Best free PCB design software

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by kevin.khan, Apr 23, 2013.

  1. kevin.khan

    Thread Starter New Member

    Jul 9, 2012
    Hi there,

    I just wanted to get peoples opinions on what is the best, but free, PCB design software available.
    I am looking for one that has the following features:
    -provide at least 6 layers
    -has a schematic editor
    -has a vast library of components, but also with the ability to make your own component.
  2. R!f@@

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 2, 2009
  3. Razeksk

    New Member

    Jun 5, 2012
    Yeah. Eagle works really well. Plus there is a large community for support.
  4. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    As a Mac user, I cast a vote for DipTrace and Eagle. Both are available for Mac and offer free versions that are more than ample for anything I'll use them for.

    I haven't used either of them enough to recommend one over the other, however the tour and tutorial provided with DipTrace is a BIG boost for a newbie. These programs are complex if you're new to them and the learning curve is steep. Those introductory materials are a huge help.
    DickCappels likes this.
  5. tshuck

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 18, 2012
    Free Eagle is limited to 2 layers, if I remember correctly. You may want to go with KiCAD, the learning curve is much steeper than the rest mentioned, but is not a restricted version...
  6. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
    DesignSparkPCB has just about all of the chips that RS Components sells in it plus easy to make your own components. Any size board and any number of pins or pages can be used too. Don't know the layer limit off hand. Plus Gerber files too.
  7. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    Kicad is completely free, without any limitation (as far as board size or layer count), forums exist (though mostly people ask for footprints) (like most PCB forums) (learn how to make em yourself people!).

    There is an online autorouter that plays well with this (and others too). Nice for the price but damn slow.
  8. geoffers

    Senior Member

    Oct 25, 2010
    I'm no expert but do use Design Spark a fair bit, took a while to get the hang of but the online tutorials are good, its completly free, and they keep updating it. Goes up to 14 or 16 layers I think??? I've used it to make my own boards and exported Gerber files to get some made for me.
    Good luck, Geoff
    shortbus likes this.
  9. John P

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 14, 2008
    Forget Eagle. It's a commercial program with a minuscule free version to entice you.

    I always recomment FreePCB, but it lacks one component you wanted, namely the schematic editor; you have to generate a netlist from some other program in order to use it. It uses the same autorouter that Ernie mentioned--you can find people who aren't satisfied with that, but we both like it (and we both think it's slow, but you don't have to sit there and watch it run).
    Meixner likes this.
  10. jm-a

    Active Member

    Oct 20, 2010
  11. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    Eagle is garbage..
    Anyone who thinks its the best more than likely hasn't used anything else
    absf and shortbus like this.
  12. Mark IV

    New Member

    Oct 1, 2013
    What is the reason why Kicad is not the standard pcb design software for open hardware?
  13. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
    Same reason chocolate isn't the standard ice cream flavor.:D
    GopherT and absf like this.
  14. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    Mainly because Eagle has many many supporters such as remon:

    (Obviously he has not defined "obviously.")

    I've used some high end expensive capture/layout packages (Cadence with 24/7 tech support) but for my personal work I use Kicad. It is very comparable in how it works and what it does. I've even used it on some job shopping work I've done.

    It is a very stable dependable system with very few quirks, and the quirks I speak of are due more to MY quirks then those of the software.
  15. sirch2

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 21, 2013
    I think saying that Eagle is garbage is a bit harsh but I guess that this is probably a reaction to remon7 saying that it's the best.

    It is perfectly possible to use Eagle to create double sided PCBs and it does have fairly extensive libraries but it does have a few quirks and a steep learing curve (but then don't they all?).
  16. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    Well... the second package you use is always lots easier then the first one. :eek:
  17. sirch2

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 21, 2013
    I'm not so sure, lots of people seem to hate to change from one software package to another - there always seems to be some nice to have features that are missig from the second package.

    I can still remember that the first word processor I used had a nice feature to togggle the case of the current letter and move on one, so holding down Ctrl+whatever would up-case or down-case as much as you wanted. 30 years later I remember the feature but can't remember the name of the software! Of course all these new-fangled Wordprocessors are poor by comparison :)
  18. slipfoil

    New Member

    Sep 19, 2014
  19. ISB123

    Well-Known Member

    May 21, 2014
    Looks nice and interesting to the eyes:rolleyes:.
  20. DickCappels


    Aug 21, 2008
    Just want to add a vote for FreePCB. It was easy to started with and have used it on several projects. I will be looking at the other PC design programs mentioned in this thread.