FTOOLS and HEADAS Filename Syntax
All of the ftools and HEADAS tasks support CFITSIO's extended file name
syntax when specifying the names of input or output data files. The
first section of this document describes the features of the syntax
when specifying the name of a new data file that is to be created by a
task, and the second section describes the features of the file
syntax that apply when opening an existing data file.
A. WHEN CREATING A NEW FILE
1. Overwriting, or 'Clobbering' an Existing File
Most tasks will exit with an error if asked to create a new file that
already exists, unless one of the following conditions is met:
If the name of file is preceded by an exclamation point (!) then any existing
file with that same name will be deleted before the new empty file is created.
Note that the exclamation point must be preceded with the backslash (\)
escape character when it is used on the Unix command line,
as in this example:
ftcopy infile.fits \!outfile.fits
Most tasks have a 'clobber' hidden parameter which, if set equal to
'Yes' when the task is run, will cause any existing file to be deleted
before the new file is created.
2. Compressed Output Files
To save disk space, the output data file may be written in a compressed format.
Two different types of compression algorithms are supported:
If the specified output file name ends with the suffix '.gz' then the
file will be compressed using the same algorithm as used by the Unix
'gzip' program. Typical files can be compressed by a factor of 2 or 3
using this technique, but the actual compression factor depends greatly
on the contents and datatype of the arrays in the file. CFITSIO
supports this compression feature by first creating an uncompressed
version of the file in memory, which is then compressed and written to
disk when the application program closes the file.
If the specified output file name ends with the 'compress' qualifier contained
within square brackets (e.g. 'outfile.fits[compress]')
then the primary
array image and any image extensions in the file will be compressed using
the recently developed 'tile' compression algorithm. In this format the
image is divided into a rectangular grid of tiles and each tile is then
compressed and stored in a row of a FITS binary table. The header keywords
remain uncompressed for easy and rapid access by tasks that later read
the file. For more information about the tile compression format, see the
'tilecompression' help file.
3. Using a Template to Create a New FITS File
The structure of any new FITS file that is to be created may be defined
in an ASCII template file. If the name of the template file is
appended to the name of the FITS file itself, enclosed in parenthesis
(e.g., 'newfile.fits(template.txt)' ) then CFITSIO will
create a FITS file with that structure before opening it for the
application to use. The template file basically defines the dimensions
and data type of the primary array and any IMAGE extensions, and the
names and data types of the columns in any ASCII or binary table
extensions. The template file can also be used to define any optional
keywords that should be written in any of the HDU headers. The image
pixel values and table entry values are all initialized to zero. The
application program can then write actual data into the HDUs. See the
'template' help file for a complete
description of the template file syntax.
Applications programs usually must be specifically designed to support
the use templates when creating new FITS files. Most of the existing
ftools and HEADAS tasks do not support templates. One exception,
however, is the fttemplate (or ftemplate) task which uses a template to
create a new file.
4. Creating a Temporary Scratch File in Memory
It is sometimes useful to create a temporary output file when testing
an application program. If the name of the file to be created is
specified as "mem:" or "mem://" then CFITSIO will create the file in memory where
it will persist only until the program closes the file. Use of this
"mem:" output file usually enables the program to run faster, and of
course the output file does not use up any disk space.
B. WHEN OPENING AN EXISTING FILE
1. Basic Types of Input Data Files
The following types of data files may be opened by any ftools or HEADAS task:
Compressed files with .zip, .gz (gzip), or .Z (Unix compress) filename
extensions. It is not necessary to include the compression suffix when
specifying the name of the input file. When opening compressed files,
CFITSIO first uncompresses the entire file into memory, and the
applications program then reads from that file in memory. Compressed
files can only be opened with 'readonly', not 'readwrite' file access.
FITS files on the internet can be opened by specifying the full FTP or
HTTP URL to the file. These files can only be opened with 'readonly'
FITS files can be piped between tasks on the stdin or stdout file
streams. The filenames 'stdin', 'stdout', or '-' are reserved
for this purpose. For example, if Task1 writes an output FITS file,
and Task2 reads an input FITS file, then the output of the first task
may be piped to the other task with either of the following commands:
task1 stdout | task2 stdin
task1 - | task2 -
- IRAF format images (with a .imh file extension) may be opened
with 'readonly' access. The IRAF file is converted on the fly into
a virtual FITS file in memory, which is then opened and read by the
- Data arrays in raw binary data format may be opened as pseudo FITS
images with 'readonly' access. CFITSIO converts the data into a FITS
image in memory on the the fly which the application program then
reads. The datatype and dimensions of the image are specified within
square brackets following the root name of the binary data file, as in
'rawfile.dat[iB300,200]' . The first letter within the brackets
specifies the data type, where,
b = 8-bit unsigned bytes,
An optional second character specifies the byte order of the array,
where B = big endian (as on a SUN Unix machine) or L = little endian
(as on an IBM PC). If the second character is omitted then the native
byte order of the local machine is assumed. This is followed by a
comma-separated list of integers giving the size of the dimensions in
the image array, where the most rapidly varying dimension is given
first (as in Fortran array declarations and opposite to the order of
multidimensional array declarations in C). This may be followed by a
colon (:) and another integer value which gives the number of bytes to
be skipped at the beginning of the file before the start of the actual
image pixel data.
Examples of this raw file specification are:
i = 16-bit signed integers,
u = 16-bit unsigned integers,
j = 32-bit signed integers,
r = 32-bit floating point, and
d = 64-bit floating point.
datafile1.dat[i300,200] - A 300 x 200 short integer image.
datafile2.dat[r512,512:128] - A 512 x 512 real image.
The first 128 bytes in the file will be ignored.
FITS files can be read and written in shared memory. This can
potentially achieve much better data I/O speed compared to reading and
writing the same FITS files on magnetic disk. Currently, a maximum of
16 files may be created in shared memory, with names of the form
'shmem://h0' to shmem://h15'.
2. Extension Specifier
In many cases the ftools or HEADAS application program must be told
which particular extension (also known as 'HDU') within the input data
file that should be opened and operated on. This is done by specifying
the extension name (as given by the EXTNAME or HDUNAME header keyword)
or the extension number (where the primary array is number 0) in square
brackets following the file name (e.g., 'myfile.fits[events]' means
open the 'EVENTS' extension, or 'myfile.fits' means open the first
extension following the primary array in the file). Alternatively, one
may specify the extension number following a 'plus sign' (e.g.,
'myfile.fits+1'). One can also specify the 'version' number of the
desired extension and the type of extension (Image, Binary table, or
ASCII table) to uniquely identify the HDU, if more than on HDU in the
file has the same EXTNAME value (e.g.,
'myfile.fits[events,2,binary]'). The extension type my be abbreviated
with the letters 'i', 'b', or 'a'.
If an explicit extension name or number is not specified as part of the
input file name then many of the newer ftools and HEADAS tools will
automatically attempt to open the first 'interesting' table or image in
the FITS file. If the application is expecting to open a FITS table,
then it will move to the first table extension in the file that is not
a Good Time Interval (GTI) table. If the application is expecting to
open an image, it will open the first image HDU that it finds that is
not a null image (with zero dimensions). Some of the older ftools
tasks were not designed to use this feature, and hence will simply open
the primary array in the input file if no extension is specified.
3. Virtual File Filtering
A variety of different types of filtering operations may be specified
when opening a file. CFITSIO performs the filtering operations and
creates a virtual file (usually in memory) which the application
program then reads. The filtering specifications are appended to the root
file name and enclosed in square brackets. These filters provide
very powerful data manipulation and editing capabilities to all of the
ftools and HEADAS tasks.
The virtual file filters are described in the following separate help files:
- select a subimage out of a larger image
- open a N-dimensional vector in a binary table element as if it were a primary array image
- apply mathematical operations to the input image pixel values
- create an image histogram by binning table columns
- create or modify header keywords and table columns
- select a subset of rows from a table based on a boolean expression. This
includes filtering on Good Time Interval extensions and Spatial Region files.
- gives the detailed syntax for row filters
When creating a new output file:
!myfile.fits - the leading exclamation character indicates that any existing file with that name should be deleted prior to creating
the new file.
\!myfile.fits - when the clobber flag is specified on the Unix command line, the '!' character must be preceded by a backslash escape character.
myfile.fits.gz - the output file will be compressed using the gzip
compression algorithm when the file is closed and written to disk
'myfile.fits[compress]' - any images that are written to the file will
be compressed using the new 'tile compression' technique.
'myfile.fits(template.txt)' - the new file will be created having the
structure that is defined in the ASCII template file.
'mem://': creates a scratch output file in core computer
memory. The resulting 'file' will disappear when the program
exits, so this is mainly useful for testing purposes when one
does not want a permanent copy of the output file.
When opening an existing file:
myfile.fits - the simplest case of a FITS file on disk in the
'myfile.fits' - open the 3rd HDU following the primary array.
The name must be enclosed in single or double quote characters when
using square brackets.
myfile.fits+3 - same as above
'myfile.fits[EVENTS]' - open the extension that has EXTNAME = 'EVENTS'
'myfile.fits[EVENTS, 2]' - same as above, but also requires EXTVER = 2
'myfile.fits[events,2,b]' - same, but also requires XTENSION = 'BINTABLE'
'myfile.fits.gz[events, 2]' - opens and uncompresses the file
myfile.fits then moves to the extension which has the keywords
EXTNAME = 'EVENTS' and EXTVER = 2.
'-' - a dash (minus sign) signifies that the input file is to
be read from the stdin file stream, or that the output file is
to be written to the stdout stream.
'ftp://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/test/vela.fits' - FITS files on any
ftp server on the internet may be directly opened with
'http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/software/test.fits' - any valid
URL to a FITS file on the Web may be opened with read-only
'shmem://h2[events]' - opens the FITS file in a shared memory
segment and moves to the EVENTS extension.