IDL is a high level language well suited to image processing and manipulation.

Currently licensing costs are paid by STFC for Astrophysics use only.


IDL is provided by NV5 (formerly Harris Geospatial Solutions Inc) and their website is


Typing 'idl' should give you the most recent version. If you want a specific version, you can set the IDL_DIR environment variable. To do this, please set the variable, either interactively or in your .bashrc/.cshrc file.
export IDL_DIR=/usr/local/exelis/idl82
setenv IDL_DIR /usr/local/exelis/idl82
then run the command line version using idl or the developement environment using idlde.

You can set up a search path for subroutines, for example, the IDL Astronomy library can be found under /usr/local/idl set the IDL_PATH variable as below:

export IDL_PATH=+/usr/local/idl
setenv IDL_PATH +/usr/local/idl

or to include IDL routines for the Coldrick Radio Telescope, you can do
bash: export IDL_PATH=+/usr/local/coldrick_observatory/ csh/tcsh: setenv IDL_PATH +/usr/local/coldrick_observatory/ or if you have already set IDL_PATH, you can append to it as below bash: export IDL_PATH=$IDL_PATH:+/usr/local/coldrick_observatory/ csh/tcsh: setenv IDL_PATH ${IDL_PATH}:+/usr/local/coldrick_observatory/
The '+' sign denotes that subdirectories of the following pathname will be searched. The IDL Astronomy Library is in a subdirectory of /usr/local/idl


We have several versions of IDL installed by default, usually the most recent version if required and that should be the default.

The Current version is 8.9.


Start idl, then to get a simple line plot, type the following.

Remote Use

You have several options to use IDL remotely.

If no graphics are required:

If graphics are required:


The current licensing method is via an activation code which lasts a year. Once you have the code from the Rhys, start up /usr/local/harris/idl88/bin/harrislicense or the same program on Mac or Windows, click on 'Activate Local License' and paste the license activation string into the box. You will need root privileges to do this.

Last modified: Tue Jun 23 11:48:01 BST 2015