PartsBox FAQ

General

What is PartsBox?

It's an application that allows you to keep track of your electronic components. Ever wondered where that chip was? Ever ordered components only to discover later that you already have them? PartsBox allows you to easily manage parts inventory, keeping track of where components are stored, what the current stock levels are, and which components are used in which projects. It displays component specs, allows for attaching documents (datasheets, 3D CAD models) to parts, and searches the entire database quickly.

PartsBox also automatically calculates pricing of your Projects/BOMs, handling price breaks, currency conversions, MOQ (Minimum Ordering Quantities) and order multiples.

Isn't a spreadsheet enough?

It could be, if you don't have a lot of parts. But as soon as your collection grows, spreadsheet becomes burdensome. Also, PartsBox provides lots of other functionality, such as instant datasheet access, part specifications, tagging, fuzzy searching, part description sharing, and much more.

Spreadsheets don't work in a multi-user environment and fail to preserve history. You end up with a snapshot of your data, and you don't know which user took parts or performed another operation.

When it comes to calculating the price of a BOM (Bill of Materials), a spreadsheet that correctly handles currency conversions, price breaks, order minimums and order multiples quickly becomes extremely complex. And it is outdated right after it gets created. PartsBox imports a BOM from a CAD program, and then handles all the complexities, updating offers and currency rates, so that a BOM calculation is always up-to-date.

Parts

What are "linked" parts?

Linked parts share common data with other users. If you link a part, you instantly get a better description, part specifications, datasheet link, link to the manufacturer's site, and a link to the Octopart page with current pricing and ordering information.

It is still your part: your stock information is local, as are your notes, and other info, you are just making use of additional online information.

Where is the "local/company part number" field? I need it!

In paid plans every linked part has two names: one is the MPN (Manufacturer Part Number) and the other is the local name, also known as the local part number or company part number. You can change the local name by renaming the part.

If the names are different, both will be shown and both will be indexed for searching.

The free Hobbyist/Maker plan does not have company part numbers and linked parts are identified only by their MPN.

Why are my part names same as their MPNs?

The free Hobbyist/Maker plan does not have company part numbers and linked parts are identified only by their MPN. Part names are forced to be the same as MPNs.

Paid plans allow setting the local name, also known as the local part number or company part number to something different than the MPN.

Can I add my own custom fields?

Yes, paid plans include the ability to add custom fields. Like the "Notes" field, these can be used to store any data, but in a more structured manner. Some usage examples include: Distributor, Distributor Part Number, Supplier Part URL, Weight or Container Tare Weight. Custom fields are indexed for searching.

Storage

How should I name storage locations?

You can name your storage locations anything you like, but there is a suggested naming scheme:

Start with a letter. We use b for boxes (with compartments), but you might also have shelves (with reels), or cabinets with drawers. A two-digit number follows, that is the number of your storage location. Then, if the location has sub-compartments, we use a chess-grid system: a1, a2, b1, b2, and so on, depending on the size of the grid. This results in names like "b01-a4", which means "box 1, row a, column 4", or "s12-l1-r2" which is "shelf 12, level 1, reel 2".

Your storage location names can be changed at any time, but we do recommend choosing them carefully, as once you print your labels/stickers, changing them becomes difficult.

How do I delete a storage location?

There is no way to delete a storage location. Problem is, there might be stock history entries pointing to that storage location (it used to house components), and if we just deleted the location, stock history would become corrupted, pointing to non-existing locations.

A storage location can be archived, however. An archived location does not normally show up, unless you are looking at the history of a part that used to be in that location.

Can I have hierarchical storage (location within a location)?

This has been tried in the past and it's very difficult to make it work predictably with search, filtering and location display in multiple places. As a result, PartsBox provides a flat storage naming scheme, but you can reflect the hierarchy within the names themselves.

Projects

Is there be a way to import CAD data into a Project/BOM?

Yes. PartsBox can import CSV or TSV files exported from any eCAD. Presets are provided for importing a BOM from Altium Designer, Autodesk EAGLE and KiCad. The process is quick and easy.

Apart from presets, there is also a custom setting, which allows for any mapping of CSV columns to PartsBox data and should allow for importing from any CAD.

The KiCad preset is free for everyone, while presets for commercial CAD systems, as well as custom import, are only available in commercial plans.

How are currency conversions handled?

European Central Bank (ECB) rates are used for currency conversion. They are updated regularly.

As for historical stock data, every entry keeps the original value and the original currency and gets converted for display using the current rates whenever needed. This is different from accounting programs, where historical rates must be used. The assumption made in PartsBox is that one usually wants to see the current pricing for a project (bill of materials) to estimate the margins, so current rates are applicable.

Data

Can I download my data?

Yes, you can download all the data you ever entered into PartsBox at any time. We provide it in JSON format, which is machine-readable and easy to work with.

What is JSON? What can I do with it?

JSON stands for JavaScript Object Notation, it is a data format that allows structured data to be stored in a well-behaved file. You could compare it to XML, just slightly simpler to use. The PartsBox data dumps are not directly usable in a spreadsheet, but are very useful to programmers importing data.

PartsBox data cannot be exported as a "flat" CSV file, because the data isn't flat. For example, every part has a history of stock entries. A spreadsheet export would lose that information.

Can I edit the downloaded data and then re-import it into PartsBox?

No. Implementing this requires quite a bit of effort to ensure the data is properly checked for consistency. In case of emergency the data import can be performed manually by us.

Is my data safe?

Your data gets stored in a distributed database and gets backed up often, also to off-site locations. That said, you don't have to trust PartsBox — download your data anytime as a JSON file. Should the worst happen, it will be possible to restore it from that file.

As for access, it is up to you to choose a strong password (we recommend using a password manager like 1Password to generate a strong password). All access is done through HTTPS, so your data is encrypted in transit.

How can I change my E-mail address or username in PartsBox?

Please contact support@partsbox.io.

Business

It's free for makers/hobbyists — how are you going to make money?

A good question, because without a steady source of income any service will eventually die.

PartsBox works very well in companies doing prototyping work, electronics labs, research labs, and companies doing small and medium scale electronics production (CM or Contract Manufacturers).

Paid plans provide the income necessary to develop PartsBox.

I need feature X! How do I get it implemented?

Please use the suggestion (feedback) form. Please indicate if this is a "showstopper" feature (e.g. it prevents you from using PartsBox at all). Also, if this feature is worth money to you, let us know: are you willing to switch to a paid plan to use it?

Will you be around in a year?

That is a very good question, especially given the large number of startups that flame out quickly and get shut down. Unfortunately, it is a question that cannot be answered. Here is some information so you can make up your own opinion:

  • PartsBox is carefully designed to be low-cost in maintenance: the architecture is mostly client-side, with very little server support required for the free tier.
  • PartsBox is expected to become very popular through organic growth and make money. It might eventually become a company with multiple people working on the software, support and sales. But even if it doesn't, the low costs mean that it can be kept running.
  • PartsBox is not a VC-funded startup that burns through investors' money, and needs to be shut down once that money runs out. It is a long-term project.

That said, as a founder I will not make promises I cannot keep. I don't know what will happen. I can only say what my intentions are right now. The one promise I do make is that your data will never be held hostage: data export is and will be maintained and you can get your data anytime.

So is this a one-man operation?

Yes, for the moment it is. Which is actually a good thing, if you're concerned about viability. This means that there are no investors, no burn rate to speak of, no need to shut the company down because the money ran out. It is a mature, long-term project.