.HDF File Extension

Hierarchical Data Format (Version 4)

Developer The HDF Group
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What is an HDF file?

An HDF file is a scientific dataset saved in version 4 of the Hierarchical Data Format. Typically, HDF files contain large, multiobject datasets, which can consist of multidimensional arrays, tabular data, raster images, and other data. Scientists, engineers, and others use HDF files to store, share, and analyze data.

More Information

Screenshot of a .hdf file in The HDF Group HDFView
HDF file open in The HDF Group HDFView

The U.S. National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NSCA) created the HDF format to serve as a universal, portable format for storing and transferring scientific data. Environmental scientists, aeronautical engineers, physicists, and others often save scientific datasets as HDF files. For example, NASA's Earth Observing System, a series of satellites that collects Earth climate data, saves datasets in the HDF format.

The original HDF format, now known as HDF4, has since been superseded by HDF5. (HDF5 datasets are saved as .H5 files). In 2006, responsibility for maintaining both versions of the HDF format was passed to The HDF Group, a non-profit created specifically to advance and promote HDF. While HDF datasets are now more commonly saved in the HDF5 format, The HDF Group and most HDF-related applications still support HDF4.

How to open an HDF file

The HDF Group provides a free HDF viewer, called HDFView, which you can use to open HDF files. Other applications that can open or import HDF files include:

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Programs that open HDF files

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