Your PCB design software choice ....

Thread Starter

daba1955

Joined Apr 27, 2019
85
What software do you all use for PCB design ?

I have used FreePCB for many years, as its name suggests it is an open-source program under the GNU General Public License, and it does pretty much everything I want it to do. I'm sure there's things it cannot do, but thankfully not come up against an obstacle yet that can't be gotten around with some trickery. One thing it is not particularly good at is designs that have mixed units, e.g. trying to route a part whose pins lie on a mm grid, onto a board that has conventional mil grids. Some amount of routing part way from one pin, cancelling, then routing back from the other pin to the partially routed trace is needed to keep the traces straight and aesthetically pleasing.

I have briefly looked at others, e.g Eagle, KiCAD, etc., and found them by comparison, difficult to learn. When I first got FreePCB I dived straight in, designed my first board in about an hour, and not really looked back since, it really is easy to use.

As it is not supported anymore, I suppose at some point I will have to bite the bullet and migrate to another software, just wondering who gets most votes.
 

narkeleptk

Joined Mar 11, 2019
388
I do not do a lot or anything complex but I always use Kicad. Takes an hour or so to get used to. Once you learn the keyboard shortcuts you can work pretty fast.
 

Berzerker

Joined Jul 29, 2018
549
Not knowing anything about putting electronic components together when I joined I downloaded Diptrace and Eagle. Found Diptrace pretty easy to learn even for me. Just designed my first ever PCB and they will arrive tomorrow and I can start putting things together and watch it blow up.
@BobTPH
BobTPH said:
I hated every one I tried, so I wrote my own, which I call BobCAD. I use it exclusively now.

Bob
You might want to re-name your software! There is a program that CNC / CAM designers / programmers use with that name already.

https://bobcad.com/bobcad-cam-releases-new-version-31-cad-cam-software/
 

Thread Starter

daba1955

Joined Apr 27, 2019
85
Thanks for the comments people, and thanks to whoever corrected my spelling mistake in the thread title. I couldn't find a way to edit that, so left it.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
19,671
I found Kicad does about as much as Orcad for me.
There is a multitude of tutorials out there.
I liked the ones by Niklas Wennerstrand.
Max.
 

bwilliams60

Joined Nov 18, 2012
1,245
Kicad is a very useful piece of design software. I found it easy to adapt to and the guys on the forum are more than helpful. Easy to get from design to board or gerber file. I haven't found any other design software this easy and lots of great tutorials on Youtube as Max mentioned.
 

MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
1,646
I use Altium Designer, which is unfortunately expensive, but I have access to it through work. One thing it does that I would love to know if the free packages also do is make shaping PCBs super easy. I can import an enclosure from polycase, and a few clicks later have a PCB shaped to fit perfectly, and I can add my own edits from there. Do some of the free packages do this type of thing well? I may need to move to a free package in the future. ;)
 

jpanhalt

Joined Jan 18, 2008
8,442
I use Altium Designer, which is unfortunately expensive, but I have access to it through work. One thing it does that I would love to know if the free packages also do is make shaping PCBs super easy.
I use Eagle pre-version 8. It can import a DXF file and convert to any of the appropriate .brd layers (there are some I haven't tried, like unrouted). That is how I do board shape especially when it has to fit a particular case. It is relatively easy, but one cannot specify a particular line or element and have it snap to the grid.

Aligning to the grid after import is relatively easy, but requires a few additional steps depending on whether you use the GUI (approximately 4 steps = 2 steps per each axis) or command line (approximately 2 steps).
 

Janis59

Joined Aug 21, 2017
957
Long the Freepcb was my choice, but as my workmates have a Windows machines, it isnt available for them. So I made step toward em and begun to use SprintLayout. Both are ideologically VERY similar, however some functionality this have even more handy. One mate is fan of Eagle, but still we have no success to syncing with all other guys. Just he is beaten into head that automated tracing gives better results. Never if true. Its no faster, no more compact, no more logic, no lesser interferences. Tool what is perfect if one designs a PC motherboard on 6 layers.
 

ErnieM

Joined Apr 24, 2011
8,011
Another vote for KiCad here. It never seemed difficult to me, though I use it so seldom I have to keep looking up some things (like defining trace widths).

Orcad was nice when I had a seat for it at work.

I also think kindly of ExpressPCB even though you get locked into their board house. The schematic capture is very forgiving making it great for quick sketches that would be unusable for PCB layout but sometimes you just need the picture.
 

Thread Starter

daba1955

Joined Apr 27, 2019
85
In view of the replies, thanks guys, I've looked at KiCAD again, and done a circuit schematic in about half an hour. Pretty impressed with it. Not got any PCBs to design at the moment, but I'll definitely give it a try.in due course.
 

Thread Starter

daba1955

Joined Apr 27, 2019
85
Back in the day (1970's) I can remember doing PCB designs using black sticky pads and sticky red and green tape on gridded plastic film. We did the layout at 4x final size.

There was no light-box, so we did them taped to an outside window. Of course this meant we could only work when it was light outside ...

The finished art-work was taken to the PCB manufacturer in Birmingham, UK, who projected the image onto the photo-resist PCB. 2 different colour filters meant that he only got the tracks for each side.

It's just slightly more automated these days, lol.

My PCB manufacturer can receive my Gerbers, audit them, and put them into fabrication within half an hour. 1 day fabrication and testing, and 3 to 5 days shipping back to me in the UK, from China. They specialise in low volumes, and their prices are uinbelievably low.

I must add that quality is as you would expect ....

2019-05-28 07.35.27.jpg
 
Last edited:

ebeowulf17

Joined Aug 12, 2014
3,024
Sounds like you may have found your answer, but I'll share my thoughts just in case it helps anyone else who reads this thread.

After designing and manufacturing one board in Eagle, I realized it wasn't for me. I dislike nearly everything about the workflow and GUI! It seems the only thing it has going for it is that there's a huge experienced user base from all the years when it was the only hobbiest option, so it's easier to get help on forums. Unfortunately, it's such a PITA that you spend all your time on those forums trying to get help!

I tried every free/cheap option at the time (4-5 years ago) and most had limitations I couldn't accept (like being tied to only one PCB vendor, etc.) so it came down to KiCad and DipTrace. KiCad wasn't immediately intuitive for me, although I get the feeling I could've adapted to it, and it seems like it was also still actively evolving, so I wouldn't be surprised if the interface has improved a lot since then.

DipTrace immediately felt like a perfect fit. Everything is just easy and intuitive, yet it seems plenty powerful. I haven't encountered anything yet that I needed and couldn't get out of it. I've been using for about 4 years now with no regrets (freeware version at home for hobby use, and recently upgrade from "starter" to "lite" at work.)
 

djsfantasi

Joined Apr 11, 2010
5,912
Sounds like you may have found your answer, but I'll share my thoughts just in case it helps anyone else who reads this thread.

After designing and manufacturing one board in Eagle, I realized it wasn't for me. I dislike nearly everything about the workflow and GUI! It seems the only thing it has going for it is that there's a huge experienced user base from all the years when it was the only hobbiest option, so it's easier to get help on forums. Unfortunately, it's such a PITA that you spend all your time on those forums trying to get help!

I tried every free/cheap option at the time (4-5 years ago) and most had limitations I couldn't accept (like being tied to only one PCB vendor, etc.) so it came down to KiCad and DipTrace. KiCad wasn't immediately intuitive for me, although I get the feeling I could've adapted to it, and it seems like it was also still actively evolving, so I wouldn't be surprised if the interface has improved a lot since then.

DipTrace immediately felt like a perfect fit. Everything is just easy and intuitive, yet it seems plenty powerful. I haven't encountered anything yet that I needed and couldn't get out of it. I've been using for about 4 years now with no regrets (freeware version at home for hobby use, and recently upgrade from "starter" to "lite" at work.)
Pretty much summarized my experience as well.
 
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