About this document

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What it is

This document provides a practical introduction to NCL (the NCAR Command Language). NCL is a programming language designed specifically for the analysis and visualization of data.

This document is integrated into a very large NCAR Graphics documentation website. Many links in "Getting Started Using NCL" (GSUN) take you elsewhere in the larger website. Several cues help you understand where you are. All of the pages in "Getting Started Using NCL" have a unique background color, a logo "sun" at the top right that returns you to the table of contents, and a navigation tool at the bottom. The other NCAR Graphics documentation pages use the browser's default background color and a different navigation tool at both the top and bottom of each page.

Who it's for

This document is aimed at users with little or no experience with NCL, although more advanced users may find it useful as well. Familiarity with the principles of programming languages is assumed. Familiarity with at least one self-documenting and network-transparent data format such as netCDF or HDF is highly desirable. If you are not familiar with such a data format, see the netCDF User Guide.

What's in it

The heart of this document is the "Learning NCL by example" chapter. In that chapter some NCL plotting functions and procedures are introduced that provide a basic interface to the plotting capabilities of NCL. Full consulting is provided on these functions and procedures, and reported bugs will be fixed.

After reading the "Introduction," progressing through the examples chapter and reading the "Basics" chapter, you will have a solid understanding of the NCL basics. Reading the chapter "Going beyond the basics" in this document should pave the way for your study of the NCL User Guide, which you will want to read to learn about the full power of NCL.

The last chapter of GSUN, "Hints and tips for using NCL," provides you with useful tips in using NCL. The appendix documents the plotting functions and procedures used in this document, lists the scripts used in the "Hints and tips" chapter, provides some advanced NCL examples, and lists some useful URLs, and the glossary defines terms that you may encounter in this document.

Conventions used in this document

Where to get help

E-mail group

An e-mail group is available for NCAR Graphics software users who want to discuss problems and solutions with other users. To subscribe to this group, send the following in the body (not the subject line) of an e-mail message to majordomo@ucar.edu
   subscribe ncarg-talk your_full_email_address

Once you are on the list, sending e-mail to ncarg-talk@ncar.ucar.edu will post your letter to the entire group.

The ncarg-talk forum gives NCAR Graphics software users a chance to share information and ideas among themselves and to bring up NCAR Graphics software issues that are of concern. NCAR personnel will not necessarily read or respond to this email group's correspondence on a regular basis. The intended use is solely for the NCAR Graphics software user community.

General support

For general usage questions about NCAR Graphics software, please contact the NCAR Graphics site representative at your site.

Comments and suggestions

We welcome your comments and suggestions. They help us understand the needs of NCAR Graphics software users, and they influence the evolution of the package and the direction of our development efforts. If you have any enhancement requests or would like to report a possible bug, please contact:
Electronic mail:

Postal service mail:
NCAR Graphics Group/Software Support
National Center for Atmospheric Research
P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, Colorado 80307-3000

home | toc | about doc | intro | examples | basics | beyond basics | hints and tips | appendix | glossary