FIGURE 2a - The Physical Layout of an HDF File Containing One Data Object
2.2.1 File Header
The first component of an HDF file is the file header, which takes up the first four bytes of the HDF file. Specifically, it consists of four one-byte values that are ASCII representations of control characters: the first is a control-N, the second is a control-C , the third is a control-S and the fourth is a control-A (^N^C^S^A).
2.2.2 Data Object
A data object is comprised of a data descriptor and a data element. The data descriptor consists of information about the type, location, and size of the data element. The data element contains the actual data. This organization of HDF data makes HDF files self-describing. Figure 2b shows two examples of data objects.
FIGURE 2b - Two Data Objects
220.127.116.11 Data Descriptor
All data descriptors are twelve bytes long and contain four fields, as depicted in Figure 2c. These fields are: a 16-bit tag, a 16-bit reference number, a 32-bit data offset and a 32-bit data length.
FIGURE 2c - The Contents of a Data Descriptor
A tag is the data descriptor field that identifies the type of data stored in the corresponding data element. A tag is a 16-bit unsigned integer between 1 and 65,535, and is associated with a mnemonic name to promote ease to use and the readability of user programs.
For each occurrence of a tag in an HDF file, a unique reference number is assigned by the library with the tag in the data descriptor. A reference number is a 16-bit unsigned integer and can not be changed during the life of the data object that the reference number specifies.
Data Offset and Length
The data offset field points to the location of the data element in the file by storing the number of bytes from the beginning of the file to the beginning of the data element. The length field contains the size of the data element in bytes. The data offset and the length are both 32-bit unsigned integers.
18.104.22.168 Data Elements
The data element is the raw data portion of a data object.
2.2.3 Data Descriptor Block
Data descriptors are physically stored in a linked list of blocks called data descriptor blocks. The relationship between the data descriptor block to the other components of an HDF file is illustrated in Figure 2a on page 7. The individual components of a data descriptor block are depicted in Figure 2d on page 10. Each data descriptor in a data descriptor block is assumed to be associated with a data element unless it contains the tag
0),which indicates that there is no associated data element. By default, a data descriptor block contains
16 (defined as
DEF_NDDS) data descriptors. The user may reset this limit when creating the HDF file. Refer to Section 2.3.2 on page 11 for more details.
In addition to data descriptors, each data descriptor block contains a data descriptor header. The data descriptor header contains two fields: block size and next block. The block size field is a 16-bit unsigned integer indicating the number of data descriptors in the data descriptor block. The next block field is a 32-bit unsigned integer indicating the offset of the next data descriptor block, if one exists. The last data descriptor header in the list contains a value of
0 in its next block field.
FIGURE 2d - Data Descriptor Block
2.2.4 Grouping Data Objects in an HDF File
Data objects containing related data in HDF files are usually grouped together by the library. These groups of data objects are called data sets. The HDF user uses the application interface to manipulate data sets in a file. As an example, an 8-bit raster image data set requires three objects: a group object identifying the members of the set, an image object containing the image data, and a dimension object indicating the size of the image.