Make your own LabVIEW MDI


I’ve been using LabVIEW for a long time. I started out with version 3.1 for Windows but then went on to use some flavours of LabVIEW 2 for the Macintosh.  There have been some great additions since then including LabVIEW Classes, User events, network shared variab…….just kidding.

Heck, even the colour box constant has moved like a dozen times!

One area that hasn’t changed so much has been the IDE itself. Sure, 4.0 brought with it floating tools/functions palettes that were part of the toolbar prior to that and version 8.0 gave us the project window but not a whole lot else has changed.

I don’t know about you but the size of projects I work on certainly has changed and managing my open VI windows has become correspondingly more difficult.

I mainly work in the project window but when debugging, single stepping and probing block diagrams I often end up with a handful of open VIs (Front Panels and Block diagrams) and managing all those windows can be a challenge.

Aero Peek is the facility offered in Windows whereby you can mouse over items in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen and be shown a (small) preview of the content. Now, my eyesight isn’t the best and deciphering one tiny block diagram image from another is not my forte.

Wouldn’t It be nice if LabVIEW featured an MDI or Multi-document interface,

For those not familiar with the term, an MDI is an environment in which several files or pages can be opened inside a single application instance or frame. Probably one of the best examples is a web browser. When you open a new page in Chrome or Firefox you generally get a new tab inside the same browser window rather than a new window.

Microsoft Excel is similar, if you open multiple spreadsheets they all open in the same instance of Excel and you can use the Window menu to switch between them.

Oddly, Microsoft Word does not feature an MDI. Each document opens into its own Word “shell”…..I find this difference between two closely related products interesting. I should investigate the history of this when I have time. Please get in touch if you know the reason why.

So back to LabVIEW.  How do we get a LabVIEW MDI ?  It turns out there are two solutions:

  1. Upgrade to LabVIEW NXG
  2. Read the rest of this blog post.

The decision to upgrade to NXG is one I can’t influence. Try it and see for yourself.

Number 2 is easier.  Take a look at the following video:

Woah, what did I just see?.  Using a 3rd party Windows add-on we were able to group related items together in a tabbed window. The relationship I defined in the above examples is that I allow the grouping of all windows related to LabVIEW.exe

The use of tabs makes flicking between different panels and diagrams a breeze.

If you want the same MDI-style interface for yourself the first step is to get yourself a copy of Groupy from Stardock software. It is a paid product but is very affordable. It’s also Windows only so if you’re working on Mac or Linux for native LabVIEW development then you’re out of luck.

*Disclaimer – I do not represent or work for Stardock Software in ANY capacity. I do not receive any compensation for suggesting this product. If this product damages your system in any way I accept no responsibility, besides, you should be trying this stuff in a VM, if you don’t then productivity gains of a LabVIEW MDI are hardly your primary concern!

Once you’ve got Groupy installed you can go ahead an drag the title bar of any open VI window onto the title bar of another VI window (or any window for that matter) and see them automagically become tabs in the same window. It’s great fun.

The only setting you need to change or be aware of is accessed by right-clicking on the hamburger menu and selecting “Automatically group LabVIEW.exe windows together” as shown in the screenshot below.

If you struggle with window management in LabVIEW then give this technique a try and create your own LabVIEW MDI.

If you’re not keen on spending money or installing 3rd party tools then hang on because sometime in the fall of 2018 Microsoft are likely to introduce a similar feature under the name “Sets” in Windows 10. You can give it a try on the latest Fast Ring insider builds of Windows 10 as shown here.

Happy wire working 🙂

Chris

 

2 Comments

  1. James Powell

    >Wouldn’t It be nice if LabVIEW featured an MDI or Multi-document interface

    Not really. Scanning a long bar of tab names is not a good way to navigate. Might be better than a big set of windows, but that’s a very low bar. I do primary navigation by the code itself, followed by from the project window. Searching for an open window is far down the list, except for a couple of key windows which I usually move to some key monitor space. I ignore almost all open windows stacked up underneath.

    • CRoebuck

      Each to their own James!. It’s a muscle memory thing for me. I navigate classes form the project but when I’m single stepping I do tend to have multiple windows open and navigate them using aero peek. This helps me in that situation. It’s nice to hear about the workflows that others utilise.

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