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Engineer 2.0 – 10 Online Tools You Should be Using

Tue, 02/15/2011 - 8:32am
Andy Brown, VP, SupplyFrame
As a design engineer, you spend more time online than ever before. Researching parts, trading off options and checking price and availability are commonplace tasks that have shifted online. Other common engineering tasks you can do online have only just begun. “Engineering 2.0” or the joining of engineering and Web 2.0 is creating new opportunities every day to streamline the design cycle. We’ve put together a list of tools that have emerged recently that open new opportunities to get designs done faster – most are free. Take a look!

Share Files Between Teammates and Computers
How often do you work at home and email your specs or other documents between your office and home computers for follow-up? Or maybe you have a set of datasheets and drawings you are sharing with teammates. With Dropbox and Box.net, you access a private folder in the cloud from any computer, even your smart phone. Synchronization is immediate and the process is far easier than emailing individual attachments. Invite your team to share a folder and all work together on a common private library.

Engineering Tools You Can Carry in Your Hand
Whip these out in a design meeting and solve problems right then and there. Here are some iPhone apps you should consider:

iCircuit is an app for designing circuits. Simulate analog and digital circuit designs in real-time.

Electronic Toolbox combines electronic reference material with calculation and conversion tools in one handy app.

Circuit Lab is an electronic circuit analysis tool based on the modified node analysis method. 

Search box in your browser to find datasheets instantly
www.datasheet.net/tools.shtml
More than 3 datasheets are downloaded off the Internet every second, well over 100 million a year. While there are several great sites to help you find datasheets, all take several clicks to hunt down and get the PDF. Consider adding this tool where you just type a part number into your browser’s search box and get taken to a page with the latest datasheets. Skip googling and save clicks!

Keep the best articles at your fingertips
The days of keeping stacks of dog-eared design magazines are over. All the articles are online today and you can use Scoop.it to create your own topic-centric library of your favorites. Scoop.it lets you click a button on your browser and save any article to your own custom library to access later or share with your team. Similarly, Evernote is great for capturing private ideas and articles using any computer or mobile device.

Power Search Inventory and Price
FindChips.com is the original and fastest site to locate and compare distributor stock levels and pricing information for electronic components. FindChips.com rolled out a new feature, “My Search List,” that speeds the process further. My Search List lets you power search an entire list of parts in one click. Copy and paste your list into the search field and then navigate through the results without having to key individual part numbers into the search box.

Easily Keep Up With Electronics News
Netvibes lets you stay up on the latest product and design news in just minutes a day with a single dashboard that summarizes all your favorite magazines and new sources. Netvibes creates a skimmable personalized Dashboard webpage with just the sources that interest you. Use NetVibes in conjunction with Scoop.it to clip new articles into your personal library.

Pass Snippits of Code Between Teammates and Vendors
Share design code snippets with a colleague or reference large amounts of text with your vendors. Pastebin.com is a site for storing pieces of source code or configuration information, making it convenient for engineers or programmers to share large amounts of text online.

Get Scientific Facts and Answers
Wolfram|Alpha is an online engine for computing answers and getting knowledge. It directly answers factual queries by computing the answer from structured data versus providing a list of pages that potentially contain the answer (e.g., inputting “opamp” gives equations, interactive calculator and circuit diagram).

Get and Give Answers to Design Problems
Do you have specific questions about circuit design issues that you need answered? Electronics.StackExchange.com is a collaboratively edited Q&A site for electronics and robotics hardware enthusiasts. Topics include electronics, physical computing and robotics. No registration is required to use the site and 99% of the questions get answered.

Easy Version Control of Your Designs
Keep track of changes to your designs over time with Git. It’s a free and open source, distributed version control system designed to handle projects both large and small. Git offers a complete history and full revision tracking capabilities.
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