All too often, the documentation for your project is the last thing you worry about when you are trying to get the application working. Documentation and Source Code are entirely separate issues, right? Frequently the documentation lacks the effort that was put in the code. Because you are working closely with the code, you don’t even realize the documentation is lacking. However, if you expect others to use your code, or if you want to re-use the code several months, or possibly years later, the documentation is an essential component of the development effort.
In National Instruments LabVIEW, documentation and source code are tightly bound together, enabling you to write the documentation at the same time that you write the source code. The LabVIEW development environment keeps the documentation, the source code, and the compiled code all neatly organized in VIs, llb files and subdirectories.
Documentation for a VI is easily created: If you consistently write a description for each control as soon as the control is created and include a description of your code in the VI-Information field, LabVIEW takes care of the rest. Once your VI is completed, the documentation is completed as well. Simply select “Print…” from the File-menu. You can then choose which VIs you want printed, and what part of the documentation you are interested in. Not only will you have created a hard-copy of the documentation, the descriptions and information you have entered is available online as well. As most LabVIEW programmers soon realize, the help function is an indispensable tool in developing LabVIEW code. And indeed, the help that appears if you enable the help window is exactly those descriptions of the controls, and the VI information that was entered when the VI was developed!
What has not been available, until the release of the “VI Documentation Manager” by Data Science Automation, is a tool to generate comprehensive source code documentation for an entire project. While it has been possible to generate documentation, both as a hardcopy and as HTML web pages for a list of VIs, this documentation in not organized in any fashion. The “VI Documentation Manager” allows the programmer to generate documentation for an entire tree of VIs (nothing new here), but to also hyperlink the documentation of all the VIs together, such that one can easily drill down to the low-level sub-VIs directly from the documentation of the top-level VI. In addition to the alphabetical index, a hierarchical menu can be created that shows all the VIs at the correct locations in the hierarchical structure, allowing the user to collapse and expand the list of sub-VIs at every level, and click on any VI to view its hyper linked documentation. Indeed, every source code distribution should include this comprehensive documentation as an aid to the user.
“VI Documentation Manager” includes additional features, essential to any LabVIEW software developer. For example, adding a copyright notice to the descriptive text of an entire tree of VIs is a snap. Protecting all your VIs with a password, or removing the password of all the VIs is just as simple.