Best Practices for Collaborating with a Circuit Maker Online

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shutterstock_422665894Now is the time for cloud collaboration

No one knows the absolute importance of collaboration better than remote teams. More and more startups are being formed as a collaboration of people from around the world, established companies are becoming comfortable moving development teams online, and new technologies are coming to market that enable this transition. This is happening in both hardware and software design in every industry vertical.

Even design teams that are clustered in offices can benefit from these same technologies and the collaboration they provide. When it comes to hardware design, the tools used to collaborate on a project resemble those used in software development. This allows similar processes to be implemented throughout the design process. Let’s take a look at some best collaboration practices for hardware design teams:

Live Collaboration, Forking, and Revision Tracking

Online hardware design tools are excellent for live collaboration, where two or more designers can work on the same project in real time. When two or more team members are collaborating on any project in real time, it is always best to keep some line of live communication open, either by phone or a chat application. Designers will be able to understand what changes are being made and why they are being made, and they will be able to check that any change was applied correctly during the design session. Keeping live communication open during collaboration ensures that everyone is fully aware of all changes as they occur, and designers can discuss changes to a PCB as they are implemented.

For those in the hardware realm that are not familiar with forking, it is important to distinguish it from revision tracking. In short, revision tracking keeps a list of edits to an existing project and tracks who made the edits. The idea behind forking is to replicate an existing project, allowing it to be modified as a new project under a new name. The right circuit maker online will enforce revision tracking for forked projects.

If someone finds an error in the design or a large number of edits need to be undone, then you can quickly revert the project to a previous version. This is preferable to going back and undoing every single edit manually. The best revision tracking features will everything right down to the exact changes made to a PCB, as well as which team member made those changes. In the event that a team member made a mistake, a project manager knows who to address to ensure that the mistake is not repeated.

In contrast, suppose that you currently have a hardware project to the point where all the bugs have been addressed, the intended functionality has been checked against design rules, and your team is ready to start adding new features. This is where forking becomes useful. Forks allow teams to create and control their own variations of an existing project without compromising a working version of a project.

When Should You Fork a Project?

Forking is useful whenever you want to make changes while keeping a copy of the original, unmodified data. Any time someone on a design team wants to experiment with adding a feature to a working design, the project should be forked so that it can be modified as needed. Another time to fork a project is when a product reaches the end of its lifecycle and will form the basis of an entirely new product. This allows you to create a new project and modify in any way you can imagine without changing the old design data.

Using forking to experiment with new designs or new features from existing designs is a much better option than relying on revision tracking. With revision tracking, you only have a single copy of the project, and you will need to track changes throughout this single project. Forking a project provides any designer much greater freedom compared to working with tracked revisions.

online design
Gettings started with a forked project in Upverter

What About Enterprise Teams?

What if some or all of your design team is clustered in an office space? Are any of these features useful in this setting? When you use a circuit maker online that provides these collaboration features, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Even teams in an office need version control, revision tracking, forking, live collaboration, and automatic backup features.

Compared to large software projects, the only portion of a hardware project that can be broken out into different sections is hierarchical schematics. This makes it difficult to collaborate on a single project using legacy desktop applications for PCB design. With these old platforms, only one designer can work on a board at any time, and most do not offer any features like revision tracking/version control. Forking and revision tracking both require manually making copies of design files and working on the copies, and you won’t be able to merge changes in the same way you would with a platform like GitHub.

Online design software with live collaboration features allows multiple designers to work on all parts of a PCB project without being clustered around a single computer screen. When your design software automatically backs up revisions and forks to the cloud, designers anywhere on the planet can access their portion of the project instantly. Any circuit maker online that interfaces with an optional desktop application allows users to access their online design tools alongside other desktop design applications.

Online PCB design software is here to help your design teams collaborate and design the best new hardware projects quickly and easily. The browser-based PCB design platform from Upverter provides all the tools you need to design new electronics from anywhere. Upverter also continuously updates the platform with new features and capabilities that are demanded by the community.

You can sign up for free and get access to the best browser-based PCB editor, schematic editor, and component database. Visit Upverter today to learn more.

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