Friday, July 16, 2010

Conclusions - The Diagram Cleanup Experiment

It's been just about a year since I embarked on The Diagram Cleanup Experiment. I attempted to use block diagram cleanup on just about every VI I wrote in LabVIEW 2009 this year. With such heavy use of the feature, I have come to the following conclusions:
  • Use it on moderately-sized diagrams - The majority of the VIs I write fit on one screen, and have relatively low levels of nesting. For these kinds of VIs, it is *way* faster to quickly write the VI, then press Ctrl-U to clean it up. The cleanup results in these cases, although not perfect, are acceptable. The diagrams are readable enough to avoid maintenance headaches down the road.
  • Don't use it on large diagrams - Diagram cleanup still has trouble with large diagrams. For top-level state machines, or similar architecture-level VIs, cleanup does not respect the arrangement of the diagram, which, for these VIs, is crucial to the understanding of the VI. I have decided that it is still best for me to arrange these diagrams myself.
  • Don't use it on heavily-nested diagrams - As I mentioned in my progress report, diagram cleanup completely explodes the diagram if there is heavy structure nesting. It simply can't figure out how to condense space in multiple frames simultaneously. Until it does, I will continue to arrange heavily-nested diagrams myself.
  • Mixed results with Tools > Options settings - I tried several times to tweak the settings in Tools > Options > Block Diagram > Block Diagram Cleanup to see if that would improve the cleanup arrangement, but I couldn't figure out a definitive collection of settings that always worked better. If anyone has any specific suggestions for settings that seem to improve the cleanup layout, let me know.
So what's next? I just posted the following idea on the LabVIEW Idea Exchange:

Tell Block Diagram Cleanup what "Clean" Looks Like

I think the easiest way to get diagram cleanup to arrange VIs to my liking is to show it VIs that I like. :) Please kudo the idea if you agree.

So that's pretty much it. In short--I like the feature, I will continue to use it because it helps me program faster, but it definitely has room for improvement.


  1. Hey Darren. The diagram cleanup community group link doesn't seem to be working.

  2. @Mike: I tried to seed the group with a few posts in the beginning, but it didn't get any participation for a couple of years, so I took the group down. I've removed the link from this blog post.