User Interface Improves In Graphical Programming Environment

Sept. 17, 2012
The Mathworks has revamped Matlab and Simulink with a host of user interface improvements from tool bars to small platform support.

The Mathworks has revamped Matlab and Simulink with release 2012b. It has revamped the user interface for both platforms providing a more consistent and integrated graphical development environment. Both environments have enhanced team collaboration tools. There are new support packages for target hardare including lightweight, microcontroller-based processing platforms like Arduino and PandaBoard.

The new Simulink editor includes a number of features like tabbed windows made popular by web browsers. The explorer bar supports model hierarchy navigation (Fig. 1) using an autocomplete selection field. It allows developers to find models and then drill down quickly to find the code they are interested in.

Figure 1. The Simulink editor provides a new model hierarchy presentation tab with autocomplete selection of models.

The Simulink model editor has been improved with path routing that flows around objects. This provides a clean visual programming environment with a lot less work. It is similar to challenges that National Instruments addressed with its latest Labview (see Latest LabVIEW Version Swings For The “Learn To Program” Fences).

It is now possible to comment out blocks. This is akin to conditional compilation and allows developers to test out new alternatives without having to discard or save off existing models.

The Simulink editor is integrated with the new StateFlow editor (see Model-Based Approach Simplifies Embedded Application Design). StateFlow lets designers create combinatorial and sequential decision logic based on state machines and flow charts. The debug interface now allows developers to set breakpoints and step forward and backward through the states.

The Matlab desktop got a facelift with full screen mode on the Mac and a new Matlab tool strip (Fig. 2). The tool strip even has a New button to provide information about all the new features in the platforms. You know you are going to get a lot of when there is a feature like this.

Figure 2. Toolstrips are everywhere including in Matlab and Simulink.

I liked how the new tool strip can be customized and how it presents information in a most accessed format. The drop down windows have the latest or most used features with a more lengthy list below when requested. The tool bar contents can be customize.

Some of the new features include an improved Import Tool. Matlab is often used with data from other sources and there are now more methods to import this data. Interactive mode allows delimited and fixed-width text files to be easily converted with improved handling of numbers, text, and dates. Even audio and video files can be imported.

Matlab can now turn an application into a single package file. There is even the File Exchange at Matlab Central for sharing apps. The packaging mechanism collects all necessary files and installed and new packages can be viewed in the App Gallery. Packages can be downloaded and sideloaded as well.

The Mathworks tools including Matlab and Simulink incorporate a centralized documentation center. This is integrated with the help system and tabbed viewing allowing easier access to more information during development.

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