Archive for the ‘series’ Category

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.

Today’s post is part of a monthly series exploring areas of focus and innovation for NI software.“Modern” is one of those ever-evolving adjectives that trendy fashion designers and architects really work hard to be associated with. Software engineers? Not so much. For the last few decades, the words modern and software, in the minds of computer scientists, were by definition synonymous. To the betterment of all, well, to the betterment of people that use software, the industry has shifted seismically in our thinking on what modern software really means.

Starting in the consumer space, the technology triumvirate of web, mobile, and cloud combined with the ideas of user-oriented designers have redefined ALL of our expectations about computer interaction.  We have moved from software and computers as baroque and exclusive to simple and ubiquitous for use in most every facet of our daily lives.

Historically, industrial software has safely ignored many consumer software trends because of the core value provided for the industrial user. It was almost a badge of honor to expose complex, unapproachable, and plain ugly software with corresponding reams of printed documentation. If it’s complex and unapproachable, it must be powerful! However, because of beautifully-designed mobile apps, universally available websites, frequent software updates you can download from a wireless device, and cloud-hosted video, photo, and document repositories all running reliably and responsively, those days are over.

Modern industrial software must be user-oriented to deliver productive experiences quickly. While this seems obvious, that is, to put the user first, computer scientists have a harder time with this psychology than most. Thus, it is fundamentally essential to alter the composition of your modern design team to include user-oriented people with a tad bit more empathy and art than your stereotypical scientist. These designers and artists tend to create more visually appealing applications. Again, not to state the obvious, but artists produce better art than programmers. Conversely, programmers produce better programs than artists. When you work on a purely visual language, it just makes sense to have visual designers and iconographers on your team. Together, designers and programmers deliver user-centric, aesthetically pleasing software—the key elements of modern software.


Tablets and smartphones, because of their touch-based direct manipulation, mandate that apps respond quickly and fluidly. In basic touch interactions, if the app can’t keep up with a finger dragging across the device, the app becomes nearly unusable. Humans perceive tracking lag if the app takes more than 1 ms to update during these fluid interactions.  

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Humans perceive tracking lag if an app takes more than 1 ms to respond to their touch gestures on a touch-enabled device.


Think about how long you have to wait for today’s powerful search engines to return your search results. Not long, right? So why does an app have a wait cursor to load a simple dialog when you can access all of the world’s digital information without one? While not all aspects of an app have to beat the 1 ms deadline for touch or the speed of Internet search, these apps have rightly placed performance as another central element of modern software.


The modern user justifiably expects more from both their consumer and industrial software. I am inspired by these new and, I believe, evergreen expectations. As modern software engineers, we must deliver productive, powerful measurement and automation software that is not only user-centered and visually appealing, but scalable for future features, and high performance.


Do you agree? What do you think are the hallmarks of modern software? Comment below with your thoughts.


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Today’s Featured Author

David Fuller has nearly 20 years experience in software engineering and is currently NI’s vice president of application and embedded software. You can’t follow him on Twitter because he’s a software engineer.

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


I’m excited about this new series—a collection of software musings intended to discuss revolutionary transformations happening right now in the modern software developer space. As the leader of a three-decade young software platform, I’m more than a little excited that the days when developers use a serial design methodology, work on monolithic technology stacks, deploy to a singular hardware device, or develop predictable IP are obliterated.


Our modern, high-tech world is one where expectations have dramatically evolved, everything is distributed, the challenges we face didn’t exist five years ago, and the challenges we are building for have yet to be defined (at least with a catchy marketing tagline). In my view, there are three oversimplified areas that define world-class, modern software.


1. User Experience Is King

Adam Richardson made this blatantly clear in his book Innovation X—whether you’re designing for creative Gen Y artists or mature employees in an established engineering discipline, your software design will be held to a new standard. Twenty years ago distinct industries were held to their own separate UX standards. Consumers had their expectations, engineers had theirs, and students had theirs. But today, these lines are so blurry that they no longer exist. Instead, what Samsung does with the next mobile UI influences and impacts the experience lead scientists at CERN expect from their engineering software. While traditional test and control vendors might continue to struggle, this is a great thing for all of us that consume (and develop) software. We have high expectations and we should have them met. Massive innovation is desperately needed in our space.


2. Distributed Data, Analytics, and Devices Showed Up Yesterday

Your software must be optimized for smartphones, tablets, laptops, clouds, and even wearables. This “trend” already happened by the way, just in case you weren’t looking, and it’s something modern software tools need to understand, leverage, and connect with. This simple statement encompasses a whole host of software challenges spanning incredibly diverse capabilities from e-ink screens to ultra HD, OS compatibility from Linux to iOS, mobile apps, HTML 5, and traditional client software. Knowing all of our devices will be connected, the inherent capabilities in your software need to be baked-in to communicate, correlate, and analyze data from your other devices, the back-end systems, and those devices you thought were unrelated.


3. The Possibilities Dwarf the Challenges

Yes, it’s daunting, but the modern software world is more tempting than terrifying. Even traditional, on-premise software vendors like Microsoft are transforming their views on software to be cloud-optimized, hardware-centric vendors like Xilinx are looking toward innovation where they never ventured before, the maker market is influencing monster corporations, and creative design is driving functionality in traditionally conservative fields like engineering and science at a much needed pace.


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David Fuller and me demonstrating the possibilities of a touch screen user interface at NIWeek 2011.


Moving forward in this series, we will explore how revolutionary visions of a true software platform framework change the productivity and capability game in ways our industry may not be able to imagine today.


So stay tuned to LabVIEW News—we’ve got some fun conversations ahead and hope you will join in.


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Today’s Featured Author

Shelley Gretlein is a self-proclaimed software geek and robot aficionado. As NI’s director of software marketing, you can find Shelley championing LabVIEW from keynote stages to user forums to elevator conversations. You can follow her on Twitter at @LadyLabVIEW.

It’s safe to say that LabVIEW has one of the most passionate user communities out there. With such an enthusiastic group comes a lot of feedback—both positive and constructive. NI customers have been loud and clear about their concern that LabVIEW is lagging behind modern software trends. While the challenges our customers are meeting with LabVIEW remain on the cutting edge of their fields, we recognize the need for an enhanced user experience.

Beginning today, LabVIEW News will publish a monthly series discussing areas of focus and innovation for NI software. Titled “Point of VIEW” – the series will cover the latest industry trends, R&D insights, and customer questions or requests.


Click Receive email notifications in the top, right corner of your screen or View feeds to follow along and join the conversation.

We just introduced new additions to NI reconfigurable I/O (RIO) technology – a reconfigurable Camera Link frame grabber, a motion module for the NI CompactRIO platform, and six new custom brushless DC motors.


Ideal for advanced inspection and imaging applications, the NI PCIe-1473R frame grabber is a PC-based embedded vision board that combines FPGA technology with a Camera Link interface. The new frame grabber’s onboard FPGA can be programmed with the NI LabVIEW FPGA Module for custom image processing and analysis in real time. It also features a high-bandwidth 850 MB/s Camera Link bus to support a range of Camera Link configurations and includes Power over Camera Link (PoCL) wireless capabilities, removing the need for additional cables or external power supply.


For advanced motion control challenges, the NI 9502 motion drive module for CompactRIO can power brushless, stepper or brushed servo motors directly with NI C Series modules to provide a compact, highly customizable motion drive solution. With 4 A continuous/8 A peak current, multiple commutation modes and direct connectivity with our six new three-phase brushless DC motors and integration with LabVIEW FPGA, the NI 9502 helps engineers implement proprietary custom drive control algorithms, eliminating the need for custom firmware from a drive manufacturer.


Check out the frame grabber at and learn more about the drive modules and motors at