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Data Acquisition Intelligence

February 2000

Issue 19: Tips on Using Windmill; Other Sources of Free Software


Windmill News | Tips on Using Windmill | Free Software Repositories


Our on-line shop is currently offering Windmill Graphics at 100 pounds less than our list price. That's a discount of around 160 dollars or 163 euros!

Windmill Graphics lets you create your own display and control windows, without any programming. The Graphics window continuously reflects the state of the system in the real world. You can produce virtual instruments, process mimics, annunciator panels, wiring diagrams...any sort of display you choose. Once you've created a window you can protect it from further editing.

To use Windmill Graphics you just:

It provides eight types of live item:

For tips on designing process mimics and user interfaces, see Issue 9 of Monitor.

To purchase Windmill Graphics for just 195 GB pounds (around 314 dollars or 319 euros: use the currency calculator to find the price in your currency) see our on-line shop. We offer free delivery, a money-back guarantee and free technical support for life.


The Windmill suite of software is designed to be extremely flexible; giving you the functions you need without tying you to one particular brand or type of hardware. When your requirements grow or change, Windmill lets you seamlessly add new instruments and devices, or extra software modules.

To enable Windmill to be versatile and "future-proof", we provide a number of Windmill applications. The free software lets you read data from almost any ASCII instrument with an RS232 connection into Windows software: either our Windmill logging, charting and control software, or programs like Excel and Access. However, Windmill not only handles these types of instruments, but also those that communicate over GPIB, RS485, Ethernet, Modbus, ISA-bus, USB and DDE.

You can use any combination of hardware with Windmill. No matter what makes or types of instruments you have, you use the same two Windmill applications to specify hardware settings: ConfIML and SetupIML. ConfIML records which hardware you have, and SetupIML lets you choose how you wish to use that hardware. (IML stands for Interface Management Language.)

Start with the Software Signal Generator
So you can use Windmill without any hardware complications, and see how Windmill works, we have provided a Software Signal Generator. This simulates signals coming from an actual instrument or device. You can use it with all the Windmill programs, who see it as just another piece of hardware sending data.

Recording your Hardware
After practicing with the Software Signal Generator you'll next want to use real hardware. To do this the first program to run is ConfIML. It detects which drivers are on your computer (those for RS232, Ethernet, GPIB, etc) and lets you select the appropriate settings for these drivers. Some drivers need very few settings: just one for GPIB for example. However, the free RS232 driver (called LabIML) has many settings you can alter. This is because the driver is designed to work with many different types and makes of instrument. Don't panic. You can leave most of the settings at their defaults. For more details on any of the settings see the LabIML.hlp file. (Latest version available from

Tailor the System to Your Requirements
After using ConfIML to record the type of hardware you have, open SetupIML. Now you can configure the system as you want it - for example specifying which engineering units all the other Windmill programs should use.

SetupIML scans the hardware and builds a default setup file. Whereas ConfIML sees, for example, a device with 16 analogue input channels that can be used in any number of ways; SetupIML sees, for example, a device with 5 K-type thermocouples called Temperature1, Temperature2, etc, whose measurements should be between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius. SetupIML lets you change these settings, and others, for all types of hardware, no matter how connected to the PC. For example you could have 3 of the thermocouples measuring between -100 and +200 oC, or Fahrenheit instead of Celsius. So no matter how large and diverse your data acquisition system, no matter how many different instruments and devices you have connected, the setup details for everything are contained in just one file. You can save a library of these setup files, making it very quick to switch between test rigs and experiments.

Logging and Charting
Once you have a setup file, you don't need to run ConfIML or SetupIML again. Simply open Windmill Logger or Chart, choose the setup file to use for this session, and start logging and charting. The data is shown in the engineering units of your choice, against the channel names you have entered, and if you have specified alarm settings, any violations of this threshold are shown in different colours.

To summarise: ConfIML specifies what hardware you have and its communication settings; SetupIML lets you choose how you wish to use that hardware; Logger and Chart save and show you the data.

For more information on Windmill programs please visit:
For the latest Help files see
For answers to questions others have asked about the free software see

Sources of Other Free Engineering and Scientific Software

The web has made it incredibly easy for people to distribute software, and many sites offer a repository of shareware, freeware and demos. You can typically use shareware programs for a fixed period, or number of times, before you're expected to pay for them. Freeware is, as the name suggests, completely free. Demo software often has some of its features disabled, to encourage you to upgrade to the real thing.

Many of the repositories specialise in, or have sections dedicated to, science and engineering. Here are some of the better ones.

(You might see Windmill listed in some of these sites - this is either the demo version, and not the fully working version we offer our subscribers. To download the Windmill or Streamer demos see

Engineering Central
SoftScout contains descriptions of business and industry software, including vendor information, hardware and software requirements, screen shots, pricing, and links to the vendor web site. Each software product is listed only in one category (the Data Acquisition category is hidden under Operations). Not all the entries in this directory offer free software: look for the Demo icon for those that do.
Engineering Software Database
A service from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. All their categories are related to engineering, technology or education. If anything they offer rather too many categories, but you can always search the site instead of browsing.
CNET offer a library of software that you can download, divided into sections. The two most useful for engineers and scientists are their Education-Science section, and their Specialised Development Tools section.
Soft Info from Info-Partners
You need to subscribe to this repository, but can use it for one day for free. Once you're in there are many sections, including one devoted to data acquisition and control.
Their Science and Engineering section has a good list of software.
Simply Software
Three sections here you might find useful are Education, Engineering and Science. Updated every 24-48 hours.
Software Blast!
You need to visit the education section to find the scientific and engineering programs. They are listed according to the date they were submitted to the database.
These programs are arranged by operating system, so Windows 3.1 and Windows 95/98 applications are listed separately.
Windows 3.1 Engineering programs
Windows 95 Engineering programs
Windows 3.1 Scientific programs
Windows 95 Scientific programs
Directory of free stuff - Prospector!
Do you have a question, comment or suggestion on this newsletter? E-mail the editor - Jill - at [email protected] or fill in this form.

* Copyright Windmill Software Ltd
* Reprinting permitted with this notice included
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Windmill Software

Copyright Windmill Software Ltd
PO Box 58, North District Office, Manchester, M8 8QR, UK.
E-mail: [email protected], Tel:+44 161 833 2782
By Jill Studholme
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