DirectSOFT 5 Tips

Automation Direct's DirectSOFT5 programming software has a Tip of the Day feature. There's some good tips in there so I've reproduced them here for easier reading.

  • The Online Status Bar is now an integrated part of the main Status Bar on the bottom of the application. Each Online Status Bar field behaves as a button to perform an expected operation, such as changing the PLC mode or monitoring the Link Status.
  • Intelligent Boxes (IBoxes) are modularized ladder logic that perform common, simple, but also some complex ladder logic. These will only download to PLCs that have proper firmware support (05, 06, 250-1, 260, and 450). Categories include Memory, Discrete Helper, Analog Helper, Math, Communications, and CTRIO. Bring up the Box Browser in the Ladder Editor (F7) to look at the various IBox groups in the Box Class list.
  • XRef View, Data Views, and the Output window are now dockable and floatable windows. Grab the window's title bar and drag it near one of the 4 main window area borders to dock it on that edge. Or grab it and float it outside the DirectSOFT application.
  • When a window is docked, it can be combined with other docked views on the same edge into a common "group", selectable by a tab on the bottom of the group.
  • You can "auto-hide" docked windows or docked window groups by "unpinning" the docked window/group. You can pin and unpin a docked window/group by clicking on the Push Pin on the right side of its title bar. When a docked window/group is "auto-hidden", each window reveals just a "tab" on the edge it is docked to. Just click this tab or float your cursor over the tab to "slide" the entire window back into view.
  • To draw horizontal or vertical wires between contacts and/or coils, use Ctrl+Up Arrow, Ctrl+Down Arrow, Ctrl+Left Arrow, or Ctrl+Right Arrow to draw wires. Use Ctrl+Shift+Up Arrow, Ctrl+Shift+Down Arrow, Ctrl+Shift+Left Arrow, or Ctrl+Shift+Right Arrow to delete wires.
  • Toolbars can be configured or you can create your own toolbars. Right click on a toolbar and hit Customize... to edit the toolbars.
  • Every menu command is now on a predefined toolbar (e.g. PLC Setup Bar), although initially only the "original" Offline, Online, and Ladder Palette toolbars are shown. To show other toolbars, right click in the toolbar area and check the toolbars you want shown.
  • File->Export->Element Documentation now supports KEPDirect Server format for exporting not just Nicknames as tag names, but it also exports ALL Element references in your program, revealing ALL PLC elements in your program to the KEPDirect Server.
  • Data Views can now be exported to a Comma Separated Variable (.CSV) file for simple archiving a shapshot of realtime data. CSV file format is text-based and supported by Microsoft Excel. Right click on the Data View and select Export.
  • All toolbars can be docked to any border of DirectSOFT or floated outside of DirectSOFT. On the left side of each toolbar, (or top side if docked vertically) is a "grabber bar" area. Grab the "grabber bar" and drag it wherever you want to dock it or float it. If the toolbar is already floating, then it does not have a grabber bar but has a title bar, so just grab its title bar to move it or dock it.
  • The main window area uses maximized tabbed windows by default. If you liked the old "Multi-Document Interface" where you can arrange the windows, hit the Restore button at the right end of the Menu bar, or go to the Window menu and select Cascade, Tile Horizontally, or Tile Vertically to bring the individual window frames back.
  • User Interface Themes (View->Themes) lets you give DirectSOFT a certain look. Examples include Office XP, Office 2003, and even a Mac look-and-feel.
  • New Hardware Support: D0-DCM is a Data Communications Module that works with the 05 and 06 PLCs.  It has two serial ports, each can be configured independently. To configure the D0-DCM, go to PLC->Setup->D0-DCM menu. A future maintenance release of DirectSOFT will add support for Mastering instructions from ladder logic, but for now it can be used as a slave.
  • New Hardware Support: Hx-ECOM100 is an advanced version of the current Hx-ECOM modules that support 100 megabit Ethernet speeds, Modbus/TCP, EMail (using the new ECEMAIL IBox instruction), greatly simplified network mastering IBoxes (ECRX, ECWX), and is configurable from ladder logic using other IBoxes.
  • The Ladder View can be "split" into 2 independent scrollable areas by grabbing the small bar above the top triangle in the scroll bar and dragging it down. You can monitor status in one part of your program while editing another. You can resize the split by grabbing the splitter pane between the two views and dragging it up or down. To return back to a single view, drag the splitter pane to the top or bottom.
  • Cross Reference (XRef) View has two "modes". One mode displays detailed XRef information on each element. The other shows simple "Usage" information. The mode can be selected by the first two buttons on the toolbar at the top of the XRef View.
  • If you have V2000 already in your Data View and you want to see the next location(s), just click on V2000 then hit Ctrl+Enter to insert V2001 (Ctrl+Enter again and V2002 is inserted...)
  • Ladder View has two modes, Display Mode (default) and Edit Mode. When in Display Mode, the block cursor is a hollow border around the ladder element. When in Edit Mode, the block cursor is a solid cursor covering the ladder element.
  • To toggle into and out of Edit Mode in Ladder View, hit Ctrl+E or click on the Edit Mode button on either the Offline or Ladder Palette toolbar, or do Edit->Edit Mode.
  • To place a new coil or box in the output column on top of a NOP or an empty location, you do not have to use the Box Browser (F7) or Coil Browser (F5). Just start typing the mnemonic, e.g. "LD", and the Token Selection Editor appears. Once the mnemonic is typed, hit Enter. If you enter an invalid mnemonic, it will try to create an unassigned NickName, but you will want to cancel out of that.
  • The Token Selection Editor now supports Auto Complete with a drop down list of any matching instructions. For example, if you type "TM" over a NOP in the output column, you will get an Auto Complete entry of "TMR" with a list of all output instructions beginning with "TM", including TMR TMRA TMRAF and TMRF. So if you forget a mnemonic, just enter the first couple letters to see a list of possible instructions.
  • To place a new OUT Box quickly, place your cursor over the NOP or an empty location, type "OUT" (without the quotes), hit Enter. This will give you an Out Coil. Then hit the forward slash key "/" to "toggle" between the OUT Coil and an OUT Box.
  • The forward slash key "/" can be used to toggle between normally open contacts and normally closed contacts, but also toggle through all the relational contacts, differential contacts (leading/trailing edge), immediate contacts, and the following boxes and coils: OUT Coil/OUT Box, JMP/NJMP, OUTI Coil/OUTI Box.
  • You can now format a whole group of entries in a Data View. Select the group of entries in the table, then select the Data Format or Size for the group of entries.
  • If you have a CTRIO module in your system, there are now Intelligent Boxes (IBoxes) which modularize the ladder logic for the various functions you can do from your ladder program, including management of Preset Tables, Pulse Output Profiles, and simpler error handling. See the IBox 1000 Counter I/O group in the Box Browser (F7).
  • If you do RX/WX communications using the local Serial Ports, a DCM module or an ECOM module, there are Intelligent Boxes (IBoxes) for simplifying the interlocking and error handling - NETCFG, NETRX, and NETWX. If you have an ECOM100, check out the ECOM100, ECRX, and ECWX IBoxes, along with many other ECOM100 IBoxes like ECEMAIL. See the IBox 700 Communications group in the Box Browser (F7).
  • A good way to share ladder logic with others is to use Mnemonic Import/Export. Do File->Export->Program then Monic Text (*.txt) file type. This creates a text file of your program in mnemonics, along with (optionally) Ladder Comments and Element Documentation. To import the logic to a new project, do File->Import->Program. To insert it into an existing project do Tools->Insert Instructions from File.
  • If you ever need to edit the DS500.INI file in your Windows directory, DSLaunch provides easy access on the browser under the Utilities group. Just double-click on the DS500.INI entry.
  • File->Properties allows you to add any miscellaneous documentation to your project. The fields in this dialog are configurable. If you want to globally add or edit any of the field types, open up the DS500.INI file in your Windows folder, and then add them under the [ProjectInfoUser] group. You can have up to 10 of these user definable fields. These field types are global across all DirectSOFT projects.
  • You can change the default Projects path used by DirectSOFT. Initially it points to the Projects folder where DirectSOFT was installed. To change it, open up the DS500.INI file in your Windows folder, go to the [PATHS] group and change the PROJECT PATH= value. You can point to a server using the UNC notation PROJECT PATH=\\XServer\YDevice\ZProjects\. Don't forget the trailing backslash!
  • It is good to let DirectSOFT know which PC serial ports are available. COM1..COM8 are selectable, with COM1..COM4 enabled as default. To change it, open up the DS500.INI file in your Windows folder, go to the [devasync.dll] group and change the COMxEnable= entry to 1 or 0 to enable or disable the port from DirectSOFT. COM8Enable=1 would make COM8 a selectable serial port, but COM3Enable=0 would NOT show COM3.
  • To add a communications link from DSLaunch, right click on the Comm Links folder in the browser view.
  • From DSLaunch, you can perform various operations on a communications link by right clicking on the link below the Comm Links folder in the browser. You can look at the link's Error Log, Edit the link, Delete the link, or Run DirectSOFT to the PLC on that link.
  • From DSLaunch, if a project you want to open is not listed below the Projects folder, you can browse your computer by right clicking on the Projects folder and selecting Browse.
  • If you have ladder logic between two consecutive rungs that you want to merge into a single rung of logic, use Edit->Merge->Previous or Next Rung.
  • To go to a specific address or rung number, use Ctrl+G to bring up the Go To dialog box.
  • The Element Browser (F9) can show you what specific elements are valid for any element field in Data View, any parameter in any instruction, etc. Whenever in doubt, just hit F9 to see which elements are valid for the field you are currently editing.
  • NickNames are part of the Element Documentation that map to a specific PLC Element. When editing an instruction, you could enter the element (e.g. X0) or its NickName (e.g. StartPump1). Since NickNames are mapped to elements, they must be unique. Use the Documentation Editor (Ctrl+D) to assign NickNames to PLC elements. Other Documentation tied to an element includes Wiring Info and a Description field.
  • Symbolic Programming - you can program without using PLC Elements by using Unassigned NickNames. To create an Unassigned NickName, type it as a parameter to an instruction and hit Enter. If the NickName is not tied to an element, the Create Nickname dialog will appear. Just leave the Element field blank. Once you are ready, use the Tools->Assign Nicknames dialog to map the Unassigned NickNames to PLC Elements.
  • Some of the System SP flags and System V memory locations have predefined Nicknames associated with them, e.g. _On for SP1 and _1Second for SP4. So instead of pulling out your manual when you want a contact that is always on, just enter "_On" for the contact's parameter (minus the double quotes).
  • You can document your ladder program on a rung-by-rung basis using Ladder Rung Comments. To bring up the Comment Editor, go to the rung you want to document, then hit Ctrl+K or double-click on the blank line (or existing comment) above the rung, or do Tools->Comment Editor. You can easily jump to other Rung's Comments from within the Comment Editor using the navigation buttons in the Comment Editor.
  • Tools->Compare Programs is a great utility to monitor any changes that you have made while you are working. You can compare your current work with what is in the PLC, or with what was last saved on disk, or with another completely different project file.
  • PLC->Tools is a quick way to launch some of the other AutomationDirect PLC tools and utilities that DirectSOFT Programming directly or indirectly uses.
  • The refresh rate of your status update is a function of 1.the number of elements being monitored, 2.the communication data transfer speed (e.g. 19200 baud Serial Port, 100MBit Ethernet, or 2400 baud Modem), but also 3.the PLC Scan time. The PLC can only respond to about 2 requests per scan. So if your PLC Scan Time is slow, 100ms vs. 10ms, this will greatly affect refresh rates for the faster communication links like Ethernet.
  • Some errors get reported to the Output Window. For example, reported errors can occur when attempting to write the program to the PLC or when importing mnemonic text from a file. If the error in the Output Window refers to a specific address in your ladder program, just double click on the error to jump to that address in the Ladder View.
  • To help you track which ladder rungs have been edited vs. compiled vs. saved to disk vs. saved to PLC, colored vertical bars show up to the left of the rung. A Yellow bar shows a rung that has been edited but not compiled. A Green bar shows a rung that has been compiled but not saved to disk. A Cyan bar shows a rung that has been compiled but not saved to the PLC. No color shows a rung that has not been edited at all.
  • Hot Keys provide quick access to many DirectSOFT features without using the mouse and menus. Examples include Ctrl+E to toggle in and out of Edit mode, and Ctrl+G to go to a specific address or rung number. For a complete list, bring up Help and look for "Hot Keys" in the Index.
  • To go to the Ladder View, use the Ctrl+L Hot Key.
  • If the Menu Bar, Toolbars, or Floating Windows disappear or become unmanagable, hit Ctrl+Shift+L to Restore Default Layout.
  • In addition to the user Backup facility, DirectSOFT maintains an Automatic Backup of the 4 most recently saved changes to your project under your Projects folder, below the \Backup\AutoSave\ folder. Each project has up to 4 subfolders, each containing all of the project's files. Each subfolder's name is based on the date/time stamp it was saved.
  • The Print Ladder and Print Stage dialog boxes allow you to set the Pen Size for the printer when it draws wires/contacts/coils/boxes.  This is helpful on high resolution printers where a default Pen Size of 1 is very thin and more difficult to see. Now you can simply set the Pen Size to one of four different thicknesses.

You can modify the button

You can modify the button icons. Right click on a toolbar and select Customize... at the bottom of the menu. The configure toolbar dialog box will come up. Now right click on ANY toolbar button and a context menu comes up dealing with that specific button.

Some of the options deal with editing the bitmaps (edit, cut, copy, paste). If you select the Edit Button command a little paint program pops up that allows you to edit the button.

3D Rungs

To see the ladder logic in glorious 3D right click in the main ladder view and select Options... Click the 3D Tokens check box.

The colors of the ladder are determined by the Windows Theme. On Windows XP, my preference is to use the Silver color theme. Go to the Control Panel, Display and select the Appearance tab. Chenage the Color Theme to Silver.

To lighten the display some more in DirectSOFT go to View | Color Setup ... and pick the lightest color gray for the Normal Background.

Curious about IBox coding?

If you want to see the code behind an IBox then create a new project, insert the IBox and export the program (File | Export | Program). Just after giving the exported file a name an Export Options dialog box will pop up. Make sure the Expand I-Box selection is checked and click OK. Opening the newly created text file will reveal the mnemonic codes used. The MDS and MDE codes indicate the start and end of an IBox.

Get detailed MATH IBox Error Messages

Say you're trying to do the following equation in MATHR in a 250-1 in DirectSOFT 5:

V2000 * SINR(V3000)

The little red light will be on because there is something wrong with it. But what?

Even if the light is RED in the Token Editor, hit the ENTER key - this will display an error message containing the first error that it finds.

In the example above, it tells you the reason why it is invalid:

Not supported in this CPU around "SINR" at character position 9 (did you know that the trigonometric functions are not supported in the 250?)

Any kind of free-format text entry (PRINT, VPRINT, ECEMAIL, MATHBCD, MATHR, MATHBIN, etc.), if you still get a RED LIGHT even after you think you have it right, hit enter to see what's wrong.

From franji1 at the Automation Direct forums 

PLCdev | Tools for PLC programming

It's awesome in support of me to have a web site, which is valuable for my knowledge. thanks admin