Siemens TIA Portal V13 issues
(Updated June, 2016.)
Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) is the current Siemens engineering framework for automation. It is vastly different from the 5.x version and it took me time to get used to. Overall, it has been improving steadily with each new version but there are still a few pesky issues that can be a bother. This is valid for version 13 service pack 1 update 9 (June 2016) but some of these issues have been present in earlier versions.
(I will update this post regularly.)
First things first: back up often
With the classic Step 7 5.x you always had the option of saving each window individually. Sometimes it can be useful not to save after a download, so that you can quickly revert back to the last saved version.
The programming editor could crash, resulting in the possible loss of work for any window in the editor that wasn't saved. Other components would survive the crash.
There is an important deviation in TIA Portal: a crash of the software brings down the entire software suite, resulting in the loss of anything not saved, not just the current window and/or the current editor, but everything (tags, alarms, HMI components, hardware configurations, etc).
Therefore, it is sage advise to not only save but also back up often throughout the day. You can't save the contents of selected windows or components, it is all or nothing. Backing up an open project can be done from within TIA Portal without closing the project. The resulting
.zap13 file is a ZIP file with a custom Windows extension.
(I should point out that since V13 Update 3 the stability has vastly improved. With V13 SP1 UPD1 I experienced only one crash -- knock on wood.)
Undo missing for STL networks
In any ladder network you can use the undo function. In STL networks, however, any accidental deletions of code or any typos are permanent: no undo implemented for STL. Siemens engineers must never make mistakes.
No undo for STL networks.
Recently, I accidentally selected a fair amount of code and before realizing this I had pressed delete. I was able to restore the deleted code from one of the very frequent backups I make throughout the day, but it is time consuming to open a second project, find and copy the code. A simple undo would be so nice.
Edit: Even in ladder networks the undo function is not always available. It seems inconsistent.
Update: this has improved considerably with V13 Update 5.
Major problem: incorrect marking of difference offline/online
Often, the software will indicate differences between online/offline versions. This seems to be based on time stamps, rather than actual code differences. See: Comment changes in STL networks forces recompile/download elsewhere. The classic Step 7 would display this with different symbols, red for code differences (based on checksum) and yellow for time stamp mismatches (which can occur if you have made comment changes after downloading a block).
In the above example FC125 and FC135 have the same checksum but different time stamps, so TIA Portal indicates this as a problem. It more or less forces a download or else it will be impossible to monitor the block.
Unable to insert new STL network from STL network
From within a ladder network you can add a new ladder network via the button on the toolbar. Via a right-click inside the network you can insert either a new ladder network or a new STL network.
For STL networks there is no choice, you can only add a new ladder network, not a new STL network. You have to insert a ladder network first, then add a new STL network from there, then delete the ladder network. Seems like an oversight.
Ghost ladder networks added
After adding a new ladder network after the last network another ladder network is always added right after the first object is added to the new network. I constantly find myself deleting these empty networks. Not sure what the rationale behind this could be. Seems like a bug.
In this example, I added network 42 after the last network, 41:
As soon as I add an object to the network, a new ladder network, here 43, is added:
Comment changes in STL networks forces recompile/download
You can modify network comments for both ladder and STL networks without issues. However, any change in STL comments will require recompiling and downloading of the block. Annoying at best.
Here is an example where the offline/online versions match:
A modification to the first STL comment causes the entire block comparison to fail:
Insufficient scroll wheel support
The scroll wheel is supported. However, scrolling by hovering over a window without highlighting it is not supported consistently. Some windows (like the assignment lists) do not support scrolling with the scroll wheel at all. Really, Siemens?
No scrolling with Control-Up/Down
Any decent programming editor will support scrolling with the keyboard combinations Control-Up and Control-Down. It scrolls the page up and down without moving the location of the cursor. Version 5.x supported it, although not in all editors. SCL, for example, didn't support it. Unfortunately, this is not implemented for TIA Portal at all.
Monitor after download
Once a block has been downloaded to the PLC it will take some time before TIA Portal performs a checksum test and updates the status indicating the offline and online version matches. Until then, the green "play" button remains greyed out. Sometimes, these delays are more than annoying if speed is of the essence.
Fonts ignored when printing
When printing code the software ignored fonts defined for ladder and STL and uses Courier New for STL code. It uses a fairly large font size for this that seems disproportional to the font size for the ladder networks.
General -> Script/text editors -> Font:
General -> Script/text editors -> STL:
General -> PLC programming -> LAD/FDB -> Font:
Given these settings, this is what the screen looks like from within TIA Portal:
When printing it is ignoring the font settings. The STL font is also disproportionally large compared to the text in the ladder logic:
Numerical format while monitoring
With Step 7 5.x you could right-click and select a different format. Unfortunately, with TIA Portal the format cannot always be changed. When monitoring values in ladder networks, the format can be changed via right-click / modify / display format:
When monitoring interface values for FB/FC calls the format is almost always hexadecimal, making it difficult to interpret. The format cannot be changed:
A nice feature is that the columns with displayed values can be moved sideways.
Tooltips obscuring view
More often than not the multitude of tooltips are obscuring the view of the code below it.
It would be better to display information in the status bar. Or move the tooltips above the cursor. Or just don't pop them up when it is unnecessary, especially when monitoring online.
STL address bug
When assigning the RLO to an address, TIA Portal considers entering
=db25.dbx34.7 a syntax error (even though this is perfectly valid). Only with a space after the equal sign it will accept the input:
In the classic Step 7, label names were allowed to start with underscores. Not anymore:
If you start typing a quote after the jump instruction a popup appears. From there it allows you to select the jump label starting with an underscore:
However, it will still be regarded as invalid:
This is not necessarily a huge deal, but it seems more like a bug than intentional behavior.
Edit: I am happy to report that this has been fixed in V13 SP1 Upd3.
Display gaps global addresses
In the overview for the global addresses, only addresses in use are displayed. It would be helpful if gaps were displayed, the way it was with Step 7 5.5 so it is clearer where available addresses can be found.
In the picture, the gap between words MW366-MW498 is visually somewhat obvious, but that is often not the case.
Unique HMI object names
When copying an object and pasting it in the same screen (picture) it is assigned a unique name. This is not the case when pasting the object in another screen. The name remains the same.
This leads to compiler warnings and can have unexpected (potentially dangerous) results in runtime.
Edit: this has improved with V13 SP1 Upd3.
Lack of absolute addresses in datablocks
With classic Step 7 data blocks have a declaration view and a data view. The declaration view is used to populate the DB and create structures. The latter reveals the absolute addressing and is used for online viewing.
Declaration view in classic Step 7.
This view shows the absolute addresses
and the offset within structures and arrays.
Data view in classic Step 7.
This reveals the absolute addresses for the
entire DB, including structures and arrays.
In TIA Portal, however, it is not possible to view the absolute addresses in (non optimized) data blocks.
TIA Portal does not show the absolute addresses
(and there is no column that can be selected either).
FC and FB symbolic references only
Symbolic addressing is pushed hard (a tad too aggressive in my opinion). Even FC and FB numbers (or SFC/SFB) are hidden from view when selecting a function from a library. For example, when selecting
SFC51 RDSYSST from Step 7 classic it lists these by their number. TIA Portal only lists these by symbolic name.
SFC51 selection from the Step 7 classic library.
SFC51 selection from the TIA Portal library.
This is unfortunate since a lot of the literature is referring to these by their numbers.
November 13, 2014: With V13/Update 5 the undo functionality has greatly improved.
December 20, 2014: Service pack 1 improved the undo feature.
February 17, 2015: Added label name peculiarity.
February 17, 2015: Added online/offline checksum fail.
March 19, 2015: Added the address gap issue.
March 29, 2015: Added more pictures to illustrate the label name issue from February 17.
April 26, 2015: Added HMI object name issue.
May 29, 2015: Added the lack of absolute references in data blocks and of function blocks.
June 23, 2015: Noted improvement on assigning unique HMI object names. Noted the fix for jump labels with underscores.