Snippet Embedding!

We pushed a new release today, with a bunch of bug fixes for mobile devices and other fixes elsewhere on the site.

But our biggest change this week is a new share dialog with the ability to embed snippets into any web page. Here’s an example, you can click it to jump straight back to the snippet, and then explore the datasheet it came from further.

To embed a snippet, first go to the Share dialog, you’ll notice that you need to switch your snippet to public if you want to embed it.

Remember to make your snippets public to embed them!

Remember to make your snippets public to embed them!

After making the snippet public using the Change button, you can then copy and paste the little bit of HTML code into any blog or site.

Copy the code to embed your snippet in any site!

Copy the code to embed your snippet in any site!

For now this is just a simple image of your snippet that links to the full snippet in Datasheet.net, but later we might add more features such as inline-comments and pricing!

Upload your datasheets!

The launch went well, and we got some great feedback from a wide range of people. There were a lot of requests for more datasheets, some great ideas regarding how the snipping functionality should work, requests for Google login, and a whole host of other suggestions and bug reports. The request that seemed to come up most was the ability to upload your own documents and datasheets to use in the service.

So, after two weeks of scrabbling around trying to figure out how best to do this we have launched the Upload functionality today! Check out the new Uploads tab in your dashboard.

Screenshot of upload functionality

You can now upload documents, take snippets from them and share them as you would any other datasheet. If you share a snippet from a document you uploaded with someone it will automatically share the whole document with them. There’s no limit to your upload size, but you must upload PDF documents only.

Christmas is coming, so we don’t know how much we’ll get out in the next couple of weeks, but hopefully there will be some smaller updates to follow soon.

Datasheet.net is live!

Its finally time. We think we’ve been keeping this to ourselves long enough now and we’re happy with the functionality we have. Its useful, and stable, and hopefully won’t fall over when we open this up to more people. So its finally time for us to declare that Datasheet.net is live!

What’s so special about Datasheet.net?

For those of you that haven’t been part of the beta, here’s a quick summary of what we’re trying to do with Datasheet.net.

We think datasheets suck. Plain and simple this is a format that hasn’t changed since the invention of the PDF. We’re trying to change that, trying to make datasheets a ‘live’ document, something that actually helps make our lives as engineers better. In the long term this means us working closely with manufacturers to help improve the datasheet format, we’re not sure where this leads yet but its something we’re working towards.

But changing the way manufacturers work is a long and slow road, so in the meantime as a first step we’ve put together some useful features on top of datasheets as they currently stand.

Snippets

An example snippet

One thing we do a lot with datasheets is refer to the same pieces of information over and over, this often means paging through a PDF repeatedly to find that same table or diagram we need. In order to help alleviate this problem we’ve created Snippets. With Snippets you can cut out that useful bit of information and save it into your account.

A Snippet isn’t just a screenshot of a bit of your PDF, its linked back to the original document, so you can quickly jump back to where the Snippet was taken for more context. As you browse a datasheet you can see the areas where Snippets have been taken and quickly link through to the full Snippet.

What’s more you can annotate the snippet with additional markup so that you can improve it with your own notes, or add a title and description so you can remember why this thing was useful when you come back to it. You can even share a Snippet with a colleague to help answer a question, and there’s a comment stream allowing you to further discuss the content.

Collections

Once you’ve put together a lot of Snippets you’ll need a way to organize them. So we created Collections to which you can add your Snippets, this lets you quickly put together useful information in one place so you can access it over and over. It even automatically builds a list of all the datasheets from which your Snippets have been taken so you can quickly get back to the content you need.

An example collection

Better Datasheet Search

Searching for datasheets is never easy. Results are usually messy and noisy, making it hard to find content, and they often never quite deliver what we’re looking for. We decided to make a clean fast datasheet search that shows you just what you need.

An example search

Where next?

That’s up to you. There’s many ways we could go with this now, but here’s a few things we’re already working on:

  • A better datasheet search – more results, more details and including your own content in the results.
  • Upload datasheets – many people have asked for this, so its high on our list.
  • Snippet embedding – easily embed a snippet in a blog, or an email to a friend.
  • Better snippet creation tools – faster ways of creating snippets, we’ve had some great suggestions here.
  • Discussions – this has been on our road-map for a while, we want more people to talk about components and their uses/issues.
  • Manufacturer support – we want manufacturers on-board to help support their products

There’s loads of other things on our list, more than I care to admit, but if you have any thoughts on what would make Datasheet.net better then please let us know. You can leave feedback on our UserVoice forum or you can email us at support@datasheet.net.

What’s your favorite?

Snippet with favoritesWe’ve had a few people ask for this since we released the alpha – you can now favorite Snippets and datasheets!

Look for the little star on your Snippets and datasheets, click it and you will have added that item to your account. This lets you pull content in from other users into your account without it having to be shared with you. Right now you can’t add these items to your Collections – we’ll figure that out later. But for now we can use this as another means of organizing things and to help keep track of content created by other people.

Additionally now that we can mark datasheets as favorite you can build up lists of the datasheets you use without having to make snippets from them. This should make it easier for a few of you who have expressed a desire to do something like this to help replace your vast collections of paper datasheets!

Datasheet.net at OSHW!

Datasheet.net launched into Beta this week and to celebrate we decided to perform the launch at the OSHW conference  All attendees were given an invite into the beta program and we spent the day demonstrating where we currently are with the product.

The feedback was excellent, and we got to speak to some really interesting people who expressed an interest in the site and had lots of ideas for us to work on.

We also designed this awesome Datasheet.net poster:

Datasheet.net poster

Collections

We’d started to build up quite the list of snippets, it was starting to become a bit of a headache. So we figured it was time we added some features to help with that.

You can now create Collections, with a name and short description. You can then add snippets to your collections to help better organize them:Snippet collections

We’re going to continue to develop this feature as we use it, so let us know what you think. We intend to add sharing with individuals and teams so that you can more easily organize a group of snippets amongst your friends and colleagues. After that who knows, perhaps you want to upload other documents, or just link to external files, so let us know how you use this and what you need to make it even better.

Share your snippets!

So the Alpha is going well, people seem to like what we’re doing here so that’s great. We’ve pushed a few new versions and hopefully ironed out a few issues, but its time for some new features.

First off we’ve added the ability for Datasheet.net to remember where you last were. It annoyed us that every time I came back to a datasheet I had to find the page I was looking for again. We’ve reduced the number of times we have to come back to a datasheet via the snippets functionality, but it still irritates us that when we come back to the datasheet we have to find where we last were. So now the site remembers the page you were on and brings you right back to that page when you reopen the datasheet!

Most importantly though we’ve added snippet sharing capability. So you can now share a snippet with another member or invite a new user into the system by sharing a snippet with them. We’ve created full access control a lot like you see on Google Docs and other services:

Snippet access controls

We can now collaborate in a much better fashion than before. I can quickly snip an example circuit, doodle on it with the annotation tools and then share that snippet with other members of my team. I can even make snippets public to the world, so I can share my knowledge or implementation details with others. Hopefully this feature will come in really useful for FAEs and AEs from manufacturers as well as for you in your engineering teams.

The Alpha

We’ve been toiling away for the last month to put together a first pass at improving datasheets and its now finally time for the rest of the world to see what we’ve been up to.

Obviously this is just an Alpha release, but its fairly functional and should be enough for the lucky few we’ve invited to get a taste for what this could become. For those of you reading this that don’t yet have access here’s a little summary of what we’re doing…

We discussed previously that our largest annoyance with datasheets is how often we spend searching around inside them trying to find the table we used or the pin diagram that we needed. So we’ve invented a feature called ‘Snippets’

What’s a snippet?

Snippets allow you to literally snip out a section of a datasheet and save it. Any snippet you save ends up in your dashboard so you can quickly bring it up with a simple click. Later we’ll add additional features to your snippets so you can add comments, annotate your snippets with additional information, and share them with friends or colleagues.

Here’s an example of a snippet:

Useful right? Imagine being able to do this for all the useful bits of information you find in your datasheets.

What next?

So this is a good first step for sure, we’ve already found it useful in our own internal testing. I spend a lot less time looking for that thing I found earlier, and I’m sure as time goes on there will be more effort saved. But where do we go from here?

Well we have a lot of other ideas, I’d like to build a collection of datasheets I commonly use, I’d like to be able to organize them easily and maybe include other people into these collections. Perhaps there’s other features that would be useful, we don’t know…and this is why we have an Alpha so we can get feedback from you and figure out what really matters.

Let us know what you think, we’ll mull it over, and if its good we’ll maybe include it in an upcoming version. Perhaps we’re going about this all wrong, we don’t know, if you do then tell us!

There must be a better way…

We want to change the way engineers work with datasheets. Right now they’re these dead tree style documents, they’re static, they don’t change, they don’t work anything out for us, and they certainly aren’t easy to find things inside. Its time we change that so we’ve made a start.

When looking at what we hate about datasheets we started to make a list of all the things that irritate us. Top of that list is the fact that we keep using the same bits of a datasheet over and over. That useful pin diagram, or that table that has all the timing information you need, or that graph that shows you how to use your chip. You’ll refer to these bits of your datasheet over and over again throughout the design process, and when it comes to debugging you’ll be right back there again confirming everything. This is a major pain point for us so we decided to see if we could figure out how to solve it, and we think we’ve come up with a solution.

What if you could mark up your datasheet and say ‘I want this bit’, save it for later and quickly and easily refer directly to that part? What if you could send that to a friend or colleague so you could help answer a question they had? A lot of us are doing this already, we’ll print out a datasheet, scribble some notes on it and pass it to other members of our team. Its time we made this process digital so we can archive our notes and quickly find them again.

This is where Datasheet.net steps in. Over the next few weeks we’ll be putting up a beta site where you can do this kind of thing. This will be an experiment that we’ll be building upon and experimenting with, hopefully something great will come out of it.

We hate datasheets

If you’re like us then when you’re designing a circuit or investigating a component you are constantly referring to the same pages in your datasheets over and over again. You spend hours reading through sheets and find that one useful bit of information you needed, then you come back next month and do the same thing all over again.

Datasheets haven’t changed in decades, the invention of the PDF was the last great thing to happen to datasheets and that was back in the early 90s. At least that got us away from stacks of paper! Since then though little has changed, some manufacturers have improved a little adding tables of contents and links within PDFs, but there’s been no real innovation at all.

This is us declaring that we want to change all that. Its the 21st century now, we have the internet, we have web apps, we have loads of shiny new toys. Isn’t it about time we updated the datasheet? Its time to make the datasheet work for us, it should make our lives easier, it should give us access to the information we want right now, and it should definitely not get in our way.

In the coming weeks we’re going to be writing more about why we hate datasheets, and what we’re going to do about it. Stay tuned, change is afoot…