Thursday, March 26, 2009

Software selection: ease of use

After yesterday's little burst of DVT/Cognex news, it's back to my discussion about how to pick the 'best' software package...

Just what constitutes ‘easy to use’ depends on your background and programming skills. If you’re comfortable churning out lines of C++ code, then a product that requires lots of scripting may be easy for you. But if you’re like most manufacturing engineers you have neither the time nor inclination to write code. In that case you’re going to prefer a ‘drag-and-drop’ type of graphical interface.

Most of the vision software companies understand this, and are trying to provide graphical versions of their higher-end products. For example, Cognex has ‘
QuickBuild,’ Stemmer Imaging have CVB iTuition, Dalsa have Sherlock and MVTec offer their Halcon-based ActivVisionTools package.

But, it has to be pointed out that using a GUI as opposed to scripting does tend to cut the developer off from more advanced tools and functions.

Something else to consider under the heading of ‘ease of use’ is the ability to try out tools and see what effect they have. You’ll want to be able to work on file images, (more consistent than live images direct from a camera,) and you’ll want the ability to try things out – like filters, for example.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible to judge ‘ease of use’ from a brochure, web site, or a salesman’s’ demonstration: there’s no substitute for trying it yourself, so download the evaluation versions and take it for a spin.

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