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WSS Known Problems and Workarounds

Masthead for Web Soil Survey.

General Issues

Problem Explanation/Workaround

Web Soil Survey doesn’t work if you have popups blocked.

Web Soil Survey opens various content in a separate browser window (a popup):

  • The Home Page opens the Web Soil Survey application in a separate browser window.
  • By default, the Portable Document Format (PDF) files created by the Printable Version control and by Checkout on the Shopping Cart tab are opened in a separate browser window.
  • By default, Web Soil Survey opens external links in a separate browser window.
  • By default, Web Soil Survey opens the Data Available Status Map Portable Document Format (PDF) file in a separate browser window.

In order for this to work, you must allow the Web Soil Survey site ( to open popup windows.

You may have popup blocking enabled in your browser, and you may have other popup-blocking programs installed, either as browser add-ons, or as separate applications. Popup are often blocked by more than one application — in this case, you must configure all of them to allow the Web Soil Survey site ( to open popup windows.

In the Google Chrome browser, if popups are blocked, you will see the “blocked pop-up alert” icon at the right end of the address bar. This icon looks like a window with a red X marked on it as shown below.

Pop-up windows were blocked.

Click this icon, and you will see the following dialog:

Always allow pop-ups from Web Soil Survey.

Select “Always allow pop-ups from” and press Done.

If you cannot configure your software to allow popups, proceed as follows:

  1. Since the Home Page always opens Web Soil Survey in a separate window, instead of starting it from the home page, access the Web Soil Survey application directly with the following link:
  2. On the Web Soil Survey application page, click the Preferences link in the Navigation bar.
  3. Uncheck “Open Links and PDF files in External Windows”.
  4. Click the Save Preferences button.

Multiple instances of the same browser type (e.g., Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari) can’t run WSS at the same time.

Web Soil Survey maintains a session between the server and your browser. Multiple instances of the same browser type will share the session.

Workaround: If you wish to run simultaneous WSS sessions, use different browser types.

Errors or slow performance with large Soil Survey Areas

WSS allows you to set an entire Soil Survey Area as your Area of Interest (AOI). Some Soil Survey Areas contain a very large amount of data. This can cause slow performance and sometimes errors - most often when drawing maps or creating Portable Document Format (PDF) documents.

Workaround: Use the map AOI tools to define an AOI for a smaller area within the Soil Survey Area.

Application terminates with the message “Session data has become unavailable. Your session has been terminated.”

Web Soil Survey maintains a session between the server and your browser. In certain cases, your browser will be redirected to a different instance of the Web Soil Survey server from the one on which you established your session. This other server instance does not have access to your session data, and cannot do anything but terminate your session. This usually happens when your ISP changes your system’s apparent IP address. For example, America Online is known to change users’ IP addresses frequently, for security reasons. No workaround.

In Firefox, when first starting Web Soil Survey, you may see the message, “Your Web Soil Survey session has expired.”

In Firefox and other Gecko-based browsers, session cookies are shared among all browser windows. This means that every Gecko browser window open at the same time is associated with the same Web Soil Survey session. It also means that if you do not logout from Web Soil Survey, and simply let your session time out, the next time you start Web Soil Survey, the application will notify you that your previous session has expired.

By contrast, in Internet Explorer session cookies are only shared among browser windows started from the same browser window (using the File menu and then choosing New Window, for example). Thus when you start Web Soil Survey in a new Internet Explorer browser window, it will be assigned a new session cookie.

Workaround: When you are done with Web Soil Survey, click the Logout link in the navigation bar. Or if you do see the “Your Web Soil Survey session has expired” message, simply refresh the browser to start over.

In Firefox, when saving any Preferences and exiting the browser, when you re-enter the FireFox browser, the Preferences revert back to the default values.

Workaround: Close all Firefox browser sessions and restart Web Soil Survey in a new Firefox instance.

Area of Interest and Quick Navigation

Problem Explanation/Workaround

Sometimes a Web Soil Survey (WSS) Uniform Resource Locator (URL) in the Link bib cannot be saved as a Favorite in Internet Explorer.

Normally, in Internet Explorer, you can right-click the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) in the Link bib and save it as a Favorite by clicking “Add to Favorites...”.

If the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is too long, when you click Add from the Add to Favorites dialog, you may see the error “The name you have entered for the favorite is too long.” If this happens, just replace the URL in the “Name:” text input with a suitable title for the Favorite.

If the URL is even longer, nothing will happen when you click the “Add to Favorites...” menu item. This is a bug in Internet Explorer.

  1. Right-click the URL and click “Copy Shortcut”.
  2. From the Favorites menu at the top of the browser, click “Add to Favorites...”. Give the Favorite a suitable name. Click Add. This will add a favorite for the default Web Soil Survey URL.
  3. From the Favorites menu, right-click the Favorite you just added, and click “Properties”.
  4. In the Web Document tab, in the “URL:” text input, paste the URL you saved in the first step. Click OK.

If you save a Web Soil Survey Uniform Resource Locator (URL) (with AOI, location, etc.) as a hyperlink in a Microsoft Word document, clicking the link opens Web Soil Survey in a browser, but ignores the parameters.

This is caused by an unfortunate interaction between Microsoft Word (or other Microsoft Office applications), the web browser, and the Web Soil Survey application. When you open Web Soil Survey with a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) containing AOI, location, etc., Web Soil Survey interprets the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) query parameters on the server, and then redirects to the normal Web Soil Survey URL. Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint follow this redirection, and only then invoke the default browser to display the link. But the browser starts Web Soil Survey in a new session, and the session in which the query parameters were set is no longer available.

Workaround: Instead of clicking the hyperlink, copy and paste it into your browser’s address bar.

In Safari on Windows, if you paste a Web Soil Survey URL into the address field, using the Paste context menu item, Safari ignores the URL.

This is a bug in Safari on Windows. This is not a problem in Safari on Macintosh. Workarounds:

  1. Paste using CTRL-V (instead of the Paste context menu item), then press Return.
  2. Paste (using the Paste context menu item or CTRL-V), then type a space after the URL in the address field, then press Return.

Navigate by Hydrologic Unit does not work in areas outside the contiguous United States.

No workaround.

Navigating to Alaska gives an “Invalid location” error.

Because of problems with the 180 degree West Longitude line, some choices for State and County in the Quick Navigation State and County form result in “Invalid location” errors.

In particular, the following do not work correctly:

  • the state of Alaska
  • Aleutians West County, Alaska

See also the known problem “Errors crossing the 180 degree West Longitude line” at the following link: Errors crossing the 180 degree West Longitude line.

For Aleutians West County, Alaska, because it spans the 180 degree West Longitude line, No workaround.

Quick Navigation to the Bureau of Land Management then choosing Alaska and then choosing Anchorage gives a “Cannot navigate beyond longitude 180 degree or -180 degree” error.

The Anchorage BLM office covers an area from the Aleutian Islands to far southeast Alaska, which is an invalid extent for Web Soil Survey, as currently implemented. No workaround.

Interactive Map

Problem Explanation/Workaround

Errors crossing the 180 degree West Longitude line.

You will see “Invalid location” errors when you zoom out too far, or when you zoom to a location that crosses the 180 degree West Longitude line, for example, Aleutians West County, Alaska. No workaround.

Map has missing imagery and shows “no camera” picture instead.

Imagery missing on a map has missing Bing tiles.

No imagery is available at this location. No workaround.

Poor “Topographic Map” image quality at large scales. The “Topographic Map” background layer is best suited for display at scales of 1:18,000 and smaller. If you use a larger scale (i.e., choose a larger scale or zoom in too far) the layer appears blurry. Workaround: Choose different layers in the Legend to provide similar information.
Map Legend “View Layer Descriptions” and “Edit Layer Properties” don't work in USDA CCE Firefox. These features do not work in Firefox for USDA employees. This is because the Firefox "Disable or replace context menus" option is disabled on USDA systems. The Web Soil Survey context menu is there, but it's underneath the Firefox context menu. Workaround: Use Internet Explorer or Chrome.

Soil Data Explorer

Problem Explanation/Workaround
When AOI is in multiple soil survey areas, one of which has no soil maps, Crop Yield ratings may result in the error “Cannot generate a map.” Workaround: Create an AOI for the area within each of the soil survey areas separately.
When your AOI is in a soil survey area that has no soil maps, if you change your map unit selection, ratings you’ve already run will not take into account your changed map unit selection. For example, create the AOI, select the map units you are interested in (in the AOI Properties panel), then run a Crop Yield rating. In Basic Options, you can select from the crops that are relevant to the map units you have selected. If you later change your map unit selection, the Crop Yield rating form will not update and show the crops relevant to your new list of map units. Workaround: Create your AOI again, and select the map units you need in the first place, or select all map units.
Using Internet Explorer, Spanish Soil Report names are displayed incorrectly.

Workaround: This is a problem with Internet Explorer. One workaround is to use a different browser (such as Chrome or Firefox).

Another workaround is to refresh Internet Explorer (F5 key). This works for the report names and the reports themselves, but not for the report description (“View Description”).

Printable Maps and Reports

Problem Explanation/Workaround
The browser starts up Adobe Reader, but the Portable Document Format (PDF) document is not visible. In some cases, Printable Version or Checkout on the Shopping Cart tab creates a Portable Document Format (PDF), and opens it in Adobe Reader in a browser window, but the document is not visible. Workaround: Refresh the browser window containing the Adobe Reader.
Labels are omitted, appear to be garbled, or appear to be missing characters (and the created maps are at scale of 1:50,000 or greater). In extremely rare cases labels may be incorrectly shown in “Printable Version” or “Custom Soil Resource Reports” maps: labels for a few mapunit and rating polygons are either incomplete (for example, “ADE” is drawn in place of the correct “ABCDEF”), overstruck (think of writing an “A” and then writing an “X” over it) or completely missing. During testing the problem was only seen in a small region of NV708 (Great Basin National Park, Nevada). This problem will continue to be researched; if you encounter it please report the “Link”, printed scale (or “Fit to Page”), and sheet size (“A”, “B”, etc.) to the Soils Hotline (send email to the following email address:; your assistance will be greatly appreciated. Workaround: Re-create the document (by again clicking on “Printable Version” and “View” OR “Shopping Cart (Free)”, “Check Out”, “Get Now”/“Download Later” and “OK” as appropriate). Examine the resultant document for accuracy; you may need to repeat these steps several times.
The printable map doesn’t show what was in the interactive map. Sometimes not all the map layers that are visible in the interactive map are visible in the printable map. For example, Water Features lines, Transportation lines, or Federal Land boundaries may appear in one but not the other. The display of certain map layers is controlled by the map scale. Differences in the two maps may occur when the printable map is generated at a different scale than the interactive map. Workaround: Choose a particular scale for maps when creating a Printable Version or a Custom Report.
Poor “Topographic Map” image quality at large scales. The “Topographic Map” background layer is best suited for display at scales of 1:18,000 and smaller. If you use a larger scale (i.e., choose a larger scale or too large a sheet) the layer appears blurry. Workaround: For “Automatic” scale, use a smaller sheet size, choose a smaller pre-defined scale or choose different layers to include in the output document.
Custom Soil Resource Report size estimates are inaccurate. The estimates shown for custom report size on the Shopping Cart tab may be as much as 20% different than the actual size of the report. Workaround: Don’t take these estimates too seriously.
Widows and Orphans in Portable Document Format (PDF) Files. In the Printable Version and Custom Soil Resource Report Portable Document Format (PDF) files, the page breaks aren’t always where a human editor would have put them. Sometimes these documents will contain a “widow,” the last line of a paragraph printed alone at the top of a page, or an “orphan,” a subheading or the first line of a paragraph printed alone at the bottom of a page. No workaround.
Custom Soil Resource Report “Get now” takes a long time. When using “Get now” on the Shopping Cart tab, it may take several minutes (perhaps as long as 20) to create a Custom Resource Report. A message “Generating custom soil resource report...” is displayed while the report is being created. Workaround: Wait for “Get now” to complete or use the “Download Later” option. “Download Later” will allow you to continue using Web Soil Survey and receive an email when your report is ready to download.
Printable documents such as Portable Document Format (PDF) ones may not open in Chrome. This is dependent on correct Chrome property settings. Workaround: Set the following Chrome properties:
  1. Enable Chrome PDF Viewer
  2. Disable Adobe Reader
  3. Enable pop-ups


Problem Explanation/Workaround
Link “location” changes. If a URL is copied from the Link feature then pasted into a new browser, the “location” value may change slightly. Workaround: None. Observed changes are very small relative to the mapping scale of soils data (1:12,000 to 1:24,000). Observed changes have been equivalent to roughly 10 meters on the ground.