Once you’ve used the advanced features available from Geocaching.com to create a Pocket Query it is frequently useful to filter those GPX results further. Doing so allows you to run reports, review specific favorite hide types quickly or act on recent log activity. The possibilities are endless, limited only to either your own patience or the capabilities of the software you use. I’m not patient, so I use software. One of my first steps after receiving a PQ is to filter it through “Watcher” by Clayjar to minimize my DNF probability. More on using Watcher, below the fold.
Watcher is a lightweight program you can download here. It is best described as a filtering engine, allowing you to add or remove Geocache entries from your PQ based on a wide range of criteria including:
- Status: recent log activity (good or bad)
- Users: who hid or found the cache
- Location: absolute coordinates, distance or compass rose direction from a point
- Cache Details: types, containers, ratings
- User Flags: Caches you want to ignore or otherwise specially flag for review
- And more, such as whether a cache has Travel Bugs
Watcher also maintains a sticky offline database, so any flags you set against a cache will follow that waypoint around, even from completely different GPX files or queries. Finally, Watcher will allow you to merge multiple GPX files into a single GPX with only unique entries. These last two features are most helpful when you have to split up a PQ due to size limitations or because you are on a long caching road trip.
I use Watcher primarily to filter caches with recent poor log activity (read: multiple DNFs) out my GPX queries. This lets me eliminate 50-60 caches from a typical query of 500 that are probably not going to be found. I don’t like DNFs and I really hate them when the cache isn’t there in the first place. It’s okay if I’m just an idiot and can’t find it; not so much if I should be able to log the smiley and the cache just isn’t there. I typically setup 3 or 4 PQs, one for Traditional and Virtual Caches, one for Multi-Caches and one for Puzzles/Mystery Caches. I use Watcher to combine them intelligently before I head out.
Watcher is not the end-all tool for GPX manipulation. It does allow for an offline preview of the cache page/description and recent logs, but that’s about where it stops. Watcher ONLY supports loading and saving GPX files, and only from PQs generated by Geocaching.com. Having said that, it performs its most important function (filtering) flawlessly, saving me loads of time before and during a cache hunt.
While Watcher has not been updated in a while, GPX files are not getting more complicated and the software’s utility is still very good. Once I use the tool to create a new, robust GPX I can then send it to other software for further processing or upload to my GPS. More on those tools, later. If you want more details on how I use Watcher, including screen shots, just ask!