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Tools For Developing Tools, Part 1

NI Employee

Developing code to share via the LabVIEW Tools Network presents a unique set of challenges and requirements. Transforming an idea into a finished product can prove to be a time consuming process, even for experienced LabVIEW programmers interested in sharing their VIs or built executables. The Tools For Developing Tools series will address a variety of methods that can help decrease the time necessary to complete this process.  In Part 1, we will take a look at improving the process of creating detailed documentation that lives up to the Compatible with LabVIEW Certification

Understanding the Requirements

The requirements for documentation are similar for the different levels of Compatible with LabVIEW Certification.  Documentation starts and ends with the end user of the software in mind.  Including getting started instructions, well-explained examples, and detailed help information will allow your customers to get the most they can from your tools right out of the box.  Start with general Product Documentation, then expand into Professionalize Your Add-On or App With Icons and Documentation Best Practices.  Once you understand just how much documentation can be included, it becomes clear that manually entering all of the necessary information can be time consuming.  Let’s dive in to the tools available to assist in this process.


VI Properties Editor

The VI Properties Editor is a free tool that allows you to edit a VI’s Description, Help Tag, Help Path, and Name/Description/Tip in a single window. It also allows you to quickly scroll through multiple VIs on disk, decreasing the amount of time necessary to populate the Context Help for each VI.


VI To XML Documentation Tool

Use the VI To XML Documentation Tool to generate a set of XML documents describing your VIs.  You can also convert that XML into HTML, then use an HTML Editor and CHM tool to create CHM files from this HTML source.  If you plan on using XML extensively, then you can also check out the EasyXML Toolkit for LabVIEW, which makes XML editing as easy as working with a cluster.


HELPer: Help Editor for LabVIEW Programs

HELPer is an easy to use documentation tool that you can use to create and edit VI documents like those found in the “Detailed VI Help” links from the context help.  This tool takes care of the formatting and style, automatically matching current LabVIEW design while allowing you to focus on content.  It does allow you to customize formatting as you see fit, and generates ready-to-use HTML documents, allowing you to avoid programming directly in HTML.


VI Helpeks

Similar to HELPer, VI Helpeks simplifies the generation of completed HTML format documentation files and provides support for creating CHM files.  This tool automatically takes information from your VIs and compiles that information into the help files.  The more VIs you have to create documentation for, the more useful this tool becomes.


EasyGIO Tools

EasyGIO Tools is an add-on that addresses a wide variety of new functionality.  It includes VIs to create HTML help files automatically, set help options programmatically, modify VI descriptions, update front panel tip strips, and more.  In fact, this tool addresses much more than just documentation.  It includes functions that manipulate controls on your front panel, easily create FGVs, rename and save VIs without conflicts, and create a top-level VI with project.  The EasyGIO Tools are exceptionaly useful utility VIs that assist in many phases of development.


Icon Library Update Tool

As mentioned in the Professionalize Your Add-On or App With Icons and Documentation Best Practices, icons play a large part in how your code is perceived by customers.  The icon will be seen each time a customer drops one of your functions on the block diagram.  In order to simplify this process, you can use the Icon Library Update Tool to enhance the built-in capabilities of LabVIEW.  With this toolkit, you’ll be able to apply glyphs to controls or indicators, make your UI more user friendly, and incorporate improved icon conventions.


LabVIEW Localization Toolkit

Creating code for multilanguage applications can present a unique challenge.  Use the LabVIEW Localization Toolkit to simplify the process.  This toolkit allows you to create multilangue applications, change languages on the fly, and create language-dependent formatting rules.  This tool greatly reduces the effort needed to create and incorporate help documentation in multiple languages.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

(Edit: Check out Tools For Developing Tools, Part 2: Design and Implementation)

Patrick Simmons

LabVIEW Tools Network Engineer