National Instruments LabVIEW has always been a powerful data acquisition and instrument control graphical programming language. Now, LabVIEW 7 Express makes it easier for less experienced or first time users to quickly develop applications.
To get users up to speed quickly, the package includes a suite of nearly 40 Express VIs (Virtual Instruments) that obviates the need to write code to perform measurements. Guided by wizards and configuration dialogs, a user can take advantage of the VI's predefined function modules, linking them into complete applications without any additional LabVIEW programming. The complex code generation that takes place behind this new layer of development architecture is transparent to the user.
A demonstration to Design News editors confirmed the interface's clear presentation and package utility. Point-and-click has eliminated writing code or "wiring" VIs as in the previous version. And block diagram icons look more like instruments rather than merely boxes.
Product Manager Nicole McGarry notes, "LabVIEW 7 Express highlights the convergence of design and test. People who are not test engineers can integrate testing into the design cycle." Being able to test earlier and more frequently in the design process can speed time to market and improve quality. She also mentions the browsers that are included for searching programming examples to learn specific features or finding best practices.
NI's LabVIEW 7 Express developers also added a PDA module and FPGA (field-programmable gate array) programmability. The former permits developing code on a PC, which can then be downloaded into a Pocket PC or Palm OS PDA for portable wireless LAN-based controller access, for example. The FPGA feature allows programming control algorithms into NI reconfigurable I/O cards that can run independent of a central computer. In addition, Real-Time Module, for deterministic, embedded control applications, and Datalogging and Supervisory Control Module, for distributed monitoring and control, have been upgraded for use with the Express package.
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