By Mike Hankey

An Electronic Components Organizer for Every Hobbyist

Fresh out of college with a degree in Computer Science, I landed a job with a small engineering company where most of the employees were electrical engineers. After we had worked together for a while, I agreed to teach them programming and they would in turn teach me electronics. This worked out very well and I really enjoyed the work, but it wasn't until I retired recently that I got to put that knowledge to real use.

I got interested in microcontrollers and began purchasing electronic components from Jameco, scavenging parts from old equipment and trading equipment with fellow enthusiasts. My inventory of components grew and I couldn't remember what I had or where it was.

At that point I realized I would need some way to organize my components. I searched and searched the Internet and tried a couple of free apps, but they were very crude and lacked most of the functionality that I desired. The ones for purchase were expensive and overkill, so being a programmer I made my own app and called it WinHeist.

WinHeist (Windows Hobbyist Electronic Inventory System) is a fairly straight forward and easy-to-use application that provides the ability to store, organize, view and filter your inventory of electronic components. It started out small with the design goal of being intuitive to use while providing an option to enter detailed information.

Over the course of a year, I tried different functionalities until I felt I had developed a pretty good product that others might be interested in. I added a download link on my website and after a while it caught on. I started getting feedback from users and integrating their suggestions. The program blossomed into what it is today and has been downloaded by approximately 10,000 people since its conception.

The application was designed to perform two very important and basic functions: manage component data according to classification, and provide a way to view and search through the data once it has been entered.

WinHeist Main Grid

WinHeist Main Grid
A component's classification is accomplished by breaking down its category, subcategory, value and/or description. The main grid shows how this classification system is implemented and the means by which the data is filtered. In the example above, it is filtered by subcategories that begin with "Logic," have a component value that begins with 74 and have a count greater than 2.

The Info column on the right side of the main grid displays an icon if there is an attachment available (more on that below). Other information displayed includes the current working directory, component count and alert count (items whose count has reached the alarm count threshold, which is indicated in the main grid as a red highlighted line).

Component Input Form

Component Input Form The Component Input Form is where components are created and edited in WinHeist.

The only data that is mandatory are the Count (the number of items you have on hand) and the component's name (composed of the Category, Subcategory and Component Value fields, which can be automatically generated if configured to do so).

If the Count value is less than or equal to the Count Alert value, a warning will be displayed in the main grid as shown above – the line with the red background.

On this form, users also have the option to enter a component's location, description, attachments, notes and supplier information.

The Attachments option allows you to attach things like datasheets, schematics, drawings and just about any peripheral data that pertains to a component but cannot be entered into the fields provided.

The Notes option provides a way to enter information about the product without having to create an external file, in other words, for jotting down brief comments.

A user can include supplier information on this form as well, which comes in handy when replacement parts need to be ordered. The yellow star icon denotes a "Preferred Supplier."

Price Input Form Supplier information is entered using the Options page, and the data that appears in the Supplier, Price and Part Number fields is entered in the Price Input Form.

Price Input Form

You can enter a component's part number, price and mark a supplier as a "Preferred Supplier" in the Price Input Form. This information can be entered for each supplier that is configured, but at present there is no way to automate the process.

You can download the most recent version of WinHeist and visit the WinHeist Help page for a more detailed look at what WinHeist can do.

Editor's Note: Do you have an idea for an electronics app? We don't care how serious or crazy the idea might be, drop us a note and share your idea. We'll publish the best ideas in a future newsletter. Send your ideas to [email protected].

Mike Hankey lives in Beaufort, South Carolina and is a retired programmer/jack of all trades. His interests include computers, electronics, photography, camping and hiking. Mike has been a Jameco customer since 2010.