N1MM Logger Morse Contest Notes

by Rob Locher

This document serves to remind me of all the little things that I forget about playing in a Morse contest with N1MM Logger.  This is a ham radio thing, for those who don't know.

Space Bar

Get in the habit of using the space bar to get between the different text entry fields as quickly as possible.  Yes, Tab and Shift-Tab and the mouse still work, but switching from the keyboard to the mouse and back is terribly slow, and Tab and Shift-Tab are stupid.  The space bar goes to the field needed next most of the time, and is much faster in general.

Control Keys

I like to use the mouse as little as possible in a contest.

Ctrl+N Adds a quick note to the current or previous contact.
Ctrl+M Turns Enter Sends Messages on or off (see below)
Ctrl+U Increments the serial number.  This is very handy if you're trying to work a rare station, and you're keeping track of his serial number as he works other stations.
Ctrl+Y Edits the previous contact.  This opens a dialog that gives access to all the fields in the record, including the "note" field and other normally-hidden fields.
Ctrl+O Changes the operator.  Very important for multi-operator efforts!  Type this the moment you stand up when handing the station over to another operator.
Ctrl+K Pops up a dialog to send arbitrary code out the Winkey USB.  Not as handy as the paddles for "73 EE", but great for a longer string.

Function Keys

For some silly reason, if I haven't used N1MM Logger and the Winkey USB in a while to play in a Morse contest, I forget that the default function keys for a given contest are awful.  When I first try to use them, I'm a lid for a few contacts until I stop and fix the function keys.  For instance, F2 is normally set to give the exchange, but in CQ WPX CW (S&P mode) it skips "TU 5NN" and just gives the serial number, which throws the other stations off their rhythms.

It's essential to not screw up ESM (Enter Sends Messages), which assumes that certain function keys behave a certain way:

Function KeyExpected Function
F2 Exchange
F3 End of QSO
F4 My Call
F5 His Call
F8 Again

That leaves F7, F9, F10, F11, and F12 to be whatever you want.  I found it very helpful to set up a function key for "DE W7GH 5NN {Exch}", for the case in which someone gets my call as W7GS, which is a frequent error.  (If they really screw up my call, it's best to not give the exchange until they get it right.)

Enter Sends Messages

First, read the Official Documentation, which explains ESM.  That document leads some readers to think ESM is easy to use right away, but it's not quite that simple.  For instance, in S&P mode, after you type his call and press <space>, the very next time you hit <Enter>, your exchange will be sent.  What I tended to do was to deviate from the script.  For instance, many times I've had to ask the other op for a repeat of his number, and then I sent my exchange with F2, and then I hit <Enter> to log the QSO, except then ESM tried to send the exchange again!  I got so that I could hit <Esc> to abort sending code very quickly.

ESM works best when the operator knows exactly what will happen in any given situation when the <Enter> key is pressed.  Of course the only practical way to learn is by doing.  The on-screen label for the function key that N1MM Logger will use when <Enter> is next pressed is highlighted, so get in the habit of paying attention to that, and learn the program's habits as quickly as possible.  There is also a setting to tell the program whether the station is a big gun or a little pistol, which affects the program's assumptions.  In ESM mode, it's best to use <Enter> as much as possible, but the function keys still work, and the operator should memorize the function keystrokes needed to recover when the QSO departs from the usual script.  For instance, if the operator is in run mode and the other call sign is miscopied, the way to fix it is to space over to the call sign window and fix the call, and then press F5,F2 to send his call and the exchange, and then the next <Enter> sends TU and logs the QSO.  Being a newbie contester myself, I still need to use that F5,F2 combination frequently, ha ha!

Don't forget that ESM mode can be toggled on and off with Ctrl+M if the operator isn't comfortable.

N1MM Logger has so many clever functions, but what a learning curve for the fancier ones...