This is a review of N3FJP’s Amateur Contact Log 3. It has been in use here at NK7Z for many years. ACLog is a general purpose Amateur (Ham) radio logging program. It is designed to perform just a few functions, and perform them well. The author has selected the needed functions carefully, and the logging program does those functions well. Overall it is a good logging program for general use. If you want a contest logging program, get one of those, if you want general logging, get ACLog.
Many years ago I decided I needed an electronic log, I wrote a few, downloaded and tested many, and selected ACLog. Amateur Contact Log seemed to fit the bill for my needs. I do not want a contest logging program, (I use MixW for that), and the author has correctly decided to not make ACLog a contest log. He has created fifty other logging programs designed for twenty different contests, thus not attempting to make ACLog all things to all people.
Lets look at features:
- The display suites what I was looking for, it is simple, shows many contacts per page, and in general works for me.
- Supports LOTW, the user just uploads his/her log to the LOTW site with a few clicks.
- Amateur Contact Log supports internal searches of its own log files, If I type a call in, and hit TAB, the old contacts with that station just pop up. Note I said contacts, not last contact.
- The user Interface is adjustable, by that I mean you can place the display fields where you want them, and control which field is shown. If you don’t want to see the ending time of QSOs, then don’t check the box to show it. You can control where on the screen these fields appear. So if for instance, you wanted the Mode right up front, you just set it up that way.
- ACLog will import and export your logs as or from ADIF files.
- The software will auto-fill in much of the data you would normally type in. You just point it at a site like QRZ.COM and tell it to fill in your missing data, hit the go button, and depending on your log, it will add the country, name, etc. If you subscribe to QRZ.COM it will fill in more data, than if you don’t. I recommend you subscribe to QRZ.COM. It helps the folks there, and I bet you use them for something, it gives you more data, and in general QRZ.COM is a pretty nice place. If you don’t use QRZ, you can use CDs, or data files which are provided, and updated.
- Awards aggregation; The software will provide you a list of your contacts filtered by attributes, you can tell the software to show you a lit of all confirmed contacts, all contacts for a set country, or several other ways.
ACLog is starting to show it’s age, there have been no updates in the past few years, (actually nothing has been broken, by no updates I mean no new features), however that seems to be changing, the author has decided to retire from his job, and he expects to be able to put more time into the software. I have followed his support forum on Yahoo for many years, and he seems responsive to support questions, and in general there all the time. I expect he will follow through and start work on the software again.
- Fast, the program is quick.
- Adjustable field positions.
- Awards Filtering.
- Built for one thing, not all things to all people.
- Clean interface for the most part.
- ADIF Import/export.
- The ability to backup your log.
- The ability to add/remove countries from the country list.
- LOTW Support, it signs and uploads your contacts
- Rig Control
- Prints QSL Address strips
- The interface is starting to look a bit dated, hopfully the changes coming will fix this.
- It would be nice if it would download the country list, instead of my having to edit it, using the built in editor. (No longer an issue in 3.2, see addendum)
- It needs a bit more information about the transfer of data between itself and LOTW being shown during uploads/downloads. With all of LOTW’s issues of late, the first time I did a transfer, and LOTW did not accept the submission instantly I thought the submission failed.
- The entry interface could be a bit tighter, the headings are contained in boxes, which are a bit too large for my taste. (No longer an issue in 3.2, see addendum)
- The awards interface could be a bit tighter, they are starting to look a bit old. They work, this is just a look issue.
As you can tell my only real issue with ACLog is the user interface. It is easy for me to sit here and type about all the things I want changed, I don’t have to make the changes, so take the “Cons” section with a grain of salt! I really like this program in it’s current state, (it still needs to be updated as far as the interface), I would buy it again, I would recommend it to friends, I use it every day, it has never failed, or lost a log or contact for me. It has no little issues like so many other software packages do, (not talking about logging software now, but software in general), like having to back up the .ini files because every so often it get trashed, and your program explodes, and you lose some important data. In general ACLog is a great program for logging. The author has something like twenty other programs out there for contest logging, but I have never even used them, I imagine they are as good as ACLog is. You can download ACLog and use it for 45 days. The demo is not crippled in any way, this makes for the ability to test it before purchase.
N3FJP has released version 3.1 as of today. The install went well, and the new software addresses a few of the items listed under Cons above. In order to install the new software, go to Scott’s site and download the new software. PRINT his upgrade instructions and follow them. In short, you just do a new install to a new directory, then import your old log as an ADIF file. I would recomend checking the following PRIOR to upgrading:
- ARRL LOTW log in settings
- QRZ.COM log in settings
- Do a full update of your LOTW up/downloads
- Update LOTW for both unsent, and undownloaded contacts
- Do a full update of any QRZ related tasks
- If you are going to fill fields based on call, I did mine prior to update.
- Take a full backup of your log, and get it to a memory stick as ADIF. Then follow the instructions Scott provides.
- You will have to re-enter your HOME location for LOTW, so look over that first as well
I got a warning about my DLL files being newer than the DLL files provided in the update package, I took the option to keep my newer files, and all went well… The look/feel is better, and the operation is the same, so this was a well thought out update. I think the software is faster in the sorting departments, and the awards pages are much nicer. In fact the ARRL LOTW download display page looks a lot nicer than the one I had set up, so all in all a very nice update, performed as always in a good way.
The ability to auto-download the country files has been addressed, and is in a pull down on the FILE menu, towards the bottom. The update process between 3.0 and 3.1 took some work, (I think it was my fault, but for the life of me I can not figure out why). The update process between 3.1 and 3.2 was totally easy, I just made a backup of my log, and then hit the install button. I took all of the defaults, and everything did itself. I did not need to take a backup of the log, (you should anyway, it is always good to backup your log), the software located the current log and imported it. I will be deleting 3.1 shortly. The author had the common sense to make the new version in it’s own directory, so I am able to totally uninstall both 3.0, and 3.1. A very smart move on his part. Support continues to be first rate on the yahoo group. I still got the DLL warning noted in teh review, but I took the YES answer, to keep my newer DLLs and it runs fine.
Not sure what else changed, but I did a “Fill fields determined by call”, which used to take 5 to 10 minutes, (I have 10K contacts in ACLog now), and it took something like 30 seconds. Either the code has been changed, or QRZ.com got new servers… In any case, this is a welcome change. If you have not tried “Fill Fields…”you should. It is a wonderful feature! All in all, IMHO, this is flat out the best logging program I have seen.
If you get the error message:
“the data download did not complete normally”
chances are that ARRL LOTW is down for maintenance. Took me a few weeks to figure this out.