IDL – Interactive Data Language and Visualization Software Solution

IDL is the trusted scientific programming language used across disciplines to extract meaningful visualizations from complex numerical data.

With IDL you can interpret your data, expedite discoveries, and deliver powerful applications to the market.

Additionally, IDL is a truly cross-platform solution, providing support for today’s most popular operating systems, including Microsoft Windows®, Mac OS X, Linux, and Solaris.

What is IDL?

IDL, short for Interactive data language, is the ideal, timesaving solution for data analysis, data visualization, and software application development.

From “quick-look” analysis and display to commercial programming projects, IDL combines the technology and tools you need with a modern, extensible environment.

IDL is the trusted, modern, scientific programming language that lets users transform numbers into dynamic and meaningful visual representations.

To get the IDL software and all other IDL related properties, please visit the Harris Geospatial Solutions Website for all IDL and ENVI software related properties.

IDL – The Scientific Data Visualization Solution and Data Language

What you’ll find in IDL:

  • Intuitive Language for Analysis
  • Powerful, Interactive Graphics System
  • Easy-to-Navigate Development Environment
  • A Robust Analysis Engine
  • IDL Modules

Discover What’s in Your Data and Create Visualizations Fast and Easy

IDL is the trusted scientific programming language used across disciplines to create meaningful visualizations out of complex numerical data. From small scale analysis programs to widely deployed applications, IDL provides the comprehensive computing environment you need to effectively get information from your data.

Get the answers you need from your data

IDL requires less code and programming expertise to produce dynamic visualizations and analysis, or to develop powerful software applications with user-friendly interfaces. And, since the IDL software development environment, the IDL Workbench is based on the popular, open-source Eclipse framework, which further makes it a truly cross-platform solution.

If you are pretty new to data analysis and want to become a data analyst, you can see our resource page and list of the best data analysis tools, data analytics online training for beginners to get started, or the best Excel courses to master excel.

IDL: Interactive Data Language

IDL, which is an abbreviation for Interactive Data Language, is a programming language used for data analysis and visualization. IDL is the programming language of choice for many scientists and engineers because it’s easy to learn, easy to use, and requires fewer lines of code than other programming languages, making it easier and faster to go from data to discovery.

The IDL Programming Language

When you need to transform complex scientific data from numbers into visualizations to convey meaningful information – such as 2- and 3-dimensional lines, surface and contour plots, or high-quality images – you need a programming language that is intuitive and powerful at the same time, and one that doesn’t require excessive time and effort to produce expert-level results.

IDL is the programming language choice of scientists and engineers because it’s easy to learn, easy to use, and requires fewer lines of code than other programming languages, so getting from data to discovery is easier and faster.

A Modern Programming Language

image of IDL programming language

The dynamically typed nature of IDL gives you more flexibility in your programming than a static language, saving you valuable time and allowing you to focus on data analysis and visualization, rather than on programming details.

Because the IDL language is based on intuitive and easy-to-learn rules and conventions, you can create visualization programs and even full-blown applications with fewer lines of code. With an extensive library of prebuilt analysis and visualization routines, IDL is the choice for programmers of any experience level.

Access Virtually Any Type of Data

IDL provides built-in support for the data sources, data types, file formats, and file sizes you use. Receive data from remote servers or write files to a disk at a remote location using common protocols.

IDL acts as a client to HTTP and FTP servers, and provides access to common Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) servers such as Web Map Service (WMS) and Web Coverage Service (WCS).

Common Image Formats:
PNG, and more

Scientific Data Formats:
netCDF-3 and netCDF-4
GRIB support on 32- and 64-bit Windows
as well as custom binary and ASCII files

Video Formats:
AVI, and more.


Produce insightful graphical visualizations of your complex numerical data quickly and easily with the IDL graphics system. With its intuitive syntax, the IDL graphics system gives you the flexibility to create high-quality graphic visualizations to help interpret your data and share results with colleagues.

Easily Create Presentations with Quality Graphics

image of graphics presentation done using IDL

The scriptable nature of IDL makes it easy to quickly create powerful graphic visualizations, ranging from 2D plots, contours, maps, and image displays to complex, interactive 3D representations.

The powerful IDL graphics engine leverages OpenGL hardware acceleration for rapid rendering.

This means IDL can efficiently handle large data sets and output the graphics you need.

Customize Individual Graphic Attributes

The interactive IDL graphics system allows you to customize how your graphics look. Whether you need to include multibyte characters (Japanese, Chinese, or Korean) or include text-like formatting for math and Greek annotations, IDL is suitable for creating graphics for office presentations or international publications.

While other programming languages require you to reprogram or regenerate results to make a change, with IDL you can modify line styles, symbols, annotation, font style, and color on the fly.

Output to Virtually any Image File Format

Programmatically or interactively output to a variety of standard image formats, like GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, EPS etc. or import graphics into PowerPoint, Keynote, or HTML presentations. Additionally, graphics can be output to PostScript or PDF for inclusion in a journal article, LaTeX, or Word Document.

With so many standardized output options, you can easily share your findings with colleagues for review, secondary analysis, or a verification study.

SEE ALSO: IDL Virtual Machine | how to overcome windows memory allocation limit

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