Discover How You Can Easily Document Your Hardware Design Data
If you use an logic analyzer, oscilloscope, or spectrum analyzer to help you develop your hardware and/or software let me a ask you a few questions.
How many times have you attached your oscilloscope's probes to your hardware to see its waveforms - and done this over and over again?
How many times have you had to set up your logic analyzer or spectrum analyzer to find a glitch in the hardware and then gather your project teammates to see the problem?
How many times have you discovered a hardware problem using your oscilloscope or logic analyzer and then tried to explain the problem to someone across town? In another city? Or even in another state?
In each case a picture is worth a thousand words!
Your Time Is A Valuable Resource. Don't Waste It!
During hardware testing the subtle details and inner workings of your circuitry are rarely documented. Modern test instruments are quite capable of displaying the circuit's functionality for you to study. However, this is where the disconnect occurs. Current methods to save the design information occupies a great deal of time and effort to put it into a clean report format.
Setting up your test instruments and equipment is usually a tedious and time consuming task. And the whole idea of the exercise is to document the transient states of your design. This data should be retained for future reference, but rarely is.
You probably accumulate an enormous amount of time using various spectrum analyzers, logic analyzers, and digital oscilloscopes. How much of that data is captured and saved? The vast majority is probably lost. Often you end up repeating the tedious set up procedures in order to verify a hardware and/or software event that you've already tested!
When you use the print feature of newer CRT-based test instruments, such as spectrum analyzers, logic analyzers, and digital oscilloscopes, you can usually save the captured waveform to a floppy disk or get a hardcopy output with a printer or plotter. And while the floppy disk method is better than using a dedicated printer or plotter, it is still a major headache to use the captured images in your documentation.
PC-based spectrum analyzers, logic analyzers, or digital oscilloscopes also present the same problem. Many of the PC-based test instruments can only generate a hardcopy image by printing to a printer or plotter. In many cases they can't even save the captured image to a disk file! You are again faced with the same problem of using the captured images in your documentation.
Show Others What You're Doing...With Images!
More often than not software plays a significant role in the design of modern electronic equipment. It's not surprising that the software engineers find it hard to become involved in the hardware design. However, when you place a good document in their hands that shows the effect of their code they tend to take an interest in things like timing, interrupt stack up, DMA peculiarities and so on. This is a very good thing! A quick e-mail of a waveform can save huge amounts of grief later on.
Show us the proof. Quality control and product assurance departments are constantly trying to convince everybody, from test engineering departments to the Feds, that things are working a certain way. When the people in an RF compliance group approach the FCC they must have clear and concise documentation. Delays here can destroy the entire profit of a product because your competition hit the streets first.
The earlier an error is caught the cheaper it is to correct. One of the great benefits of documenting your design as you go is that you can easily share the data with others. When you send an oscilloscope or logic analyzer trace to another person you may be pleased to find out that another set of eyes has found a "hole in the fabric". Each of us sees things a little differently and that fact can add integrity. There's no better time to find these holes than "as soon as possible".
How To Survive Your Design Review!
Picture this. Your lab bench is covered with schematics, prints, meters, hand tools, cables, clip leads, various electronic test equipment, and electronic instruments of all kinds. Your attention is on the hardware and you're using a logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, oscilloscope, etc., to verify some mode of operation of the hardware and/or software.
We've all lived this scenario many times. Looking back, we know we weren't thinking about the future. But it's a pretty good bet that after the product was released, we would have to revisit the design for one reason or another. A conventional engineering notebook doesn't really help.
It would have been a major help if the critical snapshots of the hardware and a thoughtful text description were available. If your sustaining engineers had access to documents that contain the details of a design they would be in a much better position to support the product without going back to the source engineers and interrupting them for details. Documenting a circuit is not on your mind when in the middle of a design.
Or how about this? It's design review time! Engineering design reviews are rarely an occasion to celebrate. Typically the issues yet to be dealt with are presented and all of the issues that have been solved are left behind you. As things progress a design framework is formed that you must live within. If communication fails during any phase, fingers are usually pointed. Hardware blames software - software blames hardware. It's an old story that we've all seen and heard.
The various documentation (typically red-lined schematics and code) are on the table, but what's missing is the "hard evidence". All of the logic analyzers, oscilloscopes, and spectrum analyzers are in the lab where the design review might best take place - but never does.
What if during the design process waveform data was captured as code was being developed and it was placed in a word processor with a full explanation. Timing between events in silicon and the code that generated the event would now be in one place. This would mean that most of the questions and issues could be answered in less time. You can't argue with the hard evidence.
Students! Easily Add Images To Your Lab Assignments!
Nearly every lab assignment requires some kind of report to show that your assignment was completed. Typically you would have to try to explain the operation of your circuit with a text description of some kind. But no matter how well you spin your web of text it is always as dry as a desert.
Now imagine that same report with 'scope images to help you explain the operation of your hardware. Instead of trying to build a picture in your reader's mind, you can show them the picture and explain the operation and your conclusions.
We visited a local community college in our area and talked with the head of their electronics engineering department. Their lab has no high-end oscilloscopes for the students to use. Instead they have nearly every PC in the lab equipped with a PC-based oscilloscope. The students are required to include the 'scope trace in their documentation. However, the method they use to include the trace is very tedious and time consuming. They have to "print screen" to copy the entire screen to the clipboard, open Microsoft Paint, paste the clipboard data as a new drawing, edit the drawing to isolate the part that they need for their report, and then save the data as a bitmap file. The whole process takes almost 15 minutes!
With PrintCapture, the time involved was reduced to about 30 seconds and they got just exactly the image they needed! All they had to do from the PC-based oscilloscope was "print" using one of Windows' built-in plotter drivers. On computers with sufficient memory resources both the PC-based oscilloscope and PrintCapture can run on the same machine.
You can order PrintCapture by visiting our downloads page. Your registered copy of PrintCapture also entitles you to free updates. If you'd like to 'try-before-you-buy', you can download a 30-day trial version of PrintCapture from the downloads page or by clicking here. The 30-day trial version is fully functional - except that it will only run for 30-days after the first execution of the program. You can also visit the downloads page for updates and upgrades to PrintCapture.
How You Can Solve Your Hardcopy Documentation Problems!
PrintCapture adds an easy, no hassle, hardcopy print capability to your spectrum analyzer, logic analyzer, or oscilloscope. It does this by acting as a printer emulator and a plotter emulator. Waveform data from your test instrument can be captured by PrintCapture, saved as an image file on your computer, and easily inserted into other Windows-based applications, such as e-mail or word processors, with little effort using file-based, drag-and-drop, or clipboard operations.
Since PrintCapture emulates a printer and a plotter, it can replace the serial, parallel, or GPIB printer or plotter that you would normally use for hardcopy output. Just connect the hardcopy output from your logic analyzer, oscilloscope, or spectrum analyzer to either a serial port or GPIB interface on your Windows-based computer and 'print' to PrintCapture. PrintCapture processes the Hewlett-Packard Printer Control Language (PCL), Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language (HPGL/2), or Epson ESC/P Control Code commands from your instrument to create the image file. Once the data is displayed in PrintCapture it can be printed or inserted into other Windows-based applications for hardware documentation and report generation.
If you would like to see a couple of samples of how we used PrintCapture for our own clients you can download these PDF files. One is for a preliminary design of an X-10 RF Receiver and the other is for a feasibility study of a Windows-based 9-Bit Serial Protocol.
The screen-shot below displays the same image seen in the picture at the top of this page. It is an interactive image that will display popup tooltips for the major parts of PrintCapture. This image is just to familiarize you with PrintCapture's functionality.
What can you do if your logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or oscilloscope doesn't have a serial printer or serial plotter output? Generally, there are two other interfaces available for hardcopy output from your test equipment:
Parallel Printer or Parallel Plotter Port
If your spectrum analyzer, logic analyzer, or oscilloscope has a parallel printer or parallel plotter port there are several parallel-to-serial converters available that will convert the parallel output from your test equipment into a serial format. The only requirement is that the serial interface must support hardware handshaking using either RTS/CTS or DTR/DSR. We haven't tested a parallel-to-serial converter that mixes hardware handshaking such as RTS/DSR or DTR/CTS.
B&B Electronics (www.bb-elec.com) manufactures a parallel-to-serial converter, Model 232SPS2, that does the job nicely and doesn't require a Centronics printer cable. You can download the data sheet and manual in PDF format from their website.
Telebyte (www.telebyteusa.com) also manufactures a parallel-to-serial converter, Model 109A, that does a nice job but requires a Centronics printer cable. The specs and manual are available on their website, but not in PDF format as far as I can tell.
ATEN (www.aten.com) manufactures three versions of a parallel-to-serial converter - SXP-320A, SXP-325A, and SXP-500. The manuals are available in PDF format from their website. These converters are a little harder to use because you need to find a DB25M-to-Centronics36F parallel cable (DB25 Male-to-Centronics36 Female). These cables are a little harder to find but you might try a search on the Internet using the keywords "centronics 36F gender".
There are many manufacturers of parallel-to-serial converters - a search of the internet will turn up dozens.
GPIB Printer or GPIB Plotter Interface
If your spectrum analyzer, logic analyzer, or oscilloscope has a GPIB printer or GPIB plotter interface you have a couple of options. If your computer has a GPIB interface you should read this FAQ. If your computer doesn't have a GPIB interface, National Instruments (www.ni.com) manufactures a GPIB-to-serial converter, Model GPIB-232CV-A or GPIB-232CT-A, that does a nice job of converting from a GPIB interface to a serial interface. The GPIB-232CV-A can be used with or without a GPIB Controller on the GPIB bus (just your test equipment, a GPIB-232CV-A, and PrintCapture). However, the GPIB-232CT-A requires a GPIB Controller to configure the GPIB-232CT-A and control the bus.
Note: If you are thinking of buying one of these National Instruments GPIB-to-serial converters please read this configuration information first!
Both units support RTS/CTS hardware handshaking. You can download the GPIB-232CV-A data sheet (84KB), GPIB-232CV-A manual (455KB),GPIB-232CT-A data sheet (180KB), and GPIB-232CT-A manual (1.42MB) in PDF format from here. For some configuration information about these devices click here. There are a few (not many) other manufacturers of GPIB-to-serial converters that can be found on the Internet.
Two other solutions have been developed by Prologix. They are the GPIB-USB Controller and GPIB-Ethernet Controller. The GPIB-USB Controller uses a device driver that makes the USB port look like a serial port on your PC. The GPIB-Ethernet Controller is an interface that connects to your network. These are nice little products that work well and are very good alternatives to the pricey National Instruments products. We have created a PrintCapture Prologix Setup Document that will hopefully help you configure PrintCapture and Prologix to work together.
PrintCapture is a plotter emulator and a printer emulator. It will capture your CRT-based test instrument's hardcopy data and save it as a Windows bitmap (BMP) file. Although a BMP file is the format of the captured image, the captured image can be converted to other file formats. With PrintCapture all images are caught quickly and with no intervention or programming required.
PrintCapture will also work with Windows 95- and Windows 98-based test instruments that print with HPGL plotter drivers (Hewlett-Packard HP7470A, HP7475A, HP7550A, HP7580A, HP7580B, HP7585A, HP7585B, and HP7586B). It also works with Windows NT- ,Windows 2000-, and Windows XP-based test instruments that print with HPGL/2 plotter drivers (Hewlett-Packard HP-GL/2 or HP7550 Plus). With a PC-based test instrument you can run both the test instrument and PrintCapture on the same machine - no need for two computers!
PrintCapture Makes It Easy For You To...
- Incorporate images from your oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer into your project documentation
- Replace the serial printer, serial plotter, parallel printer, parallel plotter, GPIB printer, or GPIB plotter that is generally connected to your logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or oscilloscope for hardcopy documentation.
- Keep multiple images open at once so you can easily see the difference between images.
- Open and display a file that currently exists in a BMP, Epson ESC/P, GIF, HPGL, HPGL/2, JPG, PCL, PCX, PNG, TGA, or TIF file format.
- Convert an image to a BMP, EPS, GIF, JPG, PCX, PNG, TGA, or TIF file format.
- Select a working directory where your images will be stored. This makes it easy to separate images by project.
- Auto-increment image file names for sequential captures. Just keep pressing the 'print' button on your test equipment.
- Drag-and-drop an image into another Windows-based program.
- Copy an image to the clipboard. From the clipboard the image can be pasted into other Windows-based programs.
- Edit the image, via an external program such as Microsoft Paint or Paint Shop Pro, so you can add your own information to the image.
- Maintain an image notes document via an external program such as WordPad, NotePad, or Microsoft Word.
- Print the image on your computer's printer.
- Save the raw data from your test equipment to help us improve the image processing engines.
- Windows 95, 98, Me, NT 4.0 (SP4 or greater), 2000, XP, Vista, or Win7. PrintCapture has been tested on 32-bit platforms - but it should install and run just fine on 64-bit platforms as well. PrintCapture should also install and run on Windows Me but we don't have access to Windows Me for testing.
- Windows NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Vista, and Win7 require Administrator Rights for installation.
- Internet Explorer 4.0 or greater. Internet Explorer has to be installed but it doesn't have to be your default browser. The online help for PrintCapture uses parts of Internet Explorer.
- An available serial port or a National Instruments compatible GPIB interface.
- Your spectrum analyzer, logic analyzer, or oscilloscope must have print or hardcopy capability. If your source device uses a serial printer or serial plotter output the serial interface must support hardware handshaking (RTS/CTS or DTR/DSR). If your computer has a GPIB interface that uses National Instruments' NI-488.2 device driver then PrintCapture 3.x and later can also be configured to use NI's device driver. If your test equipment doesn't have a serial printer or serial plotter output, but it does have a parallel printer, parallel plotter, GPIB printer, or GPIB plotter output, there are parallel-to-serial and GPIB-to-serial converters that can be used instead. To help you interface your logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, or oscilloscope with PrintCapture visit our How To Get Started With PrintCapture page.
You can order PrintCapture by visiting our downloads page. Your registered copy of PrintCapture also entitles you to free updates. If you'd like to 'kick the tires', you can download a 30-day trial version of PrintCapture from the downloads page or by clicking here. The 30-day trial version is fully functional - except that it will only run for 30-days after the first execution of the program. You can also visit the downloads page for updates and upgrades to PrintCapture.
What Some Of Our Customers Have To Say!
Thank you for developing this program. It will be valuable to me in developing reports for our lab. I will be trying it with additional pieces of test equipment, and I'll let you know those model numbers.
I tried your free version last year and loved it! It was easy to set up and did exactly what I needed. We use the HP (HP8591E Spectrum Analyzer) for AM and FM transmitter measurements. I write a detailed report after performing annual measurements, and really needed a way to get the spectrum prints into my word processing program.
I finally got around to updating PrintCapture from Windows XP to Windows 7. The download and reconfiguration worked perfectly. No issues with replacing the old XP with the new W7 application. All that I needed to do was to verify the configuration and port settings and it worked on the first attempt. Well done.
May I add what a pleasure it is to use a product that comes up and just flat works. I especially like the (file name) auto increment feature as we will be capturing a lot of images.
New Mexico, USA
I have tested (PrintCapture) together with an NI Interface to convert HPIB to USB. Now I can directly print from my HP Network Analyzer 8753C by using the the HPIB interface and the print function of the device. There is no need to use the big old HP plotter with the pens anymore.
The quality of the "electronic" prints is amazingly good. I can now change the colours of the plot when I want to do it.
Used the (PrintCapture) 30-day trial and compared it with other solutions, such as importing HPGL with general purpose graphic programs and PrintCapture is by far the best at making the converted HPGL file look like the HP87510A screen.
We cannot find plotter pens or a new plotter for this 'scope (Tek 2211). I was pretty PO'd when Tektronix suggested I use a digital camera to shoot the screens on the 'scope. I became real determined real fast. A Google search for the phrase "serial printer for oscilloscope" brought you to the top of the list.
The proof of your product for me was being able to generate quality outputs using my equipment and your 30 day trial software. Your software actually sold itself to my managers, they were impressed with the results to say the least.
Thank you for your prompt response with my order. I'm sure you'll be getting additional orders as I plan on telling others of your fine product!
New York, USA
I am very satisfied with now being able to easily document my measurements. It sure beats making hard copies and scanning them. That was a slow and involved process. I wish I had found this software a long time ago!
Your software is GREAT! And really useful as I got no support from Hewlett-Packard (only a DOS driver!) and no support from Phillips or Fluke. After testing [PrintCapture] I was sure that it's the right software that I need. I downloaded many trial software but none were satisfying. Great job!
I have used PrintCapture to capture screens. I output in TIFF, JPG, or just BMP into reports written in Word or DTP programs. It is a very good feature to be able to export to so many different formats.
Also the 'automatic' operation is great - just press the 'plot' on the 'scope and the screen is captured by the PC.
New Jersey, USA
We have an HP8566B Spectrum Analyzer that was connected to an HP7475A XY plotter. But after years of dealing with dried out pens, scanning in plots for presentations, etc., I purchased your PrintCapture software and bought a National Instruments GPIB-USB-B interface that connects the GPIB directly to USB. After a five minute setup, this solution works great! I can use a PC or a laptop to capture images and we have retired our old plotter.
I am using PrintCapture to capture the output from an old DOS-based program that is only capable of producing Epson output and using PrintCapture to print onto a laser printer. This it does extremely well and has saved us a lot of programming to achieve the same.
Bournemouth, United Kingdom
PrintCapture is FABULOUS!! We had been searching for years for a program that would accomplish this function. The PrintCapture support is equally as fabulous. They worked expeditiously to develop a special build for us.
Pacific Digital Products, Inc.
The bitmap looks exactly like what we are looking for. All the info and graphics are there. That is awesome! I think a lot of people in the CATV industry like myself will able to make good use of your program.
I downloaded the new version. It works great with the Riserbond (3200) TDR. Thanks for the time you put in to this update, I really appreciate it. Will be trying it out on our HP8591C analyzer next.
Ha! Wonderful - analyser plots look great in colour. Not tried the scope resizing yet. Thanks for the prompt service.
Thanks for your help and quick responses.
We've been using PrintCapture for a few months now and it has done everything for us that could be expected. I can't think of any problems or changes that would impact our use of it...
Just downloaded the new version, and it worked great! The output and processing using HPGL is much faster than with PCL, and the guys on the analyzer really like it so far. Thanks a lot!
PrintCapture Is Easy To Use!
PrintCapture was born out of frustration. Working in electronic engineering labs with all manner of spectrum analyzers, logic analyzers, oscilloscopes and so on, has shown us one thing; frustration with the inability to easily retain hardcopy for our documentation.
Normally, it's a hassle to incorporate good images into a design document. If it were simple and easy you would already be doing it. We've changed that. Then, as now, we knew this was a great tool for the electronic engineering lab.
When you use any oscilloscope, logic analyzer, or spectrum analyzer that this product is designed to work with, it consumes a significant amount of your attention just keeping the instrumentation aligned to the task at hand. You're not thinking about hardware documentation. And that's a problem. The data you collect is right at the heart of your design - so why throw it out?
Before we built PrintCapture, we asked ourselves what we would expect from the program in a laboratory environment. The bottom line was two things; simple to use and bulletproof. Our concept of simple may be at odds with other people, but PrintCapture has been designed from the beginning to be simple - by any reasonable standard. This program is easier to use than a printer or plotter and you don't have to worry about running out of paper or ink. Making the product bulletproof is an ongoing process.
Early on we decided that bells and whistles were out. The idea of sitting in front of a modern spectrum analyzer madly punching buttons rings enough bells in our minds. With that in mind we decided the approach to follow was to make using PrintCapture an absolute no-brainer. We believe the only trouble you'll likely encounter is using up all of your hard drive space with images.
Click here to help you get started with PrintCapture. This page outlines the steps for you to assemble a data cable to get data from your source device (i.e. oscilloscope, logic analyzer, spectrum analyzer, etc.) to PrintCapture.
You can order PrintCapture by visiting our downloads page. Your registered copy of PrintCapture also entitles you to free updates. You can also download a 30-day trial version of PrintCapture from the downloads page or by clicking here. The 30-day trial version is fully functional - except that it will only run for 30-days after the first execution of the program. You can also visit the downloads page for updates and upgrades to PrintCapture.
1777 S. Burlington Blvd., #278
Burlington, WA 98233
Some Final Odds-And-Ends
PrintCapture installation is smart. It will not break the system files on your machine. We know that you work hard to keep your platform stable. To preserve your system's integrity we install all of our files to the PrintCapture folder so we don't clobber any of your system's files.
If you have a problem with PrintCapture, please let us know about it. It's feedback from our customers that helps us improve the product. For example, if XYZ Corporation produces a piece of test equipment that PrintCapture has a problem with, we want to know about it. The sooner the better. If we support you, we make it easier on ourselves to make our product better.