January 2015


NOTE: commands intended to be typed into your terminal during your IDL
session are given in CAPITAL letters below so they will stand out.
However, IDL itself is case-insensitive (except for file names), so
you needn't follow this convention.

0)  From a UNIX shell, start X-windows if it is not already running. 

    From a shell in the X-window, "cd" into your "IDL" directory.
    Normally that would be named "~/idl".

    Start IDL. 

    [On most UNIX systems, just type "idl". 

     This will start IDL running in the command-line mode using the
     window from which you called it.  In IDL V.5+ you can use
     GUI-based "Development Environment" or "Workbench" versions of
     IDL.  These offer convenience features to the experienced user
     but are correspondingly more complicated and not recommended for
     learning the basics.]

    Before starting the exercises, give the IDL command:


       This will return control to the main program level if
       an error occurs in a called routine.


     Define X and Y to be two different integers

	 Print their sum and difference to the terminal screen

     Repeat, all on one IDL command line, using the "&" character

     Repeat all of the above, using the recall buffer ("up" arrow)

     Print the result of adding 3 times X to 2 times Y 

     Print the product of (X-Y) and (X+Y)

     Print the common logarithm of the absolute value of X+Y (use
        the ABS and ALOG10 functions)

         Confirm this result by raising 10.0 to the power
         you just obtained

     What is the difference between X = 5/2 and Y = 5./2 ?

         Between  X = FLOAT(5/2) and Y = FLOAT(5)/2 ?

     Set C equal to the numerical value of the speed of light in
         cgs units

         Successively print powers of C until you locate the point
         at which the result becomes "Inf".  What power yields this
         result?  [The answer is non-integer.]

         Now define C to be the speed of light in double precision.
         Repeat the exercise above.

         [Hint: you should accelerate all such exercises by making
         liberal use of the recall buffer and line editing.]

     String example:  define a string variable for each word in the
         sentence: "This is a concatenation"; then concatenate them
         and print the result.  


     Create X = INDGEN(100).

         [NOTE on IDL syntax:

         INDGEN is a function.  In IDL the arguments of a function are
	 enclosed in parentheses.  In IDL versions 1 through 4, the
	 indices of vector or array variables were also enclosed in
	 parentheses, as in X(10).  Obviously, this introduced
	 possible ambiguities between function and array notation.
	 Therefore, starting with IDL version 5, array indices are
	 expected to be enclosed by brackets, as in X[10].  You should
	 use this syntax when referring to array elements.  This
	 notation for array elements is not compatible with IDL V.4
	 and earlier.  However, IDL versions 5 and later do accept the
	 parenthesis syntax for array elements, so are compatible with
	 earlier IDL code in this regard.]

     Use built-in IDL functions N_ELEMENTS, MIN, MAX, and TOTAL to 
         answer the following: 

         How many elements does X contain?  
         What is the minimum value in X?  
         What is the maximum value in X?  
         What is the sum of all the elements in X? 

     Use the IDL HyperHelp facility to obtain information on 
         the built-in TOTAL routine you just used:  ?TOTAL. 

         Experiment on X or other vectors you create with some of the
         special keywords available for TOTAL.

     Print X to your terminal window

         How are values in X related to the corresponding subscripts?

         Is X a floating-point array?  Compare the output you
         just got with the result of PRINT,FINDGEN(100). 

     Print the fifteenth entry in X to your terminal

         Then print the entry containing the number 15

     Is X a row-vector or a column-vector?  

         The default configuration of the printed data on your screen
  	 will tell you.  To confirm this, try the following:


     Try the following one-line command and inspect its output:

         FOR I=0,99 DO PRINT,I,X[I]

         Now try: FOR I=1,100 DO PRINT,I,X[I]           

     Using the WHERE function:

         Define Q=2*X, then type FIND = WHERE(Q LE 40, COUNT)

         FIND will be a vector.  Examine the contents of FIND and
         COUNT so that you understand how the WHERE function operates.

         Predict and confirm the response if you type PRINT,Q(FIND)

     Print to your terminal the values of the vector X/10 

         Then print the values of X/10.0 and compare the results.

         Do the same for FLOAT(X)/10

         Do the same for FIX(X/10.0)

     What is the difference between Z = X*0.0 and Z = 0? 

     Print the 11 elements centered on X = 10  

          First do this using a FOR loop (on a single line)

          Then do this using the standard IDL subscript range
             notation, e.g. X[2:6].  No FOR loop is needed.

          Compare to the following: K=5 & PRINT,X[10-K:10+K]          

     Define Y to be the subarray consisting of those 11 elements, using
	  subscript range notation; print Y to your window as a

     Using information utilities:
         Verify lengths of X,Y using the N_ELEMENTS utility

         Use the SIZE utility to find the sizes of X and Y; what
             other info does it supply?

         What information does the command HELP,X,Y provide?

     Define Q = Y+3 --  Note the values that Q contains

     Define Q = Y*3 --  Note the values that Q contains

     Define Q = Y^3 --  Note the values that Q contains

     Define Q = Y^4 --  Note the values that Q contains; why
                        are they not monotonic?

     Define Q = FLOAT(Y)^4 --  Note the change.

     Print the vector which results from Q = X*Y

          What did IDL actually do to arrive at this result?

     Using the built-in functions TOTAL and N_ELEMENTS:

          Find and print the mean values of X and Y; 
          Find and print the variances of the two arrays

     Do the same using the built-in functions MEAN and VARIANCE.

     Do the same using the built-in function MOMENT

     Determine the nature of the vector which results when you
          write Q = X & Q[2] = Y.  What will happen if you
          write Q[98] = Y?  Try it.

     Predict, then verify, the outcome of the following operations:

          Q = [Y,Y]

          Q = [Q,Y]

     Create a 16-element vector [1.01, 1.02, 1.03...] using
            a simple one-line command employing FINDGEN.  Verify.

     Create a 16-element vector: [1,2,4,8,16....] using a simple
    	    one-line command employing FINDGEN.  Verify.

     Create the 100-element vector Z = 10*X - 0.1*X^2, where 
            X contains the integers between 0 and 99.

            Use MAX to determine the maximum value of Z.
            Use WHERE to locate the X value for which this maximum
            X was an integer vector but Z is not.  Why?

     Using the SHIFT function, shift the elements of Z three entries
	  to the left.  Verify that the maximum is now in the expected

     Create, using a simple one-line command employing FINDGEN, a
          1001-element vector containing the base-10 logarithms
          of the integers between 0 and 1000.  Name this "ILOG".
          Verify its contents. 

          Now create a five element vector, Y, containing the
          integers 2, 100, 500, 20, and 999.  

          Explain the vector resulting when you type
          NEW = ILOG[Y].  Why did we include an entry for 0
          in defining ILOG? 

      Optional problem:  ILOG in the previous exercise is called a
	  "lookup table."  It can be used to accelerate computations
	  in problems where a large number of time-consuming
	  transformations such as logarithms are needed.  You can
	  estimate the time savings for this example as follows:

          Write a simple one-line IDL command script using "&" as a 
          link between individual commands.  Use the SYSTIME(1)
          function to determine the start time.  Then, use a FOR
          loop to compute the logarithm of an integer 40000 times
          using the standard ALOG10 function.  Then use SYSTIME(1)
          again to determine the end time.  Print the elapsed time.
          Repeat, now using the "ILOG" lookup table instead
          of ALOG10.  


   Use the JOURNAL function to start a journal file & record your
   session for posterity.  Test starting & stopping a journal file.
   Inspect the file to see what kinds of communications between you &
   the IDL session are actually recorded.  [Note that journal files
   are actually written to disk by IDL only at long intervals or after
   another JOURNAL command or EXIT.]

   Practice cut-and-pasting commands from a saved journal file listing
   into an active IDL window.  

   Practice generating a "script" file from edited parts of an IDL
   journal file.  Save it, rename it, and use it to re-create the
   original session by using the "@" command.  

   Note that comments can be added at any time to the journal by
   prefacing remarks with a semicolon.


     Type "WINDOW,0" to bring up a plotting window.  Move the cursor
     into the window.  

     Troubleshooting: If the other parts of your terminal screen blink
         out or change color, then you are using an 8-bit (rather than
         24-bit) color monitor for which the X-windows system is not
         properly configured.  To ameliorate the problem, try this:

               Exit IDL
               Restart IDL
               As the very first two commands, type:


         If this does not remedy the blinking, then other X-windows
	 applications have "reserved" too many display colors.  You
	 may be able to reduce the color hogging using various
	 "Preference" or other settings on your applications.  Exit
	 other applications (e.g. browsers) before starting IDL.  If
	 this doesn't work, for the moment the best approach is just
	 to live with the blinking and try later to reconfigure.

     For reference, you may want to call up the on-line help
     documentation for the plotting keywords by typing: ?PLOT

     Create the 100-element vector Z = 10*X - 0.1*X^2, where 
            X is the vector containing the integers between 0 and 99.

     Type PLOT,X,Z.  Examine the plot, noting the abscissa, ordinate,
            and default scaling adopted. 

            Do the same for PLOT,X,2*Z.  Note the change.

                Type OPLOT,X,Z and note what happens

            Do the same for PLOT,X,Z^2

            Do the same for PLOT,Z^2,X

            Use the optional plotting parameters XRANGE and YRANGE with
		PLOT,X,Z^2 to enlarge various parts of the plot of the
		Z^2 function.

            Using the XLOG or YLOG keywords, plot log_10(X) vs. Z and
                X vs. log_10(Z).  (Note: you'll have to limit the X,Y
                scales using the RANGE parameters to avoid infinities
                and plot compression.  Keep the variable on the log
                axis greater than or equal to 1.0.)

            Label any of these plots, using the !P.TITLE, !X.TITLE,
		and !Y.TITLE system variable strings.

     All of the plots should have appeared in Window 0.  Try alternating
            successive plots between Window 0 and Window 1.

            [NOTE: The intrinsic IDL routines for manipulating windows
             are as follows: To create a new window, use WINDOW,N.  To
             expose an existing window, use WSHOW,N.  To make a given
             window "active"--- i.e. ready for I/O---use WSET,N.

             The MOUSSE routine CHAN,N combines these three functions
             and is more convenient.]

     Create the 1000-element vector x, where x contains the
	    FLOATING-POINT conversion of integer values between -500
	    and +499.  Create Z = 10*X - 0.1*X^2 .

            Explore plotting features using PLOT,X,Z as in the previous 

            Type PLOT,Z.  How does the resulting plot differ from that
            for PLOT,X,Z?

     Create the 1000-element vector X, where x contains the INTEGER
	    values between -500 and +499. Create Y = 10*X - 0.1*X^2.

            Type PLOT,X,Y.  Why does the Y function differ from Z?

     Now define X to contain the integers in the range 0 to 100.  Then
	     compute Z = SIN(X)/X.  Is Z a floating point variable?

     Print the value of Z at X = 0.  If you weren't sure how IDL would
	  respond there, how would you manually insert a value Z = 1.0
	  at X = 0?  Do so.  Confirm that the Z vector is now defined

     Using the PSYM and LINESTYLE keywords, plot Z vs. X for integer
     values of X in the range 0 to 100:

            with a solid line
            then with plus signs
            then with open triangles
            then with a dashed line

       [Hint: for help with the keywords, open the online IDL HyperHelp
       system by typing "?" as the first element of the command line.
       Then enter "GRAPHICS KEYWORDS" in the search box.]

     Plot Z vs. X for the X range [0:10] with open triangles.  Then, using
          OPLOT, add a solid line overplot.  

          You can achieve the same result with a single PLOT command
	  for your choice of plotting symbol, K, by using PSYM=-K
	  rather than PSYM=K.

     Calculate Z = SIN(X)/X at intervals of 0.01 for X in the range 0
	  to 10.  Plot Z vs X.  

     Using the WHERE function, find all the locations where Z has an
	 absolute value smaller than 0.05.  How many are there?  Print
	 Z for all those locations (but only those locations) to your
         terminal.  Print X for all those locations (but only those
         locations) to your terminal. 

     Plot Z vs X using a solid line.  Now overplot open triangles at
	 those points you found where Z has an absolute value smaller
	 than 0.05.  You can verify graphically that these fall in
         the expected positions by plotting horizontal lines at
         Z = 0.05 and -0.05 (hint: define and plot two new vector
         functions of X). 


    Copy the program bio.pro from the
    IDLexercises/data directory to your local directory.

    This routine computes and displays a well-known simple function
    exhibiting "chaotic" behavior for certain choices of input
    parameters.  To see the code and the header, type .RUN -T BIO .
    To see just the header section, type MAN,'BIO .  [Note: MAN is a
    MOUSSE routine.]  Run the program as suggested in its header to
    explore the behavior of this function as you change the two input
    parameters.  Note the effects of small changes in these around the
    critical values.


      Graphically solve the transcendental equation
                    X + 6.0*EXP(-X/2) = 5.0 

      using iterated plots on the screen.  Use successively finer
      scale numerical grids to improve your estimate to 3
      significant digits.  Verify the solution numerically.  

      Optional: It can be faster to solve the problem using the
      WHERE function.  Do so.    


     Make a hardcopy of any one of your plots using a PostScript

         To send plots to a PostScript file instead of your terminal,
	 type SET_PLOT,'PS.  Then repeat the same plotting commands you
	 gave to put the plot on your terminal (easiest to use the
	 recall buffer).  Close the file using the command
	 DEVICE,/CLOSE.  The name of the file will be "idl.ps".  Print
	 the file from within IDL by putting $ as a preface to the
	 appropriate UNIX command as the first entry on the command
	 line.  Return to using your terminal as your output device by
	 giving SET_PLOT,'X .

     Repeat, checking the status of your output device by using the
         HELP,/DEV command.  


     I recommend you use the IDL Astronomy Users Library procedure
     PLOTHIST for these exercises.  
         You can accomplish the same thing with the IDL built-in
	 HISTOGRAM routine and separate plotting commands, but this is
	 awkward.  PLOTHIST is simply an accelerator program which
	 combines several built-in commands for convenience.  

         To check that PLOTHIST is in your IDL path, simply type
         PLOTHIST.  If present, the procedure responds by printing the
         syntax for the command to your terminal screen.  If not present,
         you'll get an error message.  [Note that this technique for
         checking syntax does not work for IDL built-in functions, but
         you can use the HELP,/ROU procedure or the HyperHelp facility
         (type ?) instead there.]

         The latest version of PLOTHIST requires software from the
         "Coyote" library of graphics programs, written by David
         Fanning.  If your IDL installation does not include those,
         download them from this site.  Put the downloaded tar file in a 
         directory in your IDL path, then unzip and untar the file.
         The programs will be automatically compiled when you request

     Assuming PLOTHIST is in your path, then type:  MAN,'PLOTHIST to
     see the header of the program; type .RUN -T PLOTHIST to see the whole

     Copy the file "grades.sav" from the
     IDLexercises/data directory to your local directory.  This is a
     specially-formatted file that contains data from an earlier IDL
     session preserved by a "SAVE" command.

     Using the RESTORE command, "restore" the dataset to your IDL

     The save file contained the variable "GRADELIST".  This
     is a set of actual final point scores for a UVa course.

         How many students were in the class?

         Determine the MEAN, MEDIAN, MAXIMUM, MINIMUM, and standard
	 deviation (using VARIANCE) for the set of scores.  

     Use PLOTHIST to produce a histogram of the scores

         The default bin size in PLOTHIST is always 1.0, regardless of
	 the range of the variable being plotted.  Using the BIN
	 keyword, experiment with different bin sizes in the range 1
	 to 15.

         Graphically determine the mode of the scores and note how
         it changes with binsize.  What is the mode for a binsize of

     Plot the score histogram for a binsize of 5 with labels
         for the axes and the plot.  

         Overplot a vertical line at the location of the median
         value.  (Hint: use the PLOTS command)

         Make a hardcopy of the final plot via a PostScript file.


     Continue using the "GRADELIST" vector of part (8)

     Using the SORT function, define a new list (call it "SCOREORDER")
         of scores in order from lowest to highest value.  Verify.

         Now define and verify a new list (call it "RANKSCORE") of
	 scores in order from highest to lowest value.  (Hint: use

     Now define an auxiliary vector ("RANK") which gives the
         rank of each student in the class (assigning 1 to the
         student with the highest grade)

     Using a (one-line) FOR loop, an appropriately defined format
	 string, and the PRINT command, print on your terminal the
	 rank and score of the students in order from highest to

         Hint:  the definition for an IDL format string might look like
	    the following.  (IDL format statements are similar, but not
            identical, to those in FORTRAN). 


            and the command to print would look like this:


     Then, use the AstUseLib utility FORPRINT to do the same thing

     Use your rank-listing capability to determine the median of
         the grade distribution.  Does it agree with the value
         returned by MEDIAN?

     Now assign letter grades to the students.  

         Assume you are a tough grader and use a strict curve where
	 the top 10% of the class gets an "A", the next 10% gets a "B"
	 and so on.  The lower 60% of the class will get an F in this
	 scheme (appropriate, e.g., for a pre-Med class). 

         Using STRARR, define a string array named "LETTER" to hold
	 the letter grades for the students.  Fill it with blanks

         Consult the ranked list of scores from your terminal
	 printouts and determine the letter grade break points.

         Then assign values to the "LETTER" array using those break
	 points.  [Hint: use the WHERE function.]  "LETTER" should be
	 in the order of the original "GRADELIST"

     Verify the assignments by using a FOR statement and a new format
	 definition to print on your terminal a list of rankings,
	 numerical scores, and letter grades in ranked order.


     Now create an output ASCII file on your disk and output to it, in
	 the original (not ranked) order: the numerical grade, the
	 class rank, and the final letter grade for each student.
         [Hint: You already have defined an appropriate format
	 string.  The other commands you will need are GET_LUN, OPENW,

         Verify your results (e.g. use $MORE).

     Now reverse the process and read the disk file back into your IDL
         session, using variables with different names. [Hint: You
         will need GET_LUN, OPENR, READF, and CLOSE.]  Verify the
         results by comparing the variables.  


     Make a plot of the energy distribution functions B_nu, B_lam, and
     N_lam, which are the flux per unit frequency, the flux per unit
     wavelength, and the number of photons per unit wavelength,
     respectively, for a black body (Planck law) at a temperature of
     10000 K.  

     All three functions should be displayed on a convenient scale on
     the same plot; each function should be normalized to its
     maximum.  Plot against wavelength in Angstroms, covering the
     range 1000 to 10000 A.  Label the plot properly.  Make
     a hardcopy of the plot and save the resulting PostScript file.  

     If you want to see a sample solution (J. Oishi, Fall 2001;
     PostScript file), click here.

     Optional: write an IDL "procedure" which will compute any of the
     three versions of the Planck function listed above for a given
     wavelength vector and temperature.  Put it in your IDL directory
     (and give it a unique name, like "plot_a_planck.pro"). Use a
     "keyword" input parameter to select between the three functions.
     To verify performance and documentation, let someone else try to
     use your procedure.

     You might want to compare your program to "planck.pro" in the
     Astronomy User's Library. 


     Explore the sensitivity of optical band "colors" to the
     temperature of a black body as follows.  Compute the Planck
     function B_lam for selected temperatures in the range 1000 K to
     100000 K for wavelengths of 1500, 3600, 4400, 5500, 10000, and
     22000 Angstroms.  (It's up to you to choose appropriate intervals
     for the T grid.)   Compute "colors" with respect to 5500 A
     in the form 

                     ALOG10( B_LAM[I] / B_LAM[3] )

     for each T.  Plot these against T or LOG T on the same plot.
     Label the axes.  Label each curve (see the XYOUTS procedure).
     Make a hardcopy of the plot and save the resulting PostScript
     file.  Consider the usefulness of the various combinations.  Which
     is most sensitive over the T range 3000-30000K appropriate for
     normal stars? 


     IDL supports numerical integration of analytic or tabular
     functions in one, two and three dimensions.  Intrinsic IDL
     routines performing integration of analytic functions of a single
     variable include QROMB and QSIMP.  The latter uses Simpson's Rule.

     These routines all use the same, somewhat awkward, method for
     defining the integrand.  The user must place the name (i.e. an
     IDL string) of an IDL function defining the integrand in the
     calling sequence of the integration routine.  

     In this example, we illustrate integration of a simple power
     law.  We use an updated version of the intrinsic QSIMP routine
     that is included in the Astronomy User's Library.  Although its
     Library name is also QSIMP, to avoid confusion we have renamed it
     NEWSIMP and placed a copy in the IDL Exercises directory.

     NEWSIMP uses the same basic algorithm as QSIMP, but it is faster
     than intrinsic QSIMP because it takes a vector, rather than
     scalar, argument.  Also, it takes advantage of "keyword
     inheritance" to provide additional arguments for the integrand
     function.  This eliminates the need to make up a new integrand
     file for each change in the functional form of the integrand.

     Copy the following programs to your local directory: 


     To see the coding and instructions for use of NEWSIMP, type:

           .run -t newsimp

     To see the integrand function for a power law, f(x) = x^p,

           .run -t xpwr

     To perform an integration with power law index 3 between the
     bounds 0 and 10, type:

           newsimp,'xpwr',0,10,answer,pwr=3 & print,answer

     Experiment with other values for the range and power law index,
     and verify that the integrations are correct.  

     [Note that since you are dealing with filenames here, you must
     give them exactly as they appear in the UNIX directories.]

END OF IDL EXERCISES PART I Part II covers 2D arrays and image displays. Part III covers image processing. IDL Tutorial Home Page

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Copyright © 2000-2015 Robert W. O'Connell. All rights reserved.
Content last modified by RWO, January 2015