August 7, 2009

Web LabVIEW UI Builder - Doing Something New with the Help

Wednesday at NIWeek, we took the wraps off of the newest project I've been working on - a way to host LabVIEW in a Web browser, letting you build VIs without installing ANYTHING on your computer (ok, that's not the whole truth, you DO need to spend 30 seconds downloading the Silverlight runtime engine!) Just like Gmail, Google Docs, et al let you access email and spreadsheets without installing ANYTHING on your computer except a Web browser and a few standard plug-ins.

Our model allows you to build thin client VIs -- VIs whose front panels serve up UIs in a Web browser (w/Silverlight installed) and whose block diagrams connect to Web services, running on a remote cRIO/PXI/whatever target, that exchange data with a device you want to control and/or monitor. Up until now you've had to build these UIs in Flash, Flex, AJAX, or whatever. Pretty soon you'll be able to do it using just G! Yes, one language to rule them all ...

After you deploy this VI, you'll get a special URL for it. You then can connect to it anytime you want to view data from/send data to the device (in our keynote example, we used a wind turbine). The key is that you DON'T NEED LabVIEW INSTALLED to connect to this VI and control/monitor the device! You just need a Web browser/OS combo that Silverlight supports.

(Wow, I'm actually getting into a draft of a help topic here!)

I'm the technical writer for this project and it's something that's been very exciting to work on for the past few months. The main reason is that in planning the help system, we are going to be doing some very cool things. Granted they won't be mind-shattering, but given NI's traditional reliance on installing/printing CHMs and PDFs for help topics, the Web LabVIEW UI Builder (WLVUIB ... uh ... no) help will be pretty slick. For example I hope to reduce the time it takes to update the help, and I also hope to shrink the distance between developers/tech writers and users by taking advantage of some community-focused features. After all, you know best how to use these products. You should be able to share that knowledge easily with other users and with NI if you so choose. It's a win-win.

I also hope to bring videos, tags, and RSS into the mix. The overall experience should be more interactive than an installed CHM/PDF file, while still enabling you to find the information you need in order to get your job done.

Not that you'd sign up to use this product solely for the help, but if you participate in the pioneer, you'll get a sneak peek at it, of course! If you're interested in being a part of the pioneer program for Web LV UI Builder or any of the other few pioneer programs we have going on, head over to ni.com/day2 and let us know.

8 comments:

  1. Very excited to see this feature, but the Silverlight prereq means no displaying on an IPhone, yet. :(

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  2. Dan, I feel your pain! Hopefully the key word there is 'yet' ... I would like to see iPhone support also.

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