The Macdweller Part Storage System

The System

The easy answer would have been to simply write on the envelopes, drop the parts in, and be done with it – but I’m not quite that lazy!  I wanted this to be presentable, and a little work produced a system that’s fairly easy to maintain.  Instead of hand marking the envelopes, I ship them through an HP Photosmart inkjet printer.

The software?  Apple’s iWork.

No, seriously!

While iWork isn’t the most professional solution out there, I find that it meets a whole lot of needs quite admirably (unlike the Works-type packages of the distant past).  It’s great at page layout, has a decent mail merge system, and creating document templates is a piece of cake.  What more can I ask for?

The Template

A part envelope. Note the use of values in the upper right for things like resistors and capacitors; makes ’em easy to find.

The first thing I created was a #10 envelope template that I can use to print these things.  The envelope has a part category/subcategory combination in the upper-left corner, which I can use to sort them into the proper bins.  Beneath that is a text description of any features the part might have (e.g., my envelope for the ATTiny13A reads “20Mhz, 8-bit, 1K Flash, 64b SRAM, 64b EEPROM, 4×10-bit ADC”).  Still further down the left, you find a list of places where I’ve purchased the part with the associated catalog part numbers for easy re-ordering.

On the upper right, we have the “common” part number in bright, bold lettering.  This is not the manufacturer’s part number, but rather than one you think of when you decide to use the part.  A good example of this is the 7805 voltage regulator:  they’re made by everyone and their brother and have a zillion different part numbers; it makes it much easier to find if you just stick “7805” at the top of the envelope.

Beneath that is packaging information (“8-DIP”, “TO-220-3”, etc.).  This is needed when you have parts that have both SMT and through-hole footprints.  I also tend to place physical dimensions there for parts that require it (mostly switches, LEDs, board spacers, etc…).

And finally, right underneath all that, is the actual manufacturer’s name and full part number, just in case you need to get it from someone you haven’t ordered from before.

About Steve

When it comes to the desktop, Steve is a former Amiga, Windows, and Linux user, and as of six years ago, a die-hard Mac head (who, for once, isn't thinking of changing platforms again any time soon). When it comes to the server, Linux is pretty much the only game he plays. He also enjoys hardware hacking, and shouldn't be allowed near a keyboard after the sun sets (or for that matter, after it rises. Don't say I didn't warn you).
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10 Responses to The Macdweller Part Storage System

  1. Pingback: Parts storage for all your components - Hack a Day

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  3. Eric Ayars says:

    Awesome. Just what I need, too, since I’ll be teaching “Electronics for Scientists” at my local university next spring in addition to my usual bits of hardware hacking here and there.

    Before I re-create your templates, I should ask: Could you send me a copy of your iWork files? The Pages envelope template and the Numbers database would be very helpful. Thanks in advance!


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  5. Ian Lee says:

    Nice post! I use a very similar method but on a “smaller” scale. I think I’ll add one of your bigger boxes and envelopes to my inventory to handle the larger things which will not fit in my boxes.

    • Steve says:


      I can see a lot of advantages to your method – especially the color code on the envelope for the resistors. I thought about doing something similar, but couldn’t think of an easy way to implement it with iWork. I really really wish that Apple would bring Pages and Numbers up to par with Word & Excel!

      I’m not holding my breath on that, though…

  6. Rva says:

    I put them also for some time in envelopes and plastic small bags. But your mail merge idea is great. Am I right that the template need to be updated for the latest ML numbers app? If I want to import it, I got errors and it stops. Also the iPad iOS7 can’t read it.
    Maybe, do you have an updated version available? And if you got an updated version, is it posible to keep them both/all available.


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