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Five Techniques for Better LabVIEW Code. Peter Blume President Overview. Introduction Five techniques with examples Specifications Data flow State machines Error handling Documentation Conclusion. Introduction.

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five techniques for better labview code

Five Techniques for Better LabVIEW Code

Peter Blume


  • Introduction
  • Five techniques with examples
    • Specifications
    • Data flow
    • State machines
    • Error handling
    • Documentation
  • Conclusion
  • Most LabVIEW applications begin with an industrial measurement and/or control challenge
  • LabVIEW facilitates fast development cycles
    • Easy to connect and control instrumentation
    • Fast solutions to industrial challenges
    • Instant gratification for developers
  • LabVIEW developers adopt fast habits
    • Sloppy wiring
    • No documentation
    • Computer science fundamentals are ignored
  • Fast habits = bad habits
justifying bad habits
Justifying Bad Habits
  • LabVIEW is a graphical language
    • Computer science fundamentals don’t apply
    • Block diagram is self-documenting
  • We don’t have time to write good code
    • Intense time pressures
    • LabVIEW is a secondary responsibility
    • Requirements continuously change
    • Equipment availability constraints
  • I’m the only developer / end-user
    • Nobody else needs to use or understand my programs
issues resulting from bad habits
Issues Resulting from Bad Habits
  • Application requirements expand
  • LabVIEW code becomes messy
    • Inefficient
    • Buggy
    • Difficult to troubleshoot, expand, and maintain
    • Not reusable
  • Overall development time is increased
let s write better labview code
Let’s Write Better LabVIEW Code!
  • Follow these five techniques
    • More up-front time and effort
    • Attention to detail
    • Discipline
  • Dramatically save time in the long run
1 write a functional specification
1. Write a Functional Specification
  • Understand the application’s requirements
    • Interview operators, developers, engineers, managers, bean counters
  • Document the requirements
    • Statement of high-level objectives
    • Specific requirements for I/O, analysis, GUI
    • Timetable and budget
    • Design prototype screen shot
    • Assign priorities to each requirement
    • Test methodology
functional specification continued
Functional Specification (Continued)
  • Avoid designing the system
    • Don’t prolong specification phase by including too much detail such as how to implement the system
  • Make the specification readily accessible
    • Have all contributors review and approve
    • Revise when requirements change
    • Keep it somewhere that you and others can quickly reference it
2 use proper data flow
2. Use Proper Data Flow
  • Data flow definition:

“A block diagram node executes when all its inputs are available. When a node completes execution, it supplies data to its output terminals and passes the data to the next node in the dataflow path.”

  • Parallel paths are permitted and desirable
  • Efficiency is optimized when LabVIEW determines the execution order
  • Readability is optimized when source terminals, wires, and destination terminals are visible
data flow impediments
Data Flow Impediments
  • Sequence structures
  • Excessive nesting
  • Local and global variables
  • Coercions
  • Sloppy wiring
    • Excessive bends
    • Overlapping wires with other objects
    • Multidirectional data flow
simple data flow example

Unnecessary sequence


Local variables

Simple Data Flow Example

Better data flow

data flow enhancements
Data Flow Enhancements
  • Artificial data dependency
    • Use error cluster and/or task ID
  • Shift registers
    • Reduce local and global variables
  • Clusters
    • Reduce the overall number of wires
  • Neat wiring
    • Left-to-right data flow
    • Straight wires
    • Consistent data types
    • Comments with “>” indicating data flow direction
3 use a state machine top level architecture
3. Use a State Machine Top-Level Architecture
  • Define application as a series of states
  • Go to any state from any other state
  • Easy to modify, maintain, and debug
  • Self-documenting
  • Scalable
state machine enhancements
State Machine Enhancements
  • Use enumerated or string for case selector
  • Poll user interface events in “No Event, Default” frame or in separate event structure in parallel loop
  • Use intuitive state names
  • Include “Initialize” and “Shutdown” states
4 incorporate proper error handling
4. Incorporate Proper Error Handling
  • Trap and report any I/O related errors in all VIs
    • I/O functions include DAQ, file I/O, instrument I/O, communication
    • Trapping is facilitated by propagation of error cluster
    • Reporting methods include dialog prompt or log to file
5 document your source code
5. Document Your Source Code
  • Assume every VI will be used and maintained by other developers
  • Best time to document your source code is while you develop it
labview documentation techniques
LabVIEW Documentation Techniques
  • Control labels
    • Use succinct, intuitive labels
    • Indicate units in parentheses or use free labels
    • Enter descriptions or online help where further text is needed
  • Icons
    • Intuitive text or graphic
    • 10-point small fonts
    • Color-coding for icons of related subVIs
documentation techniques cont d
Documentation Techniques (cont’d)
  • Diagram
    • Leave the background color white
    • Set all control labels visible
    • Liberally document with free labels
  • Enter descriptions for every subVI
  • Write a specification for all projects before you begin coding
  • Use proper data flow
  • Use a state machine top-level architecture
  • Incorporate proper error handling
  • Document your source code while you code
  • Techniques improve:
    • Readability
    • Robustness
    • Efficiency
    • Maintainability
    • Reusability
  • Techniques can be implemented quickly if you make them habits
    • Apply to every project, starting now
    • Apply consistently throughout each project
  • Dramatic reduction in overall time and effort
about bloomy controls
About Bloomy Controls
  • Test, measurement, automation, and control specialists since 1991
  • Systems integration, software development, and training provider
  • NI Select Integrator and Certified Training Center
    • 3 Certified LabVIEW Architects
    • 8 Certified LabVIEW Developers
    • 1 Certified TestStand Architect
    • 2 Certified TestStand Developers
    • 8 Certified Professional Instructors
  • Offices in Windsor, CT; Milford, MA; and Mahwah, NJ
contact bloomy controls
Contact Bloomy Controls
  • Email
  • Write or visit