TopoCAD, more than Topo, more than CAD

clip_image001TopoCAD is a basic but comprehensive solution for surveying, CAD drawing and engineering design, although it does more than that in a development that has taken more than 15 years after his birth in Sweden. Now it is all over the world in 12 languages and 70 countries but does not seem to have achieved a higher market segment.

TopoCAD is the Chaos Systems Company’s flagship product, which also has Rhinoceros a program for 3D modeling, robust but with not much to talk about (this time). There is also Chaos Desktop a document manager, similar to what ProjectWise does. Although more practical, with Microsoft Outlook integration and ease for associating documents and metadata; for TopoCAD products have a viewfinder, while formats like dgn, dxf and dwg files can be viewed as images.


The solution concept of Chaos, through TopoCAD is very interesting, but its name comes up short, its applications are ranging from data collection, correction and adjustment, CAD drawings, GIS integration, engineering design and the sequence ends with the possibility to send data back to the survey team.


Like any other, the Chaos line has a reader version, with the variant that can include a plus for import and export to dwg / dxf formats or interact with surveying instruments. The rest is a modular range, it can be settle between topography and design packages or purchased separately as desired, according to the roles that are clearly defined in the model:

clip_image003From field to desk: Surveying / CAD. The package called TopoCAD Base includes COGO, can connect to topographical equipments; can make polygon adjustments using least squares method. It can also operate terrain models (DTM and TIN), including what implies its results as contours, profiles, volumes’ calculation and cross sections (not the design). As a tool CAD has everything what could be required, precise construction commands, and can call for reference or import common formats as dwg, dxf, dgn, landXML and shape files. However as .top format can handle many attributes within the same map, similar to the xfm from Bentley Map. The base module also includes layouts’ (sheets) reader and database attributes reader or metadata from Chaos Desktop

clip_image004From the desktop to the data base: GIS / maps. It happens that ‘.top’ format is not a simple CAD with attributes, but its xml schema stores information that can later be sent to an ArcGIS .mxd, turning tables and attributes such as what would be seen in TopoCAD. It can also interact with databases via ArcSDE.

It can export to common formats like kml, Mapinfo or spatial database. Recently it has been launched FDO connector that allows to interact with data from open standards such as MySQL, PostGIS, Oracle, MS SQL Server Spatial, SQLite, ESRI ArcSDE, SDF (Autodesk MapGuide), ESRI SHP, ODBC, WFS, WMS, GDAL (Geospatial Data Abstraction Library) (Raster), OGR (Vector format: shp, gml, dgn, kml, mapinfo etc.).

clip_image005From the desktop to the plotter: plans / maps. It has a great capacity to create layouts, called sheets with data tables extracted from the attributes. The vector objects, both, lines and dynamic elements figures, with which operations can be done from the layout, for example, the texts sizes in the model can be adjusted from the layout without much return. Supports working type sketch, to release the artistic feeling on a final product.

From Desktop to design: Engineering.  Includes capabilities for geometric design of roads, as it would Civil 3D or any competition. It also has something to design railways, tunnels, pipelines, canals and dikes.

The way data is handled, such as the cross section is more dynamic than the common, there is interaction with both plant alignment and the generated profile.

From Design to Field: Surveying / Staking.  Design data can be exported to files that the total station or GPS can be used to operate. No matter that the import converted data to UTM, and then can be exported as planar coordinates to avoid damage by projection settings. And then this cycle can be repeated over and over clip_image006again.


In general, it seems an interesting tool. It’s a CAD with mapping capabilities, design and surveying interaction. The base price ranges from about $ 1,500, depending on what you add.

Here you can download a TopoCAD trial version

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