virtual instruments (

This module holds Virtual Instruments.

Vector Network Analyzers (


As of 2017.02 a new architecture for vna drivers is being implemented.

New VNA drivers

  • VNA drivers will now have a common high level functionality across all vendors implemented in an ABCVNA class.

  • Different vendor drivers will implement their own mid level functionality as needed to implement the ABC class

  • The low level functions are all implemented as SCPI commands which have a new way of being generated and called

Legacy vna module

The old module containing drivers for PNA, PNA-X, HP8510, etc. will be available as and can be used as follows:

from import PNA

Available VNAs


Class for modern Keysight/Agilent Performance Network Analyzers

HP8510C([address, visa_library])

Slightly more sophisticated 8510 driver than the one in, which is preserved for compatibility.


Python class for NanoVNA V2 network analyzers [#website]_.

Spectrum Analyzers (


HP8500's series Spectrum Analyzers

Stages (

ESP300([address, current_axis, ...])

Newport Universal Motion Controller/Driver Model ESP300

Creating A Driver

SCPI Commands

To learn about SCPI, you can read the IVI website, or Wikipedia. For this tutorial you only need to know that SCPI commands are provided in a tree structure where similar commands are grouped in branches of the tree. All scpi commands are either ‘set’ commands where the user writes something to instrument or ‘query’ commands where the user is requesting data or information from the instrument and the syntax is like this:


Each branch on the command tree is separated by a colon. Query commands provide a question mark at the end of the command tree and arguments are provided as needed after the command. Here is an example of commands grouped in a branch:

:CALC1:PAR:DEF:EXT 'my_meas','S11'  # create a new S11 measurement on channel 1
:CALC2:PAR:CAT?  # return a catalog of existing measurements on channel2
:CALC:PAR:SEL 'my_meas'  # select 'my_meas' on the default channel (channel1)

With this structure in mind, scikit-rf is adopting a tool where SCPI commands are described in a yaml file, which allows for a very compact and universal way to describe the SCPI command tree. The yaml file is then parsed in order to generate a python script file that accesses the SCPI commands through object methods. See the snippet below from the keysight_pna_scpi.yaml file:

      command: {name: data, set: "<fmt=SDATA>,<data=None>", query_values: <fmt=SDATA>}
          PORT: {name: snp_data, query_values: "'<ports=(1, 2)>'"}
        EXT: {name: meas_name_list, query: "", csv: True}
        EXT: {name: create_meas, set: "'<mname>','<param>'"}
      DEL: {name: delete_meas, set: "'<mname>'"}
      SEL: {name: selected_meas, set: "'<mname>'", query: ""}
      MNUM: {name: selected_meas_by_number, set: <mnum>, query: "", returns: int}
    FORM: {name: display_format, set: <fmt=MLOG>, query: ""}

In the command tree, all nodes are either:

  1. A new branch of the command tree

  2. A command

  3. Both a command and a branch, as in :CALC:DATA

In the case that a node is both a branch and a command we need to explicitly mark the mappings of each with ‘branch’ and ‘command’. Otherwise, the presence of a mapping item ‘name’, which is a rational name for the command, indicates that the node is a command. Absent that, the node is assumed to be a branch and is further parsed for more nodes.

yaml Command Syntax

For a node that is a command, there are only 2 requirements:

  1. ‘name’ must be provided

  2. at least one of ‘set’, ‘query’ or ‘query_values’ must be provided.

Optionally you may also specify the following options in the command for query processing:

  1. ‘returns’ : default ‘str’; specify the return type (int, float, str, bool) and the value returned from the functions will be converted into the appropriate python type.

  2. ‘csv’ : default False; if the return value is a csv list, parse it as such and return a python list where the members are individually converted to the type specified by ‘returns’

  3. ‘strip_outer_quotes’ : default True; check if the return value is a string literal encapsulated in quotes and strip these out for proper parsing of the return value.

If a command is read or write only, then you specify only the query or set items. If it is read/write, then you specify both. query_values is just a query command that returns a data set, and will then use the pyvisa query_values convenience function that will automatically parse the returned data and place it in a list or numpy array of floats.

The set/query items are merely the string of arguments that must be provided to the command. For example, the ‘create_meas’ example above looked like this:

:CALC1:PAR:DEF:EXT 'my_meas','S11'

If we placed this command in a python function and called it, it might look something like this:

class SCPI:
    def __init__(self, pyvisa_resource):
        self.resource = pyvisa_resource

    def set_create_meas(self, cnum=1, mname="", param="")
        scpi_command = ":CALC{:}:PAR:DEF:EXT '{:}','{:}'".format(cnum, mname, param)

vna = SCPI(pyvisa_resource)
vna.set_create_meas(1, "my_meas", "S11")

This illustrates what is going on with the yaml file. If we isolate only the create_meas command in the command tree the yaml mapping looks like this:

      EXT: {name: create_meas, set: "'<mname>','<param>'"}

the python function set_create_meas is simply the write method of the create_meas SCPI command. The ‘set’ item in the yaml mapping is the string: "'<mname>','<param>'" which is the the required arguments for the SCPI command. The function has three keyword arguments, cnum, mname and param which are enclosed in <> brackets. If an argument has a default parameter (int, float or string) then it can be specified with an ‘=’ sign.

Using the SCPI functions to write a Driver

The parser outputs a python file with a SCPI class. The current model for using this class is to initialize a VNA class, which in turn initialized a pyvisa resource. The VNA object then initializes a SCPI object and assigns it to self.scpi. See the abbreviated code from the PNA class __init__ method:

def __init__(self, address=DEFAULT_VISA_ADDRESS, **kwargs):
    super(PNA, self).__init__(address, **kwargs)
    self.resource.timeout = kwargs.get("timeout", 2000)
    self.scpi = keysight_pna_scpi.SCPI(self.resource)

Subsequently, the low-level instrument commands are contained with the .scpi namespace and can be called in the following manner inside vna object methods:

f_start = self.scpi.query_f_start(channel)
self.scpi.set_f_start(channel, f_start)