Thinking of designing your own PCB's?

PCB Software - What's best for you!

Are you a business startup in electronics, or just a hobbyist that needs to draw up thier PCB's(Printed Circuit Boards) for at home use? What is a good software package? Will it cost me an arm and a leg?

These are some questions that I have asked myself at some time when I was in the same circumstances. Of course everyone's needs will be inherently based on thier personal desires and business work flow and thus opinions will differ. So I am just sharing my opinion about a PCB design software suite which not only answers the above questions but more!

What do you want to pay? There is Altrium which can run $7000. Or Cadence OrCad which will cost you around $2300, and Eagle for $60/Month or $495 yearly. These are all professional tools and there are more out there like Proteus, Pulsonix, National Instruments Circuit Design, and KiCad which is free.

When I first started in my electronics 'adventures', I first used Microsoft Paint believe it or not, which I secondarily processed in PhotoShop or GIMP. Later, I moved on to Eagle, this was before it was purchased by AutoDesk which started montlhy subscriptions, plus it was one of the only ones I could get running under Linux Wine.

Now Eagle has a learning curve, and by this, I mean that if I was drawing simple designs, I could work faster in MS Paint! But the libraries, the libraries...No more manually inserting pads, traces for different devices, it just made life much more simple.

My old installation of Eagle was just that...old and 32bit. It did not work on my new PC. I did not want to pay monthly for a subscription to software. So I was left to finding a new software package. After punching in 'PCB software' into the search engine I was bombarded with many choices. I really wanted one that was professional and not costly, and I also looked at some free ones. I won't even discuss my whole search because I want to opinion on one of the ones which I settled.

I downloaded and installed DipTrace 4 and was pleasantly surpirsed. Not only did it come with a PCB Layout application but a Component Editor, Pattern Editor and Schematic Capture with realtime 3d modelng included.

My new adventure started when I was using a chip in a SOP-20 package, or so I thought. I looked at the library, selected a SOP-20 package and placed it on the PCB Layout. When I went to test print, the pads would not align. I was in fact was using a non-standard SOP-20 chip! No problem, I called up the Component Editor, made a copy of the default SOP-20 in that library, drew 10 new pads, grouped them and aligned them vertically, then rotated(wish i could mirror) along the new chips dimensions all within 5 minutes. And that is with not knowing anything about this program nor how to use it! It was really self intutitive. I then saved the pattern into a new separate library and loaded it into the PCB Layout application and was well on my way. After laying out a new circuit, I exported and saved the image and it printed with matching dimensions ready for etching.

Maybe it is just me, but when I first started with Eagle, it literally took me a couple of days to do anything along those lines because the interface was not user friendly.

DipTrace has a couple of pricing points. There is the No-Limits option for $995.00, Extended @$695 with 2000 pins, Standard @$395 for 1000 pins, Lite @$145 with 500 pins or Starter with 300 pins @$75 and of course a try before you buy trial period.


Peace be unto you. Thank you for visiting!