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Free schematic and pcb design programs

Discussion in 'CAD' started by Rene, Apr 29, 2008.

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  1. Rene

    Rene Guest

    Hello to all of You!

    I am planning to sink my teeth into a "electronics CAD suite" in a not so
    far away future. I have used ulticap and ultiboard back in the days they
    still were DOS appz, I even bought a 80387 copro for them ;-). Not necessary
    to say that the version I still own is a bit dated now.

    What is important, as it is only a hobby (and I am Dutch ;-), is that it is
    free. Open source is preferred by me but not a demand. It is highly
    preferable that the suite can be used both in windows and Linux, though not
    a demand either. If not cross-platform, I prefer a windows program but it is
    fairly important that it will run in 98SE as the computer I have in my hobby
    room is very old, 98SE runs great on it (much faster that Xubuntu) but I
    expect it to be too old for XP or 2000. This does not mean that Linux-only
    is out of the question.

    I have already done a lot of reading on the web and KiCad, which I have been
    looking at a couple of years ago (it contained too many bugs back then to be
    of interest to me) and the gEDA tools are of particular interest to me.
    Free, open source and KiCad is cross platform. gEDA is officially Linux only
    and I don't judge myself to have enough knowledge to make it run under
    windows (at several places I have read that theoretically can be build for
    windows, perhaps with Cygwin, anyway, I do not feel like doing that). Linux
    only would do as well though it is not preferable.

    Furthermore I have found out that gEDAis much more flexible/powerfull but
    also more difficult to get into than KiCad. I do not mind having a steep
    learning curve as long as it is possible with some engagement by me. I will
    probably be using it for a long time so it is an investment.

    I am not going to do very sophisticated things. What is of utmost important
    to me, and that is my main question, is that the suite is _reliable_. Every
    program contains bugs but how often do You stumble upon them when using
    these programs?
    Very important as well is that there are libraries with many, many parts in
    them and an easy way to add new components.

    I bought the program "Frontdesigner" program from, it was not expensive and is
    a great tool. This company sells a schematic capture program and a pcb
    editor as well but they do not cooperate, for me, that is a reason not to
    buy them (judging from the quality of the Front plate design program, I
    think they might have suited my demands, this is however too big a
    short-coming). So that is something else that is important to me: I have to
    be able to enter the schematic and then use that to design the pcb (check
    connections a.s.f.). But I also want to able to draw a pcb without being
    obliged to use a schematic. It does not have to be KiCad or gEDA.

    I would be very pleased if You would express Your thoughts/experience
    concerning the things I have been writing. I am especially curious when it
    comes to stability/reliability of the different programs, the level of
    sophistication is less important.

    Thank You very much in advance!
    Yours sincerely,
  2. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    This is totally wrong and I wish people would stop spreading this lie.

    gEDA is fully supported on ALL unix platforms (not just Linux -
    includes BSDs, Solaris, etc) AND on MacOS/X (via fink). It is
    partially supported on Windows (it works, there are some glitches
    we're working on).
    I think that's true of any EDA program - more features means more
    learning. I have recently written some tutorials for PCB at least.
    We try to fix bugs as they're encountered. We have a very active set
    of mailing lists. Plus, the tools have been used for many boards,
    including some very complex ones. I don't usually encounter any bugs
    doing my boards, and the ones that others encounter are rare and
    usually obscure (today's bug was about duplicate traces causing
    polygon clearance issues - but pcb normally doesn't let you create
    duplicate traces).
    Get used to the idea that you'll need to create your own symbols and
    footprints. Even on the best EDA tools, you can't guarantee that the
    library is complete or accurate. My tutorials cover footprint
    creation (footprint creation is done in the board editor), and symbol
    creation uses the schematic editor. The user community has also
    supplied a wide range of tools to automate these.

    PCB's library does have most of the standard footprints, though.
    gEDA/pcb works both these ways.
  3. Rene

    Rene Guest

    Hello DJ Delorie,

    First of all, thank You for replying. Apologies for spreading a lie, that
    was not my intention.
    I think You might even leave out the word "EDA" ;-).
    I am going to have a thorough look at them later.
    That means that practically speaking, it can be considered stable (in my
    opinion) and that is what is very important to me.
    Now that is what is important. If I choose some very modern or some obscure
    component, You won't hear me complaining that I have to make the footprint
    myself. But in a review of the program "Sprint editor", by the company I
    pasted the url of, I read that there were not many footprints in there, even
    many very common components.
    That is good as well. I must admit that the gEDA tools look very attractive.
    I am curious what others have to say but it does sound like it will be worth
    the effort to dig deeper into it.

    Thanks again!
    Yours sincerely,
  4. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    The problem only occurs when one line is EXACTLY on top of the other,
    though. PCB doesn't allow those by default; you have to do it on
    purpose, by creating a new line elsewhere and moving it on top of the
    old one, lining up the end points. At that point, you have two traces
    that are identical in every way, so why would you do it anyway?

    That's why I consider it a rare bug. In normal usage, you won't see
  5. JeffM

    JeffM Guest

    FreePCB can use LTspice netlists.
    The former is Free Software and the latter is freeware.
    Both can be used cross-platform (VM / WINE).

    BTW, this group is archived and searchable:
    Damn Small Linux? aLinux (nee Peanut Linux)? Feather Linux?
    As DJ said, the key word is "supported".

    **There is no supported Windows version of gEDA
    (BUT it can be built from source)** by Ales Hvezda*-*-*-despair+Linux
    (at the bottom).
    That's been true for quite some time

    There have been times when Windoze binary installers were available,
    but those weren't maintained.
    **Why there is no Windows installer for gEDA** by Ales Hvezda*-*-*-*-*-*-*+point-and-click-*-installer
    There is also a bootable CD that contains gEDA:
    (It is somewhat dated).
  6. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    It mostly works (meaning, it works, but doesn't always route to
    completion). We've got a student working on upgrading it this summer.
  7. Baron

    Baron Guest

    DJ Delorie inscribed thus:
    I think that there may be a small problem with your tutorials !

    I tried to follow "Building from Source" and seemed to keep coming back
    to the same point without finding out how !


    Best Regards:
  8. DJ Delorie

    DJ Delorie Guest

    Obviously, I haven't finished that part yet ;-)
  9. Baron

    Baron Guest

    DJ Delorie inscribed thus:
    Oops ! Sorry if I am a bit premature !
    I'll keep checking.

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