Monday, August 2, 2010

Coping with Cabrillo By Dave Pruett, K8CC

Coping with Cabrillo

Few developments have affected Amateur Radio contest operating as much as the development of logging software for personal computers. Such programs quickly replaced paper logs, dupe and multiplier sheets on the operating desk. These same programs make it a simple task to submit your log electronically to the contest sponsor.

Standardization Needed
In early 1999, computer professional Trey Garlough, N5KO, worked with many of the major developers of Amateur Radio logging software to develop a standardized electronic contest entry specification for the ARRL. The result was the Cabrillo File Format Specification, which in late 1999 was adopted by the ARRL as its standard format for electronic contest entries. Beginning with contests in November 2000, all logs for ARRL contests that are electronically generated must be in the Cabrillo file format. The ARRL will continue to accept paper logs written by hand. However, contest entries generated using a computer must submit the electronic Cabrillo file. 

A Look at Cabrillo

Information about the Cabrillo File Format Specification is available on-line at: An example of a Cabrillo file is shown below. Each line in a Cabrillo file begins with a keyword ending with a colon. This keyword identifies the data contained in that line. The file begins with the “START-OF-LOG:” keyword. Other keywords identify summaryinformation defining the contest entry. Non- QSO data lines can appear anywhere in the file; however, QSO data lines must appear in chronological order.

The format of each QSO data field is defined in the Cabrillo specification, and there is at least one blank space between adjacent data fields. These fields must be positioned in a specific order. The line starts with the “QSO:” keyword, followed by the frequency (in whole kilohertz for HF contests, or a letter designating the band for VHF/UHF) and mode of the contact. Next is the date (in YYYY-DD-MM format) and four-digit UTC time. The entrant’s call sign and sent information comes next, followed by the call sign of the station worked and the received information.

The log file ends with the “END-OFLOG:” keyword, which is very important. On occasion, the ARRL has received electronic log files that have been cut off or truncated. This sometimes happens during the e-mail process, usually beyond the control of either the entrant or the ARRL. With a Cabrillo log file, if the “END-OF-LOG:” keyword is missing, it is obvious that the file has been truncated and the entrant can be contacted to send another copy. With the non-Cabrillo ASCII files generated by the popular logging programs today, this truncation can be difficult, if not impossible to detect.

Generating Cabrillo Files

Recent versions of most popular contest logging programs can generate Cabrillo files. Specific instructions for these programs and the Cabrillo-compatible version number follows. If you have a pre-Cabrillo version, you should contact your software provider about obtaining a current version.

  • CT by K1EA—As of version 9.49, CT supports Cabrillo files for the CQWW, ARRL DX (either domestic or DX), Sweepstakes and ARRL 10-Meter contests. A Cabrillo file can be created from within the program by typing the command WRITELOG in the call sign field of the logging screen. The Cabrillo file will be created along with the other log output files. It will be named yourcall.TXT, where yourcall is the call sign used during the contest.
  • NA by K8CC—NA has supported Cabrillo since version 10.43. A Cabrillo file can be created when exiting the program. On exit, a screen prompt appears saying “END PROGRAM: rite Log to Disk, rint, xit”. Press “W” to write the log to disk. The Cabrillo file will be created along with the other log output files in the NA output directory. It will be named yourlog.LOG, where yourlog is the base filename of the NA log being processed.
  • TRLog by N6TR—The first Cabrillo compliant version of TR is 6.50. A Cabrillofile is created using POST, the separate post-contest program provided with TR to generate entry files. Run the POST program, select “C” from the menu of commands and follow the prompts on the screen. The Cabrillo file will be created in the same directory as the log file being processed. It will be named yourlog.CBR, where yourlog is the base filename of the TR log being processed.
  • SD by EI5DI—A Cabrillo file can be created using SDCHECK, the separate post contest program provided with SD to generate entry files. The first version of SDCHECK supporting Cabrillo is 9.68. Start up SDCHECK then select Option 4 - Entry File. The Cabrillo file will be created in the same directory as SDCHECK. It will be named yourlog.LOG, where yourlog is the base filename of the SD log being processed. 
  • WriteLog by W5XD—To create a Cabrillo file with WriteLog, pull down the Contest menu and click on Cabrillo File.
  • In the screen that appears, make sure your sent information (ARRL section, category, power, etc.) is all entered correctly, then click OK. The Save As window appears showing the directory where the Cabrillo file (named yourcall.LOG) will be created.Change the destination directory if desired, and then click OK.

Preparing the Entry

Cabrillo files can be easily viewed or edited using the DOS Editor program (EDIT.EXE) or Windows NotePad. A word processor program is not recommended since such programs often insert hidden formatting characters into the file without the user’s knowledge.

Opening the Cabrillo file allows the entry information to be quickly reviewed. One very important item for the ARRL Contest Department is the “ARRL-SECTION:” field, which is used to compile the score listings in QST, which are by ARRL section. Be sure to check this field to ensure that your score will appear under the correct section in the QST listings. Remember that some states have multiple sections, so include the correct section if you live in one of those areas.

A common problem with electronic logs is incorrect information. For example, many popular logging programs allow a default location (such as your state) to be set. However, many contests use different entities for the geographic locator, in which case the default may be incorrect. Program bugs can also cause the QSO information to be incorrect. A few minutes reviewing the QSO information in your entry file can catch these types of errors quickly.

Prior to submitting your electronic entry, it may be necessary to rename the Cabrillo file. The ARRL requires your entry file to be named yourcall.LOG, where yourcall is the call sign used by the entry during the contest. Some programs name the Cabrillo file in this way, while some do not (to avoid the possibility of inadvertently overwriting a prior copy of yourcall.LOG from another contest.) If necessary, rename the Cabrillo file to yourcall.LOG using either the RENAME command in DOS, or using Windows Explorer.

One issue with using the call sign as a file name is that the forward slash character (/) used in portable call signs is not a valid file name character. Use the underscore (_) character as a substitute, or omit the character entirely.

Submitting the Entry

Your electronic entry may be submitted one of two ways. One method is to copy the Cabrillo file to a floppy and send it to the ARRL via regular mail. However, most entries are sent as e-mail attachments. E-mail programs typically support attachments as a way to send an electronic file as a separate, detachable part of the e-mail To submit your entry, prepare an e-mail addressed to the ARRL for the specific contest to be entered. The address is always found in the rules for each contest or online at The subject line should contain your call sign, the name of the contest and your entry class. Nothing needs to be included in the body of the e-mail because the Cabrillo file is a complete entry in itself.

Attach the Cabrillo log file, send the e-mail and you’re done! Don’t send the files as the text of the e-mail, as this causes problems in detaching and saving the file information.

Submitting an electronic log is easy once you’ve done it a few times. Electronic logs allow the ARRL logcheckers to do their job more quickly and accurately, and Cabrillo allows them to spend less time doing data translation and more time checking. The entrant also benefits from Cabrillo through improved integrity of their entry file. Electronic log submittal is here to stay, and it sure beats killing a tree to print your entry!

An example of the Cabrillo file format.

From QST November 2000