Open Discussion: Puttin’ on the Fritz

Show of hands - anyone use Fritzing? I do, and I have a feeling I'm about to open a can of worms. The discussion must be had, however, so let's dive in, shall we? If you aren't familiar with Fritzing, swing on by and have a poke-see around. There's plenty of functionality - you can layout, prototype, teach and manufacture custom PCBs as well.

Like most applications, Fritzing has definitive pros and cons. At SparkFun, we use Fritzing diagrams in our SIK kits, tutorials, hookup guides and workshops - it's a great tool to show quickly and cleanly how we have hooked something up. Let's look at an example from the SparkFun Inventor's Kit:

Circuit 2B: Digital Trumpet Fritzing Diagram from Circuit 2B: Digital Trumpet

Easier, right? Basically, we use Fritzing as a "gateway drug" to get beginners and hobbyists involved in electronics. That said, it can be extremely non-intuitive to work with. For us, creation of new parts requires a fair amount of manual massage, and it's not easy to deliver our parts to the public at large.

While Fritzing is open source, not much has happened with application development in recent years. In the last couple months there has been discussion about reviving development on the Fritzing application, but I haven't been able to ascertain a clear direction for said development. If you have a bit, the video is worth a watch. Patrick Franken does a good job of acknowledging the benefits/scope of limitations, as well as discussing the current and future development (or lack thereof). On the upshot, it IS open source, so we can all contribute. If you want to have a look at or add to the development discussion, head on over to the Fritzing GitHub.

Since our use-case here at SparkFun is fairly specific, our view of Fritzing is naturally going to be somewhat myopic. We are always striving for better ways to get people involved and excited about electronics, and my goal in opening up this discussion is to find out what is most helpful to the community at large.

So now the real questions begin. How do you use Fritzing? Are there alternatives you find helpful when teaching others how to hook up their projects? What do you find most helpful about Fritzing, vs. what you would like to see changed in how we present hookup designs?

Constructive comments here are great (no flame wars please) and if you'd like to be further involved in the discussion, feel free to head on over to our newly revamped forums.

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