The process significant part of programming an automation solution involves interactions between the programming system and the particular configuration of hardware PLC components employed in the application. The IDE have to know what modules are incorporated and how they are interconnected in order to make full use of all features in the hardware. The setting up process of the IDE to conform to the PLC hardware in use is called hardware configuration. The IDE must be configured manually for the target PLC hardware because the actual hardware may be at a separate location or may not even exist when programming is begun. In practice, it is a potentially error-prone part of the process and surprisingly complicated. Because of this complexity, configuration of hardware was a prime concern in designing the new system, especially since it targeted less experienced programmers building applications of limited sophistication on relatively simple components.
The Step 7 Lite design support for the hardware configuration process is best understood within the context of the larger system. Step 7 Lite uses a multilevel navigation scheme offering simple, flexible, rapid access to any and all relevant views of the PLC application under development and direct switching among the various tasks of PLC programming to promote productivity by PLC programmers. A project navigator on the left gives access to sets of task contexts and related views, which are accessible through tabs toward the bottom of the screen. This scheme also minimizes window-management overhead, such as resizing and rearranging overlapping windows.
Symbolic representations and recognizable physical of actual equipment are used where appropriate to speed learning and reduce the probability of errors. This is not the gratuitous or silly use of real-world metaphor, as in Microsoft’s infamous Clippy Office Assistant, but selected and carefully reasoned use of direct correspondence between the actual physical elements and IDE.