Use Esri's ArcGIS and Surfer together

Surfer and ArcGIS can be combined to create maps and models. Surfer offers a variety of specialized functions which provide more accuracy, precision, and customization options than what's available in the base version of ArcGIS. Additionally, Surfer is a fraction of the cost of the Esri extensions that are required for these specialized functions. 


For example, users perform the below functions in Surfer and can import the results into ArcMap:

  • Create fully-customizable contour maps
    Contour maps can easily be created in Surfer directly from numerous grid (raster) file formats. Alternatively, grid files can be created in Surfer from data files or contour polylines in vector (SHP/DXF) files, and then contour maps can be created from those Surfer grid files.

  • Edit contour lines
    Contour lines and grid files can be edited in the powerful grid editor to create a fully-customized contour map.

  • Perform geoprocessing functions 
    Users have found Surfer's numerous geoprocessing tools more intuitive and easier to use than the functionality in ArcGIS. Tools include:
    • polygon, polyline, and point editing/reshaping
    • georeference images
    • create range rings, buffers, Delaunay triangles, or Thiessen/Voroni polygons
    • edit attributes
    • combine, divide and intersect polygons
    • perform queries

  • Interpolate data with well-known and highly accurate interpolation methods
    Surfer's interpolation methods are known for their speed and accuracy. Surfer offers twelve different interpolation methods and many options for those methods.

  • Perform mathematical operations on grid files
    Another set of powerful features that require an Esri extension are Surfer's grid operations. Perform mathematical operations on grid files such as subtracting one grid from another to create an isopach map, calculating the volume of an area between two surfaces, or calculating the directional derivative to better understand information about the slope of the grid. Other grid operations include:
    • Convert grids from one file format to another
    • Assign NoData to specific regions
    • Apply digital image analysis
    • Smooth grids
    • Assign coordinate systems
    • Project grids to create a new grid in a different coordinate system
    • Calculate derivatives, curvature, slope, aspects, differentials, integrals, and spectral analysis
    • Calculate volumes
    • Perform mathematical transformations on one or more grids
    • Create cross sections
    • Calculate residuals
    • Merge grid files
    • Extract a subset of a grid
    • Modify the Z-values of a grid
    • Display statistics on your specific grid file
    • Interactively edit the grid file
  • Generate reports on grid files statistics
    Reports can be generated from grid files, both to inform about the accuracy of the grid, and to ensure repeatability of generating future grids with the same settings in the future.


Surfer supports numerous file extensions, so importing from and exporting to other programs is easy. 

Esri-specific file formats:

  • Shapefile (SHP)
  • ArcInfo Export Format (E00)
  • Esri Float Grid Format (FLT)
  • Arc/Binary Grid (ADF)
  • Arc/Info ASCII Grid (ASC)

Other popular file formats: 

  • AutoCAD Drawing (DXF)
  • Tagged Image and GeoTIFF (TIF)


We want to hear from you! Let us know how you combine the powers of Surfer and ArcGIS by submitting a support request with your comments.


Updated November 2021

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