Need some help on managing electronic parts and BOMs? BOMIST is here for you. I’m its developer and in the following text I’ll try to give some context on why and how I created it and why you might want to use it as well.
How it all started?
Back in… oh well, I don’t even remember when I started writing software for electronics parts management. But it all started with Component Organizer, a project I ended up releasing the code as open-source since I wasn’t interested in maintaining it myself anymore. The last commit dates to 5 years ago, so that’s how long I’ve been coding and thinking about on this matter at least. It was my first software project and as such, many mistakes were made, many lessons were learned. Anyways, as an hardware engineer I kept developing electronics, either for personal or commercial use and the need to manage all my parts and BOMs persisted.
Why create yet another software?
Spreadsheet apps like Microsoft Excel or LibreOffice Calc were never an option for me. I need better automation and a proper user interface. Something that can easily integrates along with my workflow and that helps me not waste three things: time, parts and money. I don’t want a simple parts inventory solution, I want to be able to easily manage my BOMs as well. Spreadsheet apps are just too generic to fit my electronics development specific needs. You can surely customize it through scripts, etc but you’ll waste a lot of time and will end up with a generic software and a bunch of scripts with no common architecture and most likely hard to maintain. Workflows and personal preferences are however, well, personal, so if whatever solution works for you, that’s great.
Spreadsheet apps aside, let’s ask google what’s out there and I essentially found out two kind of solutions: cloud-based and non cloud-based. Non cloud-based solutions will run on your computer or on a server setup by you. It doesn’t have any kind of limits, you have full control over your data but you are also in charge of the infrastructure required to get the software up and running. On the other hand, software that runs on the cloud is managed by someone else not you, which takes that burden off you, but you pay a price for that – a FREE and limited plan is also common. Also, your data will be somewhere on a cloud, meaning you don’t have full control over it.
To be or not to be (on the cloud)?
The thing is (at least for me): the software I use to design my PCBs doesn’t run on the cloud. I need a desktop/laptop computer to create electronics. So, for the software that manages my parts and BOMs to be on the cloud is not an advantage per se. Also, I don’t necessarily want to open a browser, navigate to and login into a website to check and manage my inventory and BOMs. Websites are usually much slower than native software.
The ideal scenario would be to have parts and BOM management done the way I want directly on my EDA software, but having a separate application for that is good enough for me as well. I also prefer to have total control over my data. With services like Dropbox or Google Drive, I see no point in having to pay another provider to keep my data on a cloud in case I want to keep it in sync with other computers/devices.
However, being connected to the internet is important. Services like Octopart provide extremely useful data to a software of this kind. You can search for parts and get real-time info about them, such as pricing and availability on a given distributor. This is specially important when choosing a part for a BOM.
Workflows, Features and Pricing
The problem was that, for one ore more reasons, the solutions available weren’t right for me. I was either missing features, feeling a lack of a good workflow integration or not willing to pay the price they were asking for taking into account the usage I was having. So I decided to create my own solution: BOMIST, in the hope more people would find it helpful as well.
Open-Source is Not the Way, SaaS it is!
Having released Component Organizer as open-source software I knew that it wasn’t an option for BOMIST. Every software needs maintenance and being open-source wasn’t of any help on that regard. It might work when there’s a big community of developers, which in any case has to be built and I believe that’s close to impossible in a niche software as BOMIST is, whose users are not necessarily software developers.
Having said that, and because everyone has bills to pay, better pay someone a fair price for keeping the software bug-free and available to improve it. And by fair I mean: I want it to be FREE for those who doesn’t make money out of electronics and paid by those who do, by having limits and features that reflect that. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is currently, in my opinion, the best and fairer model to accomplish that.
So BOMIST currently have two plans: FREE and PRO, the free being limited whether the PRO is not.
Monthly or yearly payments? Maybe on the go?
With every SaaS comes a pricing and again I want it to be as fair and flexible as possible. To go PRO you need a subscription that can be payed monthly or yearly. As expected, you get a discount if you go with the yearly option. If you deal with parts and BOM management every month along the year, that’s the best option. However, if you exceed the FREE limits but you don’t need to use BOMIST every single month, you can pay on a per-month basis, using/paying the PRO features only in the months you need them. Fair enough, right?
Try it, it’s free! And let me know what you think.
And that’s pretty much it. BOMIST is under active development with many new features already inline. Let me know what you think and how you’d like to see it improved.