When designing electrical circuits engineers use a diagram to model the circuit that consists out of the electronic components in form of symbols. Such a diagram is known as a “circuit diagram,” and there are two basic styles.
The first—and easiest to read for the layperson—is a pictorial diagram. In a pictorial diagram, components of the circuit, like batteries, resistors, and voltmeters, are indicated by detailed drawings that accurately depict the components. The battery is represented by a drawing of a battery, the voltmeter by a drawing of a voltmeter, and so on.
Of course, drawing a voltmeter or a battery on every circuit diagram is neither practical nor necessary for professionals, who deal frequently with these diagrams. So rather than pictorial circuit diagrams, professionals mostly deal with what are known as “schematic diagrams.” These use circuit symbols to represent the parts of the circuit. There is a standardized symbol for a battery, a resistor, and capacitor, and so forth. The symbols are quick and easy to draw, and convey the same information as more detailed drawings.
Within a circuit, it’s possible to have many different components—batteries, inductors, and capacitors being just a few of them. Each of these components has its own circuit symbol. In the other articlesis an overview of the most common circuit symbols, with a description of each circuit symbol and an explanation of what it means.