Before starting with a microcontroller, certain factors like its cost, availability etc. should be considered. One of the most important criteria to choose a controller is the availability of its development tools like assembler, compiler, debugger, simulator etc. Various companies have developed different types of compilers and simulators which are easily available for use.
For developing or testing an embedded system application, a particular development cycle is followed which consists of several stages. An Integrated Development Environment (IDE) allows for implementation of all such steps of a development cycle.
Typically, a development cycle has following steps:
a. The code is written/edited in an Editor program.
b. The Compiler/Assembler/Linker programs generate relevant support files like .hex, .obj etc.
c. The code is loaded into Simulator/Debugger program.
d. The code is analyzed by Simulation or Debugging.
If an error occurs, the code is re-edited and the whole cycle is repeated.
Different IDE tools:
There are various IDE tools provided by different companies for PIC18 series of microcontrollers. Microchip developed MPLAB IDE tools for each series of PIC microcontroller. This IDE suite provides following programs :
· Editor : MPLAB Editor
· Assembler : MPASM
· Compiler : MPLAB C Compiler for PIC18 MCUs
· Linker : MPLINK
· Simulator : MPLAB SIM
· Debugger : MPLAB ICD 2/3
· Programmer : Pickit 2/3
Besides these, Hi-Tech C compiler, Byte Craft’s MPC and CCS’s PCWH are third party compilers which can work on MPLAB IDE.
mikroElektronika has also developed an IDE for PIC microcontroller which is named Mikro C. This IDE provides C compiler, software simulator and mikroICD debugger. Along with this package, mikroElektronika provides different tools like Graphical LCD bitmap editor, LCD custom character editor, USART terminal etc. MikroC IDE also provides in-built custom libraries for not only PIC’s internal peripherals like ADC, USART, SPI, I2C etc. but also for external peripherals like LCD, 7-segment etc.
Please note that a dedicated USB HID Terminal and a HID Class Library is also provided with this package for USB Communication with PIC Microcontrollers that support USB protocols like PIC18F4550 etc.