So far, Columbus 4 has been a huge time saver. What used to take us a couple hours has been reduced down to fifteen minutes.

Alex Kiene,, Digital Data Technologies, Inc. (Columbus, OH)

When evaluating least squares adjusting software, I chose Columbus because it was the only software I could use to adjust a network without reading the manual. While the Columbus user interface was intuitive enough to use without instruction, the manual and help files unlock the full power of the software.

We use Columbus primarily for geodetic control networks for engineering projects; however, we have used Columbus on conventional networks and on networks that combine GPS and terrestrial observations. The flexibility of Columbus’ report formats allows us to satisfy the reporting needs of multiple state and county agencies without major problems. The ability to break networks up into multiple files makes trouble-shooting a network much easier.

Scott Wallace, the Chief Technical Officer at Best-Fit Computing, is always open to suggestions for improvement to Columbus. With the introduction of OPUS and OPUS-RS by the National Geodetic Survey, Scott worked with me to develop a means to rigorously combine multiple OPUS results with GPS vectors and terrestrial surveying observations. Columbus was the first (and as far as I know, the only) commercial software to read the OPUS report and automatically create the observations in the network file.

I am familiar enough with several least squares adjustment software products to be able to adjust a network. I have never experienced the responsiveness to my questions and concerns as I do with Columbus. It is this commitment to professional engagement with their users and the constant incremental improvements to Columbus that make it such a valuable piece of software.

Peter Lazio, Senior Surveyor, Sidney B. Bowne & Son, LLP (Mineola, NY)

I have used Columbus for about seven years now. Because my specialty was originally National Network adjustment, I was immediately attracted to the product due to its being built on a rigorous geodetic foundation and its ability to handle large-scale networks in a seamless fashion. The price was extremely competitive as well, and the Best-Fit team has proved to be amazingly responsive over the years. Amongst other things, at our request they developed the invaluable capacity of Columbus to compute traverse misclosures. In my opinion, Columbus is excellent value for the money and is always evolving and improving.

Clive Masterton, Rail Division, Warner Land Surveys, Ltd. (Theale, Berkshire, UK)

I met Scott Wallace in early 1991, while on a business/pleasure driving trip in the Southwest United States. We had talked once or twice on the phone, and what I heard sounded fascinating. When I got to Tucson, AZ, I found that Scott had sequestered himself in his apartment with the ambition of writing a survey data adjustment program that was much more than just a “cut above” what was then the standard least squares adjustment program offered to the surveying community. Given what was typical of the commercially available software products – two dimensional Cartesian plane, with observations needing to be reduced to the grid before entry, together with a Stone Age editor (if an editor was included) – Scott’s vision of a true three-dimensional geodetic adjustment program would be a great leap forward. His approach allowed the direct entry of field data that had only been field reduced, checked for reduction errors, and assigned a standard deviation. The variety of observation types he had mapped out would cover almost any imaginable survey data type. This was the vision for Columbus, because the Earth isn’t flat.

It was not until several years later, when Columbus Version 2.x was being superseded by 3.0, that a requirement for such an adjustment program presented itself. The Alignment & Metrology Group at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) had been using an adjustment program that had been developed at a university. The seeming advantage of this choice was that it was written in FORTRAN, we had a copy of the source code, and it ran on a fast Sun workstation. The problem with this solution became obvious when it was discovered that all the Task Managers had modified the code so that they could have their own ‘custom’ version. Checking other’s work became a nightmare. As a result, I was given the task of coming up with a coherent solution to this problem, so, recalling the attributes that Scott had presented when we first met, I decided to see how far Columbus had come in the intervening years.

To say that the differences between Columbus and the in-house variants of the university-developed program were stunning, significantly understates the case. As an example, a large, complex three-dimensional network, containing nearly 2,000 points and more 30,000 observations, had to be partitioned to run on the Sun workstation, with each partition requiring more than ten hours to process. It had taken more than a week of preprocessing the field observations into data records compatible with the Cartesian reference frame. By contrast, the input dataset for Columbus was the straightforward field observations, e.g., observation, height of instrument and target, with standard deviations of each element. Columbus was able to assimilate the entire dataset without partitioning, and produced a solution in less than ten minutes on a fairly vanilla Dell PC running Windows NT. This was a game-changer for us.

Besides the performance of Columbus, working with Scott has always been a rewarding experience. Because of the precision requirements placed on the Group by Fermilab’s mission, we needed several modifications to be made to Columbus: six decimal places of precision (up from five); output of coordinates in Earth Centered, Earth Fixed reference frame; input and output of the full covariance matrix for each point; vertical drops with deflection of the vertical conditions; and on. With Scott, it was always as easy as 1-2-3: 1) What do you need? 2) Why do you need it? 3) When do you need it? Rarely, if ever, was the answer, “Wait until the next release,” if there was a practical way to bring it about.

If the quality of Columbus 4 is anything like Columbus 3, surveyors with exacting requirements will be in for a real treat.

John Greenwood, Retired, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

We initially purchased Columbus software to meet the requirements of ALTA/ACSM Positional Testing. Columbus gave us a better understanding of how LSA works, and we actually changed some of our field procedures to incorporate more redundancy into our field work. After one day of training, we were comfortable enough to start running our traverses in Columbus. Now there are free training videos available to help new users get started.

Using Columbus for GPS and terrestrial observations gives us peace of mind, knowing that the quality of our work meets our own standards for accuracy. In the past, when we had a bust, we would spend hours trying to determine the cause and sometime rerun several of the lines to make sure we resolved the problem. Now with Columbus, we can isolate the problem and know what the issue is before returning to the field to confirm it. I highly recommend Columbus Least Squares Adjustment software.

Mike Vargo, PLS

Surveying Control, Inc. (SCI) is a small firm located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that has been providing professional land surveying services throughout New Mexico and the southwestern United States since 1984. We purchased our first GPS equipment in the fall of 1989, and soon thereafter recognized the need to obtain network adjustment software to handle GPS elevation issues caused by the lack of a reliable geoid model. After looking at the various options available at the time, SCI decided to give Columbus a try. What originally attracted us to Columbus was its simplicity, its reasonable price, and the degree of control the user had over the adjustment settings and output. Over the past 22 years, we have primarily used Columbus to adjust 3D geodetic control networks that were measured using static GPS observations. Since the initial purchase, we have adjusted literally hundreds of control networks, both large and small, and have been very satisfied with the results. Reliability is key in our business, and we have found that independent field checks on static control networks adjusted by Columbus routinely reflect the predicted horizontal and vertical precisions.

What has perhaps impressed us the most about Columbus is the technical support and responsiveness we have received from Scott Wallace and his staff over the years. As an example, the City of Albuquerque recently developed its own geoid model based on hundreds of horizontal & vertical control monuments that exist throughout the area. Columbus personnel had the COA geoid model integrated into the software within a few weeks of us supplying them with the model electronically. This is only one of numerous examples we have over the years of their ability and willingness to update Columbus on short notice to accommodate changes.

Purchasing Columbus was and continues to be one of the best business decisions we have made with regard to surveying software. I would highly recommend Columbus to other surveying professionals, regardless of their experience level.

Stephen J. Toler, PS, Chief Executive Officer, Surveying Control, Inc. (Albuquerque, NM),