New features are the name of the game when a company introduces a product or revises an existing one. Typically, new features result from extensive market research and in-depth communications with customers. With new and more features, you can complete tasks sooner, create better and more reliable applications, and increase production throughput.
Well, these issues and more were the driving forces for the software developers at National Instruments working on Version 5.0 of LabVIEW, the company’s graphical programming language. Version 5.0 is touted as providing the capability to develop applications quicker and easier.
In the quest to simplify application development, the company added some features that should benefit novice and experienced users alike. These features include multithreading, instrument wizards, an ActiveX container, automation and a TCP/IP server, distributed computing tools, translation and documentation tools, programmatic menu bars, and undo.
A look at each feature will help you better understand the capabilities of Version 5.0. One of the main benefits of multithreading is performing more tasks in less time. With multithreading capabilities, applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, or LabVIEW can separate their tasks into individual threads. In a multiprocessor, multithreaded environment, the operating system can process many threads in parallel on multiple processors, which reduces application run time.
In Version 5.0, all programs are automatically multithreaded without any code modifications. An application developed in an earlier version of LabVIEW will be multithreaded automatically when opened in 5.0. You also have the capability to change individual threads.
You can create control programs for GPIB, VXI, and RS-232 instruments and see what instruments are connected to your system with the new instrument wizard. Also, the instrument wizard automatically installs instrument drivers and generates application examples using the drivers. The application is generated in source code so it can be modified.
Code reuse is a hot issue for programmers, especially when dealing with code-intensive applications. Version 5.0 makes LabVIEW an ActiveX container. You can drop any 32-bit custom control or ActiveX document onto a LabVIEW front panel without rewriting code. Objects can be edited directly on the LabVIEW panel using simple graphical programming.
With the ActiveX automation server capability, any ActiveX automation client, such as C, Visual Basic, Microsoft Excel, or another LabVIEW application, can control a LabVIEW application or call other programs directly. The automation server encompasses the TCP/IP server interface so other LabVIEW applications can be controlled over a network.
Distributed computing tools allow you to create distributed applications so that sections of code can execute on different machines across a network. With these tools, you can off-load processor-intensive routines to other machines for faster execution. Also, the tools allow remote monitoring and control applications to be controlled with one central system.
To simplify the preparation of user manuals and function reference manuals, Version 5.0 includes a tool that automatically generates documentation for applications in HTML and RTF formats. Also, a translation tool gives you the ability to create multilingual applications. Text is merely exported out to a file where it is translated and then imported back into the program.
The graphical differencing tool is designed to compare differences between two LabVIEW programs. They are presented in a list. You can click on any item in the list and view the actual differences at the appropriate location. In addition, you can choose to view all differences or only cosmetic or functional differences.
Creating custom menus is not new to LabVIEW; this feature has been available for some time. Version 5.0 simplifies the task by allowing you to create custom menus quickly and easily.
Word processors have a neat feature called undo. You make changes in the text and then decide you don’t like the changes. No problem. Click on the undo button and the original text replaces the changed text. At last, Version 5.0 of LabVIEW has an extensive, multistep undo feature. Cost: $995 for Windows NT/95/3.1 PCs. National Instruments, (800) 258-7022.
Copyright 1998 Nelson Publishing Inc.