In this paper, a propagator matrix method applied to logging-while-drilling tools is introduced and extended to deal with the anisotropic and radially inhomogeneous earth formations. This method expands the Maxwell's equations in the transverse direction, constructs the relationship between propagator matrix and reflection matrix, and obtains the solution by using the reflection matrix. We systematically derived the formulas of propagator matrix method in isotropic media, uniaxially anisotropic media, fully anisotropic media, and radially inhomogeneous media respectively. In order to obtain the propagator matrix in complex media, we used the fourth-order Runge–Kutta scheme. Numerical experiments show that, compared with traditional methods, the propagator matrix method has wide range of applications while maintaining low computational costs and high accuracy. All algorithms presented in the paper have been parallelized and implemented on a high-performance computing platform. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.