Nick Mudge Ignition Software Consulting & Development

The ability to automatically login to an Ignition project when it is started has long been supported and documented functionality of Ignition

Recently I found out how to setup autologin for the Ignition Designer. This is the ability to start the Ignition Designer from a desktop shortcut and it automatically logs in and opens a project.

This is especially useful when developing an Ignition module that affects the designer because the designer will need to be restarted many times to test code changes.

Here's how to setup autologin for the Ignition Designer:

  1. Create a designer shortcut using a native client launcher.
  2. Edit the shortcut. Add the following parameters to the Target: -Djavaws.ignition.debug=true -Dautologin.username=admin -Dautologin.password=password -Dproject.name=MyProject.
    Replace the username, password and project name with your specific information.

    Here is an example of a complete Target in a shortcut:
    C:\Users\nick\Downloads\clientlauncher.exe scope=D windowmode=window gateway.addr=192.168.1.4:8088:8043 -Djavaws.ignition.debug=true -Dautologin.username=admin -Dautologin.password=password -Dproject.name=MyProject

That's it. The next time the shortcut is double-clicked the designer will automatically login and open the project.

Security must be kept in mind, as this setup makes it easy for people to log in to the designer as you if they get your Designer shortcut.

One of the great things about Ignition is its ability to web-deploy applications created with it. Notice that Ignition applications are not "web-based", they are "web-deployed". Web-deployed means an application is downloaded from a web server and started.

Web-based applications are web-deployed too — web-based applications and Ignition applications have that in common. Web-based applications are webpages downloaded from a web server and ran in a web browser. Ignition applications are downloaded from Ignition's web server and ran in a Java Virtual Machine. (In other words an Ignition application is downloaded and automatically started as a Java desktop application.)

Ignition does have a built-in web-based application for configuring many things in Ignition. But the applications/projects created with Ignition are typically Java desktop applications that are web-deployed.

Ignition has two separate web-deploying technologies. Both of them can be used to deploy Ignition applications.

In the beginning Ignition only used Java Web Start, which is a web-deploying technology controlled and owned by Oracle. Here is a good description of Java Web Start from www.java.com:

The Java Web Start software allows you to download and run Java applications from the web. The Java Web Start software:
  • Provides an easy, one-click activation of applications
  • Guarantees that you are always running the latest version of the application
  • Eliminates complicated installation or upgrade procedures

The problem with Java Web Start is that it is controlled by Oracle. In the past changes were made to Java Web Start that broke functionality in Ignition and in once case temporarily broke the ability to start projects on Linux.

Inductive Automation decided to implement their own web-deploying technology and did so. With this technology under their control they could make it stable, keep it from breaking Ignition, and add new functionality to it. This technology is called Native Client Launchers. It is called Native Client Launchers because separate client launcher executable programs exist for OS X, Windows and Linux.

One of the advantages of the client native launchers is that they can be used to create stable desktop shortcuts to projects or the Ignition designer. Shortcuts created with Java Web Start sometimes stop working.

Using a native client launcher is easy. Download the native client launcher executable for your operating system and then run it. The native client launcher will scan your network for Ignition servers. It will provide you with a list of Ignition servers it found. Once you choose an Ignition server you are provided with a list of projects that exist in that Ignition server. From there you can launch projects or the designer, and create shortcuts to projects and the Ignition designer.

The native client launchers are part of your Ignition server and are downloaded from your Ignition server. You can find and download them from the Ignition homepage. Here is a screenshot that shows where the native client launchers can be downloaded.

Ignition Native Client Launchers

Every two or three months a new production version of Ignition comes out. Thankfully upgrading Ignition is usually a pleasant, easy and quick action.

The main thing to know about upgrading Ignition is that it is exactly like installing Ignition. You download the latest production version of Ignition and install it as if you were installing it for the first time on your server. This action upgrades your current Ignition installation. All your projects and configuration remain the same but your Ignition becomes the latest version. This is very nice.

It is good practice to make a gateway backup before upgrading. Inductive Automation provides instructions for installing Ignition on MAC OS X, Windows and Linux.

Ignition uses 3 numbers to indicate it's version. The current version of Ignition is 7.7.2. The first 7 is pretty static and hasn't changed since Ignition was first released in 2010. The second 7 is the major number. It indicates significant changes and significant new functionality compared to the prior major number. The 2 is the minor number. It indicates bug fixes, improvements and new functionality.

Upgrading Ignition from a minor number (for example upgrading from Ignition 7.7.1 to Ignition 7.7.2) is the easiest thing. It is free so no licensing changes are needed and the upgrade does not affect the current license.

Upgrading Ignition from a major number (for example upgrading Ignition from 7.6.5 to Ignition 7.7.2) requires a license change. This is because there are significant improvements and significant new functionality between major numbers. Before upgrading it is a good idea to upgrade your license so that it will be compatible with the new version of Ignition. Upgrading from a major version costs money to upgrade the license. Inductive Automation offers something called upgrade protection which can reduce the cost of major number upgrades.

I prefer and recommend to use the latest production version of Ignition in all projects. The reason is because the newest production version is almost always better than earlier versions.

Sometimes the changes between a minor number and the next minor number can actually be significant. The difference between Ignition 7.7.1 and Ignition 7.7.2 is such a case. Ignition 7.7.2 introduced a brand new, very powerful component called the Template Canvas. For the first time Ignition has a built-in tool for dynamically, programmatically creating instances of templates in Ignition. This means programmers can write Python programs to create screens dynamically (for instance based on data in a database) -- instead of designers creating everything up front on screens in a static fixed way.

Every Ignition version release has a changelog so it is possible to see what the new changes are. Here's a link to the changelog for Ignition 7.7.2: Ignition 7.7.2 Changlog.

Inductive Automation also releases development versions of Ignition. These are new versions of Ignition that are not ready for production but that you can download and try out. You can also report any bugs or problems with it to Inductive Automation to help them get it production ready. Also, if you can't wait for new functionality in the next version of Ignition, you can use a development version. For example you could use a development version of Ignition in your own development and use the production version of Ignition when it comes out for your production version of projects.

After releasing database-backed form components for Ignition, I received several requests for a Form Popup Calendar component for handling dates and times. This has been implemented and is now available.

The FormComponentsPalette.proj download now includes a new Form Popup Calendar component and a Form Check Box component. The Form Example has been updated to use these as well. (Upgrade your Ignition to Ignition 7.7.2 or higher for the import to work.)

Here's what these two new components look like:

Form Popup Calendar

The Form Popup Calendar component is associated with a Datetime column in a database table. When a date and time has not been selected or when the date property is None/null then a label is displayed that says, "Select Datetime". This text can be changed to whatever you like if you want to change it.

A Form Check Box component is associated with a BIT column in a database table. Any number of Form Check Box components can be used on a form.

The two new form components work like other components in the Form Components Palette.

All the form components have been tested on MySQL and SQL Server.

Check out the original blog post about form components to learn more. Don't forget to watch the videos.

Automation World published an article entitled, Want to Build Your own SCADA? Here’s a Guideline, which is based on my article A Software Framework for SCADA Applications.

I want to clarify what I meant to say. I was not saying or suggesting that people create their own SCADA systems from scratch or create their own SCADA framework.

I was not providing a list of features that people should implement to build their own SCADA system. On the contrary, I was providing a list of features that people should not create when building a SCADA system — because these things should already exist for them.

I was saying that people should use a framework with this list of features to build the SCADA applications that they need. The list of features is useful for evaluating different SCADA software frameworks.

The real message is this: Don't create a SCADA system from scratch. Don't buy a canned SCADA solution that is too inflexible. Use an existing SCADA software framework that gives you the flexibility and tools to design and create what is needed.

The purpose of a SCADA framework is to take away all the work that isn't the core business application.

I do agree with the Automation World article that my list of features is a good list to follow and use for someone who wants to create their own SCADA system or framework from scratch.

The list of capabilities and features that I wrote about were inspired by Ignition, which is a full-blown software framework for creating manufacturing and business applications.

Form Components Palette

I created a set of pre-configured form components that make it easy and fast to create database-backed user input forms in Ignition. The components are free and available for anyone to use.

The ability to create custom component palettes in Ignition is a capability that is not often talked about but is a powerful feature and can be very useful. In this case I used this capability to create a set of components that anyone can use to quickly and easily create forms in Ignition. The forms are used to capture user input and insert and update data in databases. See the Form Components in the image on the right.

To use the Form Components Palette download this file: FormComponentsPalette.proj. Then import the file into an Ignition project. The project file includes the Form Components Palette and a Python module at project.pa.forms. This project file only works in Ignition 7.7.2 and above.

How it Works in a Nutshell

A Form Container is placed in a window and other form components are placed inside the Form Container. A Form Container specifies what database table to insert data into and update.

Form input components receive user input for specific columns of a database table.

A Form Table shows what data exists in a database table and enables users to select rows in the table to update or delete.

A Form Submit Button is clicked on to insert or update data in a database table.

The form components are very flexible and can be modified easily to support various functionality.

Videos

Here is a video that shows how to create forms using the new form components: Ignition: How to Create a Form Using New Form Components.

Here's another video where I create a form from scratch in less than 5 minutes, including adding validation and testing the form: Ignition: How to Create a Database User Input Form in 5 Minutes.

Form Components in Detail

Form Example

The Form Example provides a working example of a form using the form components. The Form Example expects a simple "people" database table to exist using the default datasource of a project. Look at the SQL query used by the Form Table to understand the schema for the "people" database table.

The Form Example is a skeleton form. Use it to get started creating a new form. Here is an image showing an Example Form:

Example Form

Form Container

The Form Container is a regular container with two custom properties. The "TableName" property specifies what database table to insert data into and update. The "Datasource" property specifies what datasource to use. If the "Datasource" property is blank then the default datatsource for the project will be used.

Form Input Components

These are the form input components: "Form Text Field", "Form Numeric Text Field", "Form Text Area", "Form Dropdown List", "Form Radio Buttons".

Each form input component has a "Column" custom property that specifies which column in the database table to insert into or update. Each form input component has an "IsValid" custom property that indicates if user input is valid or not.

Each form input component has a "validateInput" custom method that is used for validating user input and setting the "IsValid" property to True or False. This method can easily be modified to perform custom validation. This method is called when user input changes.

Each form input component has within it a "Label" component for describing the input component purpose, and a hidden "InvalidMessage" label component for displaying validation errors.

Form Submit Button

The Form Submit Button is used to submit a form, which inserts or updates data in a database table. The Form Submit Button contains within it a "Status" label that shows the success or failure of an attempt to submit a form.

project.pa.forms Python Module

The form components call functions provided by the project.pa.forms Python module to tie together form components and execute functionality of forms.

No Ignition Templates

It is notable that the Form Component Palette does not use any Ignition component templates. While component templates are a powerful and useful feature I found it was best not to use them in this instance. Like templates, component palettes have the ability to combine and capture pre-configured functionlity on regular components and reuse them. While templates have benefits that captured components on palettes don't have, individual instances of non-template palette components can be more easily modified individually.

More Functionality?

If you want me to add more functionality to this then let me know.

I am also interested in finding sponsors who would be interested in funding improvements and new functionality for this work.

Also see discussion on Inductive Automation Forum.

Update: Recently a new Form Popup Calendar component and Form Check Box component were added.

For the last couple months I have been blogging at www.perfectabstractions.com/blog. For a variety of reasons I have decided to continue blogging at nickmudge.info.

Future Perfect Abstraction newsletters will contain blog posts from nickmudge.info.

Here are the blog posts I have written in the last few months at www.perfectabstractions.com/blog:

Checklist for Evaluating SCADA Frameworks

What is a Software Abstraction?

Video: How to Use and Configure the News Reader Template

A Software Framework for SCADA Applications

How to Connect Ignition to Kepware OPC Server

Public Instant Messaging Chat Group for Ignition

What is OPC-UA?

What is SCADA?

RSS Feed Reader Template for Ignition

How to Embed an Ignition Project Into a Webpage

Weather Radar Module

Debugging and Testing Gateway Scripts in Ignition

New Scripting Features in Ignition 7.7

I recently created a new website for my company Perfect Abstractions. Check it out! www.perfectabstractions.com

It has been a month and a half since I went out into the world and started my own company, Perfect Abstractions.

I feel strangely obligated to give the world an update. Things are going fine. Of course company founders are unlikely to say that things are going poorly when things are going poorly. I am telling you the truth that things are going fine.

In the last month and a half I found a company that was brand new to Ignition. I educated them about Ignition, sold an Ignition license to them and have been working with them on their first Ignition project. They are a great client and I am really happy to be working with them. This is a great milestone for my sprouting new company because this is what I envisioned doing and I am doing it.

So why are things just going fine? Because I have high expectations. Because I am incredibly optimistic. Because I want to expand now, and expand a lot.

Ignition is a great software platform and there are many opportunities to use it. Inductive Automation, the company that develops Ignition, is solid. With these things I believe there is a lot of opportunity and I want it.

Great Ignition consulting and development is the heart of my young company. My plan for expansion is continuing to be great at Ignition consulting and development and finding ways to be better and better at it - what that really means is doing a good job helping my clients. And my plan includes making my company's consulting and development services and quality more broadly known and informing more people about Ignition.

This blog post is a lot about myself and my company. I actually don't really like to write about myself. Many of my future blog posts will be about Ignition software and other software things. Ignition 7.7 Beta was recently released. I can't wait to download it and explore many of its new features and blog about it.

Right now it is just me but I want to hire people and grow. Below are people I am interested in talking to or things I am interested in talking to people about. Feel free to contact me if you have ideas or suggestions or are interested in talking to me about any of these things.

  • People who want to know more about Ignition
  • Ignition projects
  • Developers who want a job using Ignition
  • Marketing ideas
  • Marketing partnerships
  • Business partnerships
  • People interested in selling Ignition

To My Potential Client

My first duty is to understand what you hope to achieve. Your hoped for projects and success are unique. I will tailor my services to your projects and to your success.

What is Ignition?

Ignition is a set of software tools that make it easy and fast to build applications. Ignition applications often monitor and control devices, processes and activities. Data is collected, analyzed and formatted to produce valuable information that is presented to people that need it or can use it. With such applications people gain insight and much better control over the things they care about.

Discover Ignition

I will help you

  1. Understand Ignition better,
  2. Evaluate Ignition to determine if it is the right software for you,
  3. Understand how to use Ignition to achieve what you want to achieve.

Communication is usually done over the phone or through email. Using screen sharing technology I can demo different aspects of Ignition that you are interested in. This is a free service for people finding out about Ignition and my services.

Ignition Training

I train people on how to use Ignition to create applications. This can be done at your place of business or done remotely using screen sharing technology such as WebEx.

Ignition Project Development

I design and implement new applications using Ignition. My level of participation can vary according to your needs and wants. I can help you get started on a project or help you through to completion. I can design or implement projects alone or along with a team of people. My help can include project design, project implementation, project management, quality control, tech support, debugging or any combination of these.

Ignition Module Development

I create new Ignition modules to extend or add new tools to Ignition. This includes writing new drivers that communicate with more kinds of devices. I also provide training on how to use the IgnitionSDK to create Ignition modules.