Frequently Asked Questions (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 electronic parts inventory. Think of it as an electronic components database.

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 description sharing, attachments (datasheets, images and 3D CAD models) and much more.

The other major problem with spreadsheets is managing access by multiple people. Conflicts inevitably arise, which lead to errors in your data.

Do I actually need it?

If you have more than a handful of parts, then yes, you do need a solution to keep track of your components. Otherwise you will spend time searching for them, you won't know what you actually have, and you are likely to purchase new parts without knowing you already have them in your collection.

Parts

What are "linked" parts?

Linked parts share common data with other users. If you link a part, you instantly get a better description, 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 information. But linking allows you to specify which component you have and share data about that component with others.

Why is there no Internal/Private/Company part number field? I need it!

Private/company part numbers are available in paid plans. Just use Other Operations | Rename Part to assign a local name. Both names (local name and MPN) will be searchable and both will be displayed.

Can I attach images/datasheets/documents to parts?

Yes, all paid plans allow for attaching files to parts. The files can be datasheets, 3D CAD models, images, or any other file that you need to store with the part.

This functionality is not available in the free Hobbyist/Maker plan. Maintaining user-uploaded data incurs costs and can't be offered for free in a sustainable manner.

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. You could 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 choose them carefully, as once you print your labels/stickers, changing them becomes slightly more 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 after all), and if we just deleted the location, stock history would become corrupted, pointing to non-existing locations.

What you can do instead is "archive" a storage location. 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. You can also access all archived storage locations through a menu entry in the "Storage" section. In order to archive a storage location, it must first not contain any parts.

It is also possible to restore, or "un-archive" a storage location. This will restore its full status and it will continue to function normally.

Please note that if you accidentally created a storage location that you do not need, you can always rename it and use it just as a newly created one.

Projects

Does a Project correspond to a BOM?

Yes. A Project can be thought of as a Bill of Materials (BOM), a list of electronic components that are required to assemble something. For now, Projects can only contain parts, but that will change in the future.

Can I estimate the price of building a project?

Lab/Workshop and Company plans will soon provide detailed and up-to-date pricing information for all components within a project, as well as determine optimal price breaks to use when building a larger quantity of devices.

Data

Can I download my data?

Yes, you can download all the data you ever entered into PartsBox at any time. It is provided in JSON format, which is machine-readable and easy to work with. Please note that the JSON file will contain only your data (data you entered), not all the data/specs from other providers that you can see in PartsBox.

Is my data safe?

Your data is 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 (I 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.

Do you have an API?

Not at present, but one is planned in the future.

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 isn't just for hobbyists. It works very well in companies doing prototyping work, electronics labs, research labs, or even in companies doing small-scale production.

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

Use the suggestion form to tell me. 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 me know: are you willing to switch to a paid plan to use it? I gather all feedback and decide what to work on next.

If you are on a "Enterprise" plan, just tell me what you need and it will get implemented.

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, this is a question that cannot be answered. Here is some information so that you can decide for yourself:

  • 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 plan.
  • PartsBox is expected to become very popular through organic growth and make money. It will 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 will be able to get your data anytime.

Why can't you provide a low-cost paid plan for hobbyists/makers, with additional functionality?

The European Union makes it very, very difficult to sell to individuals within the EU. The seller has to charge the appropriate VAT rate according to the buyer's location, and then transfer appropriate VAT amounts to each member country. Even when the "simplified" MOSS scheme is used, there are signficant reporting requirements. This means that there is quite a bit of overhead when servicing individuals, which makes it difficult to offer low-cost plans for hobbyists. We do plan to do something about this in the future, but for the moment it simply doesn't make business sense.

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 commercial project.

What about hacker/makerspaces?

Current plans do not fit hacker/makerspaces, so if you run one please contact us directly. Every hacker or maker-space is different and there is no pricing suitable for all of them. There are also plans to introduce certain features specifically for hacker/makerspaces in the future.