Documentation is a critical component of any technical product, whether it’s hardware or software. Yet too often we give it short shrift, even though there’s some free resources available to help you out. Besides helping users out, documentation is a key to securing patents, collaborating with partners and even just remembering where you left off with that project from a month ago.
If you want to support an electronic or micro-controller circuit, with graphics and parts added to your materials, the Fritzing electronics CAD package is worth trying. Specifically tailored for laying out and documenting your electronics projects, it has a library of parts that includes resistors, transistors, caps, wires and micro-controllers. Various flavors of each are represented. The detail is high enough that it actually shows the color codes on the resistors. The program uses vector graphics with anchor points, so you can run wires between your devices to represent actual circuits.
It Gets Better
Fritzing also lets you switch over to “schematic” view for a layout of your circuit in standard electronic symbols. Granted the routing is a little goofy at times. Wire routing and component placement can be easily moved around for clarity. There’s also a “circuit board layout” view that shows the actual physical board.
Now, this isn’t the most efficient routing program going. Keep in mind that it is free and, with a little work, can be used for moderately complicated board layouts.
Fritzing, on Linux, is now at version 0.7.10, and has been getting steadily better. Creating an electronic graphic is 10 times easier than drawing it in LibreOffice Draw or Inkscape. You can also export the output in standard graphics formats such as .jpg, .png and .pdf.
Need a cool bill-of-materials list, in plain text? Fritzing does that, too.
Some Sample Views
From one of my partially completed projects.
A Breadboard View:
A Schematic View:
A PCB View
Image: Fritzing Workshop at BU Weimar [Fritzing PCB]