How do you guys track or record your projects?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Chalma, Oct 7, 2014.

  1. Chalma

    Thread Starter Member

    May 19, 2013
    I have completed 2 rather large projects recently and was curious what the 'proper' way of keeping track of progress or even logging events for your electronic projects. What I often start with is logging all my brainstorm ideas or chart what needs or should be done, but it always ends up becoming like a 'dear diary' so I end up feeling cheesy and not doing it. What I"m running into is my 'project file folder' I end up throwing a bunch of junk inside (specs, schematic, quick jots or ideas) and the folder ends up looking like a madmans rants that maybe a tornado went through and shoved into a folder. What I'd like for example is some projects at work start with 3 or 4 KEY focus ideas and I would be involved in 1 or 2, then during meetings brainstorm sessions (IF applicable) get thrown around, the project would get whittled down or added to. I try to keep track of what ideas I have that work or if I think I"m going in the right direction. My power points come out pretty good, but when asked for example "if this would work" usually I did think of and attempt that idea, but I'd have to dig through piles of JUNK.

    As you guys can tell from my previous forum posts, I am not a 4 year degree graduate (only 2 year degree with lots of electronics and programming backing it up) and I do not feel it necessary (I should go back, but get discouraged by how old I am). So I'd like to pick your brains, how do you keep track of your progress from concept to completion? What do you guys suggest?
  2. Lestraveled

    Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2014
    My beginnings start with paper and pencil, a sharp #2HB and some good graph paper is what I reach for. I am very proficient with CADD, schematic capture, and PCB layout and that is normally where the designs ends up (on the computer), but I create best with the organic and limitless feel of pencil on paper.
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  3. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
    For analog, I keep "lab notes." Every entry has date and time. It gets a little messy at times and is certainly not the quality for patent documentation, but it works. The biggest problem I have is finding where I put the damn thing. I used to store lots of datasheets and so forth as paper documents, but today, I just store the majority of them on the PC, unless I have notes to add.

    If I am doing programming, I have a little more difficulty documenting each step in the development. I only use PIC and do not like the file management system inherent in MPLAB, so I end up printing a lot of stuff out. Then, I date, time, and sequentially number each printout. Handwritten notes are made on the printouts. It works, but is messy and wastes a lot of paper and toner. I wish the archival function functions of MPLAB were like some CAD programs, or even like EAGLE.

    Chalma likes this.
  4. Chalma

    Thread Starter Member

    May 19, 2013
    That's good for a start, but I'm thinking of the long run. For example one project right now, there was a problem with heat so the PCB needed to be moved on the *UNIT*. Then there was a problem with labeling (this project includes mechanical as well as electronic components) and putting in logos so we had to increase the size of *insert item here*. We actually got a few prototypes ready, but then the end customer testing it out complains about whatever so we have to go back and change or think of a way to appease them. I'm not a project manager and I don't believe that is the title of someone who does these things, but I'd like it to be a "story" or "timeline" if you will of what is going on. The beginning of the project was quite laughable, but I'd like any and all ideas so that anything can be referenced later or for efficiency's sake not brought up again.
  5. tshuck

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 18, 2012
    You may want to look into some revision control software - they keep track of changes and can do what it seems you want it to do.

    They are typically used for software development, but they'll be just as happy with whatever kind of files you give it.
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  6. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    You can buy a Quadrille notebook at a college book store with the pages laid out in squares. Same as what I used in Chemistry class.
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  7. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
    It comes down to personal work habits. Since I have been at it for many years, the total number of my projects, both active and archived, run into dozens, if not hundreds.

    My advice can be stated in three words: document, document, document.

    And I don't mean writing a project report at the completion of the project. I mean continuous note taking from the start of project conception, brain storming, R & D, testing, debugging, maintenance, revisions, etc.

    Here are three ways of maintaining a documentation/paper trail:

    1) Loose-leaf/3-ring binder/file folder

    2) Hard cover notebook

    3) Computerized note taking

    Here is what works for me.
    Most folks starting out today, like yourself, are more likely to use a computer for note taking. Computerize records have many advantages - efficient, compact, portable, searchable, etc. Since I started out before the advent of the PC, old habits are hard to change. I sometimes use (2) but many different projects end up in the same notebook.

    I use primarily (1) the file folder method. Every day I am actively working on a project I make a daily entry. I date every page.
    For large, complex projects I maintain multiple folders separating the daily journal notes from datasheets, code listings, PCB design, etc.

    The bottom line is: every thought that goes through my head goes down on paper, even simple thinks like a to-do list or to-buy list.

    I cannot afford not to do it. It is my way of brain storming and emptying the clutter up there.
    Chalma likes this.
  8. djsfantasi

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 11, 2010
    I use the computerized note taking method. I have a project folder with sub-folders for notes, images, drawings (Google Sketch-Up), simulation files (mechanical and electrical), software, references (internet shortcuts) and miscellaneous. I also use Google drive so my documentation is also available on my smartphone and desktop.

    I write Instructables, so pictures at every step are important to me. Same with sketches.

    I tend to keep one master document with my notes, with dated entries. Other documents are supporting documents. Such as software designs.

    My simulation folders contain LTSpice files, and files for a program I've used named Linkage.

    The references I save are links to datasheets, articles on similar projects, and product descriptions (such as a PIR sensor).
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  9. sirch2

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 21, 2013
    Over the last year or so I have been doing pretty much the same as djsfantasi, including using google drive. I used to try to keep a hand written notebook but so much is on line it was a pain to deal with links to web pages and the like. Also photographing the current state of things as you go can be helpful.
  10. Dr.killjoy

    Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2013
    I remember what's wrong with each project and I write my ideas for a project in my composition book... Besides that no logs are kept.. But you could also write little tag for each project...
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2014
  11. alfacliff

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2013
    My last large project, started with an artical in a magazine on building a spectrum analyzer. looked interesting, so I went over the contents of my junk garage ( a bit large for a junk drawer) I didnt have many of the larger bitrs, so I but it on the back burner for a while. then another artical in a different magazine gave me some other ideas, after combining several articals and modifying them to what I had on hand, I finally finished it up. I keep the notes and all the schematics, charts, and such in a notebook with the finished spectrum analyzer. by the way it works fine, 10 mhz to 1000 mhz with a nice calibrated attenuator. a noise floor of 1 microvolt and analog display. maybe I will go for digital later.
  12. Chalma

    Thread Starter Member

    May 19, 2013
    Awesome ideas guys. Thanks. It may come to me changing a few more habits but I believe I really am steering towards the right track
  13. Gdrumm

    Distinguished Member

    Aug 29, 2008
    I've found that a printer with a scanner can be used for saving hand written notes, etc.

    I also create a file folder using the project name.
    I can put schematics, pictures, video, and scanned documents in that file folder.

    I then have another folder for each year, and I put the various project folders inside that folder.

    If I forget where something is, I use the Search program with Windows, and as long as I can remember a key word or phrase, it will go find it for me.
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  14. djsfantasi

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 11, 2010
    A Smartphone can also be used to take pictures of hand-written notes to be saved, in case you don't have a scanner.
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