Chirp Software for Editing
Channels in VHF/UHF Radios
This article is for blind and vision-impaired amateur radio operators interested in using Chirp to edit channel information stored in VHF/UHF radios. Chirp is a free programming tool developed and distributed by Dan Smith, KK7DS, for Windows, Linux, and MacOS operating systems.
The website has a "growing list" of radio models that Chirp supports. The software version 0.1.12 works with radios produced by eight different companies. For this review I used a Wouxun KG-UVD1P radio to test both version 0.1.11 and the beta version of Chirp released 4/26/2011.
The website is clear and well-organized. It includes frequently-asked questions, and it has a professional-quality system for reporting and tracking problems and feature requests.
What Chirp Does
Chirp is a programming tool designed to edit most of the settings stored in the channel memory of UHF/VHF radios. Chirp can also create new channels on the Wouxun radio, but that capability might depend on the radio.
Blind and vision-impaired hams can use Chirp to make programming changes that are not accessible via a small radio display screen. Also, editing an existing channel with Chirp is often more convenient than deleting and reprogramming a channel using internal radio menus.
What Chirp Will Not Do
Chirp does not support all functions and features of every radio. It is not designed to replace the internal menus for configuring functions such as the squelch level and VOX. It does not display or edit DTCS codes for squelch control of received signals. It can display and edit receiving CTCSS tones (TSQL mode) for some radios, but not for my Wouxun radio.
Choosing What To Display
Starting with the 4/26/2011 beta version of Chirp, there are two choices for how Chirp displays transmitted CTCSS access tones and DTCS codes:
1. Hide Inactive Data. Dan Smith, KK7DS, added this option in the View Menu so blind and vision-impaired hams can read from the Chirp window more easily. For example with this option, stored CTCSS tones and DTCS codes are hidden for "No Tone" mode channels. The "Hide Inactive Data" option is not in v. 0.1.11, but the current beta version can be downloaded from the website.
2. Show Inactive Data (default setting). In most radios you can program each channel with a CTCSS access tone and a DTCS code for future use. Transmission of the tone or code can then be turned on or off "in the field" using a control on the radio. (Wouxun radios are an exception—stored CTCSS tones and DTCS codes are always active.) If you choose "Show Inactive Data," the stored CTCSS and DTCSS data are displayed whether or not the channel is programmed to open in a mode that uses them. Note that Show Inactive Data causes Chirp to display meaningless numbers in the CTCSS and DTCS columns of channels with no programmed tone or code.
Figure 1 shows the Chirp program window for a Wouxun KG-UVD1P radio when "Hide Inactive Data" is selected. (A detailed description of the Figure is in the article on using Chirp with a screen reader.)
Figure 1. Chirp with "Hide Inactive Data" selected.
Figure 2 shows the channel data with "Hide Inactive Data" deselected. Every channel has a tone and DTCS code listed, but only the tone listed for Channel 3 and the DTCS code for Channel 5 are active.
Figure 2. Chirp with "Hide Inactive Data" not selected.
To edit a channel select it, click on a column, and you either choose an option from the drop-down menu or type the entry, depending on the column. Save the edited file to your PC as a backup, and load it into the radio memory (Radio → Upload to Radio).
In most cases, the editor in Chirp will be all you need, but in case you have a very large file, Chirp can export it to a spreadsheet, where scripts and formulas can be used for editing and data-extraction.
Chirp does not eliminate the need for internal radio menus, but it makes channel editing much easier and accessible to blind and vision-impaired hams. A separate article describes how to use it with a screen reader. It supports multiple radio models from multiple manufacturers. From a computer security perspective, Chirp's professional-quality system for reporting and tracking problems is reassuring. All 31 VirusTotal scans of Chirp are negative.
Thanks to Dan Smith, KK7DS, for helpful answers to my questions. He also created the "Hide Inactive Data" option (in the current beta version) to make Chirp easier for blind and vision-impaired hams to use.
Peter DeNeef, AE7PD, is an Advanced Class amateur radio operator in the U.S. This website has no ads or conflicts of interest.
Email: HamRadioAndVision "at" gmail "dot" com
Related Article: Wouxun Programing Software