PartsBox FAQ


What is PartsBox?

It's an application that allows you to keep track of your electronic components and production. PartsBox allows you to easily manage parts inventory, keeping track of where components are stored, what the current stock levels are, and which components are used in which projects. It displays component specs, allows for attaching documents (datasheets, 3D CAD models) to parts, and searches the entire database quickly.

PartsBox also automatically calculates pricing of your Projects/BOMs, handling price breaks, currency conversions, MOQ (Minimum Ordering Quantities) and order multiples.

Adding stock is easy with built-in barcode scanning, right in the browser. And ID Anything™ lets you tag/label any physical item and get information about it in seconds, just by scanning the QR code with any device.

Isn't a spreadsheet enough?

While a spreadsheet can be sufficient for managing a small collection of electronic parts, it quickly becomes cumbersome as the inventory grows. Spreadsheets lack the specialized functionality and features that a dedicated inventory management system like PartsBox provides.

PartsBox offers instant access to datasheets, part specifications, and the ability to tag and search for parts using fuzzy matching. It also allows sharing part descriptions among users. These features help with the process of managing and locating components.

In a multi-user environment, spreadsheets fall short in terms of data integrity and traceability. They provide only a snapshot of the inventory data and do not record which user performed specific actions like removing parts. This lack of history can lead to confusion and errors.

Calculating the price of a Bill of Materials (BOM) using a spreadsheet becomes increasingly complex when factors such as currency conversions, price breaks, minimum order quantities, and order multiples are considered. The resulting spreadsheet is often intricate and becomes outdated quickly. PartsBox simplifies this process by importing the BOM directly from a CAD program and handling all the complexities automatically. It updates offers and currency rates in real-time, ensuring that the BOM calculation remains accurate and up-to-date.

So, while spreadsheets can be used for basic inventory tracking, they lack the robustness, traceability, and specialized features that a purpose-built application like PartsBox provides. PartsBox streamlines the management of electronic parts inventory, making it more efficient and reliable, especially in multi-user environments and when dealing with complex pricing scenarios.


What are "linked" parts?

Linked parts in PartsBox represent electronic components such as resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors, and integrated circuits that have manufacturer part numbers (MPNs) and are available for purchase from distributors. These parts are linked to an online identity, which allows for automatic retrieval of data such as pricing, availability, and technical specifications from vendor websites.

When you create a linked part in PartsBox, you associate it with a specific MPN from a manufacturer. This enables the software to fetch real-time information about the part, streamlining the process of managing your inventory and creating BOMs. Linked parts make it easier to keep your part data up-to-date and accurate, as the information is synchronized with the vendor's database.

In contrast to linked parts, local parts in PartsBox are used for components that do not have an MPN or are not available for purchase online, such as generic components, custom parts, PCBs, or mechanical parts. However, you can still link a local part to an online identity after creating it, if the need arises.

Where is the "local/company part number" field?

PartsBox supports two identifiers for linked parts: the manufacturer part number (MPN) and a local part number. The local part number, also known as the company part number, allows assigning an internal identifier to a part. This is useful for companies that have their own internal part numbering scheme.

To set the local part number for a linked part, simply rename the part. If the local part number differs from the MPN, both will be displayed and indexed for searching. This allows parts to be found by either identifier.

Local part numbers are a feature of paid PartsBox plans. The free Hobbyist/Maker plan identifies linked parts solely by their MPN and does not support local part numbers

Why are part names in my database identical to manufacturer part numbers (MPNs)?

The free Hobbyist/Maker plan identifies linked parts solely by their manufacturer part number (MPN). The part name is automatically set to match the MPN.

Paid subscription plans enable defining a custom local name for parts, also referred to as the local part number or company part number. This allows differentiating the internal part identifier from the manufacturer's part number.

Can I add my own custom fields?

Yes, PartsBox allows you to define your own custom fields to store additional data about parts, beyond the standard fields provided. This capability is included in paid plans.

Custom fields function similarly to the built-in "Notes" field, allowing you to capture any type of information. However, custom fields provide a more structured and organized way to store this data.

Some examples of how custom fields can be used:

  • Distributor name
  • Distributor's part number
  • URL link to the part on the supplier's website
  • Part weight
  • Tare weight of the part's packaging or container

The data entered into custom fields is indexed, so it can be searched. This allows you to easily find parts based on the information stored in these fields.

Should I add panelized PCBs as panels or as single PCBs?

The correct answer is "it depends". But in general, it is better to add the bare PCBs and treat panels as a packaging detail, similar to how parts arrive in trays. This will work well with production: after all, a production and pricing unit is usually a single tested device, even though they might be produced and tested in panels and de-panelized at the very end.


How should I name storage locations?

Storage locations in PartsBox can be named using any desired scheme, but the following convention is recommended:

  1. Begin the name with a letter indicating the storage type:
    1. 'b' for boxes with compartments
    2. 's' for shelves holding component reels
    3. 'c' for cabinets with drawers
  2. Follow the letter with a two-digit number uniquely identifying the storage unit (01, 02, etc.).
  3. For locations with sub-compartments, append the compartment's grid coordinates using a chess-board naming system (a1, a2, b1, b2, etc.). The grid size depends on the number of compartments.

This results in storage location names like:

  • "b01-a4" : Box 1, row A, column 4
  • "s12-l1-r2" : Shelf 12, level 1, reel 2
  • "c05-d3" : Cabinet 5, drawer 3

Storage location names can be changed at any time in PartsBox. However, carefully consider the naming scheme before printing labels or stickers, as renaming becomes inconvenient once labels are affixed to the physical storage locations.

How do I delete a storage location?

Storage locations cannot be directly deleted in PartsBox. This is to maintain data integrity and avoid corrupting the stock history. If a storage location was deleted, any historical stock entries referencing that location would point to a non-existent location, leading to inconsistencies.

As an alternative, storage locations can be archived. Archiving hides the storage location from normal views, while still preserving the historical data. Archived locations will only be visible when examining the stock history of parts that were previously stored in that location.

This approach ensures that past stock movements and storage records remain intact and accessible, even when a storage location is no longer in active use. The archiving functionality allows for tidying up the storage location list without losing valuable historical information.

Does PartsBox support hierarchical storage locations (locations within locations)?

PartsBox uses a flat storage naming scheme and does not directly support hierarchical storage locations. Implementing hierarchical storage introduces complexity in search, filtering and consistently displaying locations throughout the application.

As an alternative, the storage location naming scheme can be used to encode hierarchy. For example, names like "Shelf 1 - Box 2 - Compartment A" can reflect the physical hierarchy while still using a flat structure in the application.

This approach provides the organizational benefits of hierarchical storage while avoiding the technical challenges and potential inconsistencies that arise from modeling storage locations in a hierarchical way within the application.


Can CAD data be imported into a Project or BOM in PartsBox?

Yes, PartsBox supports importing BOMs from CSV or TSV files exported from electronic CAD software. Import presets are available for Altium Designer, Autodesk EAGLE, and KiCad, allowing for quick and easy BOM import.

In addition to the presets, a custom import setting allows mapping CSV columns to PartsBox data fields. This enables importing BOMs from virtually any CAD software that can export a BOM as a CSV file.

The KiCad BOM import preset is available in all plans, including the free plan. Presets for commercial CAD packages, as well as the custom import functionality, are limited to paid commercial subscription plans.

Refer to the BOM Import feature description for further details on the BOM import process and supported formats.

How are currency conversions handled in PartsBox?

PartsBox uses the European Central Bank (ECB) exchange rates for currency conversion. These rates are periodically updated within the application to reflect the latest values.

For historical stock data, PartsBox stores each entry's original value and currency. When this historical data needs to be displayed, the original values are converted on-the-fly using the current exchange rates. This differs from the approach typically used in accounting software, which uses historical exchange rates for such conversions.

The rationale behind using current rates for historical data is based on the assumption that users typically want to see the current pricing for a bill of materials (BOM) in order to estimate profit margins. Therefore, applying the current exchange rates to historical data provides a more relevant cost estimate for the current time period.


Can I export/download my data?

PartsBox provides comprehensive data export functionality, allowing users to download all data entered into the system at any time. The exported data is provided in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) format, which is a machine-readable and easily parsable data interchange format.

The choice of JSON as the export format is driven by the complexity of the underlying data model in PartsBox. The data structures cannot be adequately represented in a tabular format such as a spreadsheet. JSON preserves the entire data hierarchy and relationships, ensuring that all information is retained during the export process. This provides users with the flexibility to migrate their data to alternative systems in the future if required.

What is JSON? What can I do with it?

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is a lightweight data interchange format that enables structured data to be stored in a well-defined and human-readable file format. It serves a similar purpose to XML (eXtensible Markup Language) but offers a simpler syntax and easier parsing.

The data dumps provided by PartsBox in JSON format are primarily intended for programmatic consumption and import into other systems. While the exported JSON files cannot be directly used in spreadsheet applications, they are highly valuable to developers and system integrators who need to process and import the data into other software tools or databases.

It's important to note that the data model in PartsBox is not flat, meaning it cannot be accurately represented in a simple tabular structure like a CSV (Comma-Separated Values) file. For instance, each part in PartsBox maintains a history of stock entries, which would be lost if the data were exported as a flat spreadsheet. The JSON format preserves the rich structural information and relationships between different entities in the PartsBox data model.

Can I edit exported data and import it back into PartsBox?

No, editing and re-importing exported data is currently not supported. Allowing arbitrary changes to the exported data would require complex consistency checks to avoid introducing errors or inconsistencies when importing the modified data back into PartsBox.

In case of data loss or corruption, PartsBox support can manually import your data as a one-time emergency recovery measure. However, this process is not automated and requires manual intervention by the PartsBox team to ensure data integrity is maintained.

Is my data secure?

PartsBox employs several measures to ensure the security and integrity of user data:

Data storage: All user data is stored in a distributed database system, with replication across multiple servers for redundancy and high availability.

Data backups: Hourly encrypted backups are performed, including off-site backups for disaster recovery. Backup encryption uses the AES-256 standard.

Password protection: User passwords are hashed and salted using SHA512 combined with bcrypt for robust protection against cracking attempts.

Data portability: Users can export their full dataset at any time in JSON format. In a catastrophic event, the data can be restored from this JSON export.

Access security: All data access occurs over HTTPS, providing encryption of data in transit.

User responsibility: Users are responsible for setting a strong account password. Using a reputable password manager to generate a high-entropy password is recommended.

By utilizing industry-standard encryption, hashing algorithms, and backup procedures, PartsBox safeguards user data against unauthorized access or loss. The distributed architecture and off-site backups provide further resilience. Data portability ensures users can retrieve their data if needed. Ultimately, both PartsBox and users share responsibility for data security.

How can I change my E-mail address or username in PartsBox?

Please contact


Is PartsBox free for makers and hobbyists? What is the business model?

PartsBox offers a free plan for makers and hobbyists. The service generates revenue through paid plans, which are well-suited for companies engaged in prototyping, electronics labs, research labs, and small to medium scale electronics production (contract manufacturers). The income from these paid plans ensures the ongoing development and maintenance of PartsBox.

How can I request a new feature in PartsBox?

To request a new feature, please use the suggestion/feedback form provided. When submitting your request, please specify if the lack of this feature is a "showstopper" that prevents you from using PartsBox entirely. Additionally, if the requested feature would provide significant value to you, please indicate whether you would be willing to upgrade to a paid plan to access it.

Why isn't feature X included in the free plan?

Developing and maintaining software requires significant resources, including hardware, energy, and labor costs. As a business, PartsBox aims to be financially sustainable and stable over the long term in order to continue providing a reliable service to its users.

To achieve this, PartsBox offers different subscription plans. The free plan is designed to provide hobbyists and makers with all the essential features they need to manage their electronic parts inventory effectively. One exception is the in-browser barcode scanning feature using a computer's camera. Due to the high per-user licensing costs associated with this technology, it is not feasible to include it in the free plan. However, PartsBox strives to make the most useful features accessible to all users while ensuring the long-term viability of the service.

Long-Term Viability and Data Security

A common concern when adopting new software, especially from smaller companies, is long-term viability. Will the software still be supported and maintained in the future? It's a valid question, given the high failure rate of tech startups. While no absolute guarantees can be made, here are some key points about PartsBox:

  • PartsBox is designed for low-cost maintenance. The architecture is primarily client-side, minimizing server support requirements for the free tier. This reduces operational costs and increases sustainability.
  • PartsBox is a profitable business, not a venture capital-funded startup operating at a loss. Profitability contributes to long-term stability and reduces the risk of sudden shutdown due to lack of funding.
  • PartsBox is a long-term, stable project, not a short-term venture. The focus is on building a reliable, lasting solution.

That said, the future is always uncertain. As a founder, I aim to be transparent and avoid making promises I can't keep. I can only share my current intentions.

One promise I do make is that your data will never be held hostage. Data export functionality is and will continue to be maintained, ensuring you can retrieve your data at any time. This commitment to data portability provides peace of mind and flexibility.

In summary, while no company can guarantee its future, PartsBox is structured for long-term sustainability and is committed to data security and accessibility.

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