Simple, affordable connection diagram software?

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by PeterFarleyIII, Jul 6, 2006.

  1. PeterFarleyIII

    PeterFarleyIII Auditioning

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    Hi All,

    Just bought my first LCD TV (not, I must admit, HT sized, only 32", but I have a small space). However, my question is about software to help me diagram and record the connections among my various pieces of equipment, including my new TV.

    I have searched for and read other posts on this subject, here and on some other boards, and the choices seem to be limited to "hand draw" and $5000+ CAD software. After investigating the CAD software out there, it seems to me that none of them has any interest in truly "home" equipment, i.e., non-rackmount boxes that ordinary mortals like me buy. At least, none I have found so far.

    QCad shows some promise in the reasonable cost area, but their available shape library does not seem to include any A/V equipment. Others might have what I am looking for, but much of their literature seems to be aimed at professional installers of high-end rackmount gear. The lack of prices on the websites tells me they are probably not in the "reasonable" or "affordable" range for a novice home user like me. (No CAD experience at all.)

    One post suggested Visio, but a check of that software on my employer's system shows no audio component shapes, so once again it is "draw it yourself", albeit with more neatness than T-square, compass and pencil.

    I know this stuff is probably simple once you know all the ins and outs, but it sure would help to have a visual tool to aid in comprehension. Not to mention a printed record of what the heck you did.

    So, does anyone know of a software product that a novice could use and afford?

    TIA for any info or links you can provide.

    Peter

    P.S. -- My equipment list (humble though it is)

    Scientific Atlanta 8300HD STB (Time Warner Cable)
    JVC A/V receiver (5.1CH, DTS/Dolby Digital, 120W/ch)
    Sony DVD recorder/VHS combo box
    Sony DVD player
    Sharp Aquos 32" LCD TV
    RadioShack 2.4Ghz Video Transmitter (for TV in another part of the house)
    RadioShack A/V distributor (5 inputs, 2 outputs, RCA/S-video/Digital Audio)
    Super Nintendo Game system (yeah, the 16-bit hardware - A/V,S-video out)
     
  2. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Hi Peter, welcome to the Forum!

    I’m not sure a simple system like yours justifies the expense of a software-diagramming program, even if it’s really cheap. It’s not hard to do a drawing in Word, or even better, PowerPoint (which is what I used). Heck, in the time you spent digging around all the Forums and Google researching this, you could have already finished it. [​IMG]

    Another alternative might be simply labeling all your cabling. That way you know where everything connects if you ever have to take it apart.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  3. chuckg

    chuckg Supporting Actor

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    Take pictures of the back sides of your equipment with a digital camera, incorporate them into Word or some cheap paint program to draw connections.

    I diagrammed an entire computer circuit card that way, and followed it exactly while doing the wire wrap to build the real thing.
     
  4. PeterFarleyIII

    PeterFarleyIII Auditioning

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    Always, but figuring out how to best connect everything (i.e., what-if connection scenarios when there is more than one way to do it) is also an issue. That's where I hoped a software connection tool would help.

    Thanks anyway for the advice.

    Peter
     
  5. PeterFarleyIII

    PeterFarleyIII Auditioning

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    That is an excellent idea. Despite my trepedation about using drawing programs, at least I would have my actual connection points shown.

    Thanks!

    Peter
     
  6. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    Check your manuals. They often have a sketch of the back-panel. Scan in the sketch of:

    - The reciever and DVD player
    - The reciever and the DVD Recorder
    - The reciever and the STB
    - The reciever and the Game systems
    - The reciever and the TV
    ...etc

    Do you see - split the drawings up so you only focus on 1 device. The reciever is usually the center of things, but you could have each page focus on 1 device to show how it is connected to things.

    This would be multiple pages -but trying to draw EVERY connection on 1 page would be too confusing.

    Hope this helps.

    PS: There is a way that sometimes helps the wiring. Here is my usual technique:

    - Put the reciever on the lowest possible shelf. This allows all the speaker wires to flow out and away from things so they dont hide things.

    - Put devices above the reciever that you NEVER TOUCH to operate. This can be the CATV box, the SAT reciever, etc.

    - Above these - put the devices you touch to use (DVD player, Game systems, VCR, CD Player).

    - At the back, see which side most of the box's have their power cords coming out. Put a power strip on this side of your rack and run all the power cords to that side and down in a bundle. Hint: Label the power cords on BOTH ends A, B, C...

    At this point you should have a clean, empty back of your equipment for all the interconnects. Now you can start hooking things up and making your drawings.

    It should be obvious, but you first connect the device 1-shelf above the reciever, then test. Then hook up the device 2 shelves above the receiver, then test. Repeat until everything is hooked up and working.

    Leave the interconnects loose down the back of the rack. If you must bundle your wires, just do it at some points with velcro ties, but not tightly.
     
  7. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    There’s nothing to it, Peter. If I can figure it out, anyone can – I’m a computer illiterate! Actually, you can do it in Word, which is probably easier than PowerPoint.

    Activate the “Drawing” toolbar, and next to “Autoshapes” you can see some options – “Text box,” “Oval,” and “Rectangle.” Once you click on one you can drop it onto the page and stretch it to the size and shape you want. I’d start with a text box, so you can put in a label like “DVD” or “Receiver.” You can even make the Text box actually resemble your component by adding rectangles. You can re-size, re-shape and position additional rectangles as the display window, control buttons, etc. The “Ovals” can be re-shaped and sized as circles, if your component has any knobs. Everything you add to the original “Text box” to make it resemble the component can be “Grouped” as a single unit, so you can move it around the page where you want it to be.

    If you click on “Line” you can draw lines between the components to show the connections. Better yet, you can use the “Arrow” to show signal flow. You can utilize the “Line color” function to change the color of the lines or arrows, to show say, video connections, audio connections, etc.

    When a box or line is highlighted (i.e., the little squares showing at the corners) you can double click on it and get a window with other options, like settings for the weight (thickness) of the lines, and other options.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  8. PeterFarleyIII

    PeterFarleyIII Auditioning

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    Thanks! Both for the scan idea and for the connection ordering advice! Both are quite helpful.

    And I really like the velcro for signal wire bundling idea. That gave me one of those Homer Simpson moments (Doh!).

    Regards,

    Peter
     
  9. PeterFarleyIII

    PeterFarleyIII Auditioning

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    Well, it might indeed be that easy, but it was the backs of the equipment I wanted, not the fronts. OTOH, what are connection points but circles inside boxes inside a larger box (for the most part, anyway -- HDMI and USB excluded)?

    Thanks for the advice. I may give it a try after all.

    Peter
     
  10. jeff_c

    jeff_c Auditioning

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  11. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    You can often get images of your hardware from the manufacturer's website or online catalogs, like Crutchfield.
     

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