Distributing code and re-use libraries can be a surprisingly difficult task. Luckily for us, our friends at JKI have come up with an extremely elegant and professional solution for LabVIEW called the VI Package Manager. If you’ve never heard of this tool, I strongly encourage that you check it out. In addition to making code management easier, VIPM lets you download all the OpenG libraries, which adds some very useful functionality to LabVIEW.
To understand when VIPM is especially useful, consider several common examples of when you want to distribute your code:
You have a set of common VIs that you want to re-use in multiple applications
You are working in a team-based environment and other developers need your code
You want to share a set of development tools with a colleague
You want to post VIs online for the community to use
These all seem simple enough, but now lets throw a wrench in the works with a few common tasks:
Updating code - it’s common to make changes or updates to shared libraries during development. All team-based environments should be using some form of source code control to track and manage changes from multiple developers, but it can still be challenging to make sure you have the right version of all the subVIs installed and in-use at the same time.
Professional distribution - how do you share code in such a way that it minimizes the work required by the recipient? Instead of having to move multiple files into the correct directory locations, everything is installed automatically and appears on the palettes.
Dependency management - ever opened up an application on a new machine and discovered that it’s broken because you forgot some dependencies from a re-use library or a toolkit you forgot to install?
Multiple LabVIEW Versions - how do you make sure that the updates have been made available in all versions of LabVIEW, and not just the most recent version?
As you’ve probably already guessed, these are some of the biggest challenges that VIPM is designed to help with.
There are two flavors of VIPM: the professional version facilitates creation of ‘VI Packages’ and the free version enables anyone to install and manage these packages. You can download packages from a number of places online, or VIPM can automatically scan dedicated servers to see what’s available. I’ve also spoken with a number of LabVIEW users who are using the professional version of VIPM to distribute code internally during development.
As an example, Simon recently posted a set of custom controls for use in LabVIEW. Minutes after making them available, Jim had created a package and posted it on the document, which made installing them in LabVIEW a breeze. A few clicks, and the swanky new controls were in my controls palette.