The Universal Data Format (UDF) is first and foremost a generic file format designed and optimized for use with Space Physics Data Sets. The format is backed by a compact set of stable interface routines which provide easy access to the data. The subsequent development of comprehensive analysis and display applications based on the UDF has provided a powerful working environment in which to analyze the data. More and more the term UDF has come to embody not only the data format but likewise the environment which surrounds it.
The UDF and its environment offers a number of advantages in its application to Space Physics Data. These include:
A design tailored for Space Physics Data sets which supports both level-0 as well as processed data.
A file system which incorporates the instrument calibration coefficients (with time dependence if necessary) and other relevant parameters.
Software which uses dynamic algorithm definitions that can draw on the instrument parameters to convert and manipulate stored data.
Conversion of stored data to science units on access removing the need to reprocess data with changes in calibration coefficients.
Core software which compiles and runs under all common operating systems including UNIX (and its varients), Linux, WINDOWS, NT, and OSX.
Core software has on-demand promotion of UDF data built-in which is automatically imported by all applications.
A built-in archive capability for both data and software which includes a Server function to seemless distribute content to external client systems.
The existence of multiple interfaces to the data including: C, IDL, Tcl and CDF.
Generic applications which operate on any UDF data set including an ASCII dump program and a comprehensive plotting program.
A Software Librarian application which provides for easy updates and installation of new software packages and applications.
A complete set of management tools.
An exhaustive set of documentation, including overviews, manuals, tutorials, and a programmers manual.