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Interactive Data Language

The IDL program suite consists of the idl program proper and idlde with debugging extensions. You can run a huge set of demos by invoking idldemo. Finally, there is rich online documentation available if you use idlman or idlhelp which has good search capabilities.

IDL is a licensed program which we pay for. There are only a certain number of license slots available. Therefore, exit the program as soon as you are finished in order not to block usage for your colleagues.



Versions available on NBI machines:

  • 8.2



There are a limited number of stand-alone licenses available so staff and students can use IDL on stand-alone machines. Further information can be obtained by contacting

Colour tables

IDL's predefined colour tables are built on an 8-bit colour model. To have IDL translate colour as indices into the current IDL colour table on a machine using 24-bit colour, the following commands must be executed once per IDL session:

   DEVICE, True_Color=24

This can also be automatized by entering the commands in a file ~/.idlrc and then defining

   setenv IDL_STARTUP ~/.idlrc

in your .cshrc or .tcshrc file.

Other versions

The previous version is normally available as the program name with a version or -prev suffix. A possible test version likewise has a version or -next suffix. Thus the present version of idl is idl while the previous is idl-prev. A possible new version is idl-next etc.