This is an old version of LandSerf. For the latest release please visit

Chapter 1. Introduction

LandSerf allows you to visualise and perform analysis on spatial data. It is primarily designed to be used with surface and elevation models, but will work with most types of 'GIS' data. It currently supports raster DEM and vector TIN, contour and metric surface network models of elevation. What makes the software unique, is the ability to perform surface analysis over a range of scales, and characterise any scale dependent behaviour.

1.1 Starting LandSerf

Depending on your operating system, you can start LandSerf in a number of ways:

Platform Start menu Screen icon Command line
Windows (95/98/NT/2000/XP) Yes Yes (double-click icon on desktop) Yes (LandSerf.bat)
Linux No No Yes (
MacOS No Yes (double-click the LandSerf icon in the Applications folder)Yes (

By starting from the command line, various command line parameters can also be provided that will start LandSerf with raster and/or vector files preloaded. The options are given below, where names in <triangular_brackets> should be substituted with an appropriate file name and the | symbol indicates alternative options.

Command line parameterExplanation
surface|primary <raster_file>|<vector_file> Starts with the given file loaded as a primary object.
drape|secondary <raster_file>|<vector_file> Starts with the given file loaded as a secondary object.
raster <raster_file> Starts with the given file loaded as an unselected raster.
vector <vector_file> Starts with the given file loaded as an unselected vector map.
display raster|relief|clear|vectorStarts with the given display type.
experimental true|false Enables or disables extra experimental functionality (used for testing). By default experimental functionality is turned off.
LandSerf primary c:\data\mountains.srf secondary "c:\My Images\photo.jpg" display relief
 Start LandSerf (in Windows) with the file mountains.srf displayed as a shaded relief map with the image photo.jpg draped over it.
./ vector ~/data/coast.vec primary ~data/landuse.shp display vector
  Start LandSerf (in Unix) with the files coast.vec and landuse.shp pre-loaded, with the second of these displayed.

1.2 Using LandSerf

The software is largely controlled via a series of menus or buttons that either perform actions or open further dialogue boxes. Graphics appear in the main area of the window, while 'thumbnail' images of all loaded data appear in the left-hand area. The status of the system is reported at the bottom of the window. The entire window can be resized at any stage with all graphics being rescaled accordingly.

For processing that is likely to take some time, a 'percentage complete' bar is displayed in the bottom right-hand corner. Any process can be stopped by clicking on this bar.

Initial Screen LandSerf's initial screen.

Note: New to Version 2.2 is the ability of MacOS X users to select the native 'Aqua' look and feel. The arrangement of the main windows is identical, but the menu is placed at the top of the screen in common with other MacOS X applications.

LandSerf can store any number of raster or vector objects, limited only be the memory of the local system. Much of the raster analysis and display is applied to the current primary raster and possibly a secondary raster. To select a primary raster, click on the relevant thumbnail with the left mouse button. A primary raster will then be indicated by the black border around the thumbnail image. Secondary raster selection can be made by clicking on a thumbnail with the right menu button or with the left button while holding down the shift key. Note that the order of thumbnails does not determine their primary/secondary status.

The same selection rules apply to vector maps. Primary vectors are selected with the left mouse button, secondary with the right (or mouse button with the shift key held down). Thumbnail images of vector maps can be distinguished by the 'V' symbol in the top-left corner.

The range of visualisation and analysis options available will depend on the number and type of spatial objects that have been been selected.

Spatial object selection Spatial object selection.

1.3 Console Output

LandSerf keeps a record of all options chosen by the user as well as any messages displayed in the status bar at the bottom of the screen. This can be useful if you wish to recall a sequence of operations previously undertaken. The record is stored in a file called landserfLog.txt in the main LandSerf directory. This file is reset every time a new session is started. Additionally, the logging output is echoed to the LandSerf console (see figure below), which can be viewed at any time by selecting the Help->Show console menu option.

LandSerf console output LandSerf console output.

Any errors that stop LandSerf from working correctly are also reported to the console/log file. If these errors appear to be a bug with the program, please report them to attaching the landserfLog.txt file that reports the error.

1.4 Functionality

The following features are currently available in LandSerf. Users of the previous version may also wish to view the changes since the previous release.


Editing Functionality.

Display Functionality.

Surface Query.

Surface Transformation.

Surface Analysis.

LandSerf Configuration.