# Reading and Writing values¶

Some instruments allow to transfer to and from the computer larger datasets with a single query. A typical example is an oscilloscope, which you can query for the whole voltage trace. Or an arbitrary wave generator to which you have to transfer the function you want to generate.

Basically, data like this can be transferred in two ways: in ASCII form (slow, but human readable) and binary (fast, but more difficult to debug).

PyVISA Message Based Resources have two different methods for this called pyvisa.resources.MessageBasedResource.query_ascii_values() and pyvisa.resources.MessageBasedResource.query_binary_values(). It also has the convenient pyvisa.resources.MessageBasedResource.query_values() which will use follow a previously established configuration.

## Reading ASCII values¶

If your oscilloscope (open in the variable inst) has been configured to transfer data in ASCII when the CURV? command is issued, you can just query the values like this:

>>> values = inst.query_ascii_values('CURV?')


values will be list containing the values from the device.

In many cases you do not want a list but rather a different container type such as a numpy.array. You can of course cast the data afterwards like this:

>>> values = np.array(inst.query_ascii_values('CURV?'))


but sometimes it is much more efficient to avoid the intermediate list, and in this case you can just specify the container type in the query:

>>> values = inst.query_ascii_values('CURV?', container=numpy.array)


In container you can have any callable/type that takes an iterable.

Some devices transfer data in ASCII but not as decimal numbers but rather hex or oct. Or you might want to receive an array of strings. In that case you can specify a converter. For example, if you expect to receive integers as hex:

>>> values = inst.query_ascii_values('CURV?', converter='x')


converter can be one of the Python string formatting codes. But you can also specify a callable that takes a single argument if needed. The default converter is 'f'.

Finally, some devices might return the values separated in an uncommon way. For example if the returned values are separated by a '$' you can do the following call: >>> values = inst.query_ascii_values('CURV?', separator='$')


You can provide a function to takes a string and returns an iterable. Default value for the separator is ',' (comma)

## Reading binary values¶

If your oscilloscope (open in the variable inst) has been configured to transfer data in BINARY when the CURV? command is issued, you need to know which type datatype (e.g. uint8, int8, single, double, etc) is being used. PyVISA use the same naming convention as the struct module.

You also need to know the endianness. PyVISA assumes little-endian as default. If you have doubles d in big endian the call will be:

>>> values = inst.query_binary_values('CURV?', datatype='d', is_big_endian=True)


You can also specify the output container type, just as it was shown before.

By default, PyVISA will assume that the data block is formatted according to the IEEE convention. If your instrument uses HP data block you can pass header_fmt='hp' to read_binary_values. If your instrument does not use any header for the data simply header_fmt='empty'.

By default PyVISA assumes, that the instrument will add the termination character at the end of the data block and actually makes sure it reads it to avoid issues. This behavior fits well a number of devices. However some devices omit the termination character, in which cases the operation will timeout. In this situation, first makes sure you can actually read from the instrument by reading the answer using the read_raw function (you may need to call it multiple time), and check that the advertized length of the block match what you get from your instrument (plus the header). If it is so, then you can safely pass expect_termination=False, and PyVISA will not look for a termination character at the end of the message.

## Writing ASCII values¶

To upload a function shape to arbitrary wave generator, the command might be WLISt:WAVeform:DATA <waveform name>,<function data> where <waveform name> tells the device under which name to store the data.

>>> values = list(range(100))
>>> inst.write_ascii_values('WLISt:WAVeform:DATA somename,', values)


Again, you can specify the converter code.

>>> inst.write_ascii_values('WLISt:WAVeform:DATA somename,', values, converter='x')


converter can be one of the Python string formatting codes. But you can also specify a callable that takes a single argument if needed. The default converter is 'f'.

The separator can also be specified just like in query_ascii_values.

>>> inst.write_ascii_values('WLISt:WAVeform:DATA somename,', values, converter='x', separator='$')  You can provide a function to takes a iterable and returns an string. Default value for the separator is ',' (comma) ## Writing binary values¶ To upload a function shape to arbitrary wave generator, the command might be WLISt:WAVeform:DATA <waveform name>,<function data> where <waveform name> tells the device under which name to store the data. >>> values = list(range(100)) >>> inst.write_binary_values('WLISt:WAVeform:DATA somename,', values)  Again you can specify the datatype and endianness. >>> inst.write_binary_values('WLISt:WAVeform:DATA somename,', values, datatype='d', is_big_endian=False)  ## Preconfiguring the transfer format¶ Most of the cases, each device will transfer data in the same format every time. And making the call so detailed everytime can be annoying. For this purpose, PyVISA provides a way to preconfigure the default. Each Message Based Resources exposes an attribute named values_format which is an object with the following properties: is_binary, datatype, is_big_endian, container. For example to set e.g. little-endian doubles and a numpy array: >>> inst.values_format.is_binary = True >>> inst.values_format.datatype = 'd' >>> inst.values_format.is_big_endian = False >>> inst.values_format.container = numpy.array  or shorter: >>> inst.values_format.use_binary('d', False, numpy.array)  After doing this, you can simply call: >>> inst.query_values('CURV?')  which will dispatch to the appropriate function and arguments. If you want to default to ASCII transfer, preconfiguring is a little bit more cumbersome as you need to specify the converters for both ways. For example with hex, with '$' as separator:

>>> inst.values_format.is_binary = False
>>> inst.values_format.converter = 'x'
>>> inst.values_format.separator = '$' >>> inst.values_format.container = numpy.array  or shorter: >>> inst.values_format.use_ascii('x', '$', numpy.array)


This works for both query and write operations.

## When things are not what they should be¶

PyVISA provides an easy way to transfer data from and to the device. The methods described above work fine for 99% of the cases but there is always a particular device that do not follow any of the standard protocols and is so different that cannot be adapted with the arguments provided above.

In those cases, you need to get the data:

>>> inst.write('CURV?')
>>> data = inst.read_raw()


and then you need to implement the logic to parse it.

Alternatively if the read_raw call fails you can try to read just a few bytes using:

>>> inst.write('CURV?')
>>> data = inst.read_bytes(1)


If this call fails it may mean that your instrument did not answer, either because it needs more time or because your first instruction was not understood.