Ncview is designed to be the fastest way to see what's in a netCDF file. Of course I'm biased since I wrote the thing, but I think everybody who works with netCDF files can benefit from having ncview in their toolkit. Ncview doesn't replace existing analysis packages, such as IDL, NCL, Matlab, Ferret, or R; instead it supplements them by providing a quick and easy way to get an enormous amount of information from your netCDF file.
Think of ncview as being like the blurb on the back cover of a book. If you glance at the blurb you'll have a good idea whether to buy the book and spend your valuable time reading it. Likewise, flying through a netCDF file with ncview will give you a good indication of whether it's worth your time to analyze it with a complete analysis package.
Where to go from here
(C) 2008 David W. Pierce