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Surfer Features

Surfer is a contouring and 3D surface mapping program that runs under Microsoft Windows. It quickly and easily converts your data into outstanding contour, surface, wireframe, vector, image, shaded relief, and post maps. Virtually all aspects of your maps can be customized to produce exactly the presentation you want. Producing publication quality maps has never been quicker or easier.

Surfer easily creates a multitude of map types to visualize your data.
Top row left to right: surface map, contour map
Bottom row: shaded relief map, image map, wireframe map

Surfer Features

Contour Maps Post Maps USGS DEM Files
3D Surface Maps Base Maps Digitize Boundaries
3D Wireframe Maps Map Overlays Active X Automation
Vector Maps Gridding Worksheet
Image Maps Variograms Object Manager
Shaded Relief Maps Faults and Breaklines Additional Utilities and Features
  System Requirements  

Contour Maps

Surfer contour maps give you full control over all map parameters. You can accept the Surfer intelligent defaults to automatically create a contour map, or double-click a map to easily customize map features. Display contour maps over any contour range and contour interval, or specify only the contour levels you want to display on the map. And with Surfer you can add color fill between contours to produce dazzling displays of your maps, or produce gray scale fills for dramatic black and white printouts.

A USGS DEM of the Morrison, CO Quadrangle was used to create the
above contour map. The right half is an enlarged portion of the DEM.

Contour Map Features

  • Automatic or user-defined contour intervals and ranges
  • Full control over contour label format, font, frequency, placement, and spacing
  • Drag contour labels to place them exactly where you want them
  • Automatic or user-defined color for contour lines
  • Color fill between contours, either user-specified or as an automatic spectrum of your choice
  • Save and retrieve custom line styles and fills for contour maps
  • Full control over hachures
  • Regulate smoothing of contour lines
  • Reshape contour lines
  • Blank contour lines in areas where you don't want to show any data
  • Specify color for blanked region
  • Rotate and tilt contour maps to any angle
  • Add color scale or distance scale bars
  • Independently scale in the X and Y dimensions
  • Full control over axis tick labels, tick spacing, grid lines and titles
  • Create any number of contour maps on a page
  • Print maps in black-and-white or full color
  • Overlay base, vector, shaded relief, image, or post maps on contour maps
  • Drape contour maps over 3D surfaces for dramatic displays
  • Export contours in 3D DXF format

3D Surface Maps

The 3D surface map uses shading and color to emphasize your data features. Change the lighting, display angle and tilt with a click of the mouse. Overlay several surface maps to generate informative block diagrams.

This series of overlaid surface maps illustrates the geology of the
Great Lake Ladoga on the margin of the Baltic (Fennoscandian) Shield.

3D Surface Map Features

  • Specify surface color gradation, shininess, base fill and line color
  • Control mesh line frequency, color, style, surface offset
  • Set lighting horizontal and vertical angles, ambient, diffuse, and specular properties
  • Overlay contour maps, image maps, post maps, shaded relief maps, raster and vector base maps, and other surface maps for spectacular presentations
  • Choose overlay resample method and resolution, color modulation (blending) of surface and overlays
  • Change View tilt, rotation, field of view angles, perspective or orthographic projection
  • Set XYZ scales in map units or page length, choose proportional or independent XY scaling
  • Use data XY limits or specify a subset of the map
  • Control background fill and line color and styles
  • Add color scales to explain the data values corresponding to each color
  • Disable the display of blanked grid nodes or map the blanked areas to a specific Z level
  • Produce a detailed report of the grid statistics
  • Substitute a new grid file into an existing map

3D Wireframe Maps

Surfer wireframe maps provide an impressive three dimensional display of your data. Use color zones, independent X,Y,Z scaling, orthographic or perspective projections at any tilt or rotation angle, and different combinations of X, Y and Z lines to produce exactly the surface you want. Drape a color-filled contour map over a wireframe map to create the most striking color or black-and-white representations of your data. The possibilities are endless.

A wireframe map can be used to display any combination of X,Y, and Z lines. A USGS SDTS DEM file was used to create this map and color zones were defined for the X and Y lines.

3D Wireframe Map Features

  • Display any combination of X,Y, and Z lines
  • Use automatic or user-defined color zones to highlight different Z levels
  • Stack any number of 3D surfaces on a single page
  • Optional hidden line removal
  • Overlay any combination of contour, filled contour, base, post, and classed post maps on a surface
  • Views of the top or bottom of the surface, or both
  • Proportional or independent scaling in the X,Y, and Z dimensions
  • Full control over axis tick marks and tick labels
  • Add a base with optional vertical base lines
  • Display the surface at any rotation or tilt angle

Vector Maps

Instantly create vector maps in Surfer to show direction and magnitude of data at points on a map. You can create vector maps from information in one grid or two separate grids. The two components of the vector map, direction and magnitude, are automatically generated from a single grid by computing the gradient of the represented surface. At any given grid node, the direction of the arrow points in the direction of the steepest descent. The magnitude of the arrow changes depending on the steepness of the descent. Two-grid vector maps use two separate grid files to determine the vector direction and magnitude. The grids can contain Cartesian or polar data. With Cartesian data, one grid consists of X component data and the other grid consists of Y component data. With polar data, one grid consists of angle information and the other grid contains length information. Overlay vector maps on contour or wireframe maps to enhance the presentation!

A vector map of Mt. St. Helens overlaid on a contour map. Use a color scale bar or legend to indicate the magnitude of the arrows.

Vector Map Features

  • Define arrow style, color, and frequency
  • Symbol color may be fixed or based on vector magnitude
  • Display map scales, color scale bars, and vector scale legends
  • Scale the arrow shaft length, head length, and width
  • Control vector symbol origin
  • Choose from linear, logarithmic, or square root scaling methods

Image Maps

Surfer image maps use different colors to represent elevations of a grid file. Create image maps using any grid file format: GRD, DEM, SDTS DDF, GTOP30 HDR. Surfer automatically blends colors between percentage values so you end up with a smooth color gradation over the map. You can add color anchors at any percentage point between 0 and 100. Each anchor point can be assigned a unique color, and the colors are automatically blended between adjacent anchor points. This allows you to create color maps using any combination of colors. Any color fill you choose for an image map can be used with any other image map, even if the associated grid files cover distinctly different Z ranges. Image maps can be created independently of other maps, or can be combined with other maps. They can be scaled, resized, limited and moved.

Add color to your image map to customize it.

Image Map Features

  • Pixel maps or smoothed images
  • Dither bitmaps if needed
  • Create an associated color scale
  • Create custom color spectrum files for use on any image or shaded relief map
  • Overlay image maps with contour, post, or base maps
  • Data-independent color spectrum files
  • Specify color for missing data
  • Change the rotation and tilt angles

Shaded Relief Maps

Surfer Shaded Relief maps create a shaded relief map from a grid [.GRD] file or USGS DEM file. These maps use different colors to indicate surface slope and slope direction relative to a user-defined light source direction. Surfer determines the orientation of each grid cell on the surface, and assigns a unique color to each grid cell. Colors on shaded relief maps are associated with light striking the surface. The light source can be thought of as the sun shining on a topographic surface. Surfer automatically blends colors between percentage values so you end up with a smooth color gradation over the map. You can add color anchors so each anchor point can be assigned a unique color, and the colors are automatically blended between adjacent anchor points. This allows you to create color maps using any combination of colors. Shaded relief maps can be created independently of other maps, or can be combined with other maps in map overlays (using the Overlay Maps command). Shaded Relief maps can be scaled, resized, limited, and moved in the same way as other types of maps.

Combine a shaded relief map with contour and base map features.

Shaded Relief Map Features

  • Create photo-quality relief maps from grid files
  • Control light source position, relative slope gradient, and shading
  • Use custom color spectrum files for the exact desired display
  • Overlay with contour, vector, post, or base maps for highly effective displays
  • Shading calculations based on several shading methods, including Simple, Peucker's Approximation, Lambertian Reflection, and Lommel-Seeliger Law
  • Set relief parameters using Central Difference or Midpoint difference gradient methods
  • Specify color for missing data
  • Change the rotation and tilt angles.

Post Maps

Post maps show X,Y locations with fixed size symbols or proportionally scaled symbols of any color. Create post maps independent of other maps on the page, or overlay the posted points on a base, contour, vector, or surface map. For each posted point, specify the symbol and label type, size, and angle. Also create classed post maps that identify different ranges of data by automatically assigning a different symbol or color to each data range. Post your original data point locations on a contour map to show the distribution of data points on the map, and to demonstrate the accuracy of the gridding methods you use.

Use post maps to display the location of your XY data.

Different symbols are used to display different ranges of data in classed post maps. Here, a classed post map is overlaid on a wireframe map and 3D label lines have been added to lift the symbols up off the map surface.

Post Map Features

  • Create any number of post maps on a single page
  • Post from any number of files
  • Use proportional or fixed size symbols
  • Full control of symbol style, color, and frequency
  • Post data on contour, vector, surface, or base maps
  • Post every point or every nth point
  • Rotate and tilt post maps to any angle
  • Make a Classed Post Map to post different symbols for specified ranges of data values
  • Create a classed post legend to display the symbols and data ranges
  • Specify custom symbols from the worksheet
  • Add labels from a data file and adjust the angle of the label and the plane in which the label appears
  • Change data files without resetting post map and classed post map parameters

Base Maps

Surfer can import maps in many different formats to display geographic information. You can combine base maps with other maps in map overlays, or can create stand-alone base maps independent of other maps on the page. You can load any number of base maps on a page. Base maps can be imported from DXF, GSI, BLN, SHP, LGO, BNA, GSB, DLG, LGS, MIF, E00, USGS SDTS DLG DDF, EMF, WMF, TIF, PCX, BMP, PLT, CLP, TGA, PCX, JPG, PNG, DCX, WPG, PCT, and other formats. It is easy to overlay a base map on a contour or surface wireframe map, allowing you to display geographic information in combination with the three dimensional data.

Display your base maps in Surfer alone or overlay them on other maps.

Base Map Features

  • Create any number of base maps on a single page
  • Create independent base maps or overlay base maps on other map types
  • Edit line, fill, text, and symbol properties for vector base map formats
  • Specify real-world coordinates for TIF, JPG, GIF, and other raster files
  • Independent scaling in the X and Y dimensions
  • Rotate and tilt base maps to any angle

Map Overlays

Map overlays give you a way to combine any number of contour, wireframe, vector, base, and post maps. Draping a filled contour map over a wireframe map produces the most striking display of 3D data possible. And because you can overlay any number of maps, you can show any amount of data on a single map.

This map was created by overlaying two contour maps, a basemap,
and a wireframe map in order to display contaminate spread.


The gridding methods in Surfer allow you to produce accurate contour, surface, wireframe, vector, image, and shaded relief maps from your XYZ data. The data can be randomly dispersed over the map area, and Surfer's gridding will interpolate your data onto a grid. You have a multitude of gridding methods to choose from, so you can produce exactly the map you want. With each gridding method you have complete control over the gridding parameters. If your data are already collected in a regular rectangular array, you can create a map directly from your data. Computer generated contour maps have never been more accurate.

Gridding Features

  • Interpolate from up to 1 billion XYZ data points (limited by available memory)
  • Produce grids with up to 100 million nodes
  • Specify faults and breaklines when gridding
  • Choose from one of the powerful gridding methods: Inverse Distance, Kriging, Minimum Curvature, Polynomial Regression, Triangulation, Nearest Neighbor, Shepard's Method, Radial Basis Functions, Natural Neighbor, Moving Average, and Local Polynomial
  • Specify isotropic or anisotropic weighting
  • You have full control over the grid line geometry including grid limits, grid spacing, and number of grid lines
  • Customize search options based on user-defined data sector parameters
  • Specify search ellipses at any orientation and scaling
  • Use spline smoothing and grid filtering to alter the grid file
  • Use grid math to perform mathematic operations between grid files
  • Use Nearest Neighbor to create grid files without interpolation
  • Use Triangulation to achieve accuracy with large data sets faster
  • Detrend a surface using Polynomial Regression, generate regression coefficients in a report, and calculate residuals
  • Use data exclusion filters to eliminate unwanted data
  • Use duplicate data resolution techniques
  • Generate a grid of Kriging standard deviations
  • Specify point or block Kriging
  • Generate a report of the gridding statistics and parameters including ANOVA regression statistics
  • Specify scales and range for each variogram model
  • Extract subsets of grids or DEMs based on rows and columns
  • Transform, offset, rescale, rotate, and mirror grids
  • Calculate first and second directional derivatives at user-specified orientations
  • Calculate differential and integral operators utilizing gradient, Laplacian, biharmonic, and integrated volume operators
  • Analyze your data with Fourier and spectral analysis with Correlograms and Periodogram
  • Generate grids from a user-specified function of two variables
  • Calculate grids with Data Metrics including: number of points within search ellipse, distance to nearest and farthest neighbor, median, average and offset distance to points within the search ellipse
  • Use cross-validation to judge the suitability of the gridding method for the particular data set


Use the variogram modeling subsystem to quantitatively assess the spatial continuity of data. Variograms may be used to select an appropriate variogram model when gridding with the Kriging algorithm. Surfer uses a variogram grid as a fundamental internal data representation and once this grid is built, any experimental variogram can be computed instantaneously.

Instantly create variograms in Surfer to quantitatively assess the spatial continuity of your data.

Variogram Features

  • Virtually unlimited data set sizes
  • Display both the experimental variogram and the variogram model
  • Specify the estimator type: variogram, standardized variogram, auto covariance, or auto correlation
  • Specify the variogram model components: exponential, Gaussian, linear, logarithmic, nugget effect, power, quadratic, rational quadratic, spherical, wave, pentaspherical, and cubic models
  • Customize the variogram to display symbols, variance, and number of pairs for each lag
  • Export the experimental variogram data
  • Download variogram tutorial

Faults and Breaklines

Define faults and breaklines when gridding your data. The data on one side of the fault will not be directly used to calculate grid node values on the other side of the fault. When the gridding algorithm sees a breakline, any data points that lie directly on the breakline take precedence over an interpolated value. Use breaklines to define streamlines, ridges, and other breaks in slopes. Unlike faults, breaklines are not barriers to information flow and the gridding algorithm can cross the breakline to use a point on the other side. The gridding methods that support faults are: Inverse Distance to a Power, Minimum Curvature, Nearest Neighbor, and Data Metrics. Breaklines are supported by: Inverse Distance to a Power, Kriging, Minimum Curvature, Nearest Neighbor, Radial Basis Function, Moving Average, Data Metrics, and Local Polynomial gridding methods.

A contour map that features a fault is displayed here.
Faults and breaklines are specified when gridding your data

USGS Digital Elevation Model (DEM) Files

  • Use DEM files with any Surfer command that uses GRD files
  • Directly use the SDTS DEM file format in native form
  • Display information about the DEM
  • Create contour, vector, shaded relief, image, and wireframe maps from DEM files

Digitize Boundaries

  • Find XY coordinates
  • Automatically write coordinates to ASCII data files
  • Automatically save digitized coordinates as BLN files
  • Create boundary files for use with other maps
  • Display different properties for base map features


Virtually any operation that you can perform interactively can be controlled using an Automation-compatible programming language such as Visual Basic, C++, or Perl. Surfer includes GS Scripter - a Visual Basic-compatible programming environment that lets you write, edit, debug, and run scripts. In this way you can automate repetitive tasks, create front ends for running Surfer, or carry out any task that Surfer can do..


Surfer includes a full-featured worksheet for creating, opening, editing, and saving data files. Data files can be up to 1 billion rows, subject to available memory. You can use the Windows Clipboard functions to Cut, Copy, and Paste data within the Surfer worksheet, or between applications

Worksheet Features

  • Import files in DAT, TXT, SLK, XLS, WKx, WRx, CSV, BNA, or BLN formats
  • Calculate data statistics
  • Perform data transformations using advanced mathematical functions
  • Sort data based on primary and secondary columns
  • Print the worksheet
  • Save your data in one of the following formats: XLS, SLK, CSV, TXT, DAT, BLN, and BNA

Object Manager

The object manager makes the editing of any object simple. It displays all the objects in the document in an easy-to-use hierarchical tree arrangement. Select objects in the object manager to easily edit them and to show or hide them

Use the object manager to easily access and edit all the objects that appear in your plot window.

Additional Utilities and Features

  • Export maps in DXF, SHP, BNA, BLN, MIF, GSI, GSB, EMF, WMF, CLP, CGM, TIF, BMP, JPG, TGA, PNG, PCX, DCX, WPG, PCT, formats
  • Windows Clipboard support for copying maps to other applications
  • Combine any number of maps on a single page
  • Use the mouse to resize objects on the screen
  • Define default preferences
  • Define custom line styles and colors and save for use on other maps
  • Add any number of text blocks at any position on the map, using TrueType fonts
  • Include superscripts, subscripts and Greek or other characters in text
  • Compute volumes, planar and surface areas
  • Calculate residuals between data and surface
  • Print to any Windows supported printer or plotter
  • Easily clip boundaries or posted points to contour map limits
  • Display and print subsets of completed maps, complete with subset axes
  • Add arrowheads to lines
  • Adjust the number of undo levels
  • Use the reshape tool to edit areas and curves
  • Floatable toolbars

System Requirements

  • PC running Windows 98, Me, 2000, XP, or later
  • 25 MB of free hard disk space
  • 32 MB RAM minimum, 64 MB or higher recommended
  • 800 x 600 minimum monitor resolution

 Copyright (c) 2005 by CertainTech, Inc.