Igor pro review (1st part)

Igor pro review.
(by wavemetrics , version 6.22a)

IGOR Pro is an interactive software environment for experimentation with scientific and engineering data and for the production of publication-quality graphs and page layouts.

Igor pro runs on windows and macintosh natively.
For a complete overview I suggest to browse wavemetrics site, linked above)

1st part of the review interface:
Igor pro interface elements.
 As you can see in the screenshot, the interface is quite different from the standard "excel-like interface" (like the one originlab offers).
Once you get used to it, with some very useful tricks, it really makes your data analysis faster.
I must admit though that under windows it doesn't look as good and polished as in osx, but the functionality is really the same.

The interface is composed by the following floating windows:
  • command windows
  • procedure windows
  • data browser
  • tables, graphs and layouts
By default procedure windows and data browser are hidden, you can show them from the menubar 
(windows-procedure window-procedure window & data-data browser respectively) .
What is incredibly nice and useful when mastered is that you can load data into waves(think columns of data), and just store them without showing, being still able to control them with the data browser.
With the command window you can make operations on your data.

The command window and the way you interact with data is the key to understand and either love or hate igor pro.
Forget excel and similar, you don't have a row based control of data.
What you get is a "terminal" type of interaction with easier control, with simple commands you can create data, alter colors, perform mathematical operations and so on.
What you also get is control over what you have done from the first second you have opened your experiment, you can then re-execute commands or recall the help file relative to that command. 

If you are somewhat scared of command line you can operate most of igor also with menubar, but you sort of lose the most interesting features of igor pro.

The procedure windows is another cool feature of igor pro.
In essence is where you  can write your own software routines using Igor´s built-in programming language. These routines are entered as text in the procedure windows.
This means that you can use additional procedure to organize your work or to re-use routines previously written. Igor ships with a lot of already written procedures, that you are free to explore and use if needed. 
In the procedure windows you can also have an overview of your macros.
I personally use the procedure windows to control my graph, and all the repetitive tasks.
 A practical example follows.

A procedure I've written to "automagically"add leggend, and name to the axis for a typical optical absorption graph.
What I have marked with 1,2,3 in orange are the buttons to access:
  • 1 procedure file information
  • 2 lock file, to avoid unintentional modifications 
  • 3 zoom text
The template box with downward arrow will open the already written procedures, and the procedures box will show the opened procedures.

Finally the data browser windows allow you to control your data.
Data browser window

Here you can create folders, rename delete and check your data waves. For maximum confort I suggest to tick the plot check box so that yo can see at a glance the shape of your waves.

Zoom of the quick plot area of the data browser.

That's a quick overview of the interface.
In my opinion you can either love it or hate it, i actually love it because of the control it gives you over the important steps of data analysis. 
Under mac osx the hybrid interface looks perfectly integrated, and most of all it really stable, no crashes at all.
But i must admit that under Windows 7 I also experienced no crashes at all.

Stay tuned for second part.