IDL, Interactive Data Language, is quite a popular scientific computing application provided by ITT Visual Information System. It’s usefulness can be seen with data analysis, scientific visualization and, best of all, its cross-platform development support. There are many introductions to IDL available online. In this blog, I shall be concentrating more on its usefulness towards some applications in the Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Very basic introduction to IDL can be found here. IDL has extensive help pages built-in. These are the best place to find any kind of help calling “?” in IDL command prompt. Otherwise, those help files are available as PDF online. I, preferably, used quite smaller IDL brief manual at the beginning, which was more than sufficient. One can use IDL Reference for Beginners which is also pretty good. There’s also a IDL Reference Card which you can hang next to your desk, which comes handy when you need quick reference. Rather than writing many of the IDL routines on your own, Astronomers rely on really huge and very very important routine library sources, The IDL Astronomy User’s Library from NASA. I bet you astro-guys, you can’t really live without it. With all these resources you are definitely going to be fit with IDL. Apart from that experience is what all you need.
One last resources tip. There comes a time when none of those references above going to help you with critical assignment. In this case, Coyote’s Guide to IDL Programming shall make your day, seriously! Even if you don’t manage it, then your (or your colleagues’) IDL creativity and experience should lead you to the end of the tunnel.