IDL® Software

IDL (Interactive Data Language) software 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.

Discover What's in Your Data

A key foundation of scientific discovery is complex numerical data. If making discoveries is a fundamental part of your work, you need a data visualization tool to help you understand what your data means, and how to apply that knowledge effectively; a visualization tool to help you discover what’s in your data. Using a powerful, modern programming language lets you transform numbers into dynamic visual representations so you can interpret your data, expedite discoveries, and deliver powerful applications to market.

“I’ve been using IDL since my pre-medical school days as a physicist at MIT. Although I’m 'bilingual' in MATLAB as well, I prefer IDL. I use IDL nearly daily in my research. I also use it extensively to make animations for teaching medical student and residents. Overall IDL is a wonderful mathematical extension of my imagination!”

- Stephen Jones - Cleveland Clinic





See how IDL is used to pull GOES-16 ABI data, create RGB images and create an Aerosol Detection data product.

Open Source Technologies for ENVI and IDL



Explore novel ways to use ENVI + IDL with open source technologies

  IDL Brochure (pdf)

  IDL Case Studies

  IDL Documentation Center


IDL : The Interactive Data Language Visualization Solution 

Access Virtually Any Type of Data

IDL software provides built-in support for the data sources, data types, file formats, and file sizes you use. Use IDL data visualization software to access common formats like TIFF, JPEG, PNG, and hierarchical scientific data formats like HDF, HDF-EOS, CDF, and netCDF, as well as custom binary and ASCII formats. And, because IDL is designed for large, multi-dimensional data, no job is too complex. 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).

Intuitive Rules and Conventions

The IDL language is based on rules and conventions that are intuitive and easy to learn, regardless of the languages you’ve used before, or even if you have no programming experience at all. Using IDL 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 best data visualization software choice for programmers of any experience level.

Dynamic Type System

IDL is a dynamically typed language – meaning you can change variables and values at runtime rather than creating new variables and values, recompile, and then re-execute your code, as is required with a static language. The dynamically typed nature of IDL software gives you more flexibility in your programming, which saves you valuable time and allows you to focus on data analysis and visualization, rather than on programming details.

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Interactive data visualization solution


IDL interactive data language


IDL development environment

Intuitive Interface  

IDL software provides an intuitive interface that allows you to focus on data analytics with user-friendly features like an easy-access toolbar that includes buttons for your most used programming tools.

Robust Help System  

IDL Help is an example-based system that helps you solve specific tasks. Thumbnail examples, text links, and a visual navigation paradigm all make finding help for your problems fast and easy.

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Integrate With Other Applications  

IDL is a flexible and extensible language that supports two-way interaction with other applications, including those developed in C, C++, Java, Visual Basic, and more. Get the most from your existing code by easily calling other applications from IDL, or calling IDL into other applications.

Flexible Development Features  

IDL software makes developing easier than other languages. Quickly develop small programs or large applications using time-saving features like content assist, auto complete, color coding, and hover help. And, code templates make creating your, plots, graphics, and other data visualizations easier than ever.

Share Your Programs and Applications  

IDL allows you to share your small program or full application code with colleagues who use IDL. For runtime distribution of applications to users who do not own an IDL license, IDL Virtual Machine is a no-cost option to run compiled IDL programs. In situations where the developer requires greater flexibility, IDL runtime licensing is available.


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 High-Quality Graphics

IDL Quality Graphics

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

IDL Custom 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 TeX-like formatting for math and Greek annotations, IDL software 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

IDL Image Formats

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.


IDL capabilities
IDL image processing

Image Processing

If you need to convert raw images to information, IDL data visualization tool contains an extensive library of image processing and analysis routines. IDL allows you to extract useful information from nearly any type of digital image with tools for transforming image geometry, mapping, masking and statistics, warping, analyzing regions of interest, and contrasting and filtering.

IDL signal processing

Signal Processing

IDL has advanced tools for processing signal data, including transforms for signal decomposition, windowing algorithms, routines for smoothing, convolving and applying digital filters to remove noise, and correlation and covariance techniques to analyze signals with random components. IDL also has a built-in wavelet toolkit that provides GUI and programmatic wavelet analysis of multi-dimensional data.


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IDL machine learning
machine learning algorithms in IDL

The image above is an example that utilizes IDL’s autoencoder neural network for unsupervised classification on an image which creates a reusable classifier that can then be applied to different datasets.

Machine Learning

Data analysis has never been easier with access to machine learning algorithms in IDL. Create classifiers using neural networks, Softmax, Support Vector Machine (SVM), K-Means and autoencoders. IDL allows you to read in data from virtually any format and classify it with machine learning algorithms. Advanced users can even use the IDL-Python bridge to access TensorFlow or Keras to further extend your IDL applications.

IDL Advanced Math and Stats Module

The graphic above shows the locations of particles in a physics simulation and tracks the total energy over time. With visualizations like these, IDL makes it easy to verify the behavior of complex algorithms or models and, with temporal datasets, allows you to easily export the results as animations.

Math and Statistics Routines

The IDL Advanced Math and Stats Module is an addon solution for when you need to quickly add advanced mathematical and statistical functionality to an IDL application. It combines advanced data visualization and analysis capabilities with the comprehensive mathematical and statistical routines of the IMSL™ C Numerical Library – a set of pre-written mathematical and statistical algorithms that can be embedded into your program.


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IDL Package Manager

New to IDL 8.7.1, the IDL Package Manager makes it easy to create collections of IDL code that can be shared with other users and accessed with a few lines of IDL code.

Visual Studio Code Extension

If you are a fan of Microsoft Visual Studio Code you can view and edit IDL programs with syntax highlighting using the IDL Interactive Data Language extension. Featuring syntax highlighting, text snippets for PRO code, ENVI Tasks and IDL Tasks, you’ll never have to leave your favorite editor to write IDL programs.

IDL Python Bridge

Easily call existing libraries written in Python from IDL and vice-versa. The IDL Python bridge makes it easy to connect to powerful, open-source libraries that can extend IDL’s capabilities to a limitless potential. The bridge allows users to call Python from IDL and IDL from Python, using the same, familiar routines and syntax that makes IDL software visualization tool what it is today.

collection of IDL code

A look at the IDL extension for Visual Studio Code with examples of how you can use the IDL Package Manager to pull down packages into your IDL session is shown above.


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Start Producing Insightful Graphical Visualizations

Take your data analytics to the next level with IDL, the trusted scientific programming language tool. Contact us. Let’s get started today!