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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

on April 5, 2011
"Traditional IDL Graphics" is a wonderful guide to producing outstanding graphics with the IDL programming language. There are several excellent guides to learning IDL itself, and this book presumes that readers are familiar with the language. What makes this book unique is that it focuses on a single task - producing outstanding graphics, using the traditional tools that have been part of IDL almost from the beginning. As an IDL user for over 20 years, I find myself squarely in the camp of those who have tried all of the more recent graphics innovations in IDL, only to return to the traditional tools for scientific graphics. I find the new tools too slow, too complex, and not well-suited to producing graphics with a repeatable sequence of well-defined steps. But, like many scientific programmers, I get impatient with the fiddling necessary to convert simple plots into publishable figures, and I've never taken the time to think about how to do this easily and efficiently in IDL. David Fanning has spent a quarter of a century learning to do this, and this book is a treasure trove of great ideas, useful examples, and usable code that I wish I'd had for the past two decades. Those of you just learning IDL will benefit tremendously from adopting David's tools that make traditional IDL graphics very powerful and effective. Those of us who have spent decades without the benefit of them can only envy the newbies. This book reminds me of "Numerical Recipes" - when it first came out, all I could think of was that I could have finished my PhD thesis a year earlier if it had only been written a few years earlier. I encourage all serious IDL users to buy and use this book - I've already made it required reading for my research students.
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on October 21, 2015
The best IDL book ever! The Coyote lib rocks! Have no idea why there is no more hard copies anymore. If you are a meteorologist like me you want a book like this. It not only shows you the normal way but also the coyote way. The latter usually is easier and faster. This book focus on graphic mostly. So if that's what you are looking for this is the best IDL book you want to have!
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on April 13, 2011
Even if you don't use, or intend to use, "direct graphics" this book is a great read. Yes, a software manual can be as good as a novel if written by the right person. Just to follow David's magnum opus evolve was like watching a man bitten by the muse. I kept anticipating the last chapter, just like the ending of a novel.
At a time when fewer and fewer people "read" manuals, this one provides a fascinating insight into David's creative process, and flows like Beethoven's 9th building to a grand finale. This truly recharged my IDL thinking!
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on July 18, 2012
I've been an IDL user for 20 years. Like many scientists, I learned IDL by scavenging the code of others, often with mysterious results. Fanning's previous book, "IDL Programming Techniques", has saved the day for me many times as I labored to figure out the weirdness of color tables, PostScript output, and image analysis. That book is still useful, but "Traditional IDL Graphics" goes the next step in showing how to get IDL to do what you want.

"Traditional IDL Graphics" discusses the three types of plots that most of us use: line, surface, and contour plots. In addition to explaining all of the intricacies of these seemingly simple routines, Fanning shows how to use his "Coyote Graphics" routines to replace standard IDL routines to obtain output that is device-independent or that displays in a resizable window, which can then be saved in various formats. He makes his Coyote Graphics (cg) routines freely available (see [...] for the library and much other valuable information). After installing his code, you can replace many standard IDL calls with the corresponding cg routine, e.g., the IDL Contour routine becomes cgContour. Fanning's cg*.pro routines are wrappers for standard IDL calls that make sure you get the same output for Windows and PostScript output, for example. There are also cgWindow commands that let you create output in resizable windows, which can't be done with standard IDL Windows. I've been rewriting some of my old IDL code to use the cg equivalents, and the results have been excellent.

Fanning is nothing less than a national treasure for IDL programmers, and this book is an absolutely must have for anyone using IDL for plotting. He provides an invaluable service by making his Coyote Graphics routines freely available. He has also set up a nice consulting feature on his website whereby you can buy anything from $5 of his time (for a quick phone call question) on up. I was so impressed by his quick and simple answer to my question on how to create vector EPS output files for use in journal articles (which IDL user support said can't be done without the greatest of convolutions using iTools) that I sent him $100 just to say thanks for this time. I suggest that everyone do the same to keep him in the IDL game. We need Fanning to keep writing books and answering questions.
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on April 6, 2011
Any regular user of the IDL language has heard of David Fanning via his website, which contains a treasure trove of information on how to get IDL to do what you want, written clearly and with a sense of humor, along with his "Coyote Library", which contains a number of essential routines. So it won't surprise anyone that this book also contains a treasure trove of information about using IDL "Traditional" graphics (i.e. the graphics system that most people use) written clearly with a sense of humor!

Fanning goes through a large number of graphics-related topics, and each one leaves the reader feeling like they truly understand how to leverage the relevant commands. The chapters that I personally found most illuminating are the ones on color, images, and postscript - and this despite the fact that I have been using IDL to generate color images in postscript for years!

The culmination of these efforts are the Coyote Graphics System, where Fanning has re-written a number of workhorse IDL traditional graphics commands (window becomes cgwindow, tv becomes cgimage, plot becomes cgplot, etc.) in a way that look beautiful, are easy to deal with, and treat color intuitively! Every IDL user should try these out - it is incredibly well worth your time and I have not looked back ever since they were first introduced. However, although this is really the culmination of the book, I suspect that users of the Coyote Graphics system will end up spending more time on Fanning's website than reading this chapter, since there will inevitably be new features and bug fixes that will make this chapter slightly outdated.

The only con I can think of is that beginners to IDL will not be able to leap into this book right away. It assumes that you know your way around IDL and understand how programs and procedures work, how the different data structures work, etc. If you are not at that stage yet, I would recommend picking up a dedicated IDL programming guide first (for example, Ken Bowman's An Introduction To Programming with IDL or Fanning's IDL Programming Techniques). However, return to this book immediately afterwards before you try to make any production figures!

In summary, I would very highly recommend this book to any non-beginner to IDL. It is destined to be a required book on everyone's bookshelf (or in their e-reader of choice).
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on April 6, 2011
I started with IDL programming last year.
When searching the web I soon encountered Mister Fannings web page.
It had a lot of usefull examples.

When looking for literature on IDL programming I found his first book "IDL Programming Techniques".
I liked it a lot. The writting and the presentation of problems/examples is easy to understand and it reads like a good book which sinks in and is not forgotten as soon as the cover is closed.

When Mister Fanning first posted at the google IDL newsgroup, that he was about to write a second book, I volunteered to review a chapter.

First I thought I will learn nothing new it will be just a refresh of the old book.
But when I kept reading I realized that his second book is even better than the first one. I really like his writting style. Everything makes sense to me. Since I work with IDL 7.1.2 and an upgrade to 8 is not planned in the nearby future, I am (luckily) "stuck" with old graphics.
This book is perfect for doing all kind of neat things with the old graphics system. There are alot of examples which are related to stuff one does with images, not just tutorials on how to programm. There is scientific background and it is well explained why things are done the way they are done.
One example would be the not usefull tv command in IDL. Mister Fanning provides a much better working alternative and explains why it is better to forget tv existed a all.

A must for every IDL user beginner or advanced.
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on April 18, 2011
The author of this book, David Fanning, has spent years understanding how to get the best graphical output from IDL. In fact, I would argue that Fanning knows more about getting great graphics than even the software engineers who produced IDL itself!

Thankfully, Fanning is also a terrific explainer as well. He takes the reader on a journey through the basics of each kind of graphical output, and onward to more advanced topics. On the journey, he's a friendly guide that keeps you engaged. Examples are plentiful and allow the reader to follow along. At the same time, the examples are short and punchy, so they don't get in the way of his description of what's really going on within IDL. When IDL has bugs or weird behavior, he shows you how to work around them. His new Coyote Graphics library really makes it possible to produce publication-quality graphics with a minimum of fuss.

People that I talk to assume that IDL has beautiful graphics automatically, but the truth is that by itself IDL can be frustratingly difficult to master. David Fanning's clear writing and solid examples allow readers to make truly beautiful scientific graphics.
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on April 6, 2011
David Fanning has knitted together the simplicity of IDL's Direct Graphics system with an object-oriented paradigm to create the best-of-best graphics systems for IDL. The new "Coyote Graphics" system that Fanning introduces with this book significantly reduces the programming effort required to convert data into "aha!" Those of us who have worked with IDL over the years have marveled at the difference between the flexibility of IDL's analysis tools and the rigidity of its direct graphics system. IDL's move into object-oriented graphics (and its progeny like iTools and the recently introduced functional graphics) has been very helpful, but the programming resources required to make it all work require, well, a programmer. With this book and new graphics paradigm, Fanning makes a place for scientist and non-programmers alike by restoring the intimacy the scientist can have with data while providing powerful tools for graphics. Seasoned programmers have a lot to gain by adopting the Coyote Graphics system, too, as under the hood is a fully formed object oriented scaffolding - perfect for developing complex projects. The recent adoption of the Coyote Graphics system by the IDL Astronomy Users' Library ([...]) attests to its value to programmers.

This book doesn't belong on your shelf, it belongs in a handy location on your desk.
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on May 13, 2011
I just finished the newest of David's books and was completely impressed. Having written five books on IDL myself I still found some things that were new to me. David is one of the best teachers I have ever had and this continues with this book.

If you are looking to learn IDL from a zero knowledge base then this is the place to start. David tells you what parts of IDL are important to learn to get up to speed quickly.

David also introduces his adaptation of the direct graphics system that he calls Coyote Graphics. I have just started using this and it is really nice.

All in all, well worth the price.
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on January 19, 2017
Why insisting on traditional IDL graphics when the latest IDL versions have a much better approach and can do better things and in a better way? The only reason I can imagine of, is that a good programmer is lazy and wants to recycle as much as possible of the code he/she has already written. But please don't pretend to teach others based on your obsolete code...
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