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Rigol's PC software: Ultra-Sigma and beyond

The ability to connect your test equipment to a local PC is invaluable. It allows monitoring and the use of your equipment via a PC interface. That includes coveted mouse/keyboard control! This control centre capability is essential when you have many pieces of T&M equipment on a Bench-top. Considering you can access all the features from the front panel, but using a GUI. You can't not set this software up. 

Ultra-Sigma is the software package made by Rigol to manage test equipment. It is the base-station program that allows you to connect to your equipment using a standard PC. It is a 500MB download available from Rigol's website. Or direct from the CD that came with your equipment. This hefty software package comes loaded with all the drivers you need to see your equipment. Interfacing your devices becomes a plug-n-play process. Ultra-Sigma only manages the connections between your PC and your devices though.  Actual control of your devices gets handled by alternate software packages (see below for download links). They run on top of Ultra-Sigma.

Rigol Ultra Sigma Software screenshot, displaying an oscilloscope connected to the PC

Get all the downloads, guides, firmware upgrades, datasheets for your specific test equipment unit from the Documents tab on their product pages:

To be clear, you NEED to have installed Ultra-Scope and Ultra-Wave software separately to Ultra-Sigma in order to control the equipment from your PC

These add-on programs are free and quite small (roughly 20MB). That's tiny for the functionality they offer. To launch them, open Ultra Sigma and right click the relevant device. As mentioned above, Ultra-Wave and Ultra-Scope are the two applications we are going to take a look at. In particular, the packages designed for the 1000 series equipment. Rigol has screenshot annotated install guides available here. The installation process is pretty standard though so I imagine you will be fine. 


Ultra-Scope

Rigol Ultra Scope software displaying oscilloscope readings directly to PC screenWe connected our Rigol DS1054z up to a PC using a regular USB-A to B Male Peripheral cable. Starting up the Ultra-Sigma software (NB: it is set to hide away in the taskbar, minimized) we selected the DS1000z in the submenu and saw that our scope was automagically recognized. If your device isn’t automatically picked up, just click the USB-TMC option in the top menu bar, it should pick it up pretty quick.

As you can see in the screenshot provided, to get into the Ultra-Scope software just right-click the instrument and select UltraScope from the menu that appears. Alternatively, you have a few command options from the Ultra Sigma menu here. I think Print Screen and SCPI Panel Control being of particular interest. Print screen does what you’d expect; sends a print screen command to your scope which returns a bitmap format image of what’s on your scopes screen at that time. That concept of controlling your scope via the USB connection is really expanded for more advanced users with the SCPI Panel Control. SCPI is Standard Commands for Programmable Instruments, it refers to the syntax and commands you can use to control your test and measurement devices. Let us know in the discussion below if you would enjoy a tutorial on SCPI in the future!

Once you have your Ultra-Scope software loaded up, it should automatically have connected to your scope. You will see the control panel options are arranged quite similarly to the front panel controls, with relevant options being grouped down the right-hand side of the window. General manipulation of the waveform that you would get from the knobs on the front panel is now managed via the mouse and right click menu. Right, click and utilize the Zoom/Move options to freely and easily move your waveform around the grid. You can also enable additional screens for your separate channels, making it quite easily to declutter a potentially crowded 7” LCD display.

Along the top of the screen, you get all the relevant measurements of division size, sample rate, quick trigger options and the all-too-often used Auto-acquire function. In the center of the window, where you see your waveform, you are able to right to click and get a bunch of additional options surrounding the waveform. A particularly great function in this menu is the ability to save your waveform as a .csv file, enabling you take the measured data and manipulate it in a spreadsheet application.

The final feature/s I want to point out was the left-hand Measurement menu, accessed via the vertical “Measurements” button. You may add any of the measurements you see in this menu to the current waveform, however, to view them (updating in real-time) you need to select the Measure Button along the bottom margin of the window. That gives you the really nice clear tabulated data you want along the bottom of your display window. The software has a very engineered feel to it, its setup/menu options seem very sensibly set out and I got the hang of it quite quickly. I really like the idea of the extra screen function. Also, the software seems very stable, didn’t have one error or crash the entire time I was using it.


Ultra-Wave

Rigol Ultra Wave software screenshot displaying a custom function being generated directly to the Waveform GeneratorWhen it comes to waveform generation, you might be needing a specific waveform shape and configuring it all through the arbitrary generation menus with the front controls might be limiting; as it’s not very clear how it will look across a longer domain. Ultra-Wave gives you nine standard waveforms that meet the basic needs of users. Additionally, you can hand draw and point-to-point draw waveforms, then save/upload them to your waveform generator. You can also import waveforms captured on your DSO and edit them using the Ultra Wave interface.

Using the same USB-A to B connector, we hooked up the DG1022 to the PC running Ultra-Sigma. Just like Ultra-Scope, we started up Ultra-Wave and had all the capabilities of our Waveform Generator at the tips of our fingers.

The basic controls include opening a new analog waveform, opening a saved waveform (.txt, .csv and .arb file types are all supported) and saving your waveform. Importing waveforms from .wfm files is also supported. When it comes to viewing your waveform, the view submenu offers all different zoom options and the cursor track mode, which snaps your cursor to your waveform.

The rework and math submenus provide you with a group of standard mathematical operations that you can apply to different waveforms, reflected in a visual display of how they will interact. The tools submenu gives all the options of connecting with and uploading to an instrument. Finally, the window submenu allows you to cascade, resize and position your different waveforms within the main Ultra-Wave window.

You have the standard waveform options down the left-hand side of the central visual display area, each with its own menu of property values you set as you go. The toolbar along the base of the window gives you information about what mode you are in and how to exit the mode (if applicable).

These programs are extremely powerful and useful for someone using these instruments, and the Batch SCPI mode available through the Sigma interface compounds for each additional device being controlled.

I really hope that this article has clarified all the things you wanted to know about interfacing your testing and measuring equipment with your PC. While there are a ton of products from Rigol that can be interfaced with different applications, the process of actually connecting and making your way around the software is the same for all of them. Again, let me know how you guys would feel about some SCPI tutorials in the future or even let me know how you on with RIGOLs Ultra-suite for testing and measurement.

The ability to connect your test equipment to a local PC is invaluable. It allows monitoring and the use of your equipment vi...

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