Hydrographic Editing Software

The PFMABE Suite is a collection of command line and GUI programs that were written for the Naval Oceanographic Office over the course of 16 years. These programs constitute the main bulk of the hydrographic, bathymetric, and topographic editing tools in use by the Hydrography/Bathymetry department. They are also currently being used to edit LiDAR data by both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Naval Oceanographic Office at the Joint Airborne Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise (JALBTCX).

Constantly being improved, updated and modified, the PFMABE suite has grown quite complex and capable over the years.

Originally developed to run on RedHat Linux machines with network distributed storage, the software remains ideal for the modern server-client architectures required with massive sonar/lidar datasets. Now with a self contained Windows 7 installation package, it is available to an even larger audience of large and small organizations and individuals.

The hallmark of the PFMABE suite has been to leverage open source software and contribute back to the FOSS community. We would like to thank all of those whose work this code is built upon.

The major programs:

fileEdit3D – brought forward from the old days of along track editing, it has been updated with 3D functionality. A fast and effective editor, it remains useful for viewing and diagnosing individual GSF, CHARTS HOF, CHARTS TOF, CZMIL CPF, and LAS files without building a full PFM structure.


hydrographic editing softwaretrackLine – a tool for building an ASCII decimated trackline file and/or a minimum bounding rectangle (MBR) area file from GSF, CZMIL CSF, or POS/SBET data. It can also create an MBR area file from LAS or LAZ files. The resulting files (*.trk and/or *.are) are viewable in areaCheck or as overlays in pfmView.

Important note: Only an area file will be created if only LAS/LAZ files are used as input.



hydrographic editingb softwareareaCheck – used to display and edit Leidos ISS60 and generic area and zone files, as well as Army Corps area files. It also displays track files generated by the trackLine program, GeoTIFF files, ESRI (.shp) polygon shape files, Binary Feature Data (.bfd) files, LLZ files, YXZ files, CHRTR (.fin) files, CHRTR2 (.ch2) files, and BAG files.




pfmLoad – used to create or append to one or more PFM structures. The pfmLoad program can queue and then create up to 30 PFM structures in one run. With multiple sonar and lidar data inputs available, and the potential to accommodate many more, pfmLoad is the workhorse program of the PFMABE software suite. This is where the individual data files are read and the data sorted into geographic bins to create the PFM surface. This is where desired attributes such as intensity, heading, pitch, beam angle, travel time, classification and all the other attributes can be selected or ignored for best analyzing your data.


PFMABE software pfmView – combined with the embedded 3D editor (pfmEdit3D), this is the heart of the PFMABE software suite, and where the dedicated hydro, bathy, or topo editing personnel will spend the bulk of their time and energy. Conceived on a recording trip to Nashville in early 1996, the design was refined and brought to fruition. The pfmView application allows the hydrographer to geographically view the minimum, maximum and average binned surfaces of their data and edit that data. After editing, the bins are recomputed and the binned surface redisplayed. This allows the hydrographer to search for fliers or divers and then edit just those areas that require it. In addition to the manual editing, the PFM format allows for automatic filtering.



PFMABE softwarepfmEdit3D – launched from within pfmView, this 3D editor contains multiple tools for filtering, rotating, coloring and analyzing sonar and lidar data to clean the data to the desired specifications. Additionally, the user can “slice” through the data from any direction to quickly locate and remove fliers/divers. Highly customizable, the editor is what you make of it. The tools are there for the experienced to blast through their data in a rapid, responsible, and efficient manner. Where time is money, here is where speed and accuracy matter most.




pfm_unload – while this application is normally hidden from view and run from within pfmView it may also be run from the command line. The pfm_unload application is arguably the most important program in the suite. It reads modified points in the PFM structure and updates the original input files (GSF, HOF, TOF, CPF, LAS) to reflect the changes made in the editor. Since it only updates modified points it is usually extremely fast. After unloading edits with pfm_unload a new PFM built with pfmLoad will look exactly like the edited PFM.

pfmFeature – a major leap forward, this tool automatically selects IHO features in a PFM surface using a moving bin/window with overlap technique. Assuming that the surface has been well cleaned, containing no fliers/divers, this is a major time saver. Removing the human quotient, the targets will always be picked the same way from the same surface. Without growing tired, bored or impatient from the 100th or 200th target, the program will run to the end. The selected features will be written to a new or pre-existing feature file, and linked to the PFM surface. Selection criteria may be IHO special order or Order 1.

pfmExtract – editing the data is not the end, merely a step along the path. Here is where the hard days, weeks and months of editing reach their next step. The pfmExtract application reads your PFM structure and writes out a series of files (ASCII, LLZ, RDP, SHP, LAS, or LAZ) for input to CARIS or other software packages.

These core tools are not the summation of the PFMABE Software suite. These are the heavy lifters; cpfFilter for filtering CZMIL CPF files using various criteria; pfmBag for creating Bathymetric Attributed Grid (BAG) files, and datumSurface for warping and shifting the EGM08 surface to accommodate known fixed points, such as tide stations or base stations. These and others are available. Free. And always will be.