Getting Started with the Propeller Tool for the P2
The Propeller Tool is development software built by Parallax for the Propeller 1 and 2 microcontrollers.
It supports coding in Spin (high-level) and PASM (low-level Propeller Assembly) languages – the native languages of the Propeller built specifically for the hardware and its features.
These languages and the Propeller Tool software were developed by Chip Gracey and Jeff Martin during the design of the Propeller 1.
The Propeller 2 features the much-enhanced Spin2 and PASM2 languages, developed by Chip Gracey with a large amount of input from many users in the Propeller Community.
Spin is favored for its ease of use and PASM for its high-speed control, though both appear in applications that span hobby, education, and commercial uses. Propeller applications may consist fully of Spin or PASM code, or may be any mix of each; running independently or cooperatively as desired.
Propeller Tool is designed for the Windows operating system. Here’s an example showing its configurable syntax highlighting that distinctly colors each section of Spin code.
Installation and "Hello World"
With just a few steps, getting started is quick and easy with the free-to-use Propeller Tool.
Install Propeller Tool
- Download the Propeller Tool from the Parallax website, then run the installer
- Choose the default options to add the required USB drivers
Connect the P2 Eval Board
- Connect a USB cable from your computer to the “PC USB” port on the P2 Eval board
- After a moment, the computer will finish USB Driver configuration and should indicate it’s ready to use
Run Propeller Tool
- Start the Propeller Tool software
- Upon first run, select the desired options to automatically associate Propeller source code and binary files with the Propeller Tool
Try the Hello Blinky Application
The left panel of the Propeller Tool window is a file explorer, the right panel is the source code editor, and the menu bar stretches across the top.
- Select the File > Open menu
- Browse to the Examples folder
- Select and open the “Hello Blinky” source code
- Select the Run > Compile Current > Load RAM menu to compile and download to the Propeller 2
- An on-board LED will blink on the P2 Eval board and a debug window* will appear with “Hello World!” displayed (sent by the Propeller 2).
You just ran your first Propeller 2 application!
* The Debug window will not appear until v2.5 of the Propeller Tool software; available Dec 2020.
RAM or FLASH?
The Propeller 2 receives new applications into either it’s volatile (RAM) or non-volatile (FLASH) memory.
The above steps downloaded to RAM, so it will only run your application until it is reset, power cycled off/on, or until/if the program itself naturally ends.
Try the following experiment.
- Press and release the P2 Eval board’s “Propeller Reset” button
- Notice that the blinking LED stopped, never to blink again? This indicates your program did not restart after reset (because it was only in RAM, which doesn’t survive resets or power cycles)
- Try making it more permanent by selecting the Run > Compile Current > Load Flash menu
- Again, the on-board LED blinks and a debug window* displays “Hello World!”
- Press and release the “Propeller Reset” button again
- Notice that the blinking LED stopped briefly (while Propeller Reset was pressed) but restarted soon after? This is because your program was stored in Flash (which survives resets and power cycles) and was reloaded automatically from Flash to RAM within the P2 Eval board
- This program will remain in Flash until overwritten by a future download
See the Propeller Tool’s Help menu for online Propeller 2 hardware and language documentation. Check back often as more is developing.