Featured image of post Organizing My Desk as an Embedded Engineer

Organizing My Desk as an Embedded Engineer

Managing embedded projects with letter trays

As an embedded dev, my desk is always a mess (and I think the ones of my colleagues, too). Working with real hardware leads straight to a number of boards, additional debuggers, tools, cables and more. And of course, as the most developers, I have a number of work projects and another of private ones. Even worse, I’m working from home for a good share of my time, so both kinds contribute to the mess there. Managing this is a constant effort and fight, but rarely successful.

# The Idea

Some time ago, I saw an interesting approach to handle the hardware project mess in Jay Carlson’s Blog on his home office setup for embedded projects. I liked his idea of using lunch trays and a matching rack a lot, as it helps from my point of view with several pain points:

  • one project per tray
  • no need to disassemble the setup when switching between projects
  • neatly storing projects without mess on the desk
  • easy switching between projects and setups

But for me, lunch trays and the rack are a bit too large. Nevertheless, the idea stuck in my head, so I searched for alternatives and came up with the IKEA letter tray Kvissle. It’s cheap, not that large and space consuming as the lunch tray rack, but the single trays are in general, large enough for my projects. And as a plus, they have a cork inlay. Cork is antistatic, which makes it perfectly suitable for electronics.

# And the Result

A cleaner, more organized desk! And less effort switching between (hardware) projects.

# To Improve

Of course, there are always things to improve, to get the tray solution even more helpful. On my list are:

  • better USB hubs
  • getting more Tigard and Saleae test leads, USB-UART converters and similar tools, so the wiring (and inexpensive tools) can stay per tray while the expensive tools can be moved easily
  • fixating boards and debuggers

On the software side, evaluating Labgrid, a library for automating embedded development and testing, is on top of my list.

# In the End

I’m very happy with the tray approach. It helps me a lot to keep projects, hardware and my desk organized. Meanwhile, I got even letter trays for the office. Besides my, colleagues and especially students use them to store their projects while they are not working, so there are no desks blocked.