Buttons and switches are among the most basic, and sometimes necessary, parts in an electronics project. They provide you with the means to interact with your code to display data on screens, turn on an LED, run a script, reset your board and more. Switches don’t require any fancy equations to evaluate – all they do is select between an open circuit and a short circuit. Simple. If HAL 9000 had had a single off switch, it would have made a lot of things easier!
Over the years, we’ve offered both common and unique buttons and switches in our catalog. Each and every one of the components we’ve offered, from momentary to maintained, SPST to DPDT, has usually been associated with a build, project or tutorial. You’d be hard pressed to find a design that doesn’t include a button or a switch in one way or another. Heck, a button was even one of our first products and we still offer it!
In today’s post, we are going to focus on a few of our favorite buttons and switches, as well as some tutorials and projects that include them!
The easiest way to start using a button is without any soldering required – that means you should be using a breadboard. By simply bending the leads of these push-buttons, they can easily be used to test a circuit or plan a project.
These concave buttons are the same ones found in a majority of American arcade cabinets (fun fact: Japanese arcade cabinets tend to use convex or domed buttons). We even use them in our PiRetrocade and micro:arcade kits.
Do you need a comically large button to illustrate the end of the world? These 100 mm diameter buttons are a perfect option to add that extra “oomph” to drive the point home when you need to make a big, illuminated statement!
This is a perfect choice if you are in need of a heavy duty push button! These metal push buttons are tough, small, panel-mount momentary or latching switches with an illuminated red LED ring. We’ve used these in control panels and kill-switches for autonomous robotics.
If you need an easier way to complete a circuit or have a breakout that has the IC units, resistors and capacitors already incorporated, our Qwiic Buttons are an easy way to interact with your project. Of course if you want to have a large installation of illuminated buttons (we made a Tetris wall-mounted art piece back in the day that’s still on display at SparkFun HQ), we also offer two version to get you started!
The last section of buttons that we want to cover are keypads. Keypads allow you to create simple groups of inputs without needing to worry about wiring if they are already assembled, or allow you to fully customize what you want your set-up to be if they aren’t!
Let’s look at the basics: You need to turn something on or off, you need to complete or interrupt a circuit, or you just need to exert general control over your project. These are just some of the options for you!
To be fair, rocker switches aren’t too dissimilar from the normal “slide switches” you see above, but these provide you with a more appealing and manageble surface mount option, especially when trying to make a complete and enclosed project. Switches like these can be found on our RTK Surveyor!
Toggle switches are a pretty unique form of circuit component due to their lever actuators, which swing back and forth to open or close a circuit. We carry multiple types of this type of switch, and they look really nice on an enclosed project if you need to make a big deal about whether or not something is on.
If you’ve played a video game on a console within the last few years, you’ve more than likely used a joystick. Unlike normal switches, joysticks allow you to control movements of sprites on a screen, robots in the field, or a cursor in a menu thanks to multiple potentiometers inside the joystick itself!
The last switch we’ll cover today are Reed Switches. When the switch is exposed to a magnetic field, the two ferrous materials inside pull together and the circuit closes. When the magnetic field is removed, the reeds separate and the circuit opens. This makes for a great non-contact option if you want to know when something physically opens or closes, or gets too close to a sensitive instrument.
Tutorials and projects
If you are going to start using buttons or switches, we highly recommend checking out our Button and Switch Basics Tutorial. Here we explain the difference between momentary and maintained switches, what all those acronyms (NO, NC, SPDT, SPST, …) stand for, and more.
Of course, you may already be (and most likely are) familiar with how to use switches and buttons, so why not check out some of these other tutorials and blogs to get some new ideas, or improve a current one!
Reed Switch Hookup Guide
Button Pad Hookup Guide
Getting Started with the 8BitDo Bluetooth GamePads
How to Build a Remote Kill Switch
Hazardous Gas Monitor
Proto Pedal Assembly and Theory Guide
Adding a Timed Button to a Project
Displaying Your Coordinates with a GPS Module
GPS Geo-Mapping at the Push of a Button
Endless Runner Game
LilyPad Buttons and Switches
Build a Qwiic Jukebox that is Toddler Approved!
Processor Interrupts with Arduino
Keyboard Shortcut, Qwiic Keypad
LED Gumball Machine
Using Home Assistant to Expand Your Home Automations
Wireless RC Robot with Arduino and XBees
Thumb Joystick Hookup Guide
Qwiic Joystick Hookup Guide
Raspberry Pi Safe Reboot and Shutdown Button
Basic Servo Control for Beginners
And that’s everything! Well… not everything, but it’s a lot! Buttons and switches are a mainstay to every product and we hope you have more information and data to use in your next build. Let us know what your favorite to button to use in the comments below and we’ll see you next time!