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Surfer by Golden Software (Review)

Golden Software

Golden Software Review

Golden Software developed Surfer with an emphasis on scientific data mapping, modeling, and analysis. In other words: If you want to show your data in a variety of map types, then Surfer is an ideal solution.

More on this later. We have Golden Software ranked #18 in our list of 30 GIS software programs. Today, let’s explore the Golden Suite of Software products.

Pros/Cons of Surfer

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using Surfer compared to other GIS software applications.

  • Versatile in thematic map production
  • The focus is on data visualization
  • User-friendly interface
  • Data manipulation for XYZ points
  • Census-based street data geocoding
  • Short learning curve
  • License cost but more affordable
  • Specialized in specific domains
  • Narrow range of analysis tools
  • Lacks web map publishing capabilities
  • Sparse tools for advanced editing

NOTE: MapViewer is retired. But a lot of the same functionality can be found in Surfer.

Golden Software Ratings




Data Support

Ranked #18 from 30 GIS Software

The Golden Software Suite

The Golden Software suite is primarily for scientific visualizations. Here is a quick overview of their stand-alone applications:

  • SURFER: If you want to work in 3D, then Surfer is a fully functional 3D visualization package. For example, you can explore volumes, depths and 3D surfaces.
  • MAPVIEWER: (Retired) For publication-quality thematic maps, MapViewer is your software of choice. For data manipulation, there are analysis, editing and geocoding tools.
  • DIDGER: When you want to transform your data, Didger has capabilities for data transformation. For example, you can digitize and georeference maps, graphs and aerial photos regardless of size.
  • VOXLER: For 3D modeling, Voxler stands out for anything with depth. If you want to examine LiDAR point clouds, you can do that or almost anything 3D in it.
  • GRAPHER: If you want to produce high quality graphs, Grapher has the right set of tools. For example, you can plot your data in 2D and 3D.
  • STRATER: Finally, Strater is for cross-section modeling. Using Strater, you can examine well logs, borehole and groundwater data.

Thematic Mapping in Surfer

If you need to produce a professional map, Surfer has a clear focus on thematic mapping. It helps you lay a strong foundation with over 15 out-of-the-box map types.

Here are some examples of the types of maps you can create in Golden Software Surfer:

  • Territory
  • Vector
  • Line Graph
  • Gradient
  • Bar

If you’ve ever used Golden Software, it strives for simplicity for user experience. Surfer is no different because it’s just an easy point-and-click to generate high-quality thematic maps.

Golden Software Map Types

For any type of report, it has all the essential cartographic elements you need in a map. For example, it has scale bars, north arrows, legend options, and more. All are customizable and look great.

A short list of analysis tools

While mapping is a strong point, its analysis and geoprocessing tools fall short. There isn’t a lot you can do with Surfer on its own. Needless to say, you may need one of its other products. Here are some examples of its analysis tools:

Golden Software MapViewer
  • Shortest Path
  • Closest Neighbor
  • Bordering Neighbors
  • Polylines in Polygon
  • Touched by Polyline
  • Weighted Mean Center

If you buy Surfer expecting to get cutting-edge editing, analysis, and data management tools, you’ll be disappointed. There are really not many advanced GIS operations you can do with this software.

But you can geocode by using the census-based Golden Software [.STR] street data. This is how you can put locations on the map for any street address.

Summary: Surfer by Golden Software

By no means is Golden Software Surfer meant to be a full GIS solution. Instead, it’s good for building thematic maps that really stand out.

As a complementary application with its product line, it might be the trick you need.

Especially, if you’re familiar with Golden Software already.

Have you used any Golden Software products? What are your thoughts? Please let us know with a comment below.

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  1. If you are using Spatial Analyst for raster work, Surfer far surpasses ESRI tools. Includes faulted gridding and contouring.

  2. This is very inaccurate for Surfer. What is written is accurate for MapViewer, which is no longer sold by Golden Software. Surfer is very different from MapViewer. The screenshots, list of map types, and analysis tools are for MapViewer, not Surfer.

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