IDL 8.3 was quietly released on Monday. While I don’t see any truly major features, it has quite a few useful additions:

  1. PLOT, SURFACE, and CONTOUR can create displays represented by an equation
  2. implied print, i.e., just type an expression at the command line and it will be printed
  3. convenience routines for HDF5
  4. asynchronous timers not attached to widgets
  5. static methods (marked using the “static” compile_opt option)
  6. index array creation with expressions like [0:9:2]
  7. read/write clipboard access
  8. unit conversion routine, IDLUNIT
  9. new dictionary and ordered hash data structures
  10. plenty of other small additions, fixes, etc.

I haven’t had time to actually use many of these features, but the examples look useful. In particular, I have some HDF5 wrappers very similar to the routines in this release and I use them a lot. I had conventions on how to write “static methods” which I will probably convert over to the new syntax. Implied print and the index array creation will be handy on the command line. The dictionary and ordered hash data structures will also come in handy.

Besides language and library additions, there are a couple of other changes. The distributions for this version of “IDL” are actually combined IDL 8.3 and ENVI 5.1 installers. This makes them all fairly large; I think the smallest I downloaded was 1.1 GB.

The online help system also changed yet again in IDL 8.3: now it is simply local HTML files displayed in your system web browser. Some of the C interface routines have been added back to the online help, but not all of them and not the full External Development Guide. It would be great to get all the online help in one place and to keep it in the same format for more than a couple versions (at least the location of the installation didn’t change again).

IDL 8.3 continues to show that the developers are not afraid to add to the core of IDL, e.g., with implied print, index array creation, and static methods in this release.