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Software I/O Layers - VISA, VISA COM, SICL, Keysight 488 - Technical Overview

Keysight’s I/O offerings are bundled into a single product called the Keysight IO Libraries Suite. It contains everything you need to get started controlling your instrument. The IO Libraries Suite is included with each instrument and I/O interface that you purchase from Keysight.

An I/O library is software that runs on your computer to establish communication with an instrument. This communication could be over GPIB, USB, LAN, RS-232, VXI, or some other physical medium. If you write software, or use prewritten software, to control your instruments they will probably use one of the I/O libraries mentioned below. Instrument drivers, which provide a higher-level interface to the instrument, use I/O libraries internally to send and receive information from the instrument.

Starting with IO Libraries Suite 15.5, all of the Keysight I/O Libraries are available for use in both 32-bit and 64-bit systems. You can find specific information on how to use the libraries on 64-bit systems by searching the IO Libraries Suite 15.5 Help file for the topic "64-bit".

I/O libraries available from Keysight today

VISA (Virtual Instrument Systems Architecture) — The VISA library is the industry standard for instrument control and is now maintained by the IVI Foundation. A program written to work with the VISA library will work with implementations of VISA from other vendors. It can be used from any program that can call arbitrary Windows DLLs, such as:

  • Keysight VEE
  • C/C++
  • MathWorks MATLAB
  • Microsoft Visual Basic 6
  • Microsoft Visual Studio .Net (using Visual Basic, Managed C++ or C#)
  • National Instruments LABVIEW
  • National Instruments LabWindows/CVI

VISA provides complete access to GPIB, LAN, USB, RS-232, VXI message-based, and VXI register-based products.

VISA-COM — The VISA-COM library is a COM interface for I/O that was developed as a companion to the VISA specification and is now maintained by the IVI Foundation. A program that is designed to use the VISA COM Global Resource Manager will work with any vendors implementation of VISA COM. VISA COM works best in standard object-oriented ADE’s that support COM directly, or through some interoperability mechanism. These environments include:

  • Keysight VEE
  • Microsoft Excel using VBA
  • Microsoft Visual Basic 6
  • Microsoft Visual Studio .Net (using Visual Basic, Managed C++ or C#)

Other environments may work with VISA COM, but there are I/O libraries that work more seamlessly (E.g. VISA). VISA-COM does not support VXI devices.

SICL (Standard Instrument Control Library) — The SICL library provides very complete and flexible control of instruments. However, this API is primarily implemented and supported by Keysight. SICL is optimized for use from C and C++ and can be used from Visual Basic and other environments that can call arbitrary Windows DLLs (see VISA description for examples). SICL provides complete access to GPIB, LAN, USB, RS-232, VXI message-based, and VXI register-based products.

Because SICL is a proprietary library, we recommend that all new development is done using VISA or VISA COM.

Keysight 488 – The Keysight 488 library is Keysight’s implementation of the National Instruments NI-488.2 protocol. With Keysight 488, you can reuse existing NI-488.2 programs while using Keysight GPIB interfaces. Keysight 488 works seamlessly with NI-488.2 and you can use both Keysight and NI GPIB cards interchangeably. Like VISA and SICL, Keysight 488 is designed to work in any environment that can call arbitrary Windows DLLS. Keysight 488, like NI-488.2, is designed to work solely with GPIB interfaces.

Because Keysight 488, and National Instruments NI-488.2, is a proprietary library, we recommend that all new development is done using VISA or VISA COM.

Obsolete I/O libraries from Keysight

T&M Programmers Toolkit for Visual Studio .NET – This Keysight product provides very easy-to-use, intuitive access to I/O if you are using Visual Studio .NET. It does not contain the full capability of VISA or SICL, but it does contain the necessary functions for convenient transmission of strings to and from instruments and basic functions to control hardware. You must purchase the T&M Programmers Toolkit for Visual Studio .NET to access this I/O library. T&M Programmers Toolkit for Visual Studio .NET provides access to GPIB, serial, and LAN-based instruments.

This product has been obsoleted and will be in support life until 01May, 2010.

ISDK (Instrument Software Developers Kit) for VB6 — This Keysight product provides easy-to-use, intuitive access to I/O if you are using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) in Microsoft Excel or Word, or Visual Basic 6. This is especially convenient for applications where instrument data is transferred directly to or from Excel for analysis. Since VBA is built into Excel, many applications do not require purchasing or learning an additional application development environment. The ISDK provides the most commonly used functions needed to control and exchange data with GPIB, serial and LAN-based instruments, and includes over 50 examples.

This product has been obsoleted and is no longer in support life.

Old versions of the IO Libraries available in the Archive – Keysight.com includes several old versions of the Keysight I/O Libraries. In general, you should use the most recent libraries. However, the old versions are included for two reasons:

  1. The need to create exact duplicates of existing applications. In these cases it is helpful to be able to install the exact version of an I/O library that was used in the original application.
  2. Keysight occasionally drops support for a version of an operating system. The old libraries let customers continue to use these older operating systems. For instance, you can still download versions that support Windows 3.11 (although no support is available for obsolete versions).

Last Modified: 01September, 2009