Getting Started with Connected Components Workbench

A tour of Connected Components Workbench to highlight the main features and functions of Rockwell Automation's free PLC programming system.

In today's post, I am going to introduce you to Connected Components Workbench, a free PLC development system from Rockwell Automation.

If you have followed any of my courses or read any of my previous content, you may know that I'm a huge fan of Connected Components Workbench as a tool for learning PLC programming because it is free to use, includes a PLC simulator for testing projects, and supports the most important PLC programming languages.

These are the main reasons why I use Connected Components Workbench in my free PLC Bootcamp training and my comprehensive Applied PLC Programming courses.

Before we dive into the details of Connected Components Workbench, let me start with an overview of its most important features.

Most Important Features

Connected Components Workbench was designed with the needs of machine builders who build small, standard machines in mind.

Lucky for you, the needs of small machine builders line up almost perfectly with the needs of aspiring PLC programmers.

In order to meet your needs, Connected Components Workbench is easy to work with.

Easy Installation

Connected Components Workbench is easy to install. Simply download the free installer from Rockwell Automation and run it on your machine. This might not seem like an impressive feature to you but a lot of industrial software can be difficult and painful to install.

If you want additional support with setting up Connected Components Workbench, you can check out my complete guide to downloading and installing Connected Components Workbench.

Easy Configuration

Connected Components Workbench is the single software for configuring Allen Bradley Component Class products.

That means that you can use Connected Components Workbench to do more than program Micro800 PLCs. You can also use it to configure PowerFlex drives, PanelView HMI terminals, Kinetix servo drives, configurable safety relays and more.

Being able to configure all of these devices in one project with a common user interface makes setting up a project fast and easy.

Easy Programming

Connected Components Workbench makes it easy to program PLCs.

It supports the three most important PLC programming languages so that you can mix and match Ladder Diagram, Structured Text, and Function Block Diagram to efficiently program your projects.

For inspiration, Rockwell Automation has also made a massive collection of sample code available. This can help to reduce programming times for projects by providing you with proven code snippets that you can use in your projects.

Easy Understanding

Connected Components Workbench is available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. This makes it easy to use for people who don't have English as a first language.

A Note on Editions

There are two editions of Connected Components Workbench available.

The Standard Edition is completely free to download and use.

There is also a Developer Edition which is a paid product that provides more functionality than the Standard Edition.

The main difference between the Developer and the Standard Edition is that the Developer Edition includes:

  • An Archive Manager for managing project versions
  • The ability to edit code while the controller is in Run Mode
  • Support for User-Defined Data Types
  • Support for Spy Lists
  • Support for Intellectual Property Protection
  • A longer running Micro800 Simulator

Basically, the Developer Edition of Connected Components Workbench includes more features that are interesting for professional PLC programmers, but the Standard Edition has more than enough functionality to learn PLC programming with.

The differences between the to editions is summarized in the table below.

Comparison between CCW Standard and Developer Editions

You don't have to worry too much about the differences between the Standard and Developer Edition of Connected Components Workbench because projects created in the Developer Edition are completely backwards compatible with the Standard Edition and vice versa.

If a project that uses a Developer Edition feature like Spy Lists is opened in Standard Edition, then the features are still there but are "read-only" and cannot be edited.

Now that we know what Connected Components Workbench is and what the main features are, let's take a quick tour of Connected Components Workbench to see how easy it is to work with.

Tour of Connected Components Workbench

Start Page

When you launch Connected Components Workbench, the Start Page opens automatically.

The Start Page provides quick links to get you started with Connected Components Workbench. From the Start Page, you can:

  1. Create a new project or open an existing one
  2. Open recently modified projects
  3. Access online resources to learn more about how to work with Connected Components Workbench

The Start Page provides an easy way for new users to navigate Connected Components Workbench. Most advanced users can turn off the Start Page (4) and navigate using the toolbar menus.

Connected Components Workbench Start Page

Add Device

After creating a new project, you can add multiple devices, including a Micro800 controller to the project using the Add Device wizard.

The Add Device wizard let's you add controllers, graphic terminals, drives, safety devices and more to your project using a shopping cart method.

When you select a device, relevant information like the catalogue number, firmware revision, and additional information is displayed. When you are happy that you have selected the right device, you can click Select to add the device to your basket and then Add To Project to add the devices in your basket to the project.

Add Device

You can also add devices to the project using Device Discovery. With Device Discovery, Connected Components Workbench browsers available communication ports (such as Ethernet or USB connections) for connected devices. Any discovered connected devices can be automatically added to the project.

Project UI

After adding devices to the project, the project opens.

In the project, the Project Organizer (1) displays the devices and program elements in a hierarchical tree view. In projects that contain a Micro800 controller, the Project Organizer displays all of the programs, variables, and user-defined function blocks associated with the controller.

You can use the Project Organizer to open editors to modify the project's data.

The Controller Application Workspace (2) let's you manage a Micro800 controller in your project. Using the Controller Application Workspace, you can configure your controller's properties, view the controller's status while online and modify the operating mode of the controller.

The Toolbox panel (3) contains a list of objects that you can use with the current workspace. These objects are grouped into categories that you can expand or collapse. The contents of the toolbox vary depending on what workspace is open.

Finally, the Output window (4) provides information about the status of a device when you are building or download a project.

Connected Components Workbench Project User Interface


Connected Components Workbench has three language editors for its three support programming languages.

A Connected Components Workbench project supports multiple programs. Each program in a project is created in one programming language and the correct editor for a program is launched when you open a program from the Project Organizer tree (1).

This means that you can use the best language for the task at hand. In many cases, you will find yourself using Ladder Diagram for programming complex Boolean logic, Function Block Diagram for controlling continuous processes, and Structured Text for mathematical operations.

Depending on which language editor is open, different elements are available in the Toolbox (2).

If you're interested in learning more about programming in Connected Components Workbench, you can learn how to write, test, and simulate your first PLC program for free in PLC Bootcamp.

Programming UI

Modular Programming

As well as using the built-in in instructions, Connected Components Workbench let's you create and manage your own instructions as User-Defined Functions and User-Defined Function Blocks.

By leveraging UDFBs, you can more easily reuse your code, encapsulate your logic, and make maintenance of your projects easier.

UDFBs can be created in any programming language and be used in any program regardless of the programming language.

As well as creating your own User-Defined Function Blocks, you can use UDFBs created by Rockwell Automation and their partners in your projects. These UDFBs help to bring sophisticated functionality to your projects without you needing to do any coding. An example of a Rockwell Automation developed UDFB is shown blow. RA_K3_MBUS_Jog allows you to jog a Kinetix 3 servo drive through a Modbus connection.


You can find more sample UDFBs here.

Start Up Wizards

Connected Components Workbench is Rockwell Automation's standard tool for configuring standalone drives.

Connected Components Workbench makes it easy to configure devices by providing a set of Start Up Wizards that guide you through the process of setting up a new device.

In the image below, you can see the Start Up Wizard for a PowerFlex 523 drive and similar wizards are available for Kinetix 3 servo drives.

PowerFlex 523 Start Up Wizard

HMI Development

As well as being used to develop applications for Micro800 PLCs, Connected Components Workbench is used to develop application for PanelView 800 and PanelView Component HMI terminals.

The easy-to-use HMI editor allows you to design HMI applications. Since the HMI editor is integrated in the same project as the controller, Micro800 variables can be directly referenced by HMI tags. This leads to a massive reduction in the complexity and time to develop HMI applications.

HMI applications can also be uploaded from PanelView terminals directly into Connected Components Workbench so you don't have to worry about losing the source project.

Micro820, Panelview 800, and Powerflex 525 CCW Project | The Automation Blog
Connected Components Workbench

Wrap Up

In this post, I have introduced you to Connected Components Workbench, Rockwell Automation's free development system for Micro800 PLCs. I also explained why I'm a big fan of Connected Components Workbench for learning PLC programming (its free and it includes a built-in PLC simulator) and what the difference is between the Standard and Developer Edition of Connected Components Workbench.

After a general introduction, I gave you a tour of Connected Components Workbench and quickly showed how you can create a project, add a device, program a PLC, configure a drive, and create an HMI application.

If you are ready to get started with Connected Components Workbench, then check out my guide to downloading and installing Connected Components Workbench and sign up to Applied PLC Programming, my course that teaches you PLC programming by building a portfolio of projects based on common industrial automation applications or PLC Bootcamp, where you will learn how to write, test, and simulate your first PLC program.

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