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HDF stands for Hierarchical Data Format. It is a library and multi-object file format for the transfer of graphical and numerical data between machines.

It is freely available from NCSA. The distribution consists of the HDF library, the HDF command line utilities, and a test suite (source code only). 

Features of the HDF File Format:

  • It is versatile. HDF supports several different data models. Each data model defines a specific aggregate data type and provides an API for reading, writing, and organizing data and metadata of the corresponding type. Data models supported include multidimensional arrays, raster images, and tables.
  • It is self-describing, allowing an application to interpret the structure and contents of a file without any outside information.
  • It is flexible. With HDF, you can mix and match related objects together in one file and then access them as a group or as individual objects. Users can also create their own grouping structures using an HDF feature called vgroups.
  • It is extensible. It can easily accommodate new data models, regardless of whether they are added by the HDF development team or by HDF users.
  • It is portable. HDF files can be shared across most common platforms, including many workstations and high performance computers. An HDF file created on one computer can be read on a different system without modification.

Additional Notes

All versions are compiled with szip support and two with netcdf.