Hello and welcome back to the Digilent Blog!
If you’re familiar with Digilent, you’ll know that we have a wide variety of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) that can do many strange, complex, and wonderful things if you program them to do so. The big catch with this (which isn’t too surprising) is that you have to download the software in order to program them. Simple right? Maybe not for everybody- otherwise we wouldn’t see questions on how to get FPGAs up and running for the first time. But have no fear, a tutorial guide on how to do so is here! (okay, I’ll avoid silly rhymes now)
Vivado is the software that Xilinx has available for all of its (and Digilent’s) current FPGAs, so we’ll go through how to download the free WebPACK version of Vivado.
First, we have to download Vivado (or at least the web installer for it) from Xilinx’s website, conveniently at http://www.xilinx.com/support/download.html.
Once you get to the download page, choose the appropriate installer for your system; I’m on a Windows 10 machine and don’t feel the need to get a universal, all OS installer, so I’ll choose the Windows Self Extracting Web Installer.
Xilinx likes to know what demographic of people use their software so you’ll need to either sign in to your pre-existing account or create one with Xilinx.
Once you sign in, go ahead and let your chosen installer download and then let it run.
You’ll first be brought to a friendly opening screen where it asks you to confirm that you have a compatible OS so you don’t download a large file only to have it not work. You can also choose some installation preferences such as how many cores your computer utilizes to download Vivado, but I went with all of the default preferences.
Xilinx will ask you to sign in again (since you don’t necessarily have to install Vivado on the same computer you installed the web installer on) and choose how you want to download/install. I’ll choose the “Download and Install Now” to make I only download what I need to help conserve space on my laptop.
Agree to the license agreements and terms and conditions. I’m the type of person that actually looks through the license agreements so this took a bit of time for me.
Choose what version of the Xilinx’s Vivado Design Suite you wish to install. We’re going with the free version which is the Vivado HL WebPACK Edition, which is device limited to a smaller selection of FPGAs. Which FPGAs does this refer to? You can view a full list on page 9 of the Vivado Design Suite User Guide by Xilinx, but in terms of Digilent boards, the 2016.4 WebPACK edition can target the Zybo, ZedBoard, PYNQ-Z1, both flavors of the Cmod A7, Arty, Basys 3, Nexys 4 DDR, Nexys Video, and eventually the Arty Z7 (when it is released). I happen to have the Arty, so the WebPACK edition will be perfect for me. It doesn’t say so on this page, but we can choose to add the Xilinx SDK with the installation. Note that you can compare how the WebPACK version compares with the other versions of Vivado on Xilinx’s website here.
The next page lets you choose some specifics of what to install with the Vivado HL WebPACK edition. I currently plan on just using the Arty which uses an Artix 7 35t FPGA, so I’ll go ahead and un-check the boxes that don’t relate to the Artix-7 chip which include the Zynq-7000, Kintex-7, and Kintex Ultrascale, which saves me a little over 3 GB of disk space. I’ll go ahead and un-check the DocNav as well since I’m confident I’ll always have access to the internet to browse through the Xilinx documentation if I need to.
We don’t need the System Generator for DSP since that is only enabled with the System Edition of the Vivado Design Suite, so we’ll leave that box unchecked. I’ll also leave the SDK box unchecked since I don’t anticipate on needing that as a beginner.
The 2016.4 WebPACK edition of Vivado is license free, so we can also uncheck the Acquire or Manage a Licence Key box under the Installation options. It doesn’t save us any download space, but it’ll save us a couple of screens to click through later on. However, we do want to keep the Install Cable Drivers checked since that will Vivado talk to and program our FPGA boards (arguably a useful feature).
You can then choose where your computer installs Vivado; I’ll go with the defaults since that’ll be easiest for me to find later and will keep the file path names fairly short.
You get once last chance to panic and change your mind before hitting install here, but we were extra careful during the installation process, so we should be good to go.
Luckily my download speed isn’t actually as slow as the screen capture indicates (I grabbed the screen capture before it got up to speed), but we are downloading a couple of GBs and installing a bit of 10 GBs so this will take a bit of time depending on your computer and internet speed. My computer is fairly quick and it took almost 20 minutes to download install everything.
But this is the part that I don’t like about many installation guides; you get everything installed and then are left wondering how to navigate the software you just installed, which is just as important as getting it onto your computer in the first place. Awkward. To remedy this, I would highly recommend checking out this guide on our Wiki that walks through creating a new project, adding sources and constraints, writing HDL to blink an LED, synthesizing, implementing, and generating a bitstream, and program the FPGA through the hardware manager; basically everything you need to get started. If you feel differently, feel free to post your question on our technical Forum to get help from one of our engineers!