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What is Common Data Format (CDF)?

  • Self-describing data format for the storage of scalar and multidimensional data in a platform- and discipline-independent way
  • Scientific data management package (CDF Library) allows application developers to manage these data arrays
  • Transparent access to data and meta-data through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
  • Built-in support for data compression (gZip, RLE, Huffman) and automatic data uncompression, and checksum
  • Large file support (> 2G-bytes)
  • CDF library includes a suite of tools that allow users to manipulate CDF files
  • Provide read/write interfaces for C, FORTRAN, Java, Perl, C#/Visual Basic, IDL, MATLAB (and user-supplied software, e.g., Python, Sybase, mySQL)
  • More in Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)

[Download the latest released version (V3.9.0)]

Please email cdfsupport with any CDF-related questions (both technical and policy-related).

An external CDF visualization tool: Autoplot interactive browser


  • CDF logoCDF V3.9.0 is released. This version has various improvements and bug fixes: including adding more dynamic space and better staging cache management to avoid using temporary file(s) for the compressed operations and improve the I/O access performance. For further details and changes, see CDF change logs. We encourage all CDF users to upgrade their CDF software.


    • For Windows: There are multiple installers for the binary distribution for Microsoft Windows version. Check here for information. The WinZip-based *.zip files require manual steps to place the distribution into the specified location.
    • For Mac OS:
      • The CDF and Perl distributions are universal binary of X86_64 and ARM64 code. All others are still x86_64-based, which can run on Apple Silicon Macs.
      • It has been found that there is an issue calling the CDF internal interface from gfortran made for Apple Silicon M* Mac port with file type arm64. For these machines, please use the X86_64-based gfortran, instead.
      • The CDF package installer allows installation at users home's Applications directory, instead of the default at system's /Applications folder.
      • We no longer support Solaris platform.

      We encourage all to subscribe to the CDF Announcements Mailing List to receive warnings of future leap seconds and other CDF issues.

      As always, please report any problems, issues or questions to CDF_Support.

    • For the TT2000 data type for time, read our requirements analysis and development approach for more details.
    • The latest leap second table, which has not been changed since 01-01-2017, can be found here.
    • IDL: Patch based on the latest CDF V3.9.0 version IDL Patch.
    • MATLAB: CDF distributed modules based on the latest CDF V3.9.0 version MATLAB Patch
    • C#/Visual Basic: C#/VB-CDF for Windows based on the latest CDF V3.9.0.
    • A suite of user-provided software can interact with CDF. Please check them out here.
    • Send CDF support email: Email
    • CDF's Java Network Launching Protocol latest development