A frontend for multiple backendsΒΆ

A small historical note might help to make this section clearer. So bear with with me for a couple of lines. Originally PyVISA was a Python wrapper to the VISA library. More specifically, it was ctypes wrapper around the NI-VISA. This approach worked fine but made it difficult to develop other ways to communicate with instruments in platforms where NI-VISA was not available. Users had to change they programs to use other packages with different API.

Since 1.6, PyVISA is a frontend to VISA. It provides a nice, Pythonic API and can connect to multiple backends. Each backend exposes a class derived from VisaLibraryBase that implements the low-level communication. The ctypes wrapper around NI-VISA is the default backend (called ni) and is bundled with PyVISA for simplicity.

You can specify the backend to use when you instantiate the resource manager using the @ symbol. Remembering that ni is the default, this:

>>> import visa
>>> rm = visa.ResourceManager()

is the same as this:

>>> import visa
>>> rm = visa.ResourceManager('@ni')

You can still provide the path to the library if needed:

>>> import visa
>>> rm = visa.ResourceManager('/path/to/lib@ni')

Under the hood, the ResourceManager looks for the requested backend and instantiate the VISA library that it provides.

PyVISA locates backends by name. If you do:

>>> import visa
>>> rm = visa.ResourceManager('@somename')

PyVISA will try to import a package/module named pyvisa-somename which should be installed in your system. This is a loosly coupled configuration free method. PyVISA does not need to know about any backend out there until you actually try to use it.

You can list the installed backends by running the following code in the command line:

python -m visa info

What does a minimum backend looks like? Quite simple:

from pyvisa.highlevel import VisaLibraryBase

class MyLibrary(VisaLibraryBase):


Additionally you can provide a staticmethod named get_debug_info that should return a dictionary of debug information.