Which software for PCB CAD design do you prefer? Which software do you use for your projects?

Thread Starter

gonsos

Joined May 14, 2019
6
I have always used Eagle for my designs because it is free, well supported and nice UI. Recently I received a design in Kidcad which I tried to export to Eagle but I was unable to do so. Then I thought, hey! why not using Altium, because I see that most of the job offers for Hardware design as for Altium as main software.
I can say that Eagle is very user-friendly and I really like it but it is not open source as Kicad. HOWEVER, Altium is very nice-looking, but not only this, of course. The 3Dtool, the schematics are also better managed than Eagle but I am worried about the open-source thing while I want to use an extended software. As you see this is a kind of inner fight and I want to show up the debate to receive your feedback!
From you point of view, which is the best software for PCB design? And why do you recommend it?
 

Thread Starter

gonsos

Joined May 14, 2019
6
Fair enough. I guess that you use it for working. Is it powerful for large scale pcb projects with multilayer or large number of components? Cause Eagle worked pretty fine. Anyway, why everybody talk about altium as main software for pcb design?

KiCad, A few reasons, open source (see Free).
Large development team. http://blog.snapeda.com/2019/10/28/an-interview-with-wayne-stambaugh-of-kicad/
Many tutorials, both Kicad and users.
Forum moderated by developers.
Does the job for me.
Max.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
10,525
Eagle was the third free schematic editor I tried. It was, and still is, sufficient for my needs. I'm using a 4.x version. Don't like most of the changes they made in the newer versions. Was using some V7.x version on my laptop; then it occurred to me that I could install the old version.
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
9,113
I have used Eagle since 3.x and currently use 7.2 as my go to. Once in a blue moon, I will fire up 7.7 as it labels the traces. That happened recently when I was swapping nets around on a device and couldn't keep track of which trace was which net. Maybe that was due to the headache I had at the time. Otherwise, I am quite happy with version 7.x.

The main thing I do not like is the poor support for drawing packages. When you want to be accurate, you are pretty much left to using the command line, grid changes, or the information button. For something like slots, complex devices, or a board outline that need to fit something else, I do it first in a CAD program, export as a DXF, and then import the DXF into Eagle. It is easy to trace over the lines or change their layers as appropriate and saves lots of time.
 

PaulNewf

Joined Mar 24, 2020
10
DipTrace.
- Cost totally reasonable (zero for small designs, not much even for unlimited)
- Intuitive (I started using it again after years and all came back, while for other packages I had to refer to docs after only a short while away)
- Easy to design own library parts/footprints, no dependence on outside sources, though you can import if you wish.
Paul
 

ronsimpson

Joined Oct 7, 2019
613
I have used Eagle for years. Have payed money for version 3, 4 and 5. I stopped updating when AutoCad changed to "renting software by the year".
I started with KiCAD this month and just sent my first board out. Will send the next board out this week. It is clear that the KiCAD people used Eagle years ago.
All CAD programs have some strangeness.
If you have a friend that can help you get going then use their cad program. It is hard to get help with out friends.
I found the KiCAD forums very helpful. The manual is not good and not up to date.
On all CAD systems watch out for you-tube help. Some are years old and are back 1 or 2 versions and of little help. Bus videos that are recent can be of great help. Look for the date and what version of software.
There are many here that can help with DipTrace, Eagle and KiCAD.
 

Thread Starter

gonsos

Joined May 14, 2019
6
Thanks for you opinion! I am going to give a try to kicad now that I understood Altium. The issue here is that most of the job offers ask for Altium and I don't know why because I guess it must be with the licenses thing. Thank you very much!

I have used Eagle for years. Have payed money for version 3, 4 and 5. I stopped updating when AutoCad changed to "renting software by the year".
I started with KiCAD this month and just sent my first board out. Will send the next board out this week. It is clear that the KiCAD people used Eagle years ago.
All CAD programs have some strangeness.
If you have a friend that can help you get going then use their cad program. It is hard to get help with out friends.
I found the KiCAD forums very helpful. The manual is not good and not up to date.
On all CAD systems watch out for you-tube help. Some are years old and are back 1 or 2 versions and of little help. Bus videos that are recent can be of great help. Look for the date and what version of software.
There are many here that can help with DipTrace, Eagle and KiCAD.
 

lyleleverich

Joined Apr 2, 2019
18
I found ExpressPCB and ExpressSCH worked best when I wanted to do a small board with maybe 50 components. I had tried ones that took a schematic and claimed to automatically do a board layout and they all failed. This one allows you to place the components and highlights the nets. They have 2 or 4 layer, with or without solder masks. It generates a BOM and you can order boards directly from the software. The component library is decent, so not many "custom" thing need be made.
 

Thread Starter

gonsos

Joined May 14, 2019
6
I found ExpressPCB and ExpressSCH worked best when I wanted to do a small board with maybe 50 components. I had tried ones that took a schematic and claimed to automatically do a board layout and they all failed. This one allows you to place the components and highlights the nets. They have 2 or 4 layer, with or without solder masks. It generates a BOM and you can order boards directly from the software. The component library is decent, so not many "custom" thing need be made.
Thanks for the answer! I will consider it as well.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
10,525
ExpressPCB was one of the first programs I tried. I found it lacking and switched. I think the other program I tried was similar sounding; maybe PCBexpress.
 

jeffl_2

Joined Sep 17, 2013
9
OK I "cut my teeth" PCB-wise on an old package called Circuitmaker(schematic)/Traxmaker(PCB) which did the job OK but by modern standards it was pretty limited. I'm intrigued that nobody here is talking specifically about the autorouter, that old package had one which worked OK for 2 layer boards but it really wouldn't allocate many traces to a third or higher layer unless those first two layers were power-only, it was a "Manhattan-style" router. Now KiCAD has a terrific "shove" or "rip and reroute" router, technically it's not "part of the package" but actually it integrates pretty well. I had four projects (each 2 layer) under the old package that I upgraded to KiCAD and there weren't many problems at all. Under the old package I could always count on open part and schematic libraries, the KiCAD libraries are open too but the libraries supplied are much larger, the parts content is "a little" Eurocentric but in all cases if I hadn't bought a specific part already I was able to find a "near-equivalent" already in KiCAD, I haven't even needed to create any part outlines yet but I believe it isn't too hard. The only issue with the router is it's a tiny bit "finicky" since the board outline has to be EXACTLY closed in order for the routing to proceed so you have to watch out for that, I think it takes a little more time for the router to finish but with the old package you had to have really great parts placement to get the router to even complete, with the KiCAD router it has to be almost impossible to "stump" it and the results are MUCH better. Also the old package was "mils only" but KiCAD will do English or metric, also with KiCAD you can place parts at any angle whereas in the old package you were restricted to the major axes. Now my PCBs are majority through-hole but KiCAD's libraries are very modern and there are no limitations in that regard either way. I tend to have fairly elaborate board outlines but I'd say unless I'm using some obscure part outine that I'd need to make, when I get the board outline and manual parts placement done in KiCAD the work is about half complete. I'm really impressed with it and distributors are starting to offer KiCAD-complatible libraries for new parts online which is wonderful, I really like this package!
 

mikewax

Joined Apr 11, 2016
139
the nice thing about eagle is integration with Fusion 360. You can turn your PCB into a CAD model. this can be very handy at times. And OSHPark can directly import eagle (and only eagle) PCB files. that's real nice. If ya don't have eagle you gotta use gerber format at OSHPark. The not-so-good thing about eagle is their part libraries. creating/editing/adding parts is not easy.
In a perfect world i could use an easier editing/routing software to make the schematic and PCB, then import the PCB into eagle. Anything to take some of the gruntwork out of it.

does anybody know if either KiCad, diptrace, or expressPCB can export into eagle?
 

Thread Starter

gonsos

Joined May 14, 2019
6
the nice thing about eagle is integration with Fusion 360. You can turn your PCB into a CAD model. this can be very handy at times. And OSHPark can directly import eagle (and only eagle) PCB files. that's real nice. If ya don't have eagle you gotta use gerber format at OSHPark. The not-so-good thing about eagle is their part libraries. creating/editing/adding parts is not easy.
In a perfect world i could use an easier editing/routing software to make the schematic and PCB, then import the PCB into eagle. Anything to take some of the gruntwork out of it.

does anybody know if either KiCad, diptrace, or expressPCB can export into eagle?
I know that Kicad has a pretty big community and some people are working on converters ut nothing official. I have this project in the stack to read but I never find the time to do so (https://github.com/ljmljz/schematic-file-converter). But it seems that the community is very divided and every company generates their extensions.... always that economic interest.
 

mikewax

Joined Apr 11, 2016
139
well i never knew about that. It's called Upverter (no relation to UpVerter by Altium) and it looks like it died about 4 years ago. Great idea but i don't see how it could be accomplished. Even if they had enough guys to do the coding it's just too easy for the software companies to break it soon as they find out.
So after searchin around it seems that only dipTrace can export to Eagle. And it can do routing too, so i'm gonna try that.
thanx
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
6,339
I used ExpressPCB for a long time. But it restricts you to their PCB manufacturing service. I tried others, Eagle, KiCad and DipTrace. But, including generating Gerber files, I found DipTrace the easiest to learn and use.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
7,184
Still using Eagle 9.6.0 for Linux 64-bit.
The latest PCB project is a dual pic32mk processor (shared memory using the PMP port) board for the RIOTOS. Moving a port I did for the pic32mzef to a motor control platform.
 
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