To review a bit, MakerPlot is Windows software that plots analog and digital signals that are generated by our microcontroller; this includes many of the
popular microcontrollers on the market including the
Arduino, PICAXE, Propeller, Raspberry Pi, etc.
The fundamental data connection between MakerPlot
and your micro is the serial port; this can be a regular RS-
232 serial port or a virtual comm port that’s created using
a USB connection through an FTDI (or similar) chip
interface. That said, you can also use MakerPlot’s TCP/IP
link if you want to monitor your micro at a remote
location. Of course, you’ll need some kind of Internet or
LAN connection to do this. With the proliferation of
Ethernet and Wi-Fi add-on boards these days, this is easily
So, besides a great debugging tool with versatile data
connectivity, the real power of MakerPlot is in its ability to
become a virtual instrument for your micro’s data. First,
however, some language definitions need to be addressed.
Over the years, the lexicon of analog and digital
electronic hardware and firmware programming terms has
evolved as the names used to describe them have
changed; at the same time, they still mean the same thing.
For example, a circuit board used to be called just
that — a circuit board. If you’re an Arduino user, you know
it as a “shield.” It’s fundamentally the same thing, only
with a different name — mainly to distinguish it solely for
the Arduino class of hardware. The same goes for
firmware. Listings of source code are called “sketches” in
the Arduino world. “A rose, by any other name, is still a
rose,” immortalized The Bard, but apparently he was never
much into product differentiation. Following this
reasoning, MakerPlot has a few of its own unique term
definitions that we ought to get to right now to avoid any
confusion later on.
In the MakerPlot world, there are three primary
• Interfaces — The GUI screens you see on the PC
monitor where the data plots and other graphics are
• Controls — Any of the meters, buttons, switches, or
text boxes on the Interface.
• Controller — Any microcontroller, be it Arduino,
Propeller, Atmel, Intel, PIC, etc.
That’s about it. Everything else in the MakerPlot space
will most likely have the same terminology and meaning
that you’re used to in the general electronics and software
world, so that should simplify things going forward.
MakerPlot — The "Software Kit"
While we’re at it, you may be wondering why we call
MakerPlot a “DIY software kit.”
Most microcontroller projects are hardware kits that
you build and program. In that regard, think of MakerPlot
as a software kit because like a hardware kit, MakerPlot
gives you all the necessary pieces to construct your own
Interface screens that consist of multiple types of meters,
switches, buttons, labels, LEDs, plot areas, etc. That’s the
real power behind MakerPlot because you can do
whatever you like to create the kind of Interface screens
that suit your application.
We’ll get into customizing MakerPlot in subsequent
The DIY Software Kit
By John Gavlik and
Post comments on this article and find any associated files
and/or downloads at www.nutsvolts.com/
Last time, we talked about how
MakerPlot can aid in your debugging
efforts as they relate to your
microcontroller projects. That's a given as
it can really help, but since MakerPlot is
a customizable software GUI it has many
more applications for your micro's project
than just a debug tool. That's what will be
discussed in this article.
46 November 2013