• Michael Maassel
    Good day.
    I am a professor at a university and I teach the capstone courses. One of the areas that I struggle with is getting the students to document their work. Currently I am requiring them to use a quad-lined notebook.

    I am just wondering what is the method(s) used by engineers in the workplace. Here are some examples that I have heard about
    a) quad-line notebook
    b) computer software (which one)
    c) tablet app (which one)
    d) smart phone app (which one)

    Thank you very much for your time and help.
  • UnknownEditor
    Back in the day, companies would provide design notebooks, and even encourage engineers to have witnesses sign pages that revealed new designs (for consideration in patents). Some changes in patent law probably caused the death of that practice. I still like drawing with a #2 pencil on Ampad Quadrille paper. Like on this page


    It seems archaic that people actually write stuff down, but I still do. Sad to admit this but I write on the nearest scrap of paper, like an opened envelope... if it is important I will enter it somewhere in computerland. If it sits around long enough I will forget what I was thinking and it will be thrown away. My handwriting is so poor I often cannot make out what I was thinking!

    Most engineers don't use tablets, because they need to carry around a laptop to process data.

    I have no real expertise in apps, but sharepoint (word, powerpoint), google docs, helpdesk... there are many ways to document designs. Collaborative tools help speed up the design process but are open to malicious intent or accidental misuse, or VPN issues. There is an entire cottage industry that will tell you what the best process is, even though the proponents have never designed anything useful in their lives.

    I would be interested in hearing from other people on this topic.

  • Hadrien Theveneau
    It depends:

    * I always put annotations in my schematics, as text, and even images

    * Lot of words documents in my project folder.

    * Excel as soon as I mix numbers/calculations/explanations.

    * Notepad++ (text files) for small content.

    Keep it simple and convenient for success.

  • Gary Baker
    I use Microsoft OneNote.
    I collect all the data in excel so I can manipulate it as needed.
    If your using a LabView program you can attach the Vi’s.
    I will take photos with my camera.
    I’ll save Oscilloscope, Network Analyzer, Spectrum Analyzer, etc. screen shots.
    I put all this in OneNote. You can add the manufactures data sheets, web links, and whatever.
    You end up with a story book of your project.
  • Michael Maassel
    Good day.
    Thank you for your comments.

    I question that I forgot to ask is "How to you document software?"

    I usually tell my students to put documentation into their code. But how should they document it in their lab notebooks? In the past (with very limited success) I have them put a flowchart in the lab notebook and then reference this flowchart to the code.

    Thank you for your time and help.
  • madengr
    I use MS Word, just copy and paste stuff from Microwave Office, and paste in photos from a pocket camera. I use the Testwave software (within MWO) heavily in the lab. Each project has it's own document; nothing shared like a lab notebook. This is more for my own purposes than any patent stuff, because invariable I'll have to dig up something a year later, and I can't remember how I did it. It's easy to give the report to customers too.
  • Justin Magers
    I've been documenting a lot with Jupyter notebook because it uses simple markdown (so it does simple formatting and images). It also executes code -- for example, I find myself plotting s-parameters using scikit-rf a lot. It can be exported to a single HTML document for sharing with others.
  • Michael Maassel
    Good day.

    I have another question - what ways do engineers handle documentation when working remotely?

    For example: 1 engineer is in the United States and the other engineer is in the United Kingdom. How is information moved between the two engineers (or the two sites)?

    With the pandemic, alot of the senior design students are working remotely from their advisor and from the rest of their design group.

    I am looking for ideas about how this could be handled.

    Thank you all for your time and suggestions.
  • madengr
    I can tell you what not use use; MS OneDrive. It would work great IF they added a .gitignore type feature to prevent syncing of files or folders. Despite requests from thousands of users, they have not implemented it. One Drive works well for backing up work, but say you have a project folder with GB of 3D EM data cache, it will attempt to back that up. So what I'm having to do is keep my working projects outside of "My Documents", then remember to copy them in periodically for backup. That defeats the purpose of having a cloud backup.
  • jdm

    Thank you for the initiative here: in my university we did not hear a single word how to properly document during the development process, but I think this is very important for all engineers.

    it really extremely depends the type of documentation. I am working for an international company with big team size and working across timezones.

    To document development process, we heavily depend on note-taking applications where you can enter formatted text, tables, figures, equations. input normally comes from many different sources, like simulation results, measurement results. You can easily document meeting minutes and timelines a hypothesis for something, give, Action Items, etc etc.
    The notes are stored on the cloud and accessed anywhere, from laptop, tablet, smartphone.
    Examples are Quip, Evernote, OneNote, and there are many other tools out there.

    If the document is more result-oriented than process oriented, we heavily powerpoint or keynote. These tools are also great to document figures, easily draw and add text and equations. As the results in many cases are anyway discussed with other colleagues in a web-conference, this is already a good preparation for the discussion and the upcoming meeting. The slides help the author focus on one key point per slide. And as we know, figures often are more descriptive than plain text, anyway.

    I was holding a university course in the past, where the students had to design some RF circuits. They where asked to document their design from the beginning with OpenOffice Impress, as they had to present the final result and final circuit to the group.
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