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Don't be mislead by the relatively minor version-number jump from 1.1 to 2.0; the latest version of Fortner Software's Noesys is no modest update, but rather the most complete scientific-visualization program ever offered on the Macintosh. Despite some growing pains from grafting Research Systems' Interactive Data Language (IDL) onto Noesys's original FORTRAN interpreter base, this package easily handles problems that were beyond desktop computers only a few years ago.
To see why scientific visualization presents unique data-handling challenges, consider a color-coded map of world surface temperatures. Temperature data at one-mile intervals for this kind of map would normally yield a file of roughly 100MB, and such files require their own data-packing protocols for real-time display. That's why the geophysics and fluid-dynamics fieldsamong othersuse special file types, each with its own requirements for efficient editing and handling. Besides faithfully displaying and translating all these types, Noesys can now open and display images of files that are too big to fit in memory, paging file sections from your hard disk at a usable speed.
The integration of Noesys with IDL essentially gives scientists a complete C++-style programming language with single-command graphing for massive data structures. The software is available in three forms: Noesys 2.0 is the updated imaging suite with command-line IDL data-analysis commands; the $795 Noesys 2.0 Plus adds the ability to run compiled IDL routines; and the $2,390 Noesys+IDL makes the suite completely programmable in IDL. The latter two are distributed by Research Systems ( http://www.rsinc.com, 303/786-9900).
Adding IDL's language to Noesys's intuitive Mac-based interface is generally successful, but IDL has a vast repertoire of tricks that have no analogue in Noesys; be prepared to spend some time developing IDL programming expertise. And the Mac and Windows versions of Noesys 2.0 don't match up exactly: the Mac version has some nice data-editing features that are missing from its Windows counterpart, but it lacks table formatting and nearly a dozen types of global map projection.
The union of Noesys and IDL is good news for the Macintosh. Noesys 2.0, in any of its three forms, makes a G3 Mac a nearly ideal visualization device for large scientific, medical, or engineering images.
RATING: PROS: Easy introduction to IDL; large-file display is optimized for G3s. CONS: Mac version lacks some graphics and mapping features. COMPANY: Fortner Software (800/252-6479, http://www.fortner.com ). LIST PRICE: $495.
November 1999 page: 78