What is OpenCPN? FAQs

What is OpenCPN?

OpenCPN is a concise and robust Chart Plotter Navigating software program.

It is designed to be used continuously at the helm station of an underway ship or boat, allowing the operator to easily track their position on accurate chart images.

Additionally, OpenCPN can display tide and current predictions, as well as information on other suitably equipped vessels in the area. OpenCPN runs on a standard pc, or laptop. Supports Windows, Linux, and Mac OSX.


Why did you create this program?

As a full time cruiser, it became clear that most of the added features on other programs were useless for practical cruising. These eye candy features were resource hogs. I couldn't find a fast running no-nonsense program, so I developed one.

Is this just demo software?

No. OpenCPN is a complete and fully functioning program. This and future upgrades of this software will always be free to download without any gotchas.

Why should I use OpenCPN instead of ______?

A)  Its Open Source software, meaning among other things, that it's Free to Download and use. Escape the commercial paid upgrade treadmill.

B)  Its "concise," meaning that the feature set is optimized for daily use, and excess features (aka "bloatware") are not present. The application is thus smaller and faster, and will run acceptably on as little as a 300 mHz Pentium II Windows XP computer. Especially, it starts up and shuts down quickly.

Is it reliable for day to day use?

OpenCPN is currently at production release state. There are tens of thousands of active users. However, minor bugs may be expected. These do not affect normal operation of OpenCPN.

On a personal note, OpenCPN, has for years, been the full-time everyday navigator aboard M/V Dyad, our trawler catamaran, cruising from Newfoundland to the Bahamas.

I'm not techno savvy, is this easy to use?

Some familiarity with competitive products is assumed. Usage is fairly intuitive. OpenCPN.org provides detailed information about the program and its use. There's also an active forum.

How accurate is it?

Like all similar programs, OpenCPN's accuracy is dependent upon the accuracy of the positioning input device (e.g. GPS) and the underlying chart database. As for all such programs, OpenCPN does not remove the responsibility of the operator to LOOK OUT THE WINDOW.

And with that said, OpenCPN will plot the boat position to within about 100' of it's true position most of the time, which is the same accuracy as other chart navigation systems. OpenCPN will warn the user if the chart data accuracy does not allow for safe navigation.

Do I need GPS?

OpenCPN is optimized as an underway tool, so GPS data is necessary to allow boat position plotting. However, OpenCPN can be used without GPS for planning purposes, such as route and waypoint entry and time/distance calculations.

Where can I find the charts I need?

Find all the charts you need for your region at Office of Coast Survey; free nav chart downloads from NOAA. More chart sources listed at OpenCPN Chart Sources

Are there any plugins for OpenCPN?

Yes.  See OpenCPN Plugins and sQuiddio.