Electronic Design Software Recommendations

Thread Starter


Joined Feb 26, 2017
Hi All,

Over the last couple of years I have been getting back into electronics and am looking at different types of software.
My recent work has included op amps, power amplifiers, Arduino, 555s, CMOS logic, etc

Can I please have your recommendations for free to use electronic design software.
At its most basic I need to draw fairly simple circuits.
At the higher end of things, it would be nice to have some simple simulation capability e.g. virtual probing for voltages and current readings.

So the wish list looks like this (In no particular order):

1. Offline if at all possible (so SW I can install locally) NB: The more I thinks about this point, the more I realise that when I use the SW I will always be online.
2. Free to download and use
3. Library of common components
4. Simulation capability
5. Capability of drafting circuits onto strip board

Any thoughts and suggestions would be most welcome.

Many thanks


Joined Oct 15, 2009
And finally under the control of a company that "may" improve it from its current state.. I hope...

I'd highly recommend Diptrace over Eagle any day at this point in time if you are looking for a schematic/pcb layout program.. Mostly from a usability/ease of use perspective..
I use Diptrace at work and there is very little it can't do well..
Eagle.. No so much.. Eagle from my experience has a steeper learning curve too..I evaluated both fairly heavily and diptrace won hands down.. But Eagle is widely used by hobbyists because its been around longer and was/is free (to a point)..


Joined Oct 29, 2013
We use Altium Designer at work. I'm not the most experienced guy (I'm mostly software but do some layout work on occasion), but so far it seems to do everything we've ever needed. They have a free version online that I've never used, but I think the big limitation is that whatever you make becomes open to the public, but double check me on that. The learning curve is a little steep, but it's really nice to use once you're going.

It has auto routing and all that stuff, but some of the most useful features are the 3D modeling; it's easy to attach 3D models to all of your components, usually by getting the STEP models from the component manufacturer or digikey, etc.., and you can import 3D models like enclosures, either from your mechanical guy or from places like Polycase. Then when you flip to 3D view, you can see exactly how it will all fit together. You can also easily shape your PCB around imported models as well. Also when you have a complicated project, you can open the schematic in one window and the PCB in another (2d or 3d) and click on a component either on the schematic or the layout, and it will highlight the component in the other view. So if you click a resistor or net in the schematic, it will highlight that resistor or trace on the layout. Super handy when reviewing things. Anyway, I really like the pay version, if the free version is similar then I would recommend it.



Joined Jul 18, 2013
I have used Kicad, it is free open source and has multitude of tutorials.
I switched from an old copy of Orcad and found it fairly compatible.
For strip board there is a couple of programs that do lay out, but Kicad does not do the Vero board..


Joined Feb 20, 2016
If you want to really go out on a limb, you too could use McCAD like I do.
Costs a fair bit too, just to make it more attractive ;)
I found it easy to use in its basic functions but I have not had much success using the advanced stuff. One day I may have to read some instructions.
I have been using this for 20+ years and all my boards are made with it.
It a bit Odd, but I have found the others I've tried very hard to drive. It may be that McCAD can be used instinctively, like a lot of Mac based software. My efforts to use the automatic functions make messy boards, like a lot of boards I see published. I like to make the boards look as good as they can so I use it in the fully manual way. Doing this, I loose all the auto layout and correcting functions. I've never learnt how to use them.

So, choose a package that has a good support forum/community. Get one that has a decent free version to play with. (McCAD does have a free version, just very limited in size and layers.)
I'm not recommending McCAD, just to make it clear, even though it really is a good package, just passing on my experience.
Along the same lines, the only 3D package I have managed to figure out is TinkerCAD. All the others I've tried I just cannot get my head around. It is probably the head in question is getting a bit old ;)