MPLAB® X IDE Tutorial for Beginner

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MPLAB X IDE

MPLAB X IDE is Microchip’s latest generation free integrated development environment. It incorporates a powerful, highly practical set of features that allow you to easily develop applications for Microchip’s PIC® microcontrollers and dsPIC® digital signal controllers. It is based on Oracle’s NetBeans IDE and runs on Windows®, Linux® and Mac OS X®. Its unified graphical user interface (GUI) helps integrate Microchip and third-party software and hardware development tools, providing you with high-performance application development and rich debugging capabilities.

MPLAB X IDE Features

Powerful Editor

  • Colorful syntax highlighting;
  • Support intelligent code completion;
  • Automatic code formatting based on user-defined rules;
  • Support intelligent refactoring of code;
  • Instant analysis function;

Friendly Interaction

  • Call graph window;
  • Plug-in function extension;
  • Customizable interface:
    toolbars, toolbar buttons, windows and window positions, etc.

Navigation Function

  • Task navigator with user-defined bookmarks:
    //TODO & //FIXME;
  • Project-based workspace:
    Multiple projects, tools and configurations, parallel debugging sessions;
  • Powerful navigation tools:
    Go to file, go to type, go to symbol, go to header file, go to declaration, use “Ctrl+mouseover” to go to hyperlink.

File History and Issue Tracking

  • Local file history feature;
  • A NetBeans plug-in for version control systems is also available;
  • Built-in support for Bugzilla issue tracker;
  • Integrate with editor for easy issue navigation;

MPLAB X IDE Tutorial

MPLAB X IDE provides a single integrated “environment” for developing code for embedded microcontrollers. The following is a simple tutorial on using MPLAB X IDE to develop microcontroller programs.

Tools Required

  • A Windows, macOS or Linux computer;
  • MAPLAB X IDE, MAPLAB XC Compiler;
  • PICkit2 or PICkit3 emulator;
  • An PIC or AVR MCU;

Step 1: MPLAB X IDE Installation

First, download the MPLAB X IDE installation package from the MICROCHIP official website:
https://www.microchip.com/en-us/tools-resources/develop/mplab-x-ide#tabs

Download the MPLAB X IDE
Download the MPLAB X IDE

After install the MPLAB X IDE software, you can open and see the overview: 

Overview of MPLAB X IDE
Overview of MPLAB X IDE

Step 2: MPLAB Compiler Installation

Combined with the MPLAB XC compiler, you can speed up your project development process. Download the compiler suitable for your project from the following link:
https://www.microchip.com/en-us/tools-resources/develop/mplab-xc-compilers

Download MPLAB® XC Compiler
Download MPLAB® XC Compiler

The XC8 version is suitable for 8-bit PIC MCUs, the XC16 version supports 16-bit PIC MCUs, and the XC32 version supports 32-bit PIC MCUs.

Installation process of MPLAB compiler:

MPLAB® XC Compiler
MPLAB® XC Compiler
MPLAB XC32 Compiler Setup Wizard
MPLAB XC32 Compiler Setup Wizard
Installation Directory of MPLAB XC32 Compiler
Installation Directory of MPLAB XC32 Compiler
MPLAB XC32 Compiler Settings
MPLAB XC32 Compiler Settings
Installing MPLAB XC32 Compiler
Installing MPLAB XC32 Compiler
Completing the MPLAB XC32 Compiler Setup Wizard
Completing the MPLAB XC32 Compiler Setup Wizard

Step 3: Add a Compiler to MPLAB X IDE

Open the MPLAB X IDE software, as shown in the figure below, prompting “No Compilers Found”. After installing the MPLAB XC compiler, we need to add it to the MPLAB X IDE software before it can be used.

No Compiler Found on MPLAB X IDE
No Compiler Found on MPLAB X IDE

Click “Tools” -> “Options” as shown in the figure below:

Click Tools Options on MPLAB X IDE
Click Tools Options on MPLAB X IDE

Then click the “Build Tools” option under “Embedded”. Click the “Add” button under “Toolchain:”:

Click Embedded_Build Tools and Add Compiler
Click Embedded_Build Tools and Add Compiler

Select the bin file from the installation path of the MPLAB compiler. Next, click “OK”.

Add New Toolchain from the MPLAB XC32 Compiler Directory
Add New Toolchain from the MPLAB XC32 Compiler Directory

After the bin file is successfully added to “Toolchain:”, click “Apply” and “OK”.

Apply to Add the MPLAB XC32 Compiler
Apply to Add the MPLAB XC32 Compiler

Step 4: MPLAB X IDE Programming

After installing the MPLAB X IDE software and MPLAB compiler, we start editing the program and downloading and debugging the program.

Create A New Project

In MPLAB X IDE, click File > New Project to pop up the New Project window. Select Microchip Embedded in “Categories:”, then select Standalone Project in “Projects:”.

Choose Microchip Categories and Standalone Project
Choose Microchip Categories and Standalone Project

Next, select the MCU model suitable for your current project in Device, such as: PIC32CX2051MTC128.
(Note that because I just installed the XC32 compiler, we need to select the PIC32 series MCU here.)

Select Device PIC32 Series
Select Device PIC32 Series

Then, select the XC32 compiler.

Select XC32 Compiler
Select XC32 Compiler

Write a Project Name, select the storage location of the project, and click “Finish”.

Select Project Name and Location in MPLAB X IDE
Select Project Name and Location in MPLAB X IDE

Write A Program

As shown in the figure below, after creating a new project, we can see the project list file on the left.

Project Menu on MPLAB X IDE
Project Menu on MPLAB X IDE

Right-click “Source Files” > “New” > “main.c” and add the main.c file to the created project. Then you can write a program for your microcontroller in this file.

Add a New main.c File under Source Files
Add a New main.c File under Source Files
Setting main.c File Name and Location
Setting main.c File Name and Location

The following is a simple PIC microcontroller program, which will light up an LED on the PIC microcontroller. You can modify and expand it as needed:

Add PIC Program Code to main.c File
Add PIC Program Code to main.c File

Code Compile and Download

After writing the code, you can click the button on the toolbar to compile and program.

Build for Debugging Main Project and Program Device
Build for Debugging Main Project and Program Device

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About Author

Aidan Taylor
Aidan Taylor

I am Aidan Taylor and I have over 10 years of experience in the field of PCB Reverse Engineering, PCB design and IC Unlock.

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