Need Recommendation for Best Schematic/PCB software

BobaMosfet

Joined Jul 1, 2009
1,776
Hi all-

I did a search on forums, but found most of the threads were older than might be considered useful. I know there are a lot of choices, but I don't have the personal resource right now to simply start trying them all. I rely on the collective wisdom of those here, to help, instead--

I have been using ExpressSCH/PCB for some years to do schematic and PCB design. However, their latest version no longer supports netlist linking, which I consider a requirement for checking that a PCB matches the schematic. The software has been relatively easy to use, and allows several layers in a PCB, and multiple sheets for schematic designs (so I can break up power .v. motherboard .v. other sub-circuits, etc.

But to be honest, because of the vendor lack of support at this stage, I'm ready to graduate to something more 'professional', but I

• Don't want an annual license
• Don't want an exhorbitant inititial cost (although I'm willing to pay quite a bit for a one-time lifetime charge)
• Don't want a steep learning curve or complex config/customization requirement to get it installed & working

I do

• Want to be able to design schematics, and custom components if not able to find a library of components
• Want to be able to design pcbs and link the netlist so I can hover over a via in a PCB design and see all other vias it's connected to
• Want to be able to generate gerber files
• Want it to be able to run on Windows 7 (I like linux and use it every day, but my skill is limited primarily to the lampp stack)

BobaMosfet

Joined Jul 1, 2009
1,776
I find it hard to believe that ExpressPCB would eliminate linking of schematic and board and the checking that allows.

I used to use and and found it to be, by far, the easiest to use. But need for geber files ended that marriage.

I then went to Eagle and found it ridiculously hard to use. Creating new components and footprints, particularly.

I tried Kicad and another free package I can’t remember the name of, and again found them both counterintuitive and difficult compared to ExpressPCB.

I've been hounding ExpressPCB to add the netlist- linking feature into their new version (I simply don't care what new features it has without netlist linking), I've begged them to let me develop it if necessary (I'd do it for free), but they haven't. Plus, they charge you to get gerber files, so I've decided I'm done messing with it. 2 years of begging them is enough. Not worth the hassle, can get boards made cheaper elsewhere.
So I wrote my own, and now I am happy.

Bob

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
11,088
Do the packages like ExpressSCH, DipTrace, Eagle, etc.. have design rule checking capabilities? In Altium you setup a bunch of design rules and at any point you can run a rule check and it will tell you if there are any errors. Such as traces or pads too close, shorts between nets, trace width by net type (power, logic, ...), etc.. they have defaults and you can create your own. You run these checks before sending off for production to make sure there are no problems. Do the other tools support this?
Eagle definitely has DRC and ERC and you can set your own rules, or in many cases, download the rules for your boardhouse, like Oshpark.

I believe there is still a free version. I have an older, purchased version (.edu discount), and that is what I use.