAK user should explore and familiarise
themselves with. You can use it to filter the caches in your database so that only certain ones are displayed depending on the
criteria that you set. To filter caches, click the ‘Search’ menu and then ‘Filter’ or click the
magnifying glass icon along the top.
You can use the GSAK filters to act as the filters do when you run a pocket query. So one of the most basic filters you might run is for Difficulty and Terrain. To do this, in the filter area you could (for example) set Difficulty Equal to 5.0 and Terrain Equal to 5.0 to show only the hardest caches in your database. To cancel/clear the filter, click the red X icon along the top.
More Advanced Filtering:
If we want to search for something in the geocache description, open the filter dialog and then under ‘Where to Search’ select ‘Selected Items Only’ and tick ‘Description’ and enter the search term in ‘Full Text Search’.
Instead of searching the Description you could also search through logs in your database by running the previous filter again,
but specifying ‘Logs’ under ‘Where to search’. For example, you could search the logs for for ‘Best
GSAK filters also allow you to show only caches which were placed by a certain user, caches with certain words in the title, only caches that were placed on a certain date (for Jasmer challenges), caches that haven't been found for a year or more (for Resuscitator challenges), caches with certain attributes, caches along a defined route, caches that haven't been found by a certain cacher (e.g. if you are planning a caching trip with a friend and only want to find caches that neither of you have found before), and much more.
The best advice for getting to grips with GSAK filters is to play with them. You will soon get the hang of them after spending a bit of time experimenting.
Tips on Surviving Without GSAK
By Jen Harley
GSAK, whilst a powerful Geocaching tool, can only be downloaded on Windows PCs. It is also restricted to Premium users of Geocaching.com. Jen Harley (Maple Leaf) explores the alternatives to GSAK in the below article.
Because I am not a ‘numbers person’ and with so many geocaches to choose from, I normally read the geocache pages in advance and choose the ones I want to do - rather than just run a PQ (pocket query) with 500 or 1000 caches.
- My starting point is normally the ‘Map view’. Click on the ‘map icon’ on your profile page and type in a town, followed by UK. e.g. Bristol, UK. From here, it is very easy to get a visual overview of the area.
- I also use the GreaseMonkey Map Enhancements so can quickly switch between street, satellite or Ordnance Survey views - which is useful to see where the footpaths are.
- If I only want a handful of caches to load straight away, I use the ‘Send to my GPS’ button from the information pop up bubble.
- However, most of the time I am planning for a forthcoming trip so I create a bookmark in advance and then add the individual caches to that bookmark (again from the information bubble on the map view).
- By adding the geocaches into a bookmark, I can write additional information that may be useful when out caching. These may be that it is just off a certain motorway junction or near a tourist attraction or some other interesting fact from the geocache page that I want to remember to look out for.
- The bookmark can then be added to over several days/weeks - especially useful when planning for a holiday.
Tip - When creating your bookmark, don't ‘Share it’ - otherwise everyone will be able to read your notes and puzzle answers!
Pocket Query - From Bookmark:
- At anytime during the creation of your bookmark, you can create a Pocket Query of it. Give it a meaningful name, but don't tick the run day yet.
- The PQ will appear in your Active Pocket Queries, but won't use your daily allowance.
- To get a visual preview of all the geocaches in the PQ, click on the map icon to the left hand side of the PQ (in the list).
- You can continue to add more caches to the bookmark without having to recreate a new PQ - the current one will always be up to date.
Before Your Trip:
Tick the day/s you want your PQ to run. If you have written additional notes on your bookmark - then print that out.
Tip - check all pages have printed as I have been caught out by this a couple of times.
More on GSAK
We also suggest that you check out this page and guide on GSAK by Cass Flowers, a former GAGB committe member who wrote several of the above masterclass guides. You can visit her blog and find out more about GSAK here.
*The GAGB wish to clarify, in the light of clause C7 of our Constitution, that the Association is under no commercial influence from GSAK (which is a commercial product), neither are we promoting it over any other alternative. We are simply aware that many cachers use the program and would benefit from a detailed GSAK guide on our website.