Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

11. What data file formats can VisIt read?

VisIt can read several dozen file formats. The table below lists some of the most popular data file formats that VisIt can currently read in and visualize. For a complete list of supported file formats, at the time of the last documentation revision, look in the VisIt User's Manual. You can also look at the What's New page for more supported file formats. Finally, the File formats table at is another good resource. Each file format is read in by a database reader plug-in that is distributed with VisIt. If you want to use VisIt with your data, you can write your data to a file format that VisIt already understands or you can write your own database reader plug-in. You can find out more about writing compatible files and writing a database reader plug-in in the Getting Data Into VisIt manual.

File Format Description URL
ANALYZE Format that stores fMRI data of brain scans. ANALYZE file format description
ANSYS ASCII file format used for input to the ANSYS suite. ANSYS home page
BOV (brick of values) BOV data are stored in two files. The first file is binary and it contains all of the data for an implied rectilinear grid stored as a brick of floats, doubles, etc. The second file is an ASCII header file that indicates the size of the data in the brick file as well as other attributes such as whether the brick is compressed. The contents of the ASCII header are described in the Getting Data Into VisIt manual.  
Boxlib File format used by the Boxlib library, an adaptive mesh refinement (AMR) framework. VisIt reads both 2D and 3D versions of the data file format. View Boxlib documentation
CGNS The CFD General Notation System (CGNS) consists of a collection of conventions, and software implementing those conventions, for the storage and retrieval of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) data.

CGNS home page

Download CGNS User's Guide

Chombo This database reader plugin reads files from the Chombo package, which provides a set of tools for implementing finite difference methods for the solution of partial differential equations on block-structured adaptively refined rectangular grids. Chombo home page
CTRL CTRL files are the control files for TB-LMTO software, which uses the linear muffin-tin orbital (LMTO) method. STUTTGART TB-LMTO program
Curve2D ASCII text file format containing pairs of x,y floating point values on each line. This file format is convenient for importing curve plots into VisIt. The curve format can store more than one curve provided you supply a variable name as a comment, beginning with "#".  
Ensight Gold Proprietary file format for 2D and 3D data. File format described in chapter 2 of the Ensight User Manual
Enzo Enzo is an adaptive mesh refinement (AMR), grid-based hybrid code (hydro + N-Body) which is designed to do simulations of cosmological structure formation. Enzo home page
Exodus Sandia National Laboratory's file format for storing data Exodus II documentation
FITS FITS stands for `Flexible Image Transport System' and is the standard astronomical data format endorsed by both NASA and the IAU. FITS is much more than an image format (such as JPG or GIF) and is primarily designed to store scientific data sets consisting of multi-dimensional arrays (1-D spectra, 2-D images or 3-D data cubes) and 2-dimensional tables containing rows and columns of data. FITS home page
FLASH ASC / Alliances Center for Astrophysical Thermonuclear Flashes FLASH home page
FLUENT FLUENT is a very popular commercial CFD code. FLUENT home page
FVCOM An unstructured grid, finite-volume, three-dimensional (3D) primitive equations ocean model that has been developed for the study of coastal oceanic and estuarine circulation. FVCOM home page
GGCM The centerpiece of the NSF/GEM, program is the development of a Geospace General Circulation Model (GGCM), to be used as a research tool as well as a prototype for space weather forecasting models. Open Geospace General Circulation Model
GIS VisIt can read in several popular Geographic Information System (GIS) file formats using the GDAL library. The content stored in GIS file formats varies widely but can include elevation maps, census data, vector data such as roads and streams, etc. Some of the supported file formats are DEM, ArcGrid, ESRI Shapefile.

GDAL home page

ESRI Shapefile format description

H5Nimrod The H5Nimrod plugin was developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to read Nimrod's HDF5 output file format. H5Nimrod plugin information
H5Part The H5Part plugin was developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to read HDF5 part files. H5Part plugin information
Image VisIt can read in many image file formats created by popular image editing software including: BMP, JPEG, PNG, PPM, PNM, RGB, TIFF. Stacks of images can also be assembled into 3D volumes using a .imgvol file, which is a text file containing the names of the files to assemble into the 3D volume.  
ITAPS VisIt's ITAPS reader is one implementation of the TSTT interface for representing mesh and geometric data. The interface is experimental and is being actively developed and refined by a follow-on SciDAC project called ITAPS (Interoperable Technologies for Advanced Petascale Simulations). The interface is designed to be used 'in-situ' and so there is no well defined, persistent file format. VisIt's ITAPS reader is currently designed around the MOAB implementation of the TSTT interface. Presently, it reads unstructured, single-block meshes consisting of any combination of the finite element zoo of element types along with zone- and node-centered fields implemented as TSTT 'tags'. ITAPS
MFIX MFIX (Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges) is a general-purpose computer code developed at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) for describing the hydrodynamics, heat transfer and chemical reactions in fluid-solids systems. MFIX home page
MM5 MM5 is a limited-area, nonhydrostatic, terrain-following sigma-coordinate model designed to simulate or predict mesoscale atmospheric circulation. MM5 Community Model home page
NASTRAN NASTRAN Bulk data file format is an ASCII format that describes unstructured meshes. NASTRAN home page
Nek5000 Nek5000 is a file format developed for the Nek 5000 code at Argonne National Laboratory. Nek5000 home page

NetCDF (network Common Data Form) is an interface for array-oriented data access and a library that provides an implementation of the interface. The netCDF library also defines a machine-independent format for representing scientific data. Together, the interface, library, and format support the creation, access, and sharing of scientific data.

VisIt's NetCDF reader plugin supports conventions for the ADAPT, Lodi, and FVCOM simulation codes. If your NetCDF files were not generated with those codes then VisIt's basic NetCDF reader will attempt to expose all 1D, 2D, 3D arrays as variables that VisIt can plot. The basic reader does not permit you to specify coordinates for your mesh nor does it allow more than one time step in a file. If your file's variables are disabled in VisIt's plot menus then you may need to extend VisIt's NetCDF reader to support your code's conventions.

NETCDF home page

NETCDF User's Guide

OpenFOAM The OpenFOAM (Open Field Operation and Manipulation) CFD Toolbox can simulate anything from complex fluid flows involving chemical reactions, turbulence and heat transfer, to solid dynamics, electromagnetics and the pricing of financial options. OpenFOAM is freely available and open source, licensed under the GNU General Public License. OpenFOAM home page
PATRAN PATRAN neutral file, which is an ASCII file containing the definition for an unstructured mesh. PATRAN home page
PLOT3D Visualization application with accompanying file format developed at NASA Ames. Download PLOT3D

Point3D is a simple ASCII text format for 3D particles that have 1 scalar variable. Point3D is not a widely used format but it can be useful for scripts or simple particle simulations that want an easy way to get particle data into VisIt. The file format consists of a comment line that includes the names of the coordinates and the variable name. The variable name is used in VisIt's plot menus. After the comment line, each subsequent line contains the (x,y,z) coordinates and variable value for a point. If you have more than 1 scalar variable to plot on your particles then consider using Silo or Xmdv file formats.

Example file:
# x y z variablename
0 0 0 10
1 2 3 20
2 4 6 30

Protein Databank Protein Databank (PDB) files contain molecular data describing the structures of biological macromolecules. RCSB Protein Databank
SAMRAI Format used by SAMRAI, which is a high-performance library for handling structured AMR data. SAMRAI home page
Silo LLNL data file format for storing rectilinear, curvilinear, unstructured, or point meshes in 2D and 3D. Scalar, vector, and material data can be defined on meshes. Data can be broken up into different files (multi-block) to increase parallel performance. Silo Home Page
Spheral Spheral++ is a steerable parallel environment for performing coupled hydrodynamical and gravitational numerical simulations. Spheral++ home page
STL STL, or stereo lithography format, is an ASCII or binary file used in manufacturing. It is a list of the triangular surfaces that describe a computer generated solid model. This is the standard input for most rapid prototyping machines. STL file format description
TecPlot TecPlot is another popular visualization tool. VisIt can read the ASCII version of the TecPlot file format, though VisIt's reader does not handle all forms of the ASCII Tecplot file format. TecPlot home page
VASP VAMP/VASP is a package for performing ab-initio quantum-mechanical molecular dynamics (MD) using pseudopotentials and a plane wave basis set. VASP Group
Vis5D Vis5d is a free OpenGL-based volumetric visualization program for scientific datasets in 3+ dimensions. Vis5D+ home page
VTK Visualization Toolkit (VTK) data file format. This is an ASCII-based file format that can store 2D and 3D meshes and data on those meshes. Download file format manual
Wavefront OBJ Alias Wavefront's OBJ file format is useful for incorporating 3D models into your visualizations. Wavefront OBJ file format description
Xmdv File format used by XmdvTool, a public-domain software package for the interactive visual exploration of multivariate data sets. Xmdv file format description
XDMF A standardized method to exchange scientific data between High Performance Computing codes and tools. It uses XML to store light data and HDF5 to store heavy data. XDMF home page
ZeusMP (HDF4) This database reader plugin reads HDF4 files from ZEUS-MP, which is a parallel addition to the ZEUS line of community application codes developed by the Laboratory for Computational Astrophysics.

Zeus-MP 2.0 home page

Zeus-MP home page