In Praise of Magpick: Free Gridding Software

I’d like to use this post to draw your attention to Magpick, a free program for the gridding of geophysical (or any other) data. This program is available for download for free from Geometrics at this location.

Magpick was initially developed by Mikhail Tchernychev at the University of Hamburg in spring 1996 as a simple tool for the basic interpretation of magnetometer data. The program has undergone many significant upgrades since then and is now distributed as a free product by Geometrics.

I have used Magpick sporadically for consulting and academic work since 2005 and find it an effective, if simple, tool for gridding with any basic spatial data. While the software has been developed specifically for the interpretation of magnetic intensity data it is also effective as a way of gridding any other information such as topography making it a cost effective replacement for programs such as Surfer.

Despite these other benefits, the biggest strength of Magpick is as a teaching aid. Because the software can be downloaded by students to load onto their own computers for free it allows them to practise their skills out of class time. I use Magpick for my subject Introductory Archaeological Geophysics and generally find that students can become competent in basic gridding operations after only a few hours of practise. To aid in this process I have developed a rough guide to Magpick operation. This is intended as a very basic guide to enable new users to quickly make basic maps. For a far more comprehensive guide please see the manual.

The principle disadvantages of using Magpick are its lack of effective data editing functions (particularly when compared to more sophisticated and expensive software such as Oasis Montaj) and the less than seamless manner in which it interfaces with MapInfo and Arc GIS. Despite this, I consider it a worthwhile tool, particularly for research or teaching.

Ian Moffat

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