The Navigation Window

Jun 1st, 2010 by Christina in "Hidden" Features, LabVIEW

It’s fun sometimes to hear people ask for a feature and be able to show them that it’s already in LabVIEW. (Of course, it’s also disheartening, because I know it’s hard to find things in LabVIEW and I wish I could make it easier).

Just recently, someone requested a way to see a zoomed-out view of an entire block diagram, highlighting the area that was currently visible in the window.

I showed him the Navigation Window (View>>Navigation Window or Ctrl+Shift+N).

LabVIEW Navigation Window

LabVIEW Navigation Window

The Navigation Window is a resizable, floating window that shows the active front panel or block diagram. If you click in the Navigation Window, LabVIEW will center the visible region around the point you clicked on.

Note that the Navigation Window does not work on the panel of running VIs, because we don’t want to degrade the VI’s performance.

The Navigation Window has been in LabVIEW since version 7.1.


  • A couple people have reminded me that it’s not good practice to have diagrams that are bigger than your screen. Appropriate use of hierarchy (i.e. subVIs) keeps diagrams at manageable sizes. I don’t want anyone to get the idea that the Navigation window is an excuse to make gigantic, unreadable diagrams.

    But there are cases when diagrams are necessarily larger than a screen, e.g. when they were written on a nice 22″ monitor and I’m reviewing them on my laptop. And, of course, there’s always the times when you are looking at VIs that you didn’t write yourself. 🙂

  • Like all rules, there are exceptions: I’m generally okay with diagrams that are larger than the screen’s real estate, as long as you only need to scroll in one direction. LabVIEW diagrams are inherently left-to-right (especially when using a lot of property nodes et al), so it’s fine to scroll left/right on those VIs’ block diagrams. LabVIEW is also inherently parallel, so having loops stacked from top to bottom is generally acceptable too.

  • Good points, Chris! Thanks!

  • I agree with crelf totally.
    Wish there was an “inspection window” showing the block diagram of a sub-vi on mouse-over. (double-click & open to edit). Perhaps, it can even appear below context help.

    Kudos to Christina for this blog, keep blogging.

  • Roy A. Kesmodel

    Oddly enough, it also works on the FP.
    BTW, Christina, is there a way to make the window non-modal? The only way to see the Nav window and your BD at the same time is to make them small enough to fit side-by-side. There could be situations where you would want to navigate, switch over to BD, navigate, etc. It would be nice to be able to tile the windows and switch back and forth. Maybe an ini setting?

  • The Navigation Window is a floating window, which means it’s always on top of other LabVIEW windows. (This is a little different than modal – modal windows, typically dialogs, take over application focus until they are dismissed).

    Because of the way it works (a single window that switches contents to the active panel or diagram), we didn’t want it to act like a document window. I think many people would find that confusing.

    For your use case, I would recommend using the keyboard shortcut. Instead of window-switching between the diagram and the Navigation window, just dismiss the Navigation window when you’re not using it.

    As far as I know, there isn’t an INI token to change the window behavior. If you really want to try out the tiling to see how it works for you, I could probably send you a modified version of one file that would do it. If so, let me know what version of LabVIEW you’re using.

  • Aniket – sorry, I just realized I never replied to your comment! Yes, the subVI preview is an interesting idea. I see it’s on Idea Exchange (I assume you put it there), so it will be good to see the feedback that it gets!

  • Thanks for bringing this to my attention! I just tried it out, very cool. I’m not sure why I never noticed it. I will have admit my VI’s are always too big. This tool will come in handy.

  • Thanks for reminding us of this feature.

    I like this feature, but it will be even better to be able to zoom in. At the end of the day, my eyes don’t see the terminals on a subVI as easy as in the morning 😉

    Other programs use the wheel on the mouse to zoom in.

  • Have you tried the operating system zoom in? Magnifier on Windows works pretty well and Mac OS X zooming is excellent.

  • Christina, the Window Magnifier (at least in XP) is pretty useless. It’s slow and inconvenient.

    Fabiola, go and vote for this idea (and tell others too) if you want NI to implement this:

  • Magnifier on Wndows 7 is pretty usable. It zooms in increments, so it’s not as smooth as Mac OS X, but it’s responsive and the keyboard shortcuts are easy enough.

  • Yes, I’ve submitted the idea of showing block diagram preview in “Navigation Window” on LabVIEW Idea Exchange. Those who like it can vote here –

  • The ideas of having zooming by TST and also seeing BD of sub-vi are rocking!

  • Very interesting and helpful. Thanks for sharing:)

    Don’t blame me for making bigger vi’s as I’m always in learning mode.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christina Rogers, Bo Fu. Bo Fu said: Hah! I didn't know it:D. Although it is not recommended, it is good to know. Thanks! RT @eyesonvis #LabVIEW […]


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