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Anyone used Eagle Professional PCB editor?

Discussion in 'Hobby Electronics' started by Bob Parker, Jun 10, 2005.

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  1. Bob Parker

    Bob Parker Guest

    I've just wasted about a fortnight at work, all thanks to the
    Protel 99SE schematic/PCB program going berserk, corrupting its own
    files, being impossibly non-intuitive and generally doing everything
    it can to make me want to smash my monitor out of frustration.
    I refuse to ever do another schematic and PCB layout using that
    woeful bugware (in my opinion).
    Has anyone here used Eagle Professional for doing multi-layer SMD
    artworks? I'm thinking seriously of going to it from Protel, and would
    like some feedback from actual users before I go any further.
    Thanks. :)

  2. Do you have the latest Service Pack bob?
    Protel 99SE is extremely popular because it is a pretty stable
    environment and does work very well. Sure it has a few issues, but you
    learn to deal with them with time.

    Forget what other people say when it comes to using PCB software, try
    the demo yourself on some real boards, only then will you know if it's
    any good for you. If you use anything but protel, you might have to
    generate Gerbers to send to the manufacturers. If that's your normal
    thing, no problems, if not then it's an extra step which can be a pain
    in the butt.

    Dave :)
  3. Jon

    Jon Guest

    Hi Bob,
    I use eagle pcb, and find it completely adequate. It does have some
    well known quirks though re user interface, but I don't find it a
    problem once you get used to it. I haven't used the modern protel so I
    can't compare it with that.
    You could try the lite version (free) to make sure you are happy with
    the user interface before buying the pro version.
  4. Trevor

    Trevor Guest

    I've only just moved from EasyTrax to EaglePCB for hobbyist work at
    home, mainly because I couldn't run easytrax at work anymore due to
    compatability issues with work's hardware.

    It is a bit different to use compared to easyTrax, but I've managed
    to get used to most of it fairly easily. The biggest thing I miss is
    the ability to edit component pads directly within a layout. With
    eagle you have to create a new package within the component library
    and modify the pads on that then import the new package onto the

    It does come with reasonably complete component libraries for my
    humble use, and I've used it to do some (limited) SMD work
    successfully, board number 4 will make more use of SMDs though.

    Eagle does have a powerful 'C' like programing language, and there
    are a range of user programs which add functionality and again for my
    humbe use the autorouter doesn't seem to work too badly, but saying
    that, if I could still run autotrax on the work PCs I would probably
    stay with that - the price for professional edition for home use is
    beyond me, coupled with the pad issue - who knows, maybe they might
    fix that 'feature' in a new edition.

    I would whole heartedly agree with Jon - try the demo version on a
    couple of small sample boards before making up your mind.

  5. Bob Parker

    Bob Parker Guest

    Thanks Dave,
    Yeah, our Protel 99SE has been upgraded to SP6 which is the latest
    one on the Altium website.
    "A few issues" seems to be a big understatement. :) All the people
    using that program where I work know it to be very unstable and prone
    to coming up with all kinds of weird errors.
    One time I told one of the blokes "99SE crashed twice on me this
    morning". His comment was "Only twice?" and he was serious. He backs
    up his Protel files every 2 minutes just to be sure of not losing much
    work when it does something stupid. I'm an optimist... I back up about
    every 5 minutes!
    We completely re-installed the program and SP6 from scratch and we
    just replaced the 2.8GHz Celeron motherboard/128MB ATI video card with
    a 3GHz P4/256MB Nvidia video card in the despairing hope that 99SE
    would become stable enough for me to finish the project I'm working
    on. That didn't significantly help either.
    It finally turned out that 99SE had subtly corrupted the .ddb file.
    Of course using its "File repair" function didn't make the slightest
    difference. Only time-wasting trial-and-error methods identified which
    components on just one page of the schematic were invisibly corrupted,
    and I was able to fix it (I think/hope).
    I'm only really annoyed because I was beginning to wonder if 99SE
    was going to lose me my job because I was wasting so much time trying
    to find the problem and the manager was running out of patience.

    Thanks to you and everyone else for your thoughts about Eagle. If
    it's stable and not so quirky that I can't get my brain around it, it
    has got to be better than 99SE! :)

  6. Bob Parker

    Bob Parker Guest

    Thanks Roger!
    You can obviously relate to what I've been going through. :) I
    really appreciate your input and I'm going to seriously check out both
    those websites/programs you recommended.
    I too have found that the PCB layout part of 99SE isn't too bad.
    Most of the bugs and instability seem to be in the schematic capture
    and PCB updating part of the program.
    If TinyCAD does what I expect it to do, that will be a whole new
    experience after 99SE where many commands seem to have been placed in
    the last menu in which you'd expect to find them.
    Thanks again!

  7. What OS are you guys using?

    I use 99se+sp6 under win2K or XPpro to lay out schematics and manual
    route 4 layer boards and have not had a crash in years (4? 5? years).

    If you are running it under win98 or earlier you will have problems,
    this has been documented on the techserve protel mailing list.
  8. Yup. I wasted three hours of my life trying to get some value
    out of the 99SE evaluation version on Tue night. Never again.
    Might have been better if the service pack would apply itself.

    As I wrote to a friend the next day:

    Under XP, it's utterly broken. I can't even remember half the defects
    I found during three hours of hair-tearing frustration. Almost nothing
    worked in the way a naive user would expect, and some fundamental and
    annoying quirks made the experience unpleasant. On the whole, the "help"
    isn't, and isn't consistently searchable - they can't even decide
    whether they're talking about "parts" or "components" for example. And
    that's before you get beyond the design "features" into the numerous
    outright bugs, of which only one is possibly attributable to running
    under XP. Every time I hit Save, I got an error dialog from the Access
    Ado driver about a "null string truncated on the right" or some such
    MicroShit unintelligable garbage. The file seemed to be saved correctly
    every time except the last time at 11:30 PM, which was *empty* when I
    re-opened it. Needless to say, I gave up in utter disgust, it's an
    absolute disgrace.

    Altium, if you're listening, sack your entire software development and
    documentation staff and hire some new ones. It won't impede your
    business more than continuing with the current pile of dogshit.

    Installed Eagle under Linux yesterday, and though it's a bit "different"
    in its approach to a few things (verb-noun instead of noun-verb), it
    works reliably and I've almost completed my first library, schematic
    and board. The Eagle files are directly accepted by, so
    I don't have to worry about doing Gerber and drill files as I would
    have with geda, the other software I tried.

    Clifford Heath.
  9. Have you got the new video drivers from
    They seemed to work ok under XP.

    Clifford Heath.
  10. I run 99SE primarily under W2K and have only had one issue since SP6
    has been installed. That is due to file names (including paths) on the
    server exceeding 256 characters.
    99SE is most probably the most popular professional package in use in
    Australia. It's not for hobbyists, but for professional use it's hard
    to beat once you get used to it.
    I actually love the way you can re-install parts of the program if
    needed. Eg, if the Autorouter is playing up or a program file gets
    correct, just reinstall that part. No other program I know of lets you
    do that - real nice.
    Before that I used Protel 2.8 PCB for years, now that was a NICE
    package - small and fast, did enough but not too much.

    I always liked to show up the Autotrax guys who recon Autotrax was
    faster because it was DOS based. Once you pull up a board and zoom in,
    it was no contest, you could literally see the tracks being drawn on
    Autotrax, but 2.8 (and 99SE even) is instant at any zoom level. I never
    went back to Autotrax after that.

    Dave :)
  11. The number one tip when using 99se, do not use the database function.
    That will be your biggest downfall. That aside, Protel99se is fine.
  12. rob

    rob Guest

    This ddb corruption has happened to me a few times. Sometimes the sch/pcb
    files will appear as some kind of shortcut inside the ddb which the s/w does
    not recognise. Exporting the files out of the ddb, then creating a fresh ddb
    and reimporting the files fixed it. The path length to the working files as
    someone else mentioned can cause some weird behaviour. At work I tend to
    work in a desktop folder.
  13. Bob Parker

    Bob Parker Guest

    What kind of name is that? Most of us are running XP Pro. I've been
    using XP Home but have just upgraded to XP Pro as one of the things we
    hoped would make it behave.
    Now that the corrupted page schematic page "seems" to be fixed,
    it's been stable. I hope it stays that way!
  14. Bob Parker

    Bob Parker Guest

    All I can say is that I'm jealous of those people who don't seem to
    have any problems with 99SE. If it would stop producing assorted
    memory conflict errors and the "Floating Point Division By Zero" one
    which brought all progress to a stop for about a week (which Altium
    Aust said they'd never seen before) while I tried to identify the
    cause and correct it, I'd be delighted!!!
    I still hate that program with a passion now, regardless of the
    fact that it does have some nice features like all the global things
    it can do so easily.

  15. Bob Parker

    Bob Parker Guest

    Wow! I had to stop and make sure that your post wasn't something
    I've written to mates about 99SE. Those are all my thoughts exactly,
    even though 99SE has frustrated and infuriated me in somewhat
    different ways to how it's taken its revenge on you.
    There are times when I was sure its designers had gone out of their
    way to make it baffling, frustrating and almost impossible to do many
    of the functions. The "help" files are so ambiguous that they usually
    only make me more confused about what the program's supposed to do.
    Thanks for your comments about Eagle. I don't mind a few little
    problems related to its German origin, as long as it's stable and does
    what I expect.
    Every time I do anything with 99SE, I stop and carefully check to
    see what unwanted side-effects there were... like finding that the far
    end of a line on the schematic had also moved along with the end I was
    working on, producing a nice short-circuit waiting to haunt me later,
    etc etc etc.
    This 99SE/Eagle discussion has been very educational!

  16. Bob Parker

    Bob Parker Guest

    Hi Rob,
    I wasn't aware of the path length issue. Yes, it's pretty long on
    my work machine. I'll think about correcting that, thanks.
    I'll also keep your other comments in mind for next time there's a
    Having said that, the fact is that the people who created 99SE
    think in a very different way to how me and obviously a few others
    here think. What to the Protel teams must seem very ergonomic and
    obvious is to me ridiculously convoluted and illogical.
    Whoever wrote Eagle does think the same way as me, so I'm gunna
    give it a serious tryout on my next design.

  17. Ed -|-

    Ed -|- Guest

    I have found the autorouter on Eagle to be a dog, very twitchy with the
    settings, and ok for all but a couple of tracks which can be manually
    routed without too much dramas
  18. The thing is, this sort of garbage is really unacceptable. When you pay a
    fairly huge amount of money for a piece of software, it should bloody well
    work, and in particular, NOT corrupt files which it itself has created!!
    This is one of the reasons I prefer open-source software... if there's a
    bug, you can fix it yourself, or if you care enough and can afford to, you
    can pay someone to fix it for you, independent of the vendor / original
    author. There are quite a few decent open-source electronics tools out there
    now, such as Electric (for VLSI), PCB, the gEDA suite, oregano (SPICE
    front-end), Qucs (circuit simulator) etc.

    I used to use Protel for DOS some years ago... which was rock solid... the
    first Windows version was horribly unstable - perhaps understandable as a
    newly supported platform - however subsequent releases have gotten worse
    each time. They need to do major work on the quality control front. It's not
    that hard to create good quality, STABLE software... maybe if enough
    customers bitch about this they'll do something about it.

    - Daniel
  19. Guest

    I've been using the database file system without fault. The the only
    problems I have heard about were caused by the versions of MS ODBC
    drivers being out of date.

    99se+sp6 is a very stable program when run on the correct operating
    system (win2K or above) with the correct resources. Join the techserve
    mailing list and you will find many, many happy users of this program.

    Protel V3 was an abomination however.
  20. Pre-SP6 I was of the same opinion. I simply wouldn't trust the database
    functionality and ran with seperate files. However since moving to the
    database under SP6 I wouldn't go back. One file for everything has many
    advantages, especially within our organisation. One thing with the
    database though, you MUST use the Auto Compact database option,
    otherwise the file gets bigger and bigger every time you save. If you
    are a habitual saver like I am then it gets big real quick. I've seen a
    nearly 100MB file for a small simple board!

    It's amazing the difference people seem to have with 99SE. Everyone I
    know swears by 99SE and has never had a problem with it, yet others on
    here seem to have no end of problems.

    Dave :)
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