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TideCal Documentation

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TideCal is a tide computing and filtering program for Mac OS X based on the GPL licensed XTide software which is able to produce calendar compatible files for iCal and Palm Desktop.  You can download it here.

Suppose you like to hike to the lighthouse at Dungeness Spit on the North Olympic Peninsula. The walk can be difficult when the tides are high. There isn't much beach, and what beach there is will be rocky and hard going. The round trip walk takes at least three hours, and usually closer to four. If you want to reach the lighthouse around low tide, you have to start an hour and a half to two hours before low tide. You may also have other constraints, like driving time or dinner engagements.

The traditional way to pick a good day to try for the hike is to scan the tide tables looking for a low tide in the late morning or early afternoon. This can be tedious. Tide tables are boring. Computers should save you work, not give you work.

Screen Image of Tidecal

How To Use TideCal

With TideFinder, you start by specifying the location. There is a search facility which searches the XTide database and lets you choose a location from the search results. Then you set up the period for the calendar, for example, all of 2005, or the summer of 2006. Then comes the fun part, you can specify which tides and other information you want for your calendar:

TideFinder is based on XTide, but it uses the tide program, not the xtide program, so you do NOT need to have X Windows installed or running. The download includes a version of tide compiled for OS X.

Setting up TideCal

When you first start up TideCal, it should be able to find the tide program and harmonics.tcd file inside the unzipped package. If it does not, it will ask you to help find them. It will then run the tide program and build a list of all the tide stations in the database. If you have slipped in a new harmonics.tcd file, you can update this list by using the Update List button, but it is unlikely you will have to do so for some time.

The Location

The location menu usually contains all of the tide computing stations known to the software, so it is quite an awkward list. You can type a string into the Search For field and hit return and the menu will then only contain stations with names containing the string that you typed.

The Time Period

TideCal produces monthly calendars, so specify the starting month and ending month.

The High and Low Tides

You can individually select whether to include high and low tides using the checkboxes. The tide height conditions work rather sensibly, but the following table might help clarify things. Note that if both above and below heights are specified, the program does a logical OR in one case, but a logical AND in the other.

Tides Selected

Includes all tides.

Includes tides > above.

Includes tides < below.
above > below
Includes extreme tides which are either:
 tides > above or tides < below
(OR case).
above < below
Includes tides in the range:
above < tides < below
(AND case).

Tide Higher Than and Tide Lower Than

There are a number of different ways to search for tides:

Tide Times

Only tides between the two times specified are included in the calendar file. To include all tides, use the default setting of tides from midnight to midnight.

Other Astronomy

TideCal can also include other sun and moon related information:

Output File and Format

TideCal lets you specify the output file. If you haven't specified one when you start generating a calendar file, it will ask you for one. You can change the output file by clicking the Output Path button.

There is a pulldown menu for specifying the output format. Currently, the output formats include:

Compute Tides

Press this button to generate the calendar file. Then, double click that file in the Finder or explicitly import it into iCal or Palm Desktop and your calendar will be full of useful information. Start planning that next vacation or expedition now!

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