Hack Your Datasheets Using Datasheet.net


If you use datasheets (which is probably every reader of Hackaday) you need to check out this tool that seeks to add modern features to the decades-old component specification delivery system. That link takes you to the announcement of the launch of Datasheet.net.

What you see above is the biggest feature the service brings to the table, the ability to create “snippets” from datasheets by clicking and dragging the area you’d like to save (you can even get a public link to the snippet). Once you have selected a snippet there are a few tools that allow you to make annotations on it. We’ve used the rectangle tool to highlight the clock speed and divider settings in this snippet for an ATmega328 uC. The interface also offers the ability to draw arrows, freehand, or to add text to the snippet. At the bottom of this example we used the description area to notate the fuse settings (in hex) which we most often use with this chip. These snippets and annotations can then be shared with other users of the service, and there’s also a comments section below the snippet for your team to use. See examples of this in the video below.

This solves one of our biggest beefs with PDF datasheets — the ability to jump back and forth and to easily find commonly used sections. This datasheet is 567 pages long and not fun to paw through looking for the same info repeatedly. It also offers rudimentary “favorite” flagging to keep a list of your oft-used sheets — but we’d like to see more options for categorizing our collection. We also find it hard to get by without the Table of Contents functionality we’re used to in our normal document view (evince). We’ve already pestered the lead developer, [Ben Delarre], to add this feature. He’s the same guy who came up with the schematic sharing site CircuitBee. Now would be a great time to mention that this service is owned by Hackaday’s parent company SupplyFrame.

Datasheet.net has a mammoth source of datasheets available through the search, but the list of planned feature additions includes datasheet upload. Also on the list is a “Discussion” feature which sounds interesting to us. What if, through the discussion engine, searching for datasheets also turned up a list of open hardware projects that use this part? We are also drooling over the ability to embed these snippets directly in webpages. [Ben] tells us that’s already built but they didn’t have time to add it to the UI before launch. Gone will be the days of taking screenshots of PDFs for your blog writeup!

PDF delivery of datasheets revolutionized access to information about electronic components. We’re hoping that this marks the next evolution. In addition to better working features, wouldn’t it be nice if you could actually get notifications when new datasheet revisions or errata were published?

19 thoughts on “Hack Your Datasheets Using Datasheet.net

  1. Just having a decent pdf viewer would be sweet. OMFG they all suck, without exception. Preview on OSX is the only one that is even usable at all, the rest crash all the time.

    Those 1000 page ARM Cortex reference manuals are a great torture test for a pdf viewer.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the pdfs any day over those old thick stinky manuals made from cheap paper.

    What would be MASSIVELY sweet would be a way to link the datasheets to the schematic so that you could be looking at a pin on one spec sheet, and click to reference the other pins on the other parts that are connected to it. So for example you could ask yourself “am I exceeding the drive limits for this pin” and it would be easy to determine.

    1. Ditto on Preview for OS/X. I never thought too much of it, as Preview is a small, unassuming app that has come with OS/X forever, and PDF is only one of many formats that it supports. It was not until I had to do some work on a Windows box a little while back that I realized just just how awesome it is, or just how much everything else sucks. I must have tried over a half-dozen PDF readers for Windows, and couldn’t rate any of them as even usable.

      Oddly enough, I was never a fan of electronic documentation prior to making the switch to OS/X. Historically, I had reams and reams of printed documentation. Nowadays, I actually *prefer* electronic documentation — at least as long as it has a proper table of contents. Nothing pisses me off more that PDFs without a table of contents.

      1. I can’t stand docs that have a table of contents that a) doesn’t link to the indicated page, and b) has incorrect pages because someone took a paper book and scanned it without any tweaks/updates. Honestly those piss me off worse than ones that just don’t have a table or an index, though I’m not sure if that’s rational.

    2. You’re one step ahead of me with the schematic cross-link. I was just thinking about the embedded feature which Ben was telling me about. Basically it generates a static image that links to the snippet — this is not yet available but will be soon.

      I use markdown to make README.md files on Github that help me pick a project back up later if necessary. I’d love to embed snippets in those just by dropping in a link. You look something up in the datahsheet once, and as long as you save a snippet you can always click back to it without hassle.

    3. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the pdfs any day over those old thick stinky manuals made from cheap paper.”

      At times those “stinky manuals” can be more convenient. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to lower the window you’re working within in order to read a document window …

    4. I’ve mostly had good luck with Okular. While it requires a bunch of KDE libs, you don’t have to run it in a real KDE session. Its annotation features aren’t superb, but they do help.

      I definitely agree that Preview.app is a great tool. Okular tries to emulate it a lot, so it’s getting there.

      I’ve found that Evince seems to work pretty well overall but tends to crash on my laptop from time to time (which is old and significantly weaker than my desktop so I’m suspecting maybe some kinds of race conditions?).

      (Disclaimer: I’m on a rolling-release distro, so this is based on whatever version is out currently)

  2. I’d really like the ability to crosslink datasheets with open hardware projects. I often find myself googling for projects using some IC in particular to see how other people are using it.

  3. “Now would be a great time to mention that this service is owned by Hackaday’s parent company SupplyFrame.”

    Funny, I assumed that after reading the website name. Not saying I mind at all, just that I’ve noticed. :)

  4. This looks like it could turn into something pretty sweet. The idea of getting into the “sharing knowledge” business will definitely separate this project from being just a collaborative annotating PDF viewer.

    I’d be interested in seeing if it works on a tablet. Being able to read and annotate datasheets on my tablet and then have that info appear up on my computer while I’m designing (and then back on my tablet when I’m at a hardware bench debugging) would be killer. If so, this might get me to finally buy a tablet.

    1. That’s definitely the idea here, by improving our ability to share information hopefully we can all benefit. This isn’t just about annotation on PDFs, the ultimate aim here is to make something that lets us collaborate and communicate better. Not to mention a further goal of changing datasheets as a format themselves.

      Tablet support is definitely on the list. Its currently viewable (I think) but I know you can’t currently creation annotations easily on a tablet. Better mobile and tablet support is on the list for sure.

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