Ocotcat Topsoil Repository


Topsoil is a desktop application and Java library that creates data visualizations for geochronologists and other earth scientists. The purpose of Topsoil is to allow people to use visualize geochronology data, whether self-generated or from another source. The project is led and maintained by CIRDLES, an undergraduate research lab at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.”Topsoil” is an anagram of “Isoplot”, the name of an enormously successful Microsoft Excel Add-In with similar capabilities that now works only in older versions of Excel.

The documentation below is essentially a set of step by step instructions on how to operate the software. For auditory and visual learners, youtube video tutorials will be included among the written instructions, so there will be a video demonstration of Topsoil operations from a desktop.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers 0930223 and 1443037. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


  1. The Topsoil JAR file can be downloaded from the Releases page on Github.
  2. In order to open Topsoil, simply click on the JAR file.
  3. On Topsoils Wiki page, scroll down to the “A Simple Tutorial” section and copy the sample table of data.
  4. Click Create Tab and a tab called “Untitled Data” will open. Click the “Paste from Clipboard” button to paste in the table. When, the dialog box appears asking if the pasted data contains headers, click yes.
  5. Now, the table from the Wiki page should be open in Topsoil.
  6. Click Save Dataset in order to keep your table and give it a name.
  7. Click Plots and choose Scatter Plot and a box will open with options to orient columns with variables. When you are done with your selections, click OK. Then, the Scatter Plot will appear in another window and you can zoom in and out to particular parts of the image by scrolling over the plot on a Macbook. You have the option to title the Scatter Plot and change the point fill color. Additionally, you can save the Scatter Plot as an SVG file.
  8. You can also click Clear table in order to remove the data of the table.


Datasets-collections of sets of data imported into Topsoil that are composed of individual elements. The data in these Datasets can be manipulated for data visualization.

Isotope Systems - Topsoil allows for users to choose from two radiometric dating schemes: U-Pb (Uranium-Lead) and U-Th (Uranium-Thorium).

Plots- Topsoil allows for users to choose from two different types of plots for data visualization: Scatter Plot and Uncertainty Ellipse Plot.