The HDF_BROWSER function presents a graphical user interface (GUI) which allows the user to view the contents of an Hierarchical Data Format (HDF) file, and prepare a template for the extraction of HDF data and metadata into IDL. The output template is an IDL structure that may be used when reading HDF files with the HDF_READ routine. If you have several HDF files of identical form, the returned template from HDF_BROWSER may be reused to extract data from these files with HDF_READ. If you do not need a multi-use template, you may call HDF_READ directly.

Calling Sequence

Template = HDF_BROWSER([Filename])



A string containing the name of a HDF file to browse. If Filename is not specified, a dialog allows you to choose a file.



Set this keyword to a named variable that will contain the byte value 1 (one) if the user clicked the "Cancel" button or the byte value 0 (zero) otherwise.


When HDF_BROWSER reviews the contents of an HDF file, it creates default output names for the various data elements. By default these default names begin with a prefix derived from the filename. Set this keyword to a string value to be used in place of the default prefix.

Graphical User Interface Menu Options

The following options are available from the graphical user interface menus.

Pulldown Menu

The following table shows the options available with the pulldown menu.

  • HDF_BROWSER Pulldown Menu Options

Menu Selection


HDF Summary

Overview of HDF file contents

DFR8 (8-bit Images)

8-bit images, palettes, and their attributes

DFAN Elements

File annotations and descriptions

DF24 (24-bit Images)

24-bit images and their attributes

DFP (Palettes)

Image palettes

SD (Variables/Attributes)

Scientific Datasets and attributes

Preview Button

If you have selected an image from the pulldown menu, click on this button to view the image. If you have selected a data item that can be plotted in two dimensions, click on this button to view a 2D plot of the data.

Read Checkbox

Select this checkbox to extract the current data or metadata item from the HDF file.

Extract As

Specify a name for the extracted data or metadata item

    NOTE: The Read Checkbox must be selected for the item to be extracted. Default names are generated for all data items, but may be changed at any time by the user.


template = HDF_BROWSER('test.hdf')

output_structure = HDF_READ(TEMPLATE=template)


output_structure = HDF_READ('test.hdf', TEMPLATE=template)

See Also

HDF_READ , the IDL Scientific Data Formats Guide