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2017-02-28 10:06:07 UTC

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Articles from and for hams

• Using Macros in Digital modes

Added at 2014-06-17 07:40:56

by EI9KF



Macros offer an easy way of entering text into a QSO exchange when using digital modes such as PSK31 or RTTY. Time should be spent planning the content of macros. Control buttons should be displayed according to the part of the QSO in which the text will be used. Good planning leads to ease of use when operating. Operators should avoid lengthy banal macros and enter free-text into a QSO. Try and make an exchange interesting and personal. Time spend studying the range of macro commands and variables available in a particular program will greatly increase the operators abilities and enhance their enjoyment when using these modes.



Digital modes such as PSK and RTTY involve making exchanges in a QSO which are for the most part pretty standard. Even a ‘non standard exchange – a rag-chew – can be assembled from standard phrases and sentences.

Digital modes all require the use of complex software to encode and decode signals. There are a variety of programs available, some are free to download (Digipan, Fldigi, WinWarbler) and some involve purchasing a license DM780, MixW MultiPSK). All such programs enable the user to set up standard phrases which can be linked to buttons on the screen to facilitate easy recall and execution of these phrases. Standard phrases or macros, are pre entered into program and are saved there. Each is allocated a button whose title is chosen to allude to the contents. Different programs allow the user to use a finite number of macros. Usually right-clicking on a macro button brings us a place where the function of the button can be defined or edited.

Macros are also used to control the program itself or even to control the transceiver. Commands can be inserted in a macro telling the program when to transmit, when to record a QSO in the log, clear the screen etc.


Macros should be grouped according to their function. Each program has its own way of displaying its macro buttons (figure 5). Each button has limited space to display its title. Some programs allow you to change or choose the color of a button or the color of the button text (WinWarbler, MultiPSK) which is a useful feature. Fldigi (figure 1) divides its buttons into three groups of three by color allowing macros to be grouped typically for CQ, INFO and CLOSING macros. DM780 is the most versatile allowing any number of groups accessible by a strip of buttons or by pull-down menus. In my view it is the program of choice where operator customization and versatility is a priority

Most programs have a finite limit to the number of macros that are made available to use at any given time

Program Maximum number of Macros
MixW 12
Digipan 24
WinWarbler 32
MultiPSK 120
Fldigi 36/set
DM780 No limit
Figure 2 Macro limits for various programs


A QSO can be conducted entirely using standard ‘canned’ text or can be combined with some ‘free expression’. Macros can be used to insert the text of an entire exchange or be used just to insert the headers such as the callsigns , QTH etc. - free typing the rest into the programs window. Some operators are averse to the of only standardized canned phrases in a QSO believing that real communication requires individualized hand typed text. While this opinion is widely expressed in the literature, experience shows that almost all exchanges taking place follow a very standard format. At this time, this would appear to be the preferred format. All of the programs available store a large number of fields that can be entered into a macro (stored phrase). Fields such as the operators Callsign, Name, QTH, Locator, Rig, Antenna, Power, Date, Time, Freq, are stored for recall. When a call is received, the Dx’s details are entered for saving in the log and for entry into the phrases of the QSO exchange.


Phrases used in a general QSO will be different to those used in a pileup situation where phrases get shorter and snappier regardless of the digital mode used. In a pile-up situation, the caller only wants to know your report and has no interest in the weather conditions in Dublin or the color of your underpants.

While macros make it easy to enter lengthy pieces of text easily with a mouse click, it is good practice to resist storing or using macros containing lengthy boring details such as the type of computer you are using, its processor gigaHz, the detailed features of your transceiver or antenna etc. Keep these things out of a QSO unless you are specifically asked for them by the Dx.

Clipping and abbreviations.
The phrases (macros) used will vary according to the mode used. Certain modes such as CW and RTTY use abbreviations and short clipped words. RTTY uses clipped cords as it is a 100% duty cycle in transmission and this keeps QSO’s short. In RTTY we give no extraneous information (599 is given just once !) Other modes such as PSK 31 allow the use of full words and more expansive phrases with a more conversational style.


Clipped Full text
RTTY PSK 31
CW Olivia
JT65 MT63
Figure 4 Modes and text style



PSK is about 1/3 slower to send / receive than RTTY . It is useful to remember that because PSK is a varicode mode, lower case letters have fewer bits and will send faster than upper case, so keep capitals to a minimum if speed is an issue for you.


The anatomy of a QSO

The QSO, like a game of tennis, can be divided up into its exchanges. Each exchange is always structured in a particular way.

Exchanges in a standard QSO run as follows:

A short exchange in PSK31 would look something like this:

Me CQ CQ CQ de EI9KF EI9KF EI9KF pse K
DX EI9KF de F1RED F1RED pse
Me F1RED de EI9KF
Thanks for your call.
You are 599 599 here
Name is Hugh Hugh and QTH is Louth
Loc. is IO64TB
How do you copy?
F1RED de EI9KF KN
DX EI9KF de F1RED
Your signal here is 599
Name here is Fred and QTH is Dallas
LOC is EM12OS Back to you Hugh
EI9KF de F1RED
Me F1RED de EI9KF
Thanks for the QSO on PSK31 Fred.
Good luck from Ireland.
73 and hope to work you again soon
F1RED de EI9KF SK
Dx EI9KF de F1RED
73 Hugh
Thanks for the contact
Yours signal loud and clear here in Dallas.
Best wishes
EI9KF de F1RED

An exchange in RTTY is different as discussed earlier.

RTTY Normal
Me CQ CQ DE EI9KF EI9KF PSE CQ
Dx F1RED F1RED
Me TNX FOR CALL F1RED UR 599 HR NAME HUGH HUGH QTH LOUTH BK
DX TU UR 599 NAME FRED QTH DALLAS BK
Me F1RED TU FRED FOR CALL 73 F1RED DE EI9KF CQ

RTTY Pileup
Me CQ DE EI9KF EI9KF CQ
Dx F1RED F1RED
Me F1RED 599
DX TU 599
Me TU DE EI9KF CQ

The Individual Elements of a QSO
The QSO can be divided into parts. Every QSO has these elements. We need a number of macros for each of these elements and we group macros accordingly.

1. Calling CQ
2. Answering C
3. Exchange
4. Info
5. Closing
6. Free Form
7. Utility


1. Calling CQ
The contents of the macro for calling CQ will depend on the mode that is being used. Slower modes require more pleas. A number of CQ macros should be created with calls of varying length and format. Give these names that make it easy for you to identify them. ie CQ 2x3 or cq 3x3x3 or CQRTTY.
Typically when using RTTY, a short call is made
CQ CQ DE EI9KF EI9KF PSE CQ
Using a slow mode like Olivia or MT63, a very long series of CQ’s is used , ie 4-6 lines of: CQ CQ CQ de EI9KF EI9KF EI9KF
CQ CQ CQ de EI9KF EI9KF EI9KF
CQ CQ CQ de EI9KF EI9KF EI9KF
CQ CQ CQ de EI9KF EI9KF EI9KF pse
Contests have their own format of CQ call. In a RTTY contest the following:
TEST DE EI9KF EI9KF CQ

When using less common modes such as MT63, an RSID can be inserted to help the receiver identify the mode being used.

2. Answering CQ
This is generally simply your call sent twice i.e.: EI9KF EI9KF PSE

3 Exchange
The main components in an exchange are the report (RST), operators NAME, QTH and LOCATOR . We need a few different exchanges stored to allow for mode, for pileups and to vary style. The report is generally sent in English. Items in the language of the DX are most commonly used in the closing macros. These macros, in most modes, begin and end with the call signs ie
F1RED de EI9KF or ** F1RED de EI9KF **
A typical exchange might run as follows:

F1RED de EI9KF
Thanks for your call.
You are 599 599 here
Name is Hugh Hugh and QTH is Louth
Loc. is IO64TB
How do you copy?
F1RED de EI9KF KN


4. Info
Also referred to as the ‘Brag’ macros, these give further information to the Dx. Most programs will store for insertion in a macro : your AGE, RIG, ANTENNA, POWER, PROGRAM, Wx, MODE , E-MAIL, . Various info macros can be made which are sent according to the context. A typical macro in PSK might read as follows:

**F1RED de EI9KF**
Age is 58 and a ham for 5 years
Rig here is a K3
Using 30 watts to a SteppIR 3 element
Program is DM780
Back to you Fred
**F1RED de EI9KF**


5. Closing
It is useful to have a number of closing macros. Adjust the close to the QSO you have just hadDx that you are conversing with. Short closes are good where the QSO is business like and longer more gushy closes are appropriate where the DX is being friendly. Try and avoid things like “happy Dx to you always and blessings to all your family” which sound canned and insincere. Try adding ciaio to an Italian QSO and Muito obrigado to a DX from Brazil. Individual 73 macros can be created fro these purposes. A example of a closing macro in PSK would be

**F1RED de EI9KF**
73 Fred and Thanks for the QSO in PSK
Your signal is great.
I hope to work you again soon on the bands
Good luck
**F1RED de EI9KF**

A closing macro should include in it, a command to the program to save the QSO in the log and clear either the Rx or Tx windows. Each program has its own command structure. You should consult the manual for details on these commands and how to embed them.

6. Free Form
Often it is good to do some free writing when in an exchange. To do this it is necessary to make two macros – one will start you off and one which will finish. The starting macro (**F1RED de EI9KF**) does not put the radio into transmit. This allows you to type at leisure. The ending macro ( Back to you Fred **F1RED de EI9KF**) will instruct the program to transmit the complete exchange when you are finished and ready.

Macros, are written which either send immediately or which don’t put the radio into Tx. When writing a macro you need to know how you will use it in relations to this. It is not easy to insert text into a macro while it is transmitting. To do this you need to be very fast at your typing! Best to have a free form Start and Finish macro and some filler sentences with standard phrases to place in between.

The best way to get into conversation with a contact is to ask questions. Consider having some Question macros in this Free Form group.

When did you get your first license?
Are you active in contests?
When did you start PSK31?
Do you use cw?
What speed do you do? How did you manage to learn? do you have any tips?
What do you do when you are not on the radio?
Are you married?
Have you any children?

Have some interesting facts on yourself in a macro that could get a conversation going…

“I live on top of a hill on east coast of Ireland near the sea
I have a small wind turbine that makes most of our electricity
The holy well of St Brigid is nearby
I live close to the border with Northern Ireland and can see both ‘countries‘ when I look out the window.” (This is all one macro – one mouse click)

When in ‘conversation’ don’t worry about typing errors or spelling mistakes. While you can backspace and delete the error before it is transmitted (if you are fast enough) -it is really not necessary as most hams will be able to figure out your original meaning. If you do backspace, note that the ‘backspace’ is a PSK character, so you can even erase on the other stations screen after the letter has been transmitted ! When finished, press the Tx button or use the Finish macro.

Some programs allow the user to display graphically on a macro button whether the macro will transmit immediately or not. (DM780 and Fldigi, MultiPSK) This is really useful if you like to use freely typed text. You will identify -what I call - the ‘start’ and ‘finish’ macros easily.


Figure 6 Various macro button styles of differant programs

7. Utility Macros
-Macros can be created to control the radio. Command variables exist in many programs to – toggle squelch, lock/unlock Tx freq, set the frequency, set RTTY baud rate or CW speed, or even turn the rotor.
-Macros commands can be inserted to control the program itself – save the QSO to the log, send eQSL, or clear the Rx or Tx pane.
-Macros can be written that will execute other macros if certain conditions exist -ie if QSO before.
Under the grouping of Utility macros, I include those to send
Agn agn pse , or for partial repeats Hugh Hugh or Louth Louth


Conclusion
Macros offer an easy way of entering text into a QSO exchange when using digital modes such as PSK31 or RTTY. Time should be spent planning the content of macros. Control buttons should be displayed according to the part of the QSO in which the text will be used. Good planning leads to ease of use when operating. Operators should avoid lengthy banal macros and enter free-text into a QSO. Try and make an exchange interesting and personal. Time spend studying the range of macro commands and variables available in a particular program will greatly increase the operators abilities and enhance their enjoyment when using these modes.



From EI9Kf Hugh Bradley



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