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I’ve created this unofficial user guide for ARRL’s Logbook of The World to supplement the help available from the LoTW site. It is a work-in-progress that in places refers to Logger32 simply because that’s the logging software I use. Feedback and additional content is very welcome.


Quick links

  1. LoTW New User Guide - get going on LoTW with a gentle guide for beginners
  2. Downloading LoTW confirmations using the LoTW function
  3. Using LoTW - some Hinson tips to make the best of it
  4. Download your whole log from LoTW in an emergency
  5. Apply for DXCC awards with LoTW confirmations and maybe QSL cards
  6. A wishlist for LoTW enhancements - small tweaks that would make a big difference


LoTW New User Guide

Click to download the guide

Back to quick links


Downloading LoTW confirmations

There are a few poorly-worded and confusing options when generating confirmations from LoTW using <Your QSOs > tab, <Download report >.

LoTW downloader

To figure out what they really mean, I generated reports with and without each of the options ticked, comparing the same confirmed QSO records between the ADIF files. This is what I have ascertained so far ...

  1. The QSLs received since date lets us download confirmations recently received in order to maintain our local records. Enter the date numerically with hyphen separators as shown (an ISO 8601 format). I believe LoTW uses UTC dates throughout, including here.
     
  2. Selecting from the drop-down list offered at Your Call Sign lets us extract confirmations for QSOs made with any one of our callsigns, or all of them (the -Any- selection).
     
  3. With neither of the two Include ... options ticked, the ADIF records contain these basic QSO tags and data fields - mostly as specified in the ADIF standard plus some APP_LoTW_ fields defined specifically for LoTW use:
    • APP_LoTW_OWNCALL : this has the same data as STATION_CALLSIGN in and hence is redundant: it is deprecated, included at present for backwards compatibility with outdated loging programs.
    • STATION_CALLSIGN: the callsign I used on-air when making the QSOs.
    • CALL: the callsign of the station I contacted, my QSO partner.
    • BAND: the wavelength of the band on which our QSO was made, in metres e.g. 80M (with an SI non-compliant capital M, as per the ADIF specification).
    • FREQ: my transmitter frequency for the QSO (if specified), in MHz with 10 Hz resolution .
    • FREQ_RX : my receiver frequency for the QSO, in other words my QSO partner’s FREQ (if specified, and if different to the FREQ as in split or cross-band operation), in MHz with 10 Hz resolution.
    • MODE: the amateur mode (modulation type/protocol) for the QSO, specifically one of the standard modes listed in the ADIF standard. If a novel/nonstandard mode was used, this field is replaced by APP_LoTW_MODE containing the claimed mode.
    • APP_LoTW_MODEGROUP: specifies that the QSO qualifies for the CW, PHONE or DATA DXCC awards (as well as, potentially, the MIXED, single band and other DXCCs).
    • QSO_DATE : the UTC date of the QSO in YYYYMMDD format (without hyphens).
    • APP_LoTW_RXQSO : the UTC date and timestamp at which the QSO record [whether mine or my QSO partner’s is unclear] was received and processed by LoTW, adding it to the QSO database. The LoTW documentation also refers to QSOs being “updated” but I am unclear whether that is even possible for us users, or just database administrators.
    • TIME_ON : the approximate UTC time that the QSO took place in HHMMSS format. LoTW uses the QSO start times submitted by both parties to a QSO with some leeway in the matching algorithm to allow for inaccurate clocks or slight differences of opinion on the exact point at which the QSO was made. TIME_OFF, the UTC time at the end of the QSO, appears not to be used.
    • APP_LoTW_QSO_TIMESTAMP: the UTC date and time of the QSO in ISO-8601 format. This information is redundant, combining QSO_DATE with TIME_ON .
    • QSL_RCVD : a “Y” means yes, the QSO has been matched in LoTW and hence is confirmed on LoTW. This is obviously implied by its presence in an ADIF file of LoTW confirmations, but is stated explicitly to eliminate any lingering doubt and uncertainty.
    • QSLRDATE: the UTC date on which the LoTW export of matched QSOs was made.
    • APP_LoTW_RXQSL : the date and timestamp at which LoTW matched my and my QSO partner‘s signed-and-uploaded QSO records.
       
  4. Ticking <Include QSL details > adds the following ADIF fields to the basic list, mostly relating to where my QSO partner was at the time we made our QSO:
    • DXCC : my QSO partner’s 3-digit DXCC entity code, as specified on the DXCC list from ARRL that was current at the time the QSO took place. Although not listed, entity code 0 indicates that the QSO did not count for any DXCC award (e.g. /MM stations).
    • COUNTRY : the name of my QSO partner’s DXCC entity as specified on the official ARRL DXCC list that was current at the time the QSO took place, if any.
    • APP_LoTW_DXCC_ENTITY_STATUS : states whether my QSO partner’s DXCC entity remains “Current” or has since been “Deleted” from the DXCC list after the QSO was made.
    • PFX : the QSO partner’s CQ WPX prefix. According to the WPX rules, the PFX value may not be literally the initial/prefix part of the QSO partner’s callsign: “A PREFIX is the letter/numeral combination which forms the first part of the amateur call. Examples: N8, W8, WD8, HG1, HG19, KC2, OE2, OE25, LY1000, etc. Any difference in the numbering, lettering, or order of same shall count as a separate prefix. A station operating from a DXCC entity different from that indicated by its call sign is required to sign portable. The portable prefix must be an authorized prefix of the country/call area of operation. In cases of portable operation, the portable designator will then become the prefix. Example: N8BJQ operating from Wake Island would sign N8BJQ/KH9 or N8BJQ/NH9. KH6XXX operating from Ohio must use an authorized prefix for the U.S. 8th district (/W8, /AD8, etc.). Portable designators without numbers will be assigned a zero (0) after the second letter of the portable designator to form the prefix. Example: PA/N8BJQ would become PA0. All calls without numbers will be assigned a zero (0) after the first two letters to form the prefix. Example: XEFTJW would count as XE0. Maritime mobile, mobile, /A, /E, /J, /P, or other license class identifiers do not count as prefixes.”  By the way, the final sentence means the Pfx value for a station such as UW5EJX/MM is UW5: simply ignore the suffixes stated. I don’t know how arbitrary suffixes such as /LH (meaning ‘lighthouse’, not Norway) are interpreted by LoTW or CQ WPX.
    • APP_LoTW_2xQSL : a “Y” means this confirms a two-way QSO using the stated mode (as required under the WAS rules). An “N” means it was a cross-mode QSO.
    • IOTA: the IOTA island group reference claimed (determined and specified but not thoroughly validated) by the QSO partner (if any - the field is not present in every confirmed QSO record unless all our QSOs are with island stations).
    • GRIDSQUARE : the ’Maidenhead locator’ of the QSO partner, claimed by the QSO partner when the log was signed and uploaded (most likely using TQSL).
    • STATE : the QSO partner’s claimed ‘primary administrative subdivision’.
    • CNTY : the QSO partner’s claimed ‘secondary administrative subdivision’.
    • CQZ : the QSO partner’s claimed 2-digit CQ zone, otherwise the CQ zone inferred by LoTW using other location information (in which case, a comment is added to explain).
    • ITUZ : the QSO partner’s claimed 2-digit ITU zone, otherwise the ITU zone inferred by LoTW using other location information (with comment).
       
  5. Likewise, ticking < Include QSO station details (“my” station location fields) > adds the following ADIF fields to the basic list, mostly relating to where I was at the time we made our QSOs:
    • MY_DXCC : the numeric code for my DXCC entity at the time of the QSO, from the official DXCC list that was current at that point, or 0 if not valid for DXCC.
    • MY_COUNTRY : the name of my DXCC entity at the time of the QSO, from the official DXCC list that was current at that point, if any.
    • APP_LoTW_MY_DXCC_ENTITY_STATUS : states whether my DXCC entity remains “Current” or has been “Deleted” from the official DXCC list since the QSO was made.
    • MY_IOTA : my claimed IOTA island group reference (if any).
    • MY_GRIDSQUARE : my claimed ‘Maidenhead locator (if any).
    • MY_CQ_ZONE : my claimed 2-digit CQ zone, otherwise my CQ zone inferred by LoTW using other location information (with comment).
    • MY_ITU_ZONE : my claimed 2-digit ITU zone, otherwise my ITU zone inferred by LoTW using other location information (with comment).
       
  6. The ADIF file header has a little more information:
    • ARRL Logbook of the World Status Report Generated at [date and time stamp] for [my main LoTW callsign - the one I login with]
    • Query:  QSL ONLY: YES - hinting that we can run essentially the same database query interactively through the <Your QSOs> tab in LoTW, ticking the <Show confirmed QSOs only> option.
    • QSL RX SINCE : [UTC date] 00:00:00 (user supplied value) - in fact, I only supplied the date, LoTW has unilaterally added the time. Both are UTC.
    • PROGRAMID is “ LoTW”, the name of the program that generated the ADIF file.
    • APP_LoTW_LASTQSL is the UTC date and timestamp for the most recent confirmation in the file.
    • APP_LoTW_NUMREC is the count of QSO records in this ADIF file. This can be used to check that the downloaded data file does indeed contain the specified number of QSOs, and has not been truncated or corrupted in transit.
       
  7. The APP_LOTW_ fields are unique to LoTW and not part of the current ADIF standard. Some - but not all - of them have explanatory comments tacked on the end of the data using a double slash followed by arbitrary mixed-case text until the less-than symbol delineating the name of the next field e.g. <APP_LoTW_RXQSO:19>2022-01-08 02:09:07 // QSO record inserted/modified at LoTW.
     
  8. The ADIFs are not digitally signed, hence their integrity cannot be guaranteed. I could easily add, edit or remove QSOs. I consider this an opportunity lost for a PKI system that aims to ensure a high level of data integrity.

Back to quick links


Using LoTW - some Hinson tips

  • Make time to read the official help , online on the LoTW website plus offline in TQSL and your logging programs. A lot of effort goes into writing and proofreading it. Most queries are answered somewhere in the help. Learn how to search for stuff.
     
  • Upload new QSOs to LoTW as often as you can , ideally at least once a month. If you are very active, upload new QSOs more often and check your LoTW confirmations at the same time. Uploading QSOs to LoTW is, in effect, an off-site log backup but only for the essential QSO details (date, time, call, mode, frequency/band). Other QSO info (such as name, QTH, reports, notes etc.) is callously discarded by the LoTW import routine.
     
  • Via N2AMG’s L32 Log Synch utility, Logger32 can automatically sign and upload individual QSOs to LoTW as soon as they are logged provided you don’t mind the slight delay as the focus skips between various windows during the process: I prefer to wait for a suitable opportunity to trigger manual uploads when it suits me.
     
  • Keep an eye on the QSO and confirmation counts (top right of most LoTW screens). As LoTW usage spreads, the proportion of QSOs that are confirmed via LoTW is gradually increasing. A majority of my QSOs are confirmed via LoTW.
     
  • If you alter QSOs in your log (for example correcting broken callsigns when QSL cards arrive), you need to re-upload the changed QSO records to LoTW . While you might be able to extract the changed QSOs and just upload them, an easier way is periodically to re-upload your entire log. LoTW automatically ignores exact duplicate QSOs. However, please don’t do this too often (no more than, say, once a year) as it wastes computer power and slows the LoTW systems down a bit. Be nice. When it asks, you’ll need to tell TQSL to sign and upload the duplicate QSOs.
     
  • Use the award status table to check on your progress towards DXCC, WAS, VUCC, CQ WPX or CQ WAZ awards. Use the quick QSL report to check for new ones, recently confirmed.
     
  • Make lots of digimode QSOs . Unlike back in the 70’s when I got my ticket and Creeds were holding well-appointed shack desks firmly to the floor, almost all digmoders today are using computers to send and receive the digital modes. Digimoders are mostly logging on computer and a good proportion of them use online logging and award systems, such as LoTW.
     
  • Take part in lots of contests ! Contest stations are more likely to use computers and upload their logs to LoTW, partly to cut down on the QSL chores.
     

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Download your log from LoTW

If you need to download your entire log from LoTW, I recommend the neat online LoTW log download utility by K1MU. Simply click the Submit button without entering any specific QSO criteria or selections, and wait patiently for the extract and download to complete. Downloading took about 1 minute per 10k QSOs last time I tried it.

This is a last resort though: LoTW only stores the basic, minimal QSO details. It does not store your notes, reports, QSL/award status (other than the few awards it supports) etc. Trust me, it is much better to make your own regular off-line and off-site log backups. Even if you only do a backup once a year, that at least gives you a fighting chance of retrieving your detailed log to a point within the past year, recovering minimal QSO details from then until now.

Have you backed up your log lately?
Do it NOW!

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Applying for awards

The LoTW system can automatically track your progress towards ARRL’s DXCC, VUCC and WAS awards, plus CQ Magazine’s WPX and WAZ awards, but first you need to configure it by setting up your award accounts in LoTW.

The DXCC rules allow you to accumulate QSLs from more than one personal callsign (for example if you use a personal contest or vanity call but not a shared/club call), provided all the QSOs are made from the same DXCC country. Under WAS rules, all QSOs must be made from within 50 miles of the same location: if you move more than 50 miles away, you have to re-start your WAS claims from the new QTH. Configuring LoTW therefore involves telling the system where you operate from.

When LoTW’s reports indicate that you have enough QSLs for an award, you can prepare and submit your application through LoTW. Here are the steps for DXCC:

  1. Login to LoTW as usual.
  2. Open the Awards tab.
  3. Select the DXCC account and open the familiar DXCC summary report showing the credits already granted, any claims in progress, and any confirmations not yet claimed.
  4. Click Application on the left menu.
  5. Click Check All if you want credit for all the new LoTW confirmations, then Continue.
  6. Complete the rest of the application, providing your credit card number to pay for the certificates/endorsements, and submit it for processing.
  7. Wait a day or three for an email to say the application has been processed.
  8. Wait a week or three for an envelope from ARRL HQ containing your certificates and endorsement stickers.
  9. Proudly display them in your shack and show off to your DX pals. You deserve to gloat!

QSOs that have only been confirmed on QSL cards can also be credited towards DXCC awards but it requires some administration:

  1. Determine which QSL cards you need to find. It helps if you have systematically recorded receipt of all your QSL cards in your logging software, then sorted and stored them neatly in your filing system. Hopefully your logging software can identify which DXCC entitites you have contacted and had confirmed on QSL cards but not yet on LoTW [hint: Logger32 can!].
  2. Locate the relevant QSL cards in your shoe boxes and card albums. Check that the cards do indeed show all the QSO information required for the DXCC award, and that they are readable and in good, original condition - otherwise look for better ones.
  3. List the applicable QSOs in your online DXCC application. To avoid having to type all the QSO details into the application form, can your logging software generate an ADIF file listing the selected QSOs for you to upload? [Yes, Logger32 can do this too!]
  4. Complete the application, prepare and sign the paperwork and send it along with the QSL cards for checking, either to the DXCC Desk at ARRL HQ or to your local ARRL-authorized DXCC card checker ... such as me if you are in NZ (please email me first for instructions).
  5. Wait patiently by your inbox for good news! With QSL cards to be checked manually, the process can take a few weeks, perhaps months if the DXCC Desk is already piled high and busy processing end-of-year applications from DXers around the world. LoTW-only DXCC applications normally zip through in just a few hours/days since the QSO validation is already done.

Unfortunately, our LoTW confirmations cannot presently be used for other awards ... but ARRL claims to be working on a new version of LoTW as part of “Project X” - a cloud-based re -engineering of LoTW (including the back-end systems for administering DXCC and other awards) with usability and functionality improvements such as ‘a dashboard’. The global DXCC/LoTW community is waiting very patiently for any hint of actual progress aside from promotional fluff and good intentions expressed by ARRL’s CEO at the end of 2020 (!).

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LoTW wishlist

Here are two changes to LoTW I’d quite like ARRL to make:

  1. Add more awards such as IOTA and contests such as CQ WW. ARRL would do us all a service by opening up the system and so encouraging even more hams to use LoTW.
    • A relatively simple but extensible option would be for LoTW to verify, digitally-sign and return ADIF logs submitted by authorized users (e.g. contest adjudicators and award admins) , identifying which of the QSOs have been matched.
    • Making use of ARRL’s investment in the PKI, LoTW could digitally sign its reports , allowing others to confirm that the reports have not been tampered with or fabricated. The reports could then be used for all manner of awards and contests without ARRL having to cater for each one individually.
       
  2. Provide a bands and modes x countries grid similar to Club Log’s. [That excellent suggestion comes from WB5EIN - tnx Larry, good idea! The LoTW Awards reports are functional but not pretty ... like me. Unlike me, they can be significantly enhanced by logging and award tracking software such as Logger32.]

Please contact me if there are other ideas you would like to add to the list, or to comment on my suggestions.

Notwithstanding my little wish-list, I am very grateful to ARRL and the DXCC Desk for making this facility freely available to hams worldwide. Thanks!

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Hawke’s Bay
North Island
New Zealand

39o 39’ South x 176o 37’ East

Locator RF80HL

260m ASL

IOTA OC-036

CQ zone 32

ITU zone 60

A1 Ops
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Copyright © 2022 Gary Hinson ZL2iFB
Please email me for permission to republish.