Easy Arduino Menus for Rotary Encoders

Rotary encoders with centre-push buttons are cool input hardware for projects, especially if you want to be able to scroll through menus and select options. Hopefully this Instructable will give you the confidence to try a basic menu system out and combine it with a rotary encoder to give a professional feel to your next project!

Easy Arduino Menus for Rotary Encoders

Why menus and rotary encoders need code

I wanted to have a menu in an upcoming project and use a rotary encoder with a centre push button as my input hardware. This is really similar to the LCD controllers for RAMPS and Arduino MEGA 3D printers. The rotary encoder will allow me to scroll through the menu options, i.e. navigate the menu, select sub-menus and also change values within sub-menus/settings – very versatile for one hardware interface! A microcontroller is needed to manage all of this and microcontrollers need instructions, AKA code!

Other options

The problem I had with existing Arduino menu libraries and menu code is that for simple menus they were overly complicated. Another drawback of many alternatives was that the code was designed for LCD screens and momentary push buttons, not rotary encoders and adaptable to other display outputs. These menus were geared around selecting between a small number of modes and incrementing values relatively slowly. We know that rotary encoders are a great hardware input option because they afford relatively fast input value changes while retaining fine control at slow speed. I wanted to write code which would allow unambiguous top level menu navigation but also allow you to quickly scroll through a large range of values within each sub-menu/setting, exploiting the strengths of the rotary encoder.

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The approach

I decided to follow some advice to use if() statements for a simple menu structure and keep it sketch-based. The resultant code builds on my previous Instructable which sought to reliably read the rotation pulses and direction. Please check it out for background.

In this sketch, we add the reading of the centre push button on the rotary encoder shaft, using code that Nick Gammon developed to record button state changes with debouncing and without relying on the Arduino’s delay() function that prevents the microcontroller from executing other code and would potentially introduce noticeable delay in our sketch, e.g. slow display refresh rates. Button state change code is much more useful than just reading digital logic high or low when using a button to select something once, like a menu option, as it can help you prevent unintentional multiple selections for each button press.

Let’s take a look at what you need to set up to use this example code in Step 1.

Step 1: Preparation

If you haven’t yet, please see my other Instructable on rotary encoder reading to find out how to set up your hardware and Arduino IDE software.

Read more: Easy Arduino Menus for Rotary Encoders

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