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Whenever I start a new project, one of the first things I must do is search for suitable components to see if the project is feasible. Most of my projects are desperately space constrained, so I don't always have the luxury of just using parts I'm familiar with. Often I have to start from scratch, visiting each manufacturer's web site, and trawling through dozens of parts, using their part filters (which often don't filter by the attributes I'm interested in, like part size). I'll also go to the suppliers (Farnell, Mouser, etc.) to find parts. I often need to read each datasheet to discover the missing details. Finally I record them in a huge spreadsheet, so that I can select the 'optimal' part.

Even when I've done this, I can't help feeling that I must have missed some manufacturers. Maybe I should have checked Allegro, or Melexis...

This must be a common problem for electronic engineers trying to select the optimum components. It certainly is for me. How do other EEs approach this task? Is there some global electronic component search engine I haven't heard of?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I often use Octopart. They are trying very hard to do the best search engine, yet still missing some specific parameters (like a battery size). \$\endgroup\$ – Volodymyr Smotesko Dec 11 '12 at 12:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Meta-shopping question :) Digikey's search engine is reasonably good. But a while ago I spent an entire afternoon trying to find a mating connector for a battery by eye on Molex's website. I fear the answer may be "it's just hard work". \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Dec 11 '12 at 13:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I pretty much do the same thing, but I also keep a good relationship with my arrow/avnet/digi reps as well as manf reps for each company like TI, Linear, Molex, Samtec, etc. A lot of times when I really can't find anything I can tell these guys my requirements and they come back with something I haven't seen yet. After a while they start bringing me stuff. That only works if you're buying product from them though ;) They're super helpful if they think they can win a slot from you. \$\endgroup\$ – Some Hardware Guy Dec 11 '12 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ If what you want is not well known, it could be new. Subscribe to some of the free industry printed periodicals. They often have announcements of the latest and greatest and sometimes have features on certain industries. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason Morgan Dec 11 '12 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JasonMorgan - I'm not always looking for something very obscure or unheard of, it's just that there are loads of manufacturers, each with dozens of possible parts, which don't always have useful search filters. \$\endgroup\$ – Rocketmagnet Dec 11 '12 at 18:00
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I always start my search for components on digikey; they have a fairly good interface for narrowing down the search results (for example, you can specify the package and mounting type you need). If I can not find the exact part that I need on digikey, I would visit the manufacturer's websites of the parts that the narrowed down digikey search returns.

This is the approach I have taken. It is not perfect and can be time consuming at times, but other times you can find a suitable part very quickly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Used to love Digikey when they still had the "go to catalog page" links. Now the hard catalog is just gone, and in many cases I find I still want it. It's still a good engine though, just not as good as it used to be! \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Dec 11 '12 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree, but I am still a big fan of their filtering engine! in most cases it narrows down my search to a few components that require a datasheet review, rather than potentially thousands. What other engines do you use? \$\endgroup\$ – EagerToLearn Dec 13 '12 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty much all the big houses. The only one that can come anywhere close to Digikey for me is Newark's, because of the way they show you how many results are in each parametric search option before you click it! \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Dec 13 '12 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why doesn't VS1063 present on DigiKey? vlsi.fi/en/products/vs1063.html Simultaneously, VS1053 is searchable, but only composite device by Adafruit is found, no chip itself. \$\endgroup\$ – Dims Oct 10 '15 at 6:47
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Its always helpful to start the search on digikey, which provides the most accurate category classification, parameter, value and unit. If you only have a few keywords in mind but not sure of part number or which category to start, try descriptive search at ciiva.

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If you live in Australia, it may be more useful to try Element14 Australia as they have a very easy to use search tool of an extensive list of components as well as serving the Australian audience. You can choose which parts you want by their specific characteristics. For example if you want to choose a voltage regulator, you can choose the output voltage, input voltage range, output current and IC pinout style.

Also to note, if you see multiple components that looks exactly the same, well they're not. Scroll further down and you'll se that they are manufactured in different places and have different weights.

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There are a couple meta-search engines out there, I don't have one of them handy at this computer, but the other is findchips.com which you can use to search for "battery" or "fet" or even just "purple" (if you wanted to see all purple LEDs, cases, or whatever, on the sites they cover.) They search on Digikey, Element14, Mouser, and a number of other sites. I know how frustrating it is to need a specific form factor or size etc.; Also I find that when ordering from one supplier, too often they don't carry at least one part / brand I need, I've had to settle for getting spares when I order from one place and then alternating orders from various places, not ideal but then it's not an ideal world.

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