If you’ve ever attended National Instruments’ NI Week conference, you know that for three days you’re inundated with innovation based on the company’s flagship product, LabVIEW. If you haven’t tried programming or tried and failed at C, C++, or other traditional language, but still want to experience the joy of programming, you might want to give LabVIEW a shot.
LabVIEW is a graphical programming language, which means you manipulate graphic elements to develop your program, rather than typing programming statements (see the figure). The difference between LabVIEW 2012 and earlier versions is that National Instruments is offering several new ways to help you learn to program.
There are a couple of caveats, though. LabVIEW 2012 starts at a tidy sum of $1249, and it’s mainly used for building measurement and control systems. On the positive side, though, LabVIEW programmers can program today’s advanced multicore processors and FPGAs.
Learning With Templates
LabVIEW 2012 introduces open-source templates and sample projects, including extensive documentation designed to clearly indicate how the code works as well as the best practices for adding or modifying functionality. These projects also demonstrate recommended architectures and illustrate best practices for documenting and organizing code.
Eric Starkloff, vice president of product marketing for system platforms at NI, noted during his keynote that these projects help you avoid producing “spaghetti” code—something I didn’t think you could do in LabVIEW. But he showed a slide of a LabVIEW application that looked like it was just missing a decent helping of marinara sauce.
Templates demonstrate the fundamental building blocks of most LabVIEW applications. Often, templates are used and combined to build real-world systems. They provide common architectures using well-adopted design patterns that you can modify to build a system such as a simple state machine or a queued message handler.
Sample projects for the desktop illustrate the use of one or more templates in an actual application. These projects fulfill the most common requirements of desktop-based measurement applications, including responsive user interfaces, asynchronous analysis, data logging, user dialogs, error handling, and multiple independent tasks. There are also sample projects for LabVIEW Real-Time, LabVIEW FPGA, and CompactRIO
You can create a new LabVIEW project from an existing template or sample project by selecting Create Project from the Getting Started window in LabVIEW. A full list of templates and sample projects can be found at www.ni.com/white-paper/14031/en.
Self-Paced Online Training
For anyone who does not have the time or the resources to participate in an instructor-led training program, NI now offers self-paced online training. You have to pay for it, but it’s accessible 24 hours a day from ni.com/self-paced-training.
Each self-paced online training course features multimedia training modules that cover the same topics as the corresponding instructor-led course, interactive quizzes to test your understanding, and challenging exercises and their solutions.
With LabVIEW, you program at a higher level of abstraction than you would with languages like C and C++. In other words, the programming code itself is not staring you in the face as you program a particular application. In addition, the graphical approach is more visual and intuitive.
National Instruments also offers a 10-minute video that can help you find out how LabVIEW 2012 can accelerate your success at zone.ni.com/wv/app/doc/p/id/wv-157. Another video, a “guided tour,” is at www.ni.com/trylabview/. Finally, you can download a trial copy of LabVIEW at www.ni.com/trylabview/ for Microsoft Windows or MAC OS X.