[Point of VIEW] We’re Glad You Asked

Friday, October 3, 2014

Today’s post is part of a monthly series exploring areas of focus and innovation for NI software.



While most designers, whether with canvas, marble, brick or thread, revel at the thought of their work being identifiable at a glance, it’s not so of software developers. The phrase “I recognize that UI, it’s definitely LabVIEW” is not necessarily meant as a compliment.

Being “more modern” is one of the first three feature requests of any LabVIEW user, typically in some order with zoom and new UI components. As the world’s expectations of the word modern have evolved, parts of LabVIEW have not kept pace.

Today’s user expectations of all modern software are being established in the consumer world. Consumer products are establishing expectations around UX schemes, in-product purchases, and UI design. This is an interesting phenomenon that Adam Richardson explores in his book Innovation X: Why a Company’s Toughest Problems Are Its Greatest Advantage.


To fully modernize, there is work that needs to be done both in the design of the LabVIEW environment and in the ways that you as a user interact with it. Requests in our own LabVIEW Idea Exchange bear the same intention. While LabVIEW provides many helpful windows, such as Context Help, Probe Watch Windows, and the View Error List; however, they float around the screen. LabVIEW users are seeking conceptual improvements such as a multiple document interface and the ability to tab windows.


Particularly with new users, it’s not the design but the multiple UX paradigms that prevent them from maximizing their productivity. Consider an array control where there are three areas, just pixels apart, that produce different right-click menus:

  1. The area in the numeric control
  2. The border of the numeric control
  3. The border of the array control


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While many of the options are available through the magic right-click menus, some options are only available through the environment pull-down menus, sometimes in the front panel or block diagram, sometimes in the project explorer.

While we remain in awe of what our customers develop, discover, and revolutionize with LabVIEW, the Product Management team understands that NI software has fallen behind in this area. As a LabVIEW developer, or someone considering LabVIEW, you may wonder, “Yes, but what are you doing about it?” We’re glad you asked.

There is now a team of interaction designers and a separate team of visual designers. While we can all appreciate the uncompromising creative prowess of the engineering mind, you can only see so many blue windows titled “Blue Window.” We have evolved our engineering process such that the visual and interaction design of each feature, window, document, and option now uses the expertise of these two teams. This was the first step toward making LabVIEW look and feel as good as it does enable creativity and innovation.

Follow LabVIEW News in the coming months as we discuss other topics related to areas of areas of focus and innovation in NI software.


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Today’s Featured Author

Jeff Phillips considers LabVIEW as essential to his day as food, water, and oxygen. As senior group manager for LabVIEW product marketing at NI, Jeff focuses on how LabVIEW can meet the changing needs of users. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheLabVIEWLion.