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UTOOLS - Landscape Analysis Software

USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station

Software Availability

The UTOOLS package does not operate on current versions of Windows (64-bit). It may be possible to use the compatibility modes in Windows to configure a command prompt that can be used to run UTOOLS.

The entire UTOOLS package consists of three files: UTOOLS1.EXE, UTOOLS2.EXE, and UTOOLS3.EXE. Download all three files and put them in the same directory. Run each executable file to extract the program files into the directory. After extracting all three files, you can delete the original files (UTOOLS1.EXE, UTOOLS2.EXE, and UTOOLS3.EXE).

More information is in the README file

The distibution contains a detailed manual UMANUAL.DOC) describing the use of UTOOLS, example data, and a tutorial exercise designed to demonstrate many of the features of UTOOLS.


UTOOLS is geographic analysis software developed for watershed-level planning. The system provides a flexible framework for spatial analyses and can be used to address a variety of problems. The difference between UTOOLS and other spatial analysis software packages is that in UTOOLS all spatial data for a given project is integrated into a single Paradox databases, where basic data operations can be quickly and easily performed. For instance, complex overlay operations that involve combinations of map layers and attributes can be done (and re-done) with simple Paradox queries. Generating new layers from combinations of existing ones is also easy.
UTOOLS schematic

The Paradox "spatial databases" are built with several UTOOLS programs as follows:

  • Project data are assembled and downloaded to a PC. This involves the following operations:
    • Exporting map layers from the local GIS
    • Exporting attribute data from Oracle or elsewhere
    • Obtaining raw USGS digital elevation data (available on all forests).
  • The GIS map layers are gridded and converted to a Paradox "spatial database" with the program UCELL5. Spatial databases contain a record for each pixel or grid cell on the ground, and a field for each map layer. The pixel cell size can be varied according to the needs of the user.
  • Attribute data that describe GIS polygons (e.g. canopy closure, species, stand structure etc) are imported to Paradox and added to the spatial database using a Paradox relational query.
  • Elevation data are added to the spatial database by processing the USGS digital elevation data with the programs IMPRTDEM and ADDELEV.
  • A "terrain model", which is required by UVIEW for 3D viewing is also built by running the program EXTELEV.
  • "Derived" map layers are added to the spatial database, like slope, aspect, stream buffers using UCELL5.
  • Landsat data are added with the ADDERDAS utility
Once built, these databases serve as the information base for a given project and can be used in many kinds of analyses with Paradox, UTOOLS programs, and other commercial/public domain programs. They can be envisioned as a snapshot of a larger database maintained in a GIS representing all available data for a given project area. Some specific kinds of analyses that can be completed include:
  • GIS layers and attribute data can be examined using standard Paradox queries. This includes overlaying and combining layers based on polygon/line subjects and/or attributes, etc.
  • Data in the database and polygon maps can be visualized with UMAP or UVIEW. UVIEW has the capability for mapping both database and polygon/line data and also creates realistic 3D landscape images with vegetation. These map images can be saved to PCX files and output to an printer or inkjet plotter using any windows graphics programs.
  • Data in the database can be exported with UCELL5 to other programs, like HEICALC, HEIWEST, DISPLAY, and FRAGSTATS. The former two programs calculate the elk habitat effectiveness index, while the latter two calculate indices of landscape structure (e.g. dominance, contagion, diversity, path size).
  • Data in Paradox spatial databases can also converted back into vector format with the MAP2MOS program. Data are first exported to an ascii file with a procedure in the UCELL5 program.

Selected Analysis Capabilities

Spatial databases created by UTOOLS can serve multiple analysis functions. Some example functions include:
  • producing basic acreage summaries
  • identifying areas that are of critical interest within the project area
  • data validation
  • simulating the effects of management alternatives
  • providing functions to help organize and reformat data for export to specialized programs to perform complex spatial analyses.
All of these analysis avenues require the ability to geographically identify and display lands as part of the analysis process. These functions are made possible by a combination of the query language in Paradox, and the mapping capabilities in UVIEW and UMAP.

Basic Paradox Queries on Spatial Databases

The Paradox query commands can be used to quickly answer a wide variety of spatial questions using a spatial database. One of the most basic and useful queries on a spatial database is one that overlays GIS layers to obtain acreage reports. Acreage reports are created by first adding an ACRES field to the database using MODIFY RESTRUCTURE, and then filling it with a value equal to the pixel size in acres with a CHANGETO query. To overlay map layers and obtain acreage reports place a CHECK in the fields [map layers] of interest, and enter CALC SUM in the ACRES field. The query can be further qualified using the BLANK operator. For instance, to exclude all area outside of old growth stands, add NOT BLANK in the old growth field. Additional queries are demonstrated in the tutorial included with UTOOLS.

Simulating Effects of Project Alternatives

Paradox queries can be used to examine the effects of alternatives on other resources. For instance, suppose it is desired to analyse and map the effects of harvest treatments on elk habitat. A spatial database is created that includes fields for proposed treatment areas for each alternative, and a field containing cover values for the existing [pre treatment] condition. The fields for the proposed alternatives are created by rastering individual map layers with treatment areas represented as polygons. Using MODIFY-RESTRUCTURE command in Paradox, fields are added for predicted cover data for each alternative. These fields are then filled with the cover data for the existing condition using a CHANGETO command in a query. A query is then run that checks the prescriptions for each alternative and changes the cover based on the prescription. Here, a cover reduction of 100% might be assumed for group selection prescriptions, while a reduction of 20% might be assumed for an overstory removal prescription. Once the cover data is calculated for each alternative, these data can be used to generate fields containing elk habitat cover values, which are in turn exported to input files for the elk habitat software [HEICALC, HEIWEST].

The predicted canopy data for each alternative can also be used in UVIEW to create landscape images that depict changes to the landscape from each proposed treatment. Treatment units will appear in the UVIEW landscape scene if UVIEW is told to use cover data created above for each alternative.

A variety of other "simulations" can be performed using similar methods. For instance, the effects of treatments on late/old landscape structure can be examined using the DISPLAY or FRAGSTATS program. Fire and other catastrophic effects can also be simulated and visualized by applying various rule-based queries in Paradox that modify vegetation structure in the spatial database. These can be visualized with UVIEW by creating vegetation structure databases that essentially tell UVIEW to draw snags or "sick" trees where particular disturbances are present.

UVIEW Visualization Tool

UVIEW is a public domain software package developed by Robert J. McGaughey of the U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station as part of UTOOLS. UVIEW is a display system designed to produce two- and three-dimensional images of digital terrain models (DTM), attribute data stored in PARADOX spatial databases, and vegetation patterns at landscape scales. UVIEW combines the capabilities of a relational database with a simple terrain viewing system to provide a flexible analysis and display tool. Images produced by UVIEW provide a readily understood visualization depicting existing or desired landscape conditions.

UVIEW provides a flexible system for viewing a digital terrain model (an organized data set describing the ground surface consisting of a regularly spaced grid of elevations). Four parameters control the appearance of perspective views:

  • head or eye location
  • focus or target location
  • camera lens focal length
  • vertical exaggeration
UVIEW allows users to specify exact coordinates for the head and focus locations or interactively select a head and focus location while viewing a simple perspective representation of the DTM. UVIEW allows camera lenses with focal lengths ranging from 15mm to 400mm and vertical exaggeration values ranging from 0.1 to 4.0. Users can also "fly" over and around a low resolution image of a DTM using a mouse controlled "virtual trackball".
Selecting the viewpoint

UVIEW renders a DTM using a variety of methods and resolutions:

  • coarse and fine resolution profiles (A)
  • coarse and fine resolution grid (B)
  • solid surface representations with hidden surface removal (C)
  • lighted, shaded solid surface representations with hidden surface removal (D)

                          surface rendering
Users typically use the wire frame representations, profiles and grid, for positioning and exploration of the terrain surface. They use the solid surface representations to display attribute data from the PARADOX spatial database and simulated vegetation. Computer systems equipped with a VESA compatible graphics adapter capable of displaying 256 colors in at least 640 by 480 pixel resolution can display lighted, solid surface representations. UVIEW identifies and eliminates hidden surfaces in solid surface representations by sorting and drawing DTM cells starting with the cells farthest from the head location.

UVIEW supports interactive query development to specify combinations of database attributes for display on solid surface representations. The query system supports a variety of query operators including string pattern matching, numeric comparisons, and boolean operators. Twelve colors are available to differentiate between queries. UVIEW uses solid colors in 16-color graphics modes and gradients from dark to light in 256-color graphics modes. The actual color used to display a cell matching a query is selected based on the amount of light from the simulated light source striking the cell. UVIEW can display query results in both perspective and plan views.

Query dialog

query display

UVIEW can display a plan view of the DTM, represented as contour lines, along with attribute data from PARADOX databases. UVIEW generates contour lines from the DTM using a user specified contour interval. Database attributes are displayed using the query system described above. UVIEW can display polygon and vector data files on plan view displays.

plan view

UVIEW supports a script language to facilitate generating sequences of images. Sequences can represent a landscape from different viewpoints or changing landscape conditions from a single viewpoint. UVIEW includes a simple utility, VIEWPCX, to display sequences of PCX images at a rate of about 1 frame per second. Commercial or shareware utilities are available to combine the image files, stored in PCX or TARGA formats, to provide high-speed animation capabilities. UVIEW scripts can also generate images with no user interaction providing a simple method of reproduce a standard set of images depicting alternative management scenarios.

UVIEW models vegetation patterns to simulate existing or desired landscape conditions. The primary goal in the vegetation modeling is to simulate overall landscape texture and pattern rather than specific, detailed vegetation structure. UVIEW uses two methods to model vegetation patterns. The first method uses estimates of canopy closure contained in the PARADOX spatial database to generate tree cover for each pixel. The second method relies on vegetation codes contained in the PARADOX spatial database and a second database containing structure definitions for each possible vegetation code. Canopy closure based vegetation modeling represents vegetation patterns over an entire landscape. The canopy closure method represents differences in stand densities well but does not represent differences in stand composition and structure. UVIEW represents all values of canopy closure using the same type and size of plant; only the density of plants varies. Vegetation modeling based on structure definitions represents both stand density and stand composition. Stand structure definitions consist of layer descriptions with each layer in a vegetation type described by the type of plant, plant stem diameter, plant height, plant crown diameter, plant live crown ratio, a factor describing the variability of the size parameters, and the number of plants per unit area (normally acres or hectares). UVIEW represents a variety of plant types ranging from grass to mature, healthy conifer and hardwood trees. Vegetation structure descriptions can consist of up to 36 layers. Practical descriptions contain 2 to 3 layers.

vegetation rendering

Hardware and Software Requirements

The UTOOLS programs can be run with the example data on any IBM compatible computer equipped with a EGA/VGA monitor, 2 Mb RAM, DOS 3.0 or later, and 10-20 MB of free hard drive space. At least 560 kb of conventional memory must be available. Larger configurations are necessary for efficient operational use, due to the size of spatial databases and the requirements of Paradox to process them. We typically use a 486/33 with 200 mb of available hard drive for 30,000 - 50,000 acre projects. A backup storage device such as an IOMEGA Bernoulli drive is also useful for sharing databases among machines. A mouse is useful for UVIEW and, to a lesser extent, UMAP.

Paradox is not required to run the UTOOLS programs. However, without Paradox it is not possible to perform many basic operations on the spatial databases created by the UTOOLS programs. UTOOLS programs are compatible with all Paradox 4.0 and 4.5 for DOS, and all Paradox for Windows. UTOOLS programs will generally run from within a DOS window in WINDOWS. One exception to this is UVIEW running in 256 color SVGA mode.

Data Requirements

UTOOLS requires polygon and line data in the MOSS export (ASCII) format. Data must use the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) coordinate system. A version of UTOOLS that operates with the state plane coordinate system is being tested. The MOSS export format can be generated from vector maps stored in MOSS using the MOSS command: EXPORT or the ARC-INFO command: ARCMOSS. Polygon and line data can be intersected with project boundaries prior to processing with the UCELL5 program to isolate the area of interest from larger map layers (e.g. forest-wide, or merged quads encompassing the project area). This step can be accomplished with the OVERLAY program. This step is not always necessary since pixels outside of a project can be deleted with a Paradox query after the database is built. There also is an option within the UCELL5 program to use a polygon or line layer as a database template. With this option, only pixels with a user-specified distance of the template layer are retained in the project. For most projects, one of the above two methods (intersect before UCELL, or use the UCELL template feature) should be used to avoid creating large databases covering areas that are not of interest.

This page was last updated on June 11, 2018 by Bob McGaughey