Whenever we write code and find ourselves keep repeating a set of instructions or certain procedures, it might be helpful to code them once and convert the result into a Library, so that we as well as others can make use of it later by simply loading the Library and using it in our programs.
As such, a Library is a collection of code, usually focused on enabling a specific component, peripheral or functionality. The important thing that distinguishes a Library from a program is that a Library is a component or a building block that will be used in a program, but in itself it is not a complete program.
Libraries can be created either using the IDE of the particular language development environment or by writing code in the original source language that was used to create the IDE environment to begin with.
A good Library should:
To achieve the objectives listed above, we need to do some planning and thinking.
The Library should have a specific function to achieve a defined result.
In order to accomplish this, we need to think about the task at hand and make sure to reduce it to its single-most important functionality that will be captured in the Library. Whether it is actuating a piece of hardware, or performing some type of data manipulation; the Library purpose should be clear and concise.
This aspect is the most visible and important part of the Library. The users of our Library will interact with our code via the user interface and will judge its usability and clarity by it.
To organize the interface of our Library, we need to think of the inputs and outputs of our Library.
Inputs will constitute all the data we need from the users, in order to do what the lIbrary needs to do. These will be organized as input parameters for our Library.
And the outputs are what the Library will deliver as the result of it processing the inputs. Some Libraries just perform some operations that will result in something physical changing. Others will have a clearly defined value returned.
It is important to keep in mind that not all Library functions always return a value.
Most Library codes start their life as a user coded custom block functionality.
We realize we need a missing feature and write some custom blocks to remedy the missing feature. Then we decide that this would be helpful functionality to share, and decide to convert the custom blocks into a Library.
It is easy to get carried away and start adding more and more functionality to code. This leads to a very convoluted end result. It is best to plan what needs to be done and only focus the code to achieve that functionality.
Often it will be necessary to break down certain functionalities and group them together to make up the Library. These will be presented as related function blocks that accomplish various aspects of the same original task.
A good example is the LED Display Library in MicroBlocks: It contains blocks for manipulating the LED panel as an aggregate, as well as individual LED pixels, and also the ability to display letters and numbers.
MicroBlocks Library blocks have to be no more than1000 bytes in length.
To keep things simple, we will focus on developing a simple Library using the IDE for MicroBlocks.
The functionality we want to achieve is:
This list is a good starting point for our Library definition.
Our Radio message block will be named RadioMsg.
To do the message processing, we need the user to give us a parameter that contains the message itself. The parameter will be named: msg and it will be a number / string input.
In order to determine the type of the message content, we can rely on the MicroBlocks “operator” block that reports the type of the input:
To satisfy the optional requirement for displaying buffer counts for larger than 19 byte messages, we are going to use a switch as an additional argument. It will be named: ShowBuf and it will be using a boolean input field called bufYN.
Based on these initial input decisions, our block header will look like this:
Since our objective is very simple, we will only need one block in our Library.
Now, let’s look at the code that we will need to do all the message processing. We will examine all blocks needed in groups and explain their functionality in detail.
We start out with defining some local variables.
Delay will be used to space out the buffers of the radio messages, so we do not overwhelm the radio transmission.
radMsgSize is used to determine each message’s chunk size.
msgLen is set to the length of the message to be sent.
buffers is set to the number of 19 byte buffers we will need to send.
rem is set to the remainder of the last message buffer size.
The next group of blocks looks at the message to be sent and determines its type, and converts it to a string format.
Lists become comma separated strings.
Numbers become numerical strings.
Booleans become true / false strings
We use the join items of list block to do the conversion.
Now we are at the actual point where we start processing the message.
If the message to be sent is no bigger than our radMsgSize of 19 bytes, then we just send it out.
If it is larger than radMsgSize, then we use the calculated buffers variable as a loop counter to send each chunk separately.
The optional parameter bufYN is checked to see if we need to display the buffer counts on the device LED panel.
To split up a long message into radMsgSize chunks, we use the block to calculate a local variable msgPart and send out each chunk.
Once all the main buffers are sent, there still might be a remainder left over in the last part of the message.
This is indicated by rem > 0 condition calculated earlier.
If so, we send out that last message fragment here.
The last part of our code is to clear the device display if we were showing the buffer counts as selected in the optional parameter bufYN.
So this completes the code portion of our RadioMsg Library block.
Now we need to move on to the part of making this code block into a MicroBlocks Library module.
Library modules are defined by the extension UBL.
We need to take our custom block we have coded and convert it into a file with the proper extension.
MicroBlocks actually provides us with the means to accomplish this very easily.
When we select the show advanced blocks option in the Settings Menu, we are presented with another menu item in the File Menu: export functions as library.
This option provides us a way to save the custom block we have created as a Library formatted file.
We enter the name for our Library “RadioMsg” and click OK.
We will be taken to the system file save dialog where we can place the Library file RadioMsg.ubl into a desired directory on our system.
Once this is completed, we will be able to go to the Libraries + section on the MicroBlocks IDE and load our Library from where we saved it directly into any program we wish.
By sharing the RadioMsg.ubl file, we will provide a way for other users to utilize our Library in the same way.
I hope you were able to follow this writeup and got enough information to try and create your own Library.
Don’t forget that there is also another way one can write Library code directly in the language in which the IDE was developed.