For the circuit board designer, the wide varieties of PCB design software available in the market can pose an overwhelming range of options. Understanding what your options are and how they can make a difference will help you narrow down what you should download.
You may want to save space on your RAM or avoid using online software. Intuitiveness and large libraries are also things that you may require of your software. These and many other factors can make picking a PCB design software challenging before doing PCB manufacturing and Assembly.
We have prepared this guide to help you select a PCB software and use it to its fullest capacity.
Read on to learn all about PCB design software and its potential.
1、PCB Design Software
PCB design software is a software suite for electronic design automation. It is a convenient way to design circuit boards with your creativity and computer animation. See how your circuit board will work before production.
These software products are essential for any electrical engineer's success in the field. Being able to create a PCB that handles a current load and gets the job done is only possible with a seamless design, which software can help you build with a minimum of frustration.
Therefore, you must find PCB design software that is not a hassle and matches your needs. This guide will help you do just that.
2、Some PCB Design Software Introduction
Not all PCB design software cost lots of money. If you are on a budget, check out these free software options. Some of the best software out there doesn’t cost a thing:
It is an excellent CAD software that is free. It can be beneficial for engineers or students who want to complete school projects for free. It boasts a valid but limited library, which can crimp your creativity.
Another frustration is that it lacks rubberbanding to show the interconnectedness on boards, which is very important. It is useful for visualization or student projects but little else. They will consider Gerber files for an additional fee.
Though ExpressPCB boasts a small library and outdated programs, It is a useful tool for learning PCB design, mainly if you are a student. Its simple layout will remove the stress from learning as you begin to experiment with PCB design.
It is the most straightforward free program available, and it gets the job done without any bells or whistles. You can create any components missing in the library. You can also copy and paste your designs into a Word file or .png file to save and print.
Possibly the best option with free software for the beginner because of its lack of limits on PCB size and its ability to let you create multiple pages. However, it has a limited library and some dated components.
• DesignSpark PCB
It is an excellent free software that is soaring in popularity. You will enjoy the intuitiveness that makes this program, so simple to use. It offers designing, schematic capturing, and layout improvement for no PCB cost at all.
• PCBWeb Designer
PCBWeb Designer is possibly the closest to a professional PCB design software that you can get for free. It has a robust library and a parts catalog to make ordering the parts you need a breeze. It also has a smooth learning curve.
• Altium Designer(aka Protel 99SE and Protel DXP) (15-day Trial)
1. Required OS: Windows XP and a powerful computer at a minimum.
2. Description: Commercial electronics and embedded design package.
3. Powerful that includes:
• Schematic capture and library editor.
• PCB design and PCB library editor.
• Gerber editors.
• VHDL and Verilog (and probably more) hardware compilers.
• C to Hardware compiler.
• C compiler for different cores (ARM, Microblaze, Nios, etc).
• Library generator that imports data from your company IC database.
4. Customer Feedback
* User1: I have used this package mostly for schematic capture and PCB design. I find it quite comfortable and productive for manual routing, with powerful rules editor and control that help too much when placing tracks. Easy integration of schematic and PCB editor, as well as libraries editors.
* User2: For all those issues related with clearances for mains and high voltages, currents, and so on, it's ruled editor is helpful, limiting the manual routing when tracks reach the limits imposed. For regular users, hobbyists and little companies, it may be overkilling. I found that I use probably <20% of all features it has.WinAVR, AVRStudio, and FPGA free software is more than enough and can replace this other licenses.
* User3: For those that have not seen the new Altium pricing model. It may interest you. I pretty much ignored their upgrade requests over the years since Protel99 as I did not see any value in their upgrades but their recent special for a perpetual license for $2k changed my mind.
In China, the Altium Designer Software is widely used mainly in relevant department in universities because of its powerful editor.
gEDA is a suite that gives you several open-source software in one. It will produce other file types, like .ps or .png. With an auto-router and many other features, this software is both robust and low in PCB cost. It is best used with a gEDA schematic editor.
It has a rich library and a professional support community for no extra charge. Many say that you will prefer gEDA than Eagle because it has fewer limitations!
It is mostly oriented towards printed circuit board design which is used for electronic design released under the GPL.
It is a collection of open source electronic design tools. They may be installed individually, but by installing it, you get the lot.
It is mostly oriented towards printed circuit board design (as opposed to integrated circuit design). Its applications are often referred to collectively as "the gEDA Suite."
* gschem schematic capture
* gsch2pcb transfers information from gschem to PCB
* PCB for layout
* gerbv-Gerber viewer. Look at layouts
* wcalc-Transmission line and electromagnetic structure analysis
* Can produce other file types like ps and png.
* PCB is one of the most mature packages, being that it started in 1990 on an Atari, and best free PCB tools out there. The application is feature rich, straightforward to learn, has no limitations like Eagle, and blows doors over all the other packages listed here IMHO. Most importantly, PCB does include an auto-router!
* PCB, used in conjunction with gEDA schematic editor, is a great combination: easy to use, have huge libraries, large world-wide on-line communities, work cross-platform, and have professional industry support. Many Aerospace companies use this suite for example.
Best of all, gEDA and PCB are open sources and free to use. Also, I think gEDA and PCB are even more comfortable than Eagle to use as well.
As a consequence of the project's openness, schematic symbols, footprints, and utility scripts are freely created and shared amongst the members of the gEDA community at a spin-off website(gedasymbols.org)
Most PCB software comes with a free trial, including OrCAD, Kicad, and Eagle. Try the software out, see if you like it, and then make a purchase decision.
A free, open-source PCB design editor for Microsoft Windows. It was designed to be easy to learn and easy to use, yet capable of professional-quality work. Some of its features are 1 to 16 copper layers, board size up to 60 inches by 60 inches, imports and exports PADS-PCB netlists and more.
* I have used FreePCB to create the last three boards for my low vision barcode reader; I used ExpressPCB in the first version. I have also sampled other layout software such as PCB Artist (a proprietary program offered by Advanced Circuits) and the freeware version of Eagle (mention above).
* I use FreePCB and find it easy and intuitive to quickly create circuit layouts since it has a very short learning curve. It is mainly for the hobbyist in that it doesn't have a lot of the bells and whistles that KiCad and others have.
* In all of these programs I have always found the generation of and access to footprint libraries as the biggest hurdle to overcome. Moreover, when I first began using FreePCB, it had the unique FOOTPRINT WIZARD! Inputting the package dimensions from your chosen components printed datasheet the FOOTPRINT WIZARD created a custom footprint that could then be saved in the "User" library folder and added to your PCB again and again! Additionally, you can toggle parts in-and-out of your board layout to make minor adjustments.
* When I begin a schematic I usually print out the pin-outs from the datasheet of the various components I plan to use. I then cut out the layout with scissors and paste them to a large piece of drafting paper, penciling in the connections between pins. At this point, I go to my local print shop and have a copy made. From there I lay all my traces by hand in FreePCB!
* If you are a novice, you may want to choose a local board house (like Advanced Circuits) that can help you to configure the software to generate the CAM files properly. The nomenclature can be daunting, and most board houses will not correct your mistakes. However, the "free call back" service offered by AC circuits is priceless for a novice!
* FreePCB does not include a schematics editor. You have to enter your netlist by hand!
* Suggest that newbies to PCB design read the getting started doc, it has a super introduction to the PCB designing process, something often overlooked by manuals (which assume you have some idea of what you're doing). What do you, other users, use for schematic entry?
How is the autoroute-package?
3、Some Best PCB Design Software
If you are trying to select the best software to use, consider these three excellent options that we strongly endorse:
Kicad is free and user-friendly software. It allows you to create schematics and convert them to PCB designs. Besides, it works to generate Gerber files, bill of materials, artwork, 3D views of a PCB, and various other components.
1. It can help you to design a circuit which can automate your house
2. It can also facilitate the building of a camera add-on for a quadcopter.
3. It can also help in the creation of a compact and unique alarm system.
It has five parts: KiCad. Eeschema. Pcbnew, GerbView, and Bitmap2Component.It features Eeschema; The KiCad make use of the integrated environment for each stage in the design process: PCB layout, Schematic capture, Gerber file generation/visualization, and library editing.
It works as a cross-platform program. The language is C++ with wxWidgets, and it sprints on FreeBSD, Microsoft Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. There are availabilities of several component libraries, and users of the software can also add other custom components.
Ideally, it is useful for house circuits, camera add-ons for quadcopters, and alarm systems. The best part of it is that it is the lowest PCB cost and hosts a suite of features that will make EDA easy for you.
It is very affordable and flexible when it comes to designing electronic circuits. Also, installation is straightforward immediately you get your computer connected to the internet and also running Linux.
Kicad comes with a symbol and 3D model libraries. However, you can also add your libraries. Download footprint libraries from GitHub.
* For a free Kicad tutorial, let me show you now step by step:
• Step 1: Downloading Kicad Tutorial
The first thing you need to do to get started is to download KiCad. It is essential that you get the latest version of your software depending on your program.
Once the program has been installed, you need to create a navigation window that will allow you to open the periphery programs such as PCB layout and schematic capture.
• Step 2: Setting Up the Project
You will have to download the design for KiCad and unzip the files in your local directory. The files that may be needed for this purpose include:
Pro – to help keep track of the structure
CMP: defines the footprints to be used with schematic components
Kicad PCB layout: they define the PCB layout
Sch- refers to the schematic
These are the main files that need to share on a KiCad design. Also, you may need to share the footprint file.
Notice that KiCad works differently from Eagle and require that you define the footprint that must go with each component.
• Step3: Setting Up the Component Library
You need to double-click on the Kicad Schema. If you get an error, ignore it. If the schematic loads with a question mark, it shows that KiCad is missing the link and so it may be necessary that you link it to the devices containing the schematic.
Linking your Components to the Libraries
Click on your component libraries and allow for the creation of an open window. The project file has the information regarding where the component library file is located.
• Step 4: Adding Components to Your Schematic
If you want to add a device to your schematic, all you need to do is to click on add. It opens the component window and allows you to choose a component among the hundreds of components available.
The next thing that you need to do is to select the device and press enter. Then place it in your following schematic.
Once the capacitor has been placed, you will notice that it will still be in placement mode. Here, you need to hit Esc to return to the normal pointer mode.
Copying the component is easy, just put the mouse at 3.3v and press c to help duplicate the device and place it in the required position.
• Step 5: Wiring the Components
You should then try to wire the components together by placing the mouse pointer over the bubbles and pressing W.
• Step 6: Annotating the Schematic Components
KiCad helps to auto-annotate your schematic. Here, you should click on annotate the schematic components button and use the default setting and click on the button to confirm it. Kicad will request that you verify the annotation. Once you confirm, the components will be added.
Is Kicad better than Eagle?
Many electronic designers want to know. However, the truth is that both programs are excellent and will offer you what you need. The best part is that Kicad is the cheapest option, lowering your overall PCB cost. Eagle has a free version too that is more limited than Kicad.
Kicad also has more keyboard shortcuts to cut down on the work you must do with your mouse and save both time and your wrists. Finally, many users find Kicad more intuitive. However, both are very similar in function and appearance.
You can download Kicad for free. You will have to select your operating system and then follow the on-screen directions.
“Eagle” is often used by professionals. It stands for "Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor." Its simple user interface makes it a great software with a fantastic schematic function.
It also offers copper cladding, batch command execution script file, and online positive and negative annotation function. While there is a fee to use this software, many find it quite affordable.
Eagle features include:
1. An auto-router
2. Modular schematic editor
3. PCB synchronization
4. Schematic Rule Check
5. Object alignment tools to help align your work
6. Design check ruling, to customize PCB rules and restraints.
7. Copper pouring
8. Different types of outputs for manufacturing data.
9. Routing at advanced levels.
10. Differential pair routing technique.
11. Backward and forward annotations between printed circuit boards and schematics.
12. Users have the option of defining certain things such as the clearance, nets, and widths of wires.
13. Can run on any computer, from PC to Mac.
14. Community support
15. Lightweight since it uses 50-200 MB of space, and the downloader uses 25 MB.
For a fascinating Eagle tutorial, please go here. You will learn how to use this software to create fantastic circuit boards with the intuitiveness and creativity that you desire and how to merge multiple into one. Also, learn how to export Gerber files here.
To download Eagle, please visit here. A plethora of users enjoys the Eagle PCB design full version free download crack. You can upgrade to the more powerful version for just $15 a month.
So how does Eagle stack up to Altium? Eagle boasts many features with a lower price tag. It lacks an auto-router, simulators, and 3D viewers.
However, many states that Altium is easier to use, though both programs come with a steep learning curve. Eagle is generally best for those who are designing beginner to intermediate PCBs who don't want to fork out much money.
Benefits of Eagle:
•You can easily learn and master the Eagle PCB software.
•It is designed with flexible, user-friendly language programs which made them easy to use. It can easily export the Gerber files which you can use on any other board.
•It approves of the differential double routing and meanders. It ensures that all the necessary connections are properly made through carrying out the Design Rule Inspection.
•The Eagle PCB supports the personalization of schematics and sheets by using descriptions.
•The schematic is then controlled by making use of the ERC otherwise known as the Electrical Rule Check.
•Eagle PCB enables full support of sheets to complex designs. This software can easily create circuit board with just a single clicking of the mouse.
•It can also schedule schematic sheets via Drag & Drop. Eagle PCB software can easily take care of all kinds of assembly variants.
•With this software, you can easily make use of a dimensioning tool. It also approves multiple layering.
•Eagle PCB enables the BGA escape routing automatically. The router of the Eagle PCB will save you time.
The Altium designer is an excellent PCB design software that will help you create stunning PCBs for multiple real-world applications. It is incredibly powerful and requires Windows OS to run. Some of its best features include:
* Features of Altium designer include:
1. A high-quality 3D visualization that allows for routing using 3D.
2. The automatic appearance of net names on the pads of the printed circuit board editor.
3. Outstandingly advanced filtering which simplifies selection and modification of what a user wants.
4. A simplified design constraints creation procedure that has an inbuilt helper.
5. Manufacturing and Generation of the output file are superior, and its settings are easy to configure.
6. A good number of hotkeys and shortcuts that allow efficiency in PCB design.
7. Its design system operates offline and can still function without a license.
8. The add-on for export and import used in other programs and formats are quite decent.
9. Its project tree is simple and allows user drag-n-drop files to desired locations.
10. Library generator that imports data from your company IC database.
Also, a variety of free software within Altium usually makes it unnecessary to purchase other features. You get what you need to be included in the overall package. There is integrated debugging and simulation of VHDL, with the synchronization of PCB, FPGA, and the designs of the signal integrity.
The most famous and user-friendly platform for the design engineer to draw schematics and do PCB layout is the Altium Designer software.
This software has all necessary tools to design state of the art PCB layout professionally. Here we will discuss the various options available in Altium schematics and PCB designer.
1. Altium Designer Schematics
The Altium schematics have the detailed version of the library of components available. It has so many renowned component manufacturer libraries.
Design – Browse Library
The most of the passive and active components that are generally used in every electronic circuit can be found in "Miscellaneous Devices."
Design – Browse Library -- Miscellaneous Devices
When we select any component either it is through hole or SMD, then the corresponding footprint will appear in the library pane. We then click the "Place" button on top of the library pane/window to place the component on the schematics sheet.
After we double-click the component, we will get the properties window of the element as shown below
Then we click on the Add button to add the footprint of the component.
Add – Browse – Misc Devices
By this way, we can change the footprint of the selected component as per our requirement. This new window will show the details of the PCB footprint of the component (details about the SMD size and 3D model). For Example in the different devices, we can find the majority of the commonly used footprint. Like SOT-223-4N.
This footprint is widely used in medium power transistors and has four leads with a tab connected to the body as the heat sink.
Also, we can edit the pins of the Integrated Circuit placed on the schematics. Double-clicking the component can do this
Component Properties – Edit Pins
The types of pins available are Input, I/O (Input / Output), Output, open collector, passive, high Impedance, open emitter, and power. The VCC, VDD, VSS, GND pins are all power pins. The bidirectional input/output are IOs and so on.
We can also create a user-defined Component library in this way
File – New – Library – Schematic Library
The component can be designed by using rectangles drawing and circles to create a notch of IC. We can also place pins as many as required and give them names and defined its nature as discussed above.
2. Altium PCB
By holding the right click and moving the cursor around the screen, we can pan on the PCB layout board.
We can switch the PCB layout from 2D to 3D view and vice versa. The netlist generated by the schematics can be imported to PCB layout board to draw interconnections/tracks/routes
The routing can be done Auto or manual. PCB Rules and constraints can be set in.
Design – Rules
The PCB layers can be switched ON and OFF by clicking them. We can double click the layers “LS” to open a window that shows detailed layer configuration
The PCB Preferences give all the details about the PCB Editor.
Altium thus makes integration easy, and a powerful rules editor and controls to assist in placing tracks. Ultimately, it is everything Eagle, and more.
The Altium viewer offers 3D viewing, which makes it possible for you to cluster several nets to one signal, supports rigid and flex designs, support custom overlay, add the hole tolerance, and allow dynamic display where the is the clearance of boundaries when routing.
Finally, there is a release and data management tool that allows you to format Gerber files. You can create and save templates, and track different designs and changes through ECO. The cloud publishing saves you, in case you ever suffer from a hard drive crash and gives you more freedom to work on multiple devices.
Libraries on this software are robust. You can customize them and find all the components that you would need to be included within. The schematics feature many renowned manufacturer libraries.
For a full Altium design tutorial, visit here. This tutorial will show you how to use it and how to export Gerber files on this software.
Altium is not free. You will have to pay $2000 for a perpetual license. It's the highest in PCB cost, but since this product is beneficial for even the most advanced designers, most users state that it is worth every penny.
Diptrace is a way to save time by efficiently and quickly creating designs with a little headache. Ideal for the beginner or time-crunched individual, Diptrace allows you to develop other schematics and then convert them to any format, such as PCB.
It offers flexible features like 3D modeling, high-speed shape-based routing, and extensive import/export capabilities. While switching from one form to another form, it also assembles the electrical components. It offers the multi-sheet and multi-level hierarchal circuits.
There are four modules within Diptrace. These include schematic capture to connect pins without wires, and schematic conversion or imported and exported from other CAD or EDA software and formats. It creates greater versatility for how you can use this software.
The PCB layout tool affords you much greater flexibility in board design, featuring smart manual routing of high-speed and differential signals. Verification feature lets you quickly check the accuracy of a complicated project accuracy using virtual high-speed signals.
It contains one more helpful tool called real-time DRC that can be used for fixing errors and enhancing the quality of the project until it compiles. You can create 3D models with this. You can also build and expand your Diptrace library as you see fit.
There is also a component editor that lets you manipulate components. That defines electrical pin parameters for you and attaches the patterns to 3D models.
What makes Diptrace so great is its simplicity. You can create patterns of different dimensions and shapes. It even allows for export features and real-time 3D review. It displays models of the manufactured printed board and the installed components.
It allows you to rotate the board, zooming in and out as you please. It also allows you to change colors of everything, including the background.
It's a very easy to use full professional package with an excellent (optional) auto-router.
Pricing starts at $1750 for a basic 1000 pin version. That might seem expensive, compared to other products like Eagle, but given that designs can be completed in a fraction of the time they take with Eagle, it is excellent value.
Pulsonix combines schematic entry and PCB layout in the one program. It confirmed fully to Windows standards and was developed using OOP techniques from the outset, making it easy to add new features and fix problems, without introducing additional bugs.
* Schematic entry is very intuitive - select the parts needed from the libraries (a preview of the schematic symbol and PCB footprint is provided), place the elements, and connect them. Unlike Eagle, the pins don't have to be on the current grid to be correctly connected; the connection 'jumps' to the nearest pin, if necessary.
There is a beneficial electrical rule check, which identifies any anomalies, like unconnected pins, unfinished connections, and so on. Components that need to be close together can be 'grouped,' and the groups are carried forward to the PCB.
* Part creation is straightforward, with the pin- and gate-swapping. Nets can be assigned to pins in the part editor, and unconnected pins are allowed, avoiding clutter on a schematic by not showing the power connections. Net types can be defined for each pin, including no-connects, making it very easy to avoid silly mistakes in the design.
* Pin names and numbers can be copied from data sheets and pasted directly into the part editor of Pulsonix, saving much typing. FPGAs have unique requirements and are supported. Excellent reporting facilities are provided, and user scripts can be defined for custom reports, as a particular BOM format.
Wizards are provided for footprint and schematic symbol creation for virtually every type of part, including BGAs. Pads of any shape can be created manually if required.
* Schematic and PCB designs, and part libraries, may be imported from most other popular packages, including Eagle.
* I used it for over 20 years. A particular version of Easy-PC is available.
Overall it was just like; Easy-PC with the interactive auto-router features I wanted. It also has 3D models, import, and exportability, which is typical of a mid-range package. However, what I liked was that copper pours adequately worked (unlike Altium), the user interface was straightforward and that I didn't run into any weird random bugs.
Sprint-Layout has a logical and straightforward layout that makes it ideal for anyone, particularly if you're in a hurry. There is no unnecessary "ballast" which makes it difficult to keep the overview or which makes the usage almost impossible.
With Gerber and Excellon support, it can be possible to use this for professional manufacturing. However, you can also print out your designs with this software. Sprint-Layout is equipped with tools to draw pads, tracks, copper areas, labels, and other things.
Just select the corresponding mode and place your elements, all parameters like track-width, pad-size and so on. Are always available, and can be edited at any time. It can also create HPGL files for isolation-milling if you have a CNC milling machine.
The only notable cons include non-integration between the PCB layout and schematic design. The auto-router also has some complaints. The logic of the layout may make this worthwhile for you, however.
4、Tips When Choosing And Using PCB Design Software
When selecting a PCB design software, it is essential for you to keep a few factors in mind by asking yourself these questions:
1. What level of design are you looking for?
2. Do you need multiple pages?
3. Do you require auto-routing?
4. How much are you willing to spend?
5. What kind of computer system do you use?
6. How much space do you have?
7. Are you happy about working online? Alternatively, do you need an offline program?
8. Do you want to create or buy components, or have a very robust library to choose from?
Be sure to consider these things. Then review software to see which one meets all of your specifications. You must find one that you can use on your operating system, and that meets your RAM specifications. If you can’t always work online, an online system may not be ideal for you.
Bear in mind that free does not necessarily mean free. Sure, the software won’t take anything out of your pocket, but a challenging software with lots of glitches or limitations that is free can pose more than a hardship than it is worth.
Especially for new users, a support community can be beneficial. You will have questions – it is inevitable when you are starting out. Reading the tutorials and tips of software veterans can help you discover tools or features you didn't even realize existed within your chosen software.
Also be sure to perform amply research into the software you consider before committing to using it. Read user reviews and look at screenshots of the work performed on these. Ask if each software meets all of your needs. Do the final products look the way you want yours to look?
A good idea would be to use some different software trials to see what you want to pursue as your go-to software.
Free software can help you learn how to use PCB design software adequately and learn what limitations frustrate you so that you can search for programs that don't have those limitations.
Watching online tutorials on Youtube can also help you see how the software works before you have to use it and find out the hard way if you like it or not.
5、Make Your PCB Board Design Into Reality
Now you have learned many of the pros and cons of different PCB design software programs. I know you can’t wait to try them out to begin your EDA adventure. Your life will certainly change now.
To make your designs reality, now it is time to find a reliable and professional PCB manufacturer. WellPCB is an excellent place to start with our affordable yet high-quality products. Get a free instant quote to your specifications today.
With our Bartels auto engineer, you can find products that meet your needs exactly. Just fill out the product specifications boxes and submit for a quote.
Now you have the keys in your hand to find the best PCB design software for you. You also know how to use this software to their fullest potential.
Please contact us today to get a quote on a PCB assembly turnkey services or read great articles on PCB design. Check out our helpful items and our fantastic support team to assist you with all of your PCB design needs.