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I have probably a few hundred datasheets and app notes that I've collected for all sorts of parts in projects I've worked on.

Previously, I used to keep these on a basic network share sorted maybe 2-3 folders deep by rough category, but then Google Docs added a PDF reader and the ability to upload them, so I tossed them on there. The "folders" are more abstract (a la Gmail categories), so you can put a datasheet into multiple folders (e.g. a voltage regulator also could go into LED driver folder or under the manufacturer), though this has some limitations, such as searching for text in large documents only shows the first few, and of course, dependency on an internet connection.

What other methods are there to store hundreds of datasheets/PDFs in an easily accessible manner? Would it make any sense to use some sort of VCS?

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13 Answers 13

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Leave them on the internet and use google to find them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is good, but if I actually use a part in a project (as opposed to browsing around to see what's out there) I download the datasheet and keep it in SVN with the rest of the project's design files. Then whoever looks at the project a decade from now doesn't have to hunt down a bunch of obsolete datasheets to understand how the circuit is meant to work. \$\endgroup\$ – markrages Dec 2 '10 at 0:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll second that. Relevant project datasheets have a directory in my svn directory to keep everything together. You don't have to search for something if you know where it is to begin with. \$\endgroup\$ – W5VO Dec 2 '10 at 3:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ octopart.com is your friend. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve S Dec 2 '10 at 17:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @reemrevnivek. I normally just leave the datasheets on the web and get them with Google (it's faster than navigating the filesystem.) They are there in SVN for archival purposes, and when I am on a plane or somewhere without internet access. (Off topic: Someone should start a website where you register the parts you are using, and it would email you when the datasheet or errata is updated.) \$\endgroup\$ – markrages Dec 4 '10 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not having your own copies is dangerous. Data sheets get updated frequently, and more than once, I found a bug on a board only because I was able to compare an older version of a data sheet with the current one; the changes were indeed the hint to the detail that caused the trouble. I try to store all versions and updates of a data sheet from the moment I evaluate a certain part. Also, the only place to look for a data sheet is the manufacturer's website. Other sources are good for obsolete parts or versions of data sheets that you want to read when you are curious about its revision history. \$\endgroup\$ – zebonaut Dec 5 '10 at 13:15
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I have all of mine haphazard all over my disk, then rely on Mac OS X's Spotlight to find anything I need.

I'm sure there are similar products for Windows and Linux.

Spotlight indexes the text inside of PDF files and lets me search for them. When the file opens, it opens at the phrase being searched for.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Spotlight is awesome for datasheets. \$\endgroup\$ – markrages Dec 2 '10 at 0:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seconding Spotlight. I don't have to search for data sheets when I can search with a keyword or several and SL will find the appropriate one. You can attach your own tags to the file using Finder's comments - f/ex a project ID, your own name for the part, some obscure function that only it can do, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – JRobert Oct 5 '11 at 14:29
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I put all mine in a directory called PDFs, with sub-directories for the different manufacturers, and further sub-directories for the chip families. For instance, under Microchip I have 16F, 18F, dsPIC, PIC24, etc. sub-directories. I add the device name to the manufacturer's often meaningless file name if necessary - "16F88 30487c.pdf" is typical.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you always double check that they did not update it since you last downloaded? \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Dec 1 '10 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't usually bother, unless I have a problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Leon Heller Dec 1 '10 at 23:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I try to organize files by their content rather than their file type. A PDF and PPT file for an electronics part go in a "Datasheets" folder, rather than being segregated arbitrarily into "PDF" and "Powerpoint" folders. An e-book in PDF format would go in a "Books" folder, not in the same folder as a datasheet. \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Dec 2 '10 at 21:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ See my comment to my answer above, I wrote a little script to automate checking for updated pdfs (kasterma.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/…) \$\endgroup\$ – kasterma Dec 6 '10 at 3:41
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I'm keeping them in a "Datasheets" directory, with subfolders by manufacturer. I'm using Google Desktop to search, but I'd love an OS enabled way to tag them.

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For each project I have a series of folders like "Schematics", "PCB", "Mechanical" and also one named "Datasheets". When I use a part I download the datasheet from the 'Net and place a copy there. I name it [My reference] - [Type].pdf, for instance 301-158 - MAX809.pdf. This way I know that the MAX809 I used for the 301-158 is the one from OnSemi, and I know what version I referred to at design time.
Yes, there may be several copies of the same document if I need the 301-158 in other projects, and I may have several versions of the same datasheet. The first is not a problem as far as disk use is concerned (disk space is around 5 cent/GB), and the second is relevant, because you have a snapshot of the part/datasheet as they were at the moment of design.

At the end of the project the collection of datasheets can be added to the project's documentation.

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At my previous workplace we stored them in a common directory, structured two to three levels deep so that they were easily accessible by everyone. The datasheets crossed over between mechanical and electronic and everything inbetween. This was useful as we needed cross discipline access to components from a mechanical and electronic perspective.

In my current workplace we have a PLM tool that has all the components on there and access to the datasheets in the plm database. This allows us to keep track of datahseet versions against when the products they were designed for (datasheets do change!). This is important for safety, defence, and aerospace applications. DO-254 in particular requires that datasheets are version controlled.

Not having a PLM and having need for them, the next best system would be some sort of wiki database or version control software.

Of course not having these requirements google is very useful. The issue I have with google is the first links are to annoying sights like various datasheet repositories and part searching databases, all with lots of adds and stuff. It makes finding the actual manufactures website with the correct database a real pain.

Using Altium with a database you can link directly to the datasheets so it makes it easy while working on schematics to bring up the datasheets for each component.

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I drop mine in Dropbox so I can view them on my iPhone on move.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While the idea is nice, the cost of the service (evidenced by your choice not to link to dropbox.com but instead to your referral account so you can get more space) is a pain. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Dec 4 '10 at 5:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Free is too expensive for you? \$\endgroup\$ – Jeanne Pindar Dec 4 '10 at 22:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ who's not going to want extra space? \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Williamson Dec 5 '10 at 18:55
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On MacOS, I use Yep. It's an awesome utility for keeping datasheets as well as other PDFs and documents organized.

The tagging and search features are even better than Spotlight, in my opinion. It also auto-organizes your PDFs much like iTunes, so you don't have to worry about the underlying folder hierarchy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good find... I've tried out a few other organization tools in OSX, but never been struck by them. I do like Delicious Library, though it won't do PDFs! \$\endgroup\$ – tyblu Dec 2 '10 at 8:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep looks cool, but it's $40. Out of my price range when I have folders and Spotlight, unfortunately. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Dec 4 '10 at 5:56
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Datasheets are part of my insane system of component filing. Each one is listed in my components database (type, quantity, specs, etc.,) which also lists supplier part number (RS, Element 14, Jaycar etc). As a part is procured I save the .pdf of the data sheet with the part number as the file name.

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I keep it all in a folder called "Datasheets" on my desktop for the most commonly used ones, and all the others go in the "Downloads" folder totalling almost 1.2GB just for PDF's...

Organised datasheets: http://i.stack.imgur.com/kCgks.png

Disorganised datasheets: http://i.stack.imgur.com/ogMgN.png

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have the same 'Disorganized' folder, with the same automatically incremented filenames all over the place. \$\endgroup\$ – Kevin Vermeer Dec 4 '10 at 5:45
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I give them names like

MAX4475 MAX4476 MAX4477 MAX4478 MAX4488 MAX4489 SOT23, Low-Noise, Low-Distortion, Wide-Band, Rail-to-Rail Op Amps.pdf

put them in a Datasheets directory, and then find them with a desktop search tool, like the "Search programs and files" in Windows 7.

This loads faster than the web, and is always available even if the site or internet are down, but the web version is always up to date, and my saved files might not be.

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I only stash particularly rare ones and use http://datasheetcatalog.com/ for everything else. Google and other sites work much worse and a lot of the time you just end up with (spam) links to resellers instead of data. Their search also shows partial hits pretty well (unlike Google) so it can be a handy tool in deciphering part numbers on mystery chips.

If I'm actually using something actively, I often print just the front page or pinout (screen capture) so I have it at hand. I have a small spring-clip folder to keep some recent ones in.

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I have two systems.

If a design is finalized (turned in/delivered/mass manufactured), I store the datasheets in the same folder as the rest of the project. Usually, I'm able to organize this by folders pertaining to a sheet on the schematic or a block in the block diagram (which are often equivalent).

If a design is not finalized (i.e., I'm going to be ordering new parts), I don't save them. I run a search for something like filetype:pdf site:manufacturer.com Part-Number and it usually brings up the manufacturer's link, which is guaranteed to be current, unlike anything that I have on my hard disk. That whole "may be changed without notice" warning means that I don't want to be working with old datasheets that may lack important errata (or other updates) that I need to know.

It would be really, really nice if manufacturers published (and updated, and maintained indefinitely) version-controlled repositories of their datasheets.

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