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The Gnu Data Language (GDL) is a useful open-source alternative to IDL on Linux. Although for new astronomical scripting applications we prefer Python, the proprietary IDL system is widely used and there are many astronomical routines written for it that are freely available. This page is a guide to the installation of GDL on an OpenSuse Linux platform.

Download the recent source code

We assume that the base OpenSuse system has been installed with the packages that are often used to support scientific computing. There are some unusual dependencies to build a complete GDL. Additional procedures may be added after the fact since they are compiled as needed by GDL itself.

We recommend installing the version in the CVS repository since is likely to have many known issues corrected. However, the version 0.9.2 released on 2012-02-20 will compile and is largely compatible with IDL. These notes are based on an CVS verion of 2012-07-29 which updates that release.

Go to the Sourceforge website:

and click on the "Code" link in the top menubar rather than the "Download" button that provides the last stable release. At the bottom of the new "gdl" listing there will be an option to download the GNU tar archive of the entire CVS tree. Once you have it on your system, make a copy in a permanent location, and as superuser (su), also to the /usr/local/src tree on your Linux system:

cp gnudatalanguage-gdl_20120729.tar.gz /usr/local/src

You are ready to compile the code.

Install and compile the source code

The source tree will be in /usr/local/src/ where you made a copy of the downloaded tarfile:

cd /usr/local/src

tar xvzf gnudatalanguage-gdl_20120729.tar.gz

This will create a "gdl" directory in /usr/local/src containing the files you will compile.

cd gdl

./configure --without-hdf --with-hdf5

If the configuration does not successfully complete and create "Makefile" in the top level directory, look at the list of errors generated during configuration for clues about missing packages. There will distinctive name that you will have to find in the distribution's repositories. For OpenSuse, you would use yast or yast2 as indicated, then repeat the configure command and the search for rpm's until there are no errors.

Once those issues are resolved, try building the software with


We find that during the build you may see an error such as this one:

libtool: Version mismatch error.

which is corrected by running this command

aclocal; libtoolize --force; autoconf; automake -a

in the toplevel of gdl directory, and then repeating the configure and make commands.

The GDL team notes in their CVS version that they will be using cmake instead of autoconf in the future. The software can be compiled with cmake once you install the package for your distribution. The process would be something like this:

cd gdl

mkdir build

cd build


modified to allow for variations in your installation requirements. Instructions are in the gdl INSTALL.cmake file.

After a successful make operation, install the binaries and library with

make install

Prepare a location for the procedures that you will add:

cd /usr/local/

mkdir gdl

cd gdl

cp -p -r /usr/local/src/gdl/src/pro ./

Add new procedures

For astronomical use, there are additional procedures to install system-wide. Download and save in your long term archive the code from these sites:

Copy the .pro files from these sources into one or more separate directory undier /usr/local/gdl. For example, we would use something like this:

cd /usr/local/gdl

mkdir astro

mkdir tmp

cd tmp

cp /home/john/gdl/archive/astron.tar.gz ./

tar xvzf astron.tar.gz

cd pro

cp *.pro /usr/local/gdl/astro/

cd /usr/local/gdl

rm -r tmp

and repeat this for each of the libraries you want to add, copying only the *.pro files into gdl. They can all go into gdl/astro, or if you anticipate updating them individually, create a directory for each one.