Designing anything these days is complex. There are just so many things to think about and keep track of. Some things cannot be made easier, but there are other aspects of the design process that can be easily improved and make all of our lives a lot easier.
Consider the folks at Opal Kelly. They make a wide range of USB-FPGA modules that can greatly reduce one's development costs, time to market, and risk. Suppose you are building a really awesome computer vision system, for example, and you want to pre-process the image data before uploading it to a host PC. All of your "secret squirrel sauce" is in the main system. The last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time dorking around with the USB interface. The solution is to add one of Opal Kelly's modules to your main board, and to use their FrontPanel SDK to build your application and make communication with the host PC simple and easy.
The thing is that Opal Kelly makes a lot of different modules, and each module has a lot of pins. Until now, each module had an associated "Pins" document presented as a large PDF file. Although these documents are useful, you spend a lot of time wading through all the data searching for the current pins of interest.
This explains why the folks at Opal Kelly have just announced their Pins application -- a new online reference tool that replaces PDF and text-based references for their module pinouts with an interactive browser-based tool. This tool makes it much easier for designers to integrate Opal Kelly modules into their designs.
The Pins application is really very useful. For example, you can apply a variety of high-level filters so that you can focus in on things like I/O banks, and/or power pins, and/or ground pins, etc.
You can also use a wide range of sub filters. In the case of power, for example, you can filter on the various voltage levels as illustrated below:
The resulting presentation makes use of color and graphical icons to help the reader quickly hone in on the pins of interest as illustrated below:
Now, your knee-jerk reaction is that this application may seem obvious. In a way it is, which then leads us to question why so few other companies provide this sort of tool. The bottom line is that if you are using Opal Kelly modules in your designs then the Pins application is going to make your life much easier. How many times can someone say that (and mean it)?
Pins is available now as a free online service. Click here for more information.
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting