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PCB layout software?

Discussion in 'PCB Layout, Design and Manufacture' started by 24Volts, Jan 10, 2018.

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  1. 24Volts


    Mar 21, 2010

    I was thinking to try and do my own PCB layouts myself And then generate the gerber files so I can Give them to my PCB manufacturer.

    But I never used such a software and I would like to ask this forum which one I should use?

    It should allow me to design layouts from the smallest to the biggest pitch sized electronic components for example 0402 components up to normal sized ones and chip pitches from 2.54mm to 0.5 mm.

    I also need a software that is simple and popular to use with Plenty of tutorials on YouTube and that can allow me to design multi layered PCB with ground planes. Also if possible to make and test circuits.

    A phone support line would be nice also.
    All suggestions are appreciated.

  2. Harald Kapp

    Harald Kapp Moderator Moderator

    Nov 17, 2011
    Kicad is one open source package. Popular, community support, but no phone support :(
    DesignSpark has a free tool, too. No phone support either -> unlikely you'll find that for free software.

    Some packages (e.g. Eagle, DesignSpark) allow you to order PCBS from within the layout tool without the need to explicitly create Gerber or ODB++ files etc. While this comes in handy with repect to a smooth workflow, cost may be higher than if you create gerber files and find your own favorite manufacturer.

    Other packages at diffferent levels of cost are Eagle, Altium, Mentor, Cadence etc. Please don't ask for the "best" package. Each package has advantages and disadvantages, not the least of which is price.

    I recommend you do not start with multilayer PCBs. Creating a well designed PCB is an art by itself. Learn the nooks and crannies starting with comparatively simple 2 Layer designs, then expand your knowledge to multilayer designs.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019
  3. Robert_fay


    Jun 15, 2017
    KiCad does have a great Forum though for asking and answering questions. Lot of members and very active.
    hevans1944 likes this.
  4. Rixen


    Feb 16, 2016
    Of the free ones I can recommend KiCad, relatively easy to get into and there is lots of people using it so you can get help.

    We use PADS at work, not sure if there is a "Student" version or whatever of it, but I love doing layouts in that, adding new components and making footprints and stuff is really easy, I found it simple and intuitive.

    At uni we use OrCad, I think there's a student version available, I got full license through uni.. I really cant recommend it for PCB layouts, It's horribly complicated, in every way possibe. The interface is very dated, with lots of bloat. Adding new components and footprints, to OrCad in general, is just a nightmare, you need to be a computer science major to figure out how that works, I made thorough notes on how to do it, and it still fails for whatever reasons on some components. If you can manage to decipher the error codes you get from using OrCad, im sure the NSA or CIA could use you. Yeah, I really hate that part of the program, it's a complete mess, ugh.
    hevans1944 likes this.


    May 20, 2017
    Try easyPC. It comes in various sizes and prices.
    hevans1944 likes this.
  6. Minder


    Apr 24, 2015
    Another vote for Free Kicad, lots of tutorials out there, as well as Kicad's own.
  7. Hopup


    Jul 5, 2015
    PADS is excellent software. Proteus also seems very good feature wise.
  8. TommyR


    May 13, 2010
    Hi: What OrCad are you using?
    Is it PCB Editor or Allegro ?


    Hi: What OrCad are you using?
    Is it PCB Editor or Allegro ?

  9. ShewShew79


    Nov 19, 2015
    Hi, have you found a solution yet? How many pads do you think you will need? Most free to student versions are limited on pad numbers. I have a slightly larger licence for student use that could help. KiCad is great but is awkward and slighlty buggy from my experience. Diptrace is a very good starter to get going, very easy to use. PM me for some tutorials in Pcb layout, have been laying out for long time. Its an art with rules.
  10. Rixen


    Feb 16, 2016
    Apologies. It looks like I completely missed your post.

    I got Cadence 17.2 installed, with a full license. And, it looks like the PCB part is called PCB Editor. I just dont really bother with it anymore. I feel like KiCad made my life so easy, that I cant be bothered.

    With that being said. Im sure that OrCad can do things that KiCad cant do. Im not a pro layouter, so I havent found those limits. But, considering KiCad is free.. I feel like PADS, OrCad and the like, with a massive price tag, are going to have to step up their game, or they will eventually be in trouble. :)
    Arouse1973 likes this.
  11. FuZZ1L0G1C


    Mar 25, 2014
    As a fairly new user of DIPTRACE, I found this free download is also good, with optional auto-placement, auto-routing, ratlines, manual placement and routing, and export to multiple formats including DXF, Gerber and NC-Drill.
    Better to start simple to 'learn the ropes' then move up to more advanced.
    At time of posting this, I've only tried single and double-layer boards, but read in manual that 'hidden' traces are also do-able.
  12. jaredwolff


    Jun 11, 2018
    I've pretty much used all the packages under the sun

    EagleCAD (before they went to a subscription model -- even still now I use it almost every week)
    PADS - used it at my first gig. I remember that it worked that's about it.
    OrCAD - used OrCAD/Allegro 16.6 while at Apple. It's my go-to for work. The nice thing about OrCAD is it gives you a spreadsheet to edit component values, parameters, and footprints. That's one feature I wished for with the other programs. There's definitely a huge learning curve and not lots of public information/tutorials etc.

    I have used it sparingly, but there's a huge community and ecosystem behind Altium. Everyone is always blown away by the 3d feature in Altium. There are lots of companies like Aligni that can integrate straight right into Altium which makes it very attractive. Unfortunately, even for simple boards, Altium licenses are the most expensive out of the whole bunch.

    Best to start with Eagle or KiCAD IMHO and keep it simple. Good luck!
  13. wilson109


    Jan 18, 2019
    I would suggest KiCad

    I already designed a custom board using KiCad for the edison, it works fine :)

    An alternative may be circuit maker
  14. Bluejets


    Oct 5, 2014
    Old post but.... pcbway where you can simply click on an "order" button and it will email to the manufacturer whatever files from your design are required.

    $5.00 for 10 pieces plus delivery with a build time claim of 24 hours.
  15. Kevin Pearce

    Kevin Pearce

    Aug 29, 2014
    Hi all,
    I've used Eagle, KiCad, and Designspark over the last 10 years or so. Due to their complexity, I found all of them difficult at first.
    I would start with KiCad, and focus only on the necessary functions to gain experience in using it.
    Once you have the basics, it shouldn't be too hard to try out the others to see if another package suits you better.
    Good luck.
    Minder likes this.


    May 20, 2017
    R.S. Components offers free Schematic capture and PCB design software that seems to be similar to Easy PC. There are how to use guides on youtube.
  17. bertus

    bertus Moderator

    Nov 8, 2019
  18. Electro Bro

    Electro Bro

    Nov 22, 2019
    PCB drawing software includes:
    1. The Protel
    PROTEL software is easy to buy , and there are many books about PROTEL software and instructions, which provide the basis for its popularity.
    To learn more about PROTEL's software features or to download a trial version of PROTEL99, you can do so on the INTERNET.
    2. The OrCAD
    ORCAD Capture (Capture) is a windows-based circuit design tool.
    Capture software enables you to draw schematic circuit diagrams and provide continuous simulation information for PCB and programmable logic designs.
    3. PowerPCB
    PowerPCB, formerly PadsPCB and now also PadsPCB, is a software for designing and producing printed circuit board negatives. It is used in conjunction with Power Logic to support various electronic components such as resistors, capacitors and IC chips.
    PowerPCB is different from PSpice in that the latter can simulate circuit characteristics while the former cannot.
  19. Tolaneva12


    May 4, 2021
    I think Altium is leading for best pcb software design on the market. Eagle is not this right now

    [mod edit: link removed, looks suspiciously too much like advertising]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2021
  20. Minder


    Apr 24, 2015
    I found Kicad just as powerful as Orcad and a lot cheaper (free!)
    Not only lots of on line tutorials but support from a very good forum.
    Ver.6 is due out this summer.
    Sponsored by Cern!
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