This is my first post here. I am doing a constriction project and decided to get a total station after some frustration locating things mechanically. I bought a Nikon 5M which has not arrived yet.

I am working on a 19 acre plot of land. The property just had a professional survey and I have some markers to go off of. However there are no markers where I need them on the property lines and I need to locate building site stuff. I prefer to do it more accurately than a tape measure and it is through some trees etc.

The land is not cleared and there are not a lot of straight shots to make. The surveyor did put a couple stakes up the property line, but not really deep enough in for me to use. I may clear some stuff to get shots if needed, but the goal is to only clear where needed to build.

So, what I need to do is properly locate the building site from his markers, layout the driveway and stuff, mark for the basement dig, and maybe use it to layout the home and some out buildings. Also, I would like to shoot lines and maybe do some clearing for the fence lines.

With all that said, am I going to be able to do this with just the total station, or am I going to need a data collector and some software also?

Please keep in mind I am not a licensed surveyor and only plan to use this for occasional purposes like listed above.

I know I have a lot to learn, but if I need a data collector, then I want to start hunting for something used that might work and maybe something with some software.

Please ask anything that you need to know to make better suggestions. I have not used a total station before, so I am starting from scratch here.

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Hi John,

 I am lost for words that anyone would take this task on with out any experience  in surveying.

Kudos to you. Although I can not picture this, Good luck to you. Since you are not going to be a full time surveyor there are other ways ,other than expensive  Data Collector . Using a scientific  calculator, you must know coordinate  geometry. But there are calculators  that used survey programs that make all this easier.

There are some programs on the Total Station ,that you must have to learn how to use, other than the programs it contains. Just learning how to use it, working with coordinates, setting it up over a point to targeting a Back site and turning your angles to your Fore site will be you first task. Now back to the Data Collector or calculator in your case. Jacob Wall has a web site were he will sell you a HP 50 G calculator  with his survey programs already loaded in it and they are simple to use. This will not connect to your instrument .

But it works just like a Data Collector with you keying everything in. It has job files,coordinate files for them,  you also transfer files on his best program to your computer,back and forth. you can also download

a free emulator of this calculator that can use his free program on your computer,to see how all this works.

By this you will have a free survey program on a free calculator on your computer to go along with the real one if you decide to buy it. And this cost you a whole lot less than a Data Collector and nothing to put on your computer. Since your using this on construction job this would work for any layout. I love my Data Collector and it works well for large Topo's were you have to take a lot of shots or as built surveys to tree surveys. But you will not need this and Data Collectors are not cheap, if you can find a used one go for it.

Just do not buy one too old, you can get Jacob best deal for $300.00 +/- and it uses modern software and he stands behind it with support and upgrades. Plus you will be getting a Great calculator with the deal. 

This is only one choice you can do. I am sure you will here others. So read about how all this works, and reviews. I will give you this link.

I will definitely check out what you suggested this week and do some reading up.

Do you have a recommendation on data collectors to look for? It seems the nomad is popular, but how old of one can I get without being too old? I see they have the 1050 out now and it appears older ones are 900's, 800's and maybe others?

I see a couple with Survey Pro, SurvCE, Fieldgenius on them. I just don't know what software would be good and which model of Nomad would be good enough.

I did not see any used ones with any "layout" specific software on them.

I should get the total station this week. Once I get it, I will hopefully start asking smarter questions. I will have some hands on time and read through the book.

Hi John,

I have never bought a used Data collector. I use TDS Recon which is now Spectra.

It is also own by Trimble which also sold a Trimble Recon . The thing about Data collectors is that they come with programs and sync programs installed in the collector but you will need to install it in your PC. Make sure this two are compatible. There are two types of ActiveSync connection standard and guest.  Guest will ask each time which one you want.There are other things you need to know about do this. do's and don'ts. there is always the ?  of how old or what condition the battery is in. Older Data collectors like the TDS or SMI that use a HP 48GX will work but they are hard to find and are costly,plus you also have to have programs to upload and download if you want to connect to your computer.

No matter what brand you get if you buy it from someone in your area (Best solution) make them show you how it works and they have all the programs  that come with it. Also most programs come with a device that connect to your computer that is call a Hardware Lock that works with the  Product Keys to be activated, you must have this and make sure the brand you get that that company knows of this exchange of owners. Buying a used one is a big risk you do not know what it has been through. No matter what you do LSU is here to Help if there is a solution.


I have been looking at the Nomad ones mainly just from reading what people have said about them. They seem like a good option for a Nikon 5M?

I talked to a place that sells the new Nomads and Licenses for survey pro etc. They say the software stays with the data collector for life.

With that said, I also see some with Fieldgenius and SurvCE on them.

Would all of these work for me if they are active on the device and registered, or will I need some other dongle etc. to make them work like you mentioned?

It seems Survey Pro and Layout Pro do different things.

Does SurveCE do both things (construction layout and survey related)?

Does FieldGenious do survey stuff and layout/constructions stuff?

I am reading about it, but it is hard to decipher what does what when you have not done any of it and are still learning. Also, I am limited on how much I can read every day. I am sure I will learn faster once I actually get the tools in hand and I can start experimenting.

Also, are there any android apps for my Samsung Note 4 that would do basically the same or similar things as any of the above mentioned things? This might save me some money even though it would mean more manual work moving files around or punching in on the total station. I assume there is no direct connection to the total station with the android phone and apps.

I did download the HP50g emulator and got it running. However I was not able to get the software library loaded. It gets to a certain point in the instructions, but I see no way to get the library to store like they show. (they show one of the older calculators in the instructions). I have emailed them for support.

Thanks for all the help so far.

Hi John, All Data collectors come with Point Stake, So no matter what program you are using you can stake a point. There are special programs to do different layouts.

but most of the time  you will be using a  simple Point Stake program. You can learn the others in time.

FC5000 with Magnet offers a deal where you can use a screen shot of your old data collectors software and you will get the upgrade equivalent for $325 that plus the cost of the data collector will be a total of jus $2325 for the latest greatest tablet style available on the market. Ive used just about everything out there and I think its the best deal around

Hi John, 

I can help you with the Emulator. First did you get the Emulator from Bill Graves @  .

If not Do this download but delete the first one. This has 5 calculators you can use, the 50 G only if you like.The other 4 will still be on your computer but only open one emulator at a time the 50 G,49+ and 49 will run this program cogo lt. They all load the same way ,from your three files 930,931,932 .You only have to download it one time you are copying it to each calculator ,only if you like to use them. you can just used the 50 G.

After you do this you can download the software file if you already have the correct one it will work.  After you extract it you will see three files but first read my instruction at this Discussion it is in details on how to do all of this. I give these instruction in other Discussions also. So go here and read how to do this.

Can I help you survey,I can,I am Hp Prime

If you have any problems I can help you. here is where to look.

First page, 5 reply dated July 20,[email protected]:01AM ,this is for the Emulator.


2nd Page, 5 reply dated July 23,2016 @ 9:47 PM ,this is for installing COGO LT .

second paragraph. 

Hi John,

I remember William Robinson had some video's on Android programs you might want to look into this since you asked. I will give you this link. There are some calculators Emulators for it also.

I ended up getting a Nomad with some software on it for a good price. I can start reading through the software manuals while I wait for it to arrive.

Is there still much use for the HP calculator with a a proper data collector and survey software package?

Id just keep it handy for a backup. HP48?

It's the HP50g Emulated calculator (free). No reason not to keep it now that I got it working I suppose. I almost got the survey program stuff loaded, but I have to figure out how to erase stuff so everything will fit in the "memory".

The part I was getting stuck on is that the instructions said to press "2" then "Sto>" after loading, but on the emulator you have to use "0". Thanks Billy Brooks for link to his instructions. I still have to finish getting it working when I have more time.

Hi John, I am a old calculator surveyor and will not go to the field without one. Same as the Data Collector the only reason I would not is that I do not have it or the batteries Die.  But I have many calculators,which some of them are the HP 48 GX but I have survey cards for them. TDS( Tripod Data System) and SMI ( Survey Module INC. ) These are no longer use because HP quit making the 48 GX after 10 years of running.Before this Sokkia and a few other only made data collectors. TDS and SMI were some of the most popular Data collectors used by surveyors. A 48 GX can now run you over 600 dollars alone plus the program cards can cost up to 500 each ,just go look on Ebay or Amazon. You can get anew 50 G @ Amazon with the 2 GB SD card around 70 dollars If you want to use a calculator in the field with the Data collector.

I am a big fan of HP RPN calculators But I have many years of experience  with them. The HP 50 G uses RPL  program language,this is different than RPN. HP RPN surveyor calculator of choice is the HP 35s. It cost 60 Dollars and it is the Best RPN made to day by them. HP newest calculator is the HP Prime, this is the most advanced calculator in the world other than the HP 50 G. The HP 35 is much simpler because it is used by students on different test which one is surveying and it is approved  for this.

But do not take nothing from it this is still a very advance calculator. Now back to the Prime, this is a touch screen with Apps and uses HP PPL programming similar to Java, C++ but more like Pascal. It was called HP Basic at one time but this is not the language Basic. You can read about this calculator in the link I gave you for the instructions for the 50 G and my Discussion Into the Time Machine. You  said you need to erase or clear some of the files in the 50 G. If you need to clear  and start over you can try Reset calculator, but if not press tool, this sets soft menu back up and exit any programs,next press left shift (white) then Files, this will open Directories you will see home above that your ports 0,1,2 then cue up highlight 0 press  ok   if there is files there then press NXT and Purge each one on all you ports. Clear 0 (zero) port may clear all of them, if not you will have to do 1 and 2 also. Resetting the calculator  may clear all memory. Either way I can help you fix it were it will work. If the Real calculator comes with a HP connect kit you can download this free program in it or the SD card. Wish you luck.Reset Calculator is in Edit the same place as load object.


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