Here are ten little programs of ten lines or less to introduce new programmers to IDL. This post1 is motivated by this comp.lang.python thread which became this page on the Python wiki.

1 line: output, calling a procedure:

print, 'Hello, world!'

2 lines: assignment, calling a function, system variables, array operations, keywords:

x = findgen(360) * !dtor
plot, x, sin(x), xstyle=9, ystyle=8

3 lines: input, output format codes:

name = ''
read, 'What is your name? ', name
print, name, format='("Hello, ", A, "!")'

5 lines: filename handling, reading images, variable metadata, boolean keywords, displaying image:

filename = filepath('people.jpg', subdir=['examples', 'data'])
im = read_image(filename)
dim = size(im, /dimensions)
window, xsize=dim[1], ysize=dim[2], /free, title=file_basename(filename)
tv, im, true=1

6 lines: logical unit numbers, read binary data, contour plots, line continuation:

convec = bytarr(248, 248)
openr, lun, file_which('convec.dat'), /get_lun
readu, lun, convec
free_lun, lun
window, xsize=500, ysize=500, /free
contour, convec, xstyle=1, ystyle=1, $
         levels=(max(convec) - min(convec)) * findgen(10) / 9. + min(convec)

7 lines (contributed by Mark Piper): query image, image processing, automatic positioning of images:

file = file_which('moon_landing.png')
!null = query_image(file, info)
astronaut = read_image(file)
window, /free, xsize=3 * info.dimensions[0], ysize=info.dimensions[1]
tv, astronaut, 0
tvscl, sobel(astronaut), 1
tvscl, canny(astronaut), 2

8 lines: writing a function, compile_opt statement, if statements, for loops:

.compile
function mg_fibonacci, x
  compile_opt strictarr
  if (x eq 0) then return, 0
  if (x eq 1) then return, 1
  return, mg_fibonacci(x - 1) + mg_fibonacci(x - 2)
end
for i = 0L, 20L do print, i, mg_fibonacci(i)

9 lines (contributed by Mark Piper): array generation, FFTs, line plots, multiple plots/window, query for screen size:

x = (2.0 * !pi) * findgen(100) / 100
y = sin(3.0 * x) + cos(12.0 * x) + cos(25.2 * x)
magspec_y = abs(fft(y))
ss = get_screen_size()
window, /free, xsize=0.4 * ss[0], ysize=0.25 * ss[1]
!p.multi = [0,2,1]
plot, x, y, xtitle='sample number', ytitle='value', title='Series', xstyle=1
plot, magspec_y, xtitle='mode', ytitle='spectral density', $
      title='Magnitude Spectrum', xrange=[0, n_elements(x) / 2], xstyle=1
!p.multi = 0

10 lines: maps, read ASCII file, indexed color, structures:

header = strarr(5)
data = replicate({loc:fltarr(2), elev:0, temp:0, dew:0, wspd:0, wdir:0}, 15)
openr, lun, file_which('ascii.txt'), /get_lun
readf, lun, header
readf, lun, data
free_lun, lun
device, decomposed=0
loadct, 5
map_set, limit=[min(data.loc[1, *], max=maxlat), $
         min(data.loc[0, *], max=maxlon), maxlat, maxlon], /mercator, /usa
plots, data.loc[0, *], data.loc[1, *], psym=4, color=bytscl(data.temp), $
       symsize=2., thick=2

  1. I’m not sure why, but I’ve had a draft of this post around for almost seven years.