Need Recommendation for Best Schematic/PCB software

Thread Starter

BobaMosfet

Joined Jul 1, 2009
839
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)

I would be grateful for any recommendations. Be kind... last couple of weeks have been @#$%^-tastic on a level that I'm still struggling with.... :/
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
19,192
My choice for a while has been (Free) KiCad.
I am still running an older version as my work PC is XP professional, and the latest build doesn't run on it.
But still does all the above and all I need.
Many tutorials, both by KiCad and users.
Max.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
2,055
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.

So I wrote my own, and now I am happy.

Bob
 
Take a peek at Target 3000.

You do buy a particular capability list (pins, layers etc)
Your version is customized. It's up to you to RUN one instance at a time. No license codes.
Running under Linux under WINE is possible. Some optional enhancements (especially third party) require Windows.
It offers some reverse engineering tools.
At the end of the year, your offered a discount to upgrade.
 

MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,573
>> Don't want an exhorbitant inititial cost (although I'm willing to pay quite a bit for a one-time lifetime charge)

That part is a bit ambiguous in regards to what "quite a bit" is, but if you have the budget then check out Altium Designer. It has tons of features, and anything with features will have a learning curve, but it works quite well. Price wise if I remember correctly the full license was around $7500, then you have the option of paying ~$1800/yr for maintenance to get updates. They also have a strait annual license but I know you did not want to go that route.
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
5,704
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.

So I wrote my own, and now I am happy.

Bob
I found it difficult to believe that ExpressSCH design check no longer actually checks the design, but only checks the parameters specified for veracity (primarily board size, number of planes and trace weight) and that can be produced by their service.

I found that out the hard way, when a batch of 10 PCBs had a couple traces shorting to the ground plane. They used to check for the specified distance around traces and pads

They did offer to make another 10 PCBs at half-price. (Thanks guys) My beef was they removed a feature without notification.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
2,055
I found it difficult to believe that ExpressSCH design check no longer actually checks the design, but only checks the parameters specified for veracity (primarily board size, number of planes and trace weight) and that can be produced by their service.

I found that out the hard way, when a batch of 10 PCBs had a couple traces shorting to the ground plane. They used to check for the specified distance around traces and pads

They did offer to make another 10 PCBs at half-price. (Thanks guys) My beef was they removed a feature without notification.
I guess they think they will make more money if people send them a lot of bad designs!

anything with features will have a learning curve
Unfortunately, many designers seem to do it that way, but a good design can make the simple things simple without losing the ability to do more complex things.

Bob
 

SLK001

Joined Nov 29, 2011
1,532
I then went to Eagle and found it ridiculously hard to use. Creating new components and footprints, particularly.
If Eagle is hard for you to learn, then most other packages will be too. I found making library parts in Eagle difficult to learn at first, but it was something that I had never done before, so I sucked it up and learned the process. Now it is just as simple as pie and nearly all of my parts were created by me. The later Eagles make library creation relatively easy (I started on the DOS version). I don't care for their update policy, so I stopped updating at version 6.5 (which has all the features you could ask for and more).

So I wrote my own, and now I am happy.
Well then, why are you asking?
 

shortbus

Joined Sep 30, 2009
7,080
If Eagle is hard for you to learn, then most other packages will be too. I found making library parts in Eagle difficult to learn at first, but it was something that I had never done before, so I sucked it up and learned the process. Now it is just as simple as pie and nearly all of my parts were created by me.
For most of the other programs out there I would agree, but not with Diptrace. I had no experience other than trying to work with Eagle, Kicad and many of the others and failing, but Diptrace was easy to figure out.
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
5,704
For most of the other programs out there I would agree, but not with Diptrace. I had no experience other than trying to work with Eagle, Kicad and many of the others and failing, but Diptrace was easy to figure out.
I’ll chime in with another recommendation for DipTrace. Annoyed by ExpressPCB’s high implementation cost, I tried Kicad, Eagle and DipTrace. DipTrace was the easiest to use. I never got the other two to work to my satisfaction.
 

MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,573
I found it difficult to believe that ExpressSCH design check no longer actually checks the design, but only checks the parameters specified for veracity (primarily board size, number of planes and trace weight) and that can be produced by their service.

I found that out the hard way, when a batch of 10 PCBs had a couple traces shorting to the ground plane. They used to check for the specified distance around traces and pads

They did offer to make another 10 PCBs at half-price. (Thanks guys) My beef was they removed a feature without notification.
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?
 

Thread Starter

BobaMosfet

Joined Jul 1, 2009
839
>> Don't want an exhorbitant inititial cost (although I'm willing to pay quite a bit for a one-time lifetime charge)

That part is a bit ambiguous in regards to what "quite a bit" is, but if you have the budget then check out Altium Designer. It has tons of features, and anything with features will have a learning curve, but it works quite well. Price wise if I remember correctly the full license was around $7500, then you have the option of paying ~$1800/yr for maintenance to get updates. They also have a strait annual license but I know you did not want to go that route.
Exhorbitant > $300. Quite a Bit... up to $250-300 for one-time lifetime.
 

Thread Starter

BobaMosfet

Joined Jul 1, 2009
839
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
8,106
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.
 
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