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Oscilloscopes Blog

4 Posts authored by: rlashlee Employee

Several years ago, the Keysight Oscilloscopes R&D team was working on a project to completely redesign the GUI for our Infiniium oscilloscopes. In the early stages of this project, we performed a ton of customer research to see what people expected out of a modern oscilloscope GUI. Most of these items were then included in the GUI you currently see on Infiniium oscilloscopes today – things like multitouch gestures, annotated markers, easy-to-use wizards, grids, flexibility of windows to choose what’s displayed on screen, etc. The other interesting thing we found was that many users wanted to have the ability to analyze, share, and document results at the comfort of their PC or laptop. From this discovery came the N8900A Infiniium Offline Oscilloscope Analysis Software. Many oscilloscope vendors offer offline software, but it is usually a pared-down version of the GUI found on an oscilloscope. With the Infiniium Offline Oscilloscope Analysis Software, the exact same GUI is used that is found on an oscilloscope – meaning you do not have to learn a new user interface and you can perform all of the analysis as if you were sitting in front of an oscilloscope.


Analyzing Data


During the customer research, we found that many people share an oscilloscope in their lab or work space. Doing so causes issues with scheduling and having enough time on the oscilloscope to capture and analyze the data properly. One large benefit to using Infiniium Offline is that you can capture your data on an oscilloscope, move the data to your PC via a thumb drive (or stream it directly to your PC), and then perform all of your analysis and documentation within the offline software – freeing up the oscilloscope to be used by another team member. This enables the team to much more efficiently use the oscilloscope and offers the added benefit of being able to analyze and document results from the comfort of your desk or even at home if you have a laptop.



Documenting and Sharing Results


Another finding in the customer research was how much time people spend documenting their results on an oscilloscope. The traditional method used by many was to take numerous screen shots and then import them into a document along with text describing the results. This was found to be very laborious so we sought out ways to help make this easier.


The first thing R&D did was include many items in the GUI to make documentation easier. All of these are then naturally found in the Infiniium Offline software since it matches what is found on the oscilloscope. Examples include annotated markers (so you can easily see the delta values directly on a screen shot), annotated axes, bookmarks (to make comments on certain measurements or portions of the waveform), measurement call-outs (to see measurements results directly on the screen), and so on. All of these enhancements enabled people to easily show valuable information in a screen shot in a much easier way.


Secondly being able to use offline software helped with documentation in two ways. People found it much easier to make screen captures and paste into a document on their PC/laptop than from the oscilloscope. They were able to finish their documentation quickly and more efficiently, freeing them up to do other tasks. Secondly, many of the people we interacted with needed to share their documentation with others. Using the offline software made this incredibly easy because not only could they send the report document, but they could also send the setup file/waveform via Infiniium Offline with the waveform/results completely annotated. The other team member could then open the file on their copy of Infiniium Offline and see all of this information. Collaboration made easy!


Controlling More than One Instrument


Several applications require more than four oscilloscope channels and while some vendors have oscilloscopes with this capability, Keysight found that people wanted the choice of when to use a setup for more than four channels and when to have two multiple oscilloscopes to use separately. From this, Keysight designed the N8834A MultiScope Application. This software enables people to synch up to 10 oscilloscopes and uses the Infiniium Offline software as the master control for all of these oscilloscopes. In this way, you can have up to 40 channels, all controlled from a single GUI on your laptop or PC. Then, when you do not need all of these channels for your application, you can disconnect the oscilloscopes and use them separately throughout your lab. This gives you incredible flexibility.


Test it Out - Download a Trial Version Today


If you are interested in seeing the N8900A Infiniium Offline Analysis software, you can download a trial version here. It enables you to test out the Infiniium GUI without having an oscilloscope as well – testing whether the capabilities match your needs.

Check Back Daily for Scope Giveaways and Special Offers!

It’s November, and many of you know what that means – we are getting close to the largest online shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday. But what would be better than Cyber Monday?  We didn’t want to limit great offers to just one day, so we have been hard at work developing Keysight’s Cyber Week! It’s an entire week devoted to oscilloscope giveaways and special offers.   


Keysight’s Cyber Week will run the week of November 28th and will feature a new oscilloscope giveaway and special offer each day, Monday through Friday! If you have been itching for a Keysight oscilloscope or just want to join the fun, check back each day during the week to register for the giveaway, watch the video drawing of the winner, and see the new daily special offer.  You can stay up-to-date on Keysight’s Cyber Week and register for the giveaway by going to Also, notice that you get an extra entry into the giveaway by telling a friend about it or sharing it on social media (using the ‘Tell a Friend” button on the site). Tune in each day for the live streams of the giveaways drawings!


And to stay up-to-date on Keysight oscilloscopes and future events, like our Facebook page and subscribe to our YouTube channel.


The team is already prepping for Scope Month 2017! We will be sharing more in the months to come …

With all of the recent advances in oscilloscope capability, it can be hard to keep up with the latest features and enhancements available. However, what you don’t know may hurt you since many of these were developed to make your job easier. Two recent examples of these types of enhancements are offline analysis software and MultiScope software.

Offline Analysis

Keysight engineers work closely with their fellow engineers to understand their needs and what makes their job difficult. This helps them decide what to work on next to help Keysight oscilloscope users like you. One example of this is the N8900A Infiniium Offline Oscilloscope Analysis Software. When the Keysight development team spoke to engineers, they heard three main reasons for wanting the ability to analyze data captured by an oscilloscope offline:

  • Documentation – The number one thing we heard from customers was the need for a more efficient documentation process. Many of them were fine in terms of using the oscilloscope and making measurements, but found documenting on the oscilloscope painful. It usually involved taking a bunch of screenshots, saving them off somewhere, importing them into a word processor, and then taking notes. The top request from these customers was to make offline software a tool people could use to document more quickly and easily. So, when Keysight engineers designed the N8900A offline software, they worked to accomplish just this and included many features that make documentation a breeze.
  • Time Savings – Oscilloscopes are expensive pieces of equipment, so the ability to use the oscilloscope just to capture data and then freeing it up for another team member while the data is analyzed on a PC or laptop saves a lot of time and makes the group more efficient. Plus, it can be easier to do all of your analysis from your laptop or PC instead of your oscilloscope.
  • Team collaboration – Teams that are geographically dispersed can find it difficult to share data. With offline software, one person can easily capture the data and then send it to anyone else who has the offline software so they see the exact same data, measurements, etc. Additionally, the offline software enables bookmarks and annotations that can be used to point to specific parts of the waveform as you share the data.

The Keysight N8900A offline software gives you the entire oscilloscope’s GUI on your PC, allowing you to easily analyze, document, or share data from the comfort of your laptop or PC. If you have not heard of this capability before, I highly encourage you to look into it. Learn more about how offline software can help you with your job in this application note: Three Reasons to Complement Your Scope Investment with PC-based Analysis Software.


MultiScope Software

Another request Keysight’s engineers heard was the need to use more than four channels with an oscilloscope. For example, engineers or technicians working on three phase power required more than four channels, but the oscilloscope industry lacked this capability. Two approaches emerged in the recent past. One approach was to create 8 channel oscilloscopes. The second one was to create oscilloscope software, known as MultiScope, where you could connect multiple oscilloscopes together. Keysight opted for the second approach for several reasons.

  1. We found that while engineers wanted the capability to use more than four channels, they did not always need this many channels and would often prefer the flexibility to bring oscilloscopes together when they needed them and split them apart when they did not. This allows better use of their equipment.
  2. Many customers needed even more than 8 channels and using MultiScope enables them to connect together up to 40 channels.

In other words, MultiScope software offers an engineer or technician more flexibility in terms of how their equipment is used. They can bring the scopes together when they need more than four channels (up to 40) and split them apart when multiples people need an oscilloscope.

After talking to many engineers, the Keysight N8834A MutiScope Application was developed. This software enables you to connect up to 10 oscilloscopes with any combination of 2000X, 3000T, 3000A, 4000X, 6000X, 7000B, 9000A, S-Series, 90000A, 90000X, Q, V, or Z-Series. The signals can be viewed on a single display either using the offline software described above or on the leader scope. This can be an incredibly powerful tool if you need more than four channels.

Here is the MultiScope data sheet for more information.


It is extremely useful to stay up-to-date on the latest capabilities of any test and measurement gear. Our engineers are constantly talking to fellow engineers regarding how we can make their lives easier or enable measurements not previously possible. Having access to this software, measurement, feature, or enhancement can enable you to finish your job quicker or perform it better. We will continue to update you on this blog when exciting new capabilities are available, and feel free to comment with your suggestions or feedback!

Why You Should Care About the Update Rate of Your Oscilloscope

Oscilloscopes have a lot of specifications – some more readily understood than others. One specification that has recently become more frequently discussed is update rate. Despite its importance, there may still be many oscilloscope users who do not understand update rate nor why it impacts their measurements.

When you debug new designs, waveform and decode update rates can be critical—especially when you are attempting to find and debug infrequent or intermittent problems. These are the toughest kinds of problems to solve. Faster waveform and decode update rates improve a scope’s probability of capturing elusive events. To understand why this is true, you must first understand what is known as oscilloscope “dead time”.

Every oscilloscope has an inherent characteristic called “dead time” or “blind time”. This is defined as the time between each repetitive acquisition of the scope when it is processing the previously acquired waveform. Unfortunately, oscilloscope dead times can sometimes be orders of magnitude longer than acquisition times. And during this dead time, any signal activity that may be occurring will be missed by the oscilloscope, as shown in the figure below. The waveform update rate specification tells you the number of acquisitions by the oscilloscope per second. The larger the waveform update rate, the more acquisitions per second, and the shorter the dead time.

This issue of large dead times becomes particularly problematic when capturing random or infrequent events as you are essentially rolling the dice on whether you will capture these or not. The shorter this dead time, the more likely you are to successfully capture an elusive event. As an example, many of the Keysight InfiniiVision oscilloscopeshave waveform update rates of up to 1,000,000 wfms/sec. When capturing an infrequent metastable state (glitch) that occurs approximately 5 times per second using a oscilloscope with an update rate of 1,000,000 waveforms per second, this scope has a 92% probability of capturing this glitch within 5 seconds. In comparison, other oscilloscopes in this class may update waveforms only 2000 to 3000 times per second. These scopes would have less than a 1% probability of capturing and displaying an infrequent glitch such as this within 5 seconds.

It is also useful to understand how an oscilloscope’s update rate is impacted by other features or functionality. For example, some scopes spec a best-case scenario, but when features such as MSO, protocol decode, or math functions are turned on, the update rate can drop significantly. Therefore, it is important to know how the features you will be using for your applications impact the update rate of your oscilloscope.

Want to learn more?

Here is an application note that goes into greater depths on this topic, including how to measure your oscilloscope’s update rate: Oscilloscope Waveform Update Rate Determines Ability to Capture Elusive Events.

See update rate in action with Keysight’s video on debugging infrequent events.