Main Control Panel
The SimSAGS hub and heart of your model. All the main functions of the application are called and controlled from here. The other windows just serve this control panel with portals for data input and output, but the Main Control Panel allows you to manage your projects, set your preferences and run your model. Specific parameters are accessed via the Parameter View and GIS inputs are identified in the GIS Control.
LayoutThe dominating features of the Main Control Panel are the main menu and toolbar and these are decribed in detail below; it is essentially one long toolbar, and that's why it's shaped like it is.
In addition to the menu and buttons you can see the information display that informs you about whatever is going on in the modelling software, the status bar, which tells you yet more about the simulation process, performance and current time, an icon and a trace file link. The trace file records whatever appears in the information display, ad nauseum, but it is useful for understanding the sequence of processes in the modelling software, as well as debugging your models if necessary. The trace file logging and its location is set via your Preferences. The logging option is reported at the trace file link (ON/OFF) which you can also click to view the trace file in notepad. This facility is also included under the Output menu.
When the modelling software is busy processing, intense processes include interpreting your GIS data, a progress bar appears to tell you how it's proceeding.
On starting to run a simulation the appearance of the Main Control Panel changes again. The progress bar is there to tell you how far to go with your simulation and the status bar tells you what the modelling software is doing, but also the status bar gains some compartments, how many depends on the options for information display set in your Preferences. Available are the simulation day, year and total iteration number, plus an optional report of process name which is a technical addition but useful in conjunction with the trace file when debugging your models. The time given is now how long the simulation has been running.
If you have chosen it, there is an animated icon that keeps going while the simulation is running, except when it is paused and another animated icon is shown.
Menus & Buttons: FileThe main toolbar buttons are grouped to reflect the main menu structure and off you quick access to your most frequently used and most useful features.
- NewStart up the system with a completely new set of default parameters.
- Open...Open your project files and troubleshoot problems.
- SaveSave your model parameters as a project file.
- Save As...Save a copy of your project file.
- ExitClose the program.
- MRUsQuick access to previously used projects. Just click to open.
Menus & Buttons: Edit
- Parameters ViewParameterize your model here. Set values for everything from animal number to Zimbabwean atmospheric pressure. There are plenty of security features to make sure that you don't accidently overwrite your data, plus an easy to navigate data tree. If that's not enough then check out the quick access history and search facilities. Need to find out more about a particular parameter? Check out the Parameters section in this guide.
- GIS ControlSpatial data is cool and looks pretty too! This is the GIS Control Panel. Import your GIS data into your model, tell it how to resample the data and even rescale it. Check that you're happy with every aspect of how the model is going to intepret your spatial data. Plenty of security features here too to make sure that your data is valid plus a method to translate your binary data into ascii grids for faster import times into the model.
- PreferencesThe model environment is very adaptable to your tastes so you can set your preferences for everything from showing the startup splash screen to the prompts to save your project changes when you exit. Other file handling options include automatic loading of your most recently used project and deleting cached output files in your simulation directory, but take care not delete your valuable model results. Switch your GIS inputs on or off, and also set the frequency for plotting your graphs and grids. Finally, request the model to email you with it's results when it's finished the simulation. Cool!
Menus & Buttons: Search
- FindIt may appear that there are a lot of input parameters for your model, but a) there isn't really - there is quite a limited set of core parameters and a lot of parameters for 'tweaking', and b) the model does a lot. The Parameter View window makes navigating through all the parameters easy. Even so, here's a search facility to hopefully speed things up a bit.
Menus & Buttons: View
- Output FolderQuick access to your simulation results. Specify where you want your model output to go via your settings in your Preferences.
- ToolbarShow and hide the Main Control Panel toolbar shown above. Perhaps your screen resolution does allow you to have all the modelling software's features visible. No worries, you can access all of the commands programmed into the toolbar buttons shown with the same icons on the main menu.
- Animated LogoShow and hide the Main Control Panel animated logo.
- Animated SpindleShow and hide the Main Control Panel animated spindle.
- Progress BarShow and hide the Main Control Panel progress bar.
Menus & Buttons: Modules
- Modules InventoryThe module inventory is a quick way to see what types of plants and animals you have in your model in addition to the default abiotic modules. The "Add New ..." buttons are quick ways to introduce new plants and animals into your model.
- Add New PlantAdding a plant type, typically another species, could not be easier. Just select the type you want and press OK. The new entry will be automatically inserted into the parameter list with a set of default parameters for the generic type that you can modify to make the new plant type different if there are already other types in your model.
- Add New AnimalAdding an animal type, typically another species, could not be easier. Just select the type you want and press OK. The new entry will be automatically inserted into the parameter list with a set of default parameters based on animal mass that you can modify to make the new animal type different if there are already other types in your model.
Menus & Buttons: Parameters
- TimeOpen the Time section of your model in the Parameters View.
- ClimateOpen the Climate section of your model in the Parameters View.
- SoilOpen the Soil section of your model in the Parameters View.
- PlantsOpen the Plants section of your model in the Parameters View.
- AnimalsOpen the Animals section of your model in the Parameters View.
- Site DetailsName your model site here. This isn't the project file name, but the internal name that you want to refer to your model by, so it could be a more detailed reference to your site. This is also where you can specify the area of your model site, for either the whole grid or for just the masked off area defined by your Site Area Mask GIS layer. Choose your units and the model will convert the value into hectares.
- TopographyOpen the Surface Topography window for a set of default topographic templates that you can use if you lack a Landscape Topography GIS layer, or if you need to check your data against a more controlled landscape form.
Menus & Buttons: GIS
- Site Area MaskThe model works within a square or rectangular grid, but that's not very realistic is it? So, you can define the exact shape of your site using a mask to include cells (cell mask value=1) or exclude cells (cell mask value=0). This deals with any inconsistancies from having partial data for cells outside the site area, and also makes the model run faster as it omits the excluded cells from the simulation process. Any combinations of cells are valid, i.e., it doesn't need to be a solid shape, instead of which you could have a discontinuous shape with 'islands'. The mask application level dictates which processes are regulated by the mask.
- Water/BomasDefine the location of drinking water for each of your animal populations / herds. Set the drinking dependency in the other animal parameters in the Parameters View window and load the GIS data into the Water Locator. Modify this distribution and save the resulting file as your new GIS input. The Water Locator will work with you to make sure that your water points are valid according to your site and your area mask.
- Landscape SurfaceOne of the many ways that you can check your data. First thing to do is take a look at it. Specify your Landscape Topography in the GIS Control then make sure it looks right here.
Menus & Buttons: Output
- Output SelectorEvery variable in the model is available for your output. Use this User-defined Output Selector to request your variables in your chosen sequence. Also get summary statistics summed over days, months and years.
- Graphics ControlBefore your simulations, book graphs and grids to automatically appear when the simulation starts by using this Graphics Control. You also have option for the graphs and grids to appear automatically tiled. Alternatively, open new graphs and grids on-the-fly during simulations using the Graphics menu on the Main Control Panel window. You could do this to find out which graphical outputs you need and then program them into this Graphics Control for automation.
- Animal PopulationsMonitor your simulation with these Animal Population tables. Make on-the-fly comparisons and keep tabs on intake and reproduction. Plenty of ways to extract your data, like ascii file dumps and graphs and grids.
- Output FolderQuick access to your simulation results. Specify where you want your model output to go via your settings in your Preferences.
- Show Trace FileView your model's processing history. The trace file records whatever appears in the information display of the Main Control Panel, ad nauseum, but it is useful for understanding the sequence of processes in the modelling software, as well as debugging your models if necessary. Activate your trace file in your Preferences.
Menus & Buttons: Simulation
- UpdateCommit all parameter values to your model. This is a good way to keep all aspects of the modelling environment integrated.
- RunRun a simulation using the current parameter settings in the modelling environment independent of your project file. Locks the Parameter View denying parameter editing.
- PausePause your simulation or update. Useful when modifying settings for your modelling environment and its windows.
- StopStop your simulation or update. Useful but be aware that you need to complete an update before all of your parameters are valid. Unlocks the Parameter View for parameter editing.
- InfoDisplay your project profile which holds summary information about your model.
Menus & Buttons: Graphics
- New GraphThe graphs here are a very powerful way to investigate complex relations within your system. Basically, plot anything against anything and watch the results update in real time. Before your simulations, book graphs to automatically appear when the simulation starts by using the Graphics Control or open new graphs on-the-fly during simulations using the Graphics menu on the Main Control Panel window.
- New GridAn amazing range of spatial data inputs and outputs are available for display as grids. This is a bit memory-hungry so perhaps limit your grids for your longer simulations once you have checked your data. Otherwise, enjoy the spatial patterns as they emerge before your eyes. Before your simulations, book grids to automatically appear when the simulation starts by using the Graphics Control or open new grids on-the-fly during simulations using the Graphics menu on the Main Control Panel window.
Menus & Buttons: Window
- Show/Hide Parameters ViewHide the visible Parameters View or show it if hidden.
- Show/Hide GIS ControlHide the visible GIS Control or show it if hidden.
- Tile GraphsArrange any open graph windows. Graph windows are optimally to fit your screen.
- Tile GridsArrange any open grid windows. Grid windows are optimally to fit your screen.
- Show AllBring all open windows to the front. Some windows may remain obscured. ALT+TAB is a good way to find windows when you have quite a few open.
- Close All GraphsClose any open graph windows.
- Close All GridsClose any open grid windows.
Menus & Buttons: Tools
- Simulation TimingsMonitor your simulation's progress, graded against it's own "best time", with this useful utility to monitor simulation timings, both elapsed time and projections for different stages of completion.
- Grid ViewerA great utility to parse your ascii grid outputs as both columns and flat grids. Animate the file sequences to recreate your simulation then generate another grid of the average cell values.
- Project EditorActually just opens your current project file in a text editor, usually Notepad. Mostly useful to see what the project file format is like but can be necessary if you need to carry out a manual edit if your project file gets corrupted by Windows.
- CalculatorQuick link to the Windows calculator.
- Registry EditorQuick link to Windows regedit. View the project file format in it's official format, but be careful of making edits direct to the System Registry.
- NotepadQuick link to Windows notepad. It's just useful to have hanging around.
Menus & Buttons: Help
- User GuideQuick link to the User Guide contents page.
- WindowsQuick link to the User Guide Windows section.
- ExamplesQuick link to the User Guide Examples section.
- ParametersQuick link to the User Guide Parameters section.
- OutputQuick link to the User Guide Output section.
- AnalysisQuick link to the User Guide Analysis section.
- About SimSAGS 4.1A little information about the modelling software.
Menus & Buttons: Web
- SimSAGS OnlineQuick link to the SimSAGS homepage.
- LPP OnlineQuick link to the website of the Livestock Production Programme.
- Wildlife Conservation SocietyQuick link to the website of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
- ILRIQuick link to the website of the International Livestock Research Institute.
- CSIROQuick link to the website of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
- ESPBQuick link to the website of the United Nations Development Programme in Mongolia, sponsors of the Eastern Steppes Biodiversity Project.
- UoEQuick link to the website of the University of Edinburgh.
- InovaGISQuick link to the website of the small community of people developing free software in Visual Basic, Delphi/Kylix and ASP for common, simple applications that use geographic information.
- Rock DirectQuick link to the website of the manufacturers of the Xtreme Ti performance desktop replacement laptop, the official SimSAGS4.1 computer.