The most important item of the whole radio purchase experience (other than maybe the radio itself) is programming software. Most radios made today are designed to be programmed by hand; called “field programming.” That is true for every radio I use.
I’ve done programming by hand and it is pretty straight forward. However, it is much easier to program a radio with computer-based programming software. For our mission (emergencies, disasters and “grid-down”) I want to be able to program all the radios in the cache, or brought in by other folks, so they match a single communications plan (CommPlan). And I want to be able to make any needed changes to the radio frequencies and settings easily and quickly.
The programming software route simply makes the most sense to me. Even starting from scratch it only takes about 30 minutes to set up all the channels and other radio settings using computer-based programming software. Then you save the file to your computer. Once that is done you hook a radio up via the cable and press a button. It takes a couple of seconds to download the new ComPlan programing and the radio is ready to go. This takes an otherwise labor intensive and time consuming manual process, field programming, and turns it into a quick and easy semi-automated process, computer-based programming.
I read about a lot of different programming software; two really stuck out. 1) CHIRP – free, 2) RT Systems – $49. So naturally I tried CHIRP first. I am VERY sorry I did. The software was gludgy and clunky to say the least. It was unstable, difficult to navigate and typical for free open-source technical software. Twice while using it I was almost finished with the entry of my channel plan and something went wrong. “Poof!” Everything was lost in a nanosecond and I had to start over. To say I was upset is an understatement. Then I saw there are mounds of updates and fixes and files with which you must keep current. Over the course of a week I had to download several of the fixes and updates to have the latest software code. A true mess in my opinion.
And I haven’t even talked about buying different cables and “drivers” that didn’t come with CHIRP. I ended up with three different cables and four different sets of software drivers that I had to load onto my laptop trying to find ones that would work. And that was just for the Baofeng UV-5RA radios. When I talked to different people about the problems I was having with CHIRP they would say it’s your driver or it is your cable, never a clear answer. So I had three different things going wrong; the software, the drivers, and the cable. Yuck! It was killing me. I just wanted something dependable, quick, and easy to use. My time is limited and I value it. I didn’t and don’t want to waste it trying to figure out someone’s poor design and problems.
Then I purchased RT Systems software and proprietary cable based on very positive reviews that I read. What a huge difference, it is an amazing program!! Very easy to use, simple spreadsheet design, solid, stable, intuitive and worth every penny of the $49 I spent on it.
I followed the easy to understand installation instructions. It worked perfectly with a single install and their proprietary cable (that is obviously high-quality). It all worked together flawlessly.
If you ever run into a problem there are live tech support folks that are there to assist you. I could go on about all the benefits of the RT software but I would bore you to death. Simply stated – don’t waste your time on so-called free programs; buy the best, buy RT Systems software.
Here are some overall features of the programming software:
- Spreadsheet layout with many point and click options.
- “Read” the current configuration from the radio for editing or start from scratch in a new file.
- The software has copy and paste of memory channel information between different radio model files.
- Column editing for changing several channels with minimal typing.
- An easy interface to ARRL Travel Plus or RFinder-Worldwide Repeater Directory to get repeater information. (separate purchase required)
- Ability to copy and paste spreadsheet or website data.
- Much more than just memory channel programming with settings for other radio menu items.
The RT Systems Radio Programming Software is designed to give you the ease and convenience of programming the memories and set menu options of your radio from your PC. Any memory channel with all its details can be sent to the radio with a simple keystroke.
With the program you can begin a new “factory fresh” file into which frequencies and option settings are entered. Or, you can read from the radio, store these details on your computer and make changes. Then, with minimal button pushing, send the new configuration back to the radio.
The program also allows you to create and save as many files as you want for your radio. Files can even be shared between users via email or the Internet. Any RT Systems Version 4 program can open a file from any other RT Systems Version 4 program…even from a different radio.
Managing all the options of your radios becomes easy with the program. The cut, copy, paste and insert features of the program make channel management easier than ever. Open more than one file at a time. Memory channel information can be copied from one file to another within the program making it really easy to set up a new file.
The “About Us” info directly from the RT website –
RT Systems has been at the forefront of amateur radio programming software since 1995 when we introduced the first radio programmer for the Yaesu FT-11. Each Programmer has an easy user interface that makes the radio even more understandable. By creating the Programmers, RT Systems changed amateur radio design… today, there isn’t a radio that can’t be programmed from a computer. RT Systems currently offers Programmers for 170 different radio models!
RT Systems programming software takes every option of the radio from the “black box” to the computer screen so you can “see” what you are doing in the radio’s memory. Many details are completed automatically with default information. Other details are set by selecting from lists. This creates much less chance of entering wrong data and saves you the trouble of searching for every detail. We own every radio for which we offer programming software (some are antiques now), which allows us to live-test and better understand specific radio features.
In our desire to help hams enjoy the hobby, RT Systems maintains a D-STAR repeater (KDØLUX) in Broomfield, CO. The repeater is open to anyone for general use, testing and experimenting. We utilize it in tech support to test D-STAR settings that might not be working quite as you expected. Our repeater has helped us get beginners on the air in just a matter of minutes.
Manned by Domenic (KDØUOE) and Matt (studying), RT Systems tech support has become a “go-to” place not only to learn how to use the programming software, but also to learn more about the radios and how a particular feature works.
RT Systems Inc.
510 Compton Street, Suite 105
Broomfield, Colorado 80020
Tech Support: 303-586-6510
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