PCB Layout Software, what do you like?

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I've tried KiCad, which I found to be dismally bad, and Eagle which basically just works but feels like it could be a lot better. I'm a Linux user, so I've yet to try Pulsonix, but I've heard it's fantastic.

I think part of the problem is I'm really a software developer who has developed amongst other things media software and games, so interface design that allows ease of use without frustrating advanced users by making them click on icons or go through menus when they could have used a key combination or command is constantly on my mind. A steep learning curve is totally acceptable, but in exchange I want something that will work like VIM: if you know how to use it you can do incredible things effortlessly.

So, what do you "professionals" use? Should I stick with Eagle, get a VM running and buy Pulsonix? Go back to KiCad because I misjudged it? Use something completely different?

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I swore by Eagle for a couple years. Then at work I had to learn how to use Altium Designer. AD completely blows away Eagle - comparing the two is like comparing a toy car to a Porsche. Of course, it also is crazy expensive. I haven't spent nearly as much time with any others, though. Orcad is also very popular.

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There are plenty of choices, it basically comes down to how much you want to pay. If you want something free, then go with Eagle. The limitations of the free version (boards size, two layers) probably don't bother you. The functionality is fine, there is plenty of forum support and one can get used to the somewhat antiquated user interface.

Every once in a while I try out a couple of others, but came always back to Eagle...

If you want to pay you'll have to name a budget for us to recommend specific packages at your price point.

Markus

Markus

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The good thing about eagle is everyone can have it on their computer to view files. We switched to Altium Designer (Protel DXP) and its so smart it just about eliminates a full time pc layout guy. The EE just draws the schematic, places the parts on the board, pushes the route button, and it gets to 100% before you can go get a cup of coffee. I'd hate to be a pc layout guy and be replaced by a program that costs less than I was making a year (but not much).

Imagecraft compiler user

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I had seen people talking about OrCAD and how it had turned into total crap in more recent versions, so I steered clear. Altium Designer looks way beyond my scope, but it's good to hear that there are packages like this if I ever have someone else paying for my tools (which happens a lot, so this goes on the list).

As for a price point, I'd be perfectly willing to spend hundreds of dollars, but I want something that will satisfy me and very preferably run under Linux. I'd expect a very nice schematic layout and simulator package in there too. If I can pick it up and use it for years without any shortcomings, it's worth it.

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Choosing between / working on EAGLE, ALTIUM and PULSONIX, I found that the 3rd one is the best (and more). Have you ever heard of it?
Believe me freaks, this is the best tool for designing fast, high level circuits. Very good library working and the best sch and pcb designing.
It took for me about a week to learn it, and I found it the best.

Try it.

Michael.

User of:
IAR Embedded Workbench C/C++ Compiler
Altium Designer

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bobgardner wrote:
The good thing about eagle is everyone can have it on their computer to view files. We switched to Altium Designer (Protel DXP) and its so smart it just about eliminates a full time pc layout guy. The EE just draws the schematic, places the parts on the board, pushes the route button, and it gets to 100% before you can go get a cup of coffee. I'd hate to be a pc layout guy and be replaced by a program that costs less than I was making a year (but not much).

I've yet to use AD's auto-router. My only experience with an autorouter was with Eagle's - and that was terrible and has given me a distrust of autorouters in general. Do you think the autorouter gives good results?

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Thats the difference between having the EE that draws the schematic do the bd himself and having a fulltime layout guy to do it for him. Except you have to pay the layout guy every 2 weeks. You only pay Altium every 2 years or how ever often you get an upgrade.

Imagecraft compiler user

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http://www.bartels.de/bae/bae_en...

is AFAIK also for linux.

There are pointy haired bald people.
Time flies when you have a bad prescaler selected.

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The Pulsonix autorouter is very good. It needs to be set up properly, of course, and it's best to route the critical nets manually, as with all autorouters.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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I downloaded pulsonix demo to see if it's the thing for me, but I can't find any AVRs in it... Did you download the AVR library from somewhere? is it easy to get more libraries for pulsonix?

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It's easy to create your own parts. I've got a few AVRs in my library.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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I would suggest trying out gEDA/PCB. Perhaps a bit steep learning curve, but not too steep(I think not for you anyway)... And with source, if you don't like it you can do something about it :)

http://geda.seul.org/

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OK, Here it is again...I (beginner) use FreePCB and think it's awesome!! It has really gotten much better if you haven't checked in a while! I have done three boards on it now! I love it!

www.freepcb.com

John

Just some guy

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I'm also a BAE user (see daqq's posting above).

Things I love with BAE:

  • well-thought structure of the layout parts, hierarchically structured; seems cumbersome at first but eventually turns out
    to be really flexible
  • hierarchical schematics, schematics can consist of an infinite number of sheets
  • well-thought schematics parts, good optical feedback about whether a connection to a part has been made or not (back in my
    Eagle days, I've been trapped by unconnected parts that looked
    as if they were connected several times)
  • the size of the routing grid does not affect the performance, gridless routing is possible -- with today's multiple different
    part grid sizes (mil-based for traditional parts, 0.8/0.65/0.5
    mm for modern SMDs) this is really important
  • a decent autorouter; I don't route the digital parts of my layouts manually anymore (only the analog parts); not only that
    the autorouter does the job pretty fast, it's also mentally much
    easier to re-arrange things later on, and just have the autorouter
    re-layout it again; might not look as aesthetically pleasant as
    a manual routing but it works pretty well
  • certain things look complicated at first but turn out to be really useful over time; e.g. rather than touching a layout
    item with the mouse, and dragging it, you first select what kind
    of item you are going to handle; that way, you can clearly
    distinguish between moving a via, a complete part, an edge of
    a trace, a segment of copper, or parts of copper or documentation
    areas
  • library elements that are used are always copied into the current project; the back-reference to the library is maintained (so you
    could e.g. update it in case you've really got a more recent version
    of the library) but you can always modify the project's copy of the
    element without affecting anything else but the current project; in
    the end, this model allows each project to also serve as a library
    for other projects so if you designed a certain schematics and layout
    part just in one project, you can later easily re-use it elsewhere
  • much of the application is written in a (compiled, C-like) user language and can thus be modified by the user once you grasped
    the language (which takes years, admitted -- but it also allows the
    supporter to just send you an updated ULC implementing your wish)
  • very good support even for the low-cost version (BAE Light)

What I don't like:

  • the menues look chaotic at first, "historically grown"; they can be user-customized though
  • the autorouter is a separate application rather than fully integrated into the layout editor, so you have to flip back and
    forth between both
  • the color handling is quite old-stylish (16 colors which can be RGB-tuned, but you don't have more than those) but then again, the
    drawing speed resulting out of that is pretty good

Jörg Wunsch

Please don't send me PMs, use email if you want to approach me personally.

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dl8dtl and daqq, I've downloaded the Linux demo for BAE. It sounds nice, but unfortunately it simply won't run. It refuses to find the motif libraries, despite what version I install or where I link it. I've contacted the company, so I'll wait for a response. I'm hoping I can get it to run so I'll at least be able to see what it has to offer.

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Are you using the correct version of the Motif libraries? ISTR they
might perhaps be linked against a version that is not identical to
the one shipping with the most recent versions of the various Linux
distributions. ldd tells me it's looking for libXm.so.2, whereas
libXm.so.3 appears to be the current one.

If you've got troubles finding a copy of libXm.so.2, send me an email,
and I'll mail you that library. I'm not sure whether it's a LessTiff
or OpenMotif one, but both are free now so it shouldn't matter.

Jörg Wunsch

Please don't send me PMs, use email if you want to approach me personally.

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Jorg, When you say you are a BAE user...are you referring to the demo version or the light version?? Or??

John

Just some guy

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I still like Wintek's HiWire II, costing $900.00. See:
http://www.wintek.com/cadmain.html

I also have Wintek's SmartWork, costing $900.00, back when I bought it in around 1980. I think it cost about half that now. The issue with SmartWork is that the grid only resolves down to 0.05". The Auto-router was another $1,000.00, so I didn't buy it. But if you are strictly working with 0.05" & 0.1" pitch, this is by far the easiest PCB layout software that I've ever used - but it's only PCB layout and not schematic capture.

I have been using HiWire II for the past 20 years. HiWire II is both schematic capture and PCB layout software. There is also an auto-router at the cost of $900.00. I also did not purchase the auto-router for Hi Wire II - it's just too expensive for what it does.

It's hard to find something to replace HiWire II. Though, I have recently purchased the Eagle Professional version and am currently trying to adapt my way of thinking to it. I have completed three small projects using Eagle. It'll take a while before I fully make the transition - but that is where I think I'm headed.

I have the evaluation copy of Dip-Trace, as well. I might play with it and see how it performs. I hear it cost about $150.00 for the full (read, legal) version.

I have tried Mental-Automation, or what ever they call themselves, at the cost of $250.00. The software is not too bad to use, except I had to make my own libraries. What killed my interest in this software was that, the libraries seem to need to live on the computer they were created. The libraries that I made won't work on any other machine.

And then I spent about $300.00 spent on Proteus Lite. I couldn't even get a PCB laid out with it. The frustration level was that I couldn't get the traces to behave when I moved a component around on the PCB. The whole thing turned into a mess.

I've also tried several other "Freebie " Schematic Capture & PCB lay-out packages - without success. The frustration level was just too high!

I think that the phrase "You get what you pay for! " definitely applies to schematic capture & PCB layout software - at least from my meager experience.

I think I'll stick with HiWire II and SmartWork, and just transition into Eagle!!! HiWire II and Eagle are both feature rich and provide a means to output to my mill - SmartWork does not. They both (HiWire II & Eagle) allow inverse printing. I.E. printing negatives. And, I can do mechanical etching, if I choose with both HiWire II and Eagle. They both will create standard Gerber files, allowing for professional board manufacturing, if I want. And, they are all bought and paid for.

So, by today's hobbyist standards, I've spent a fair amount of money (at least $3,500.00) on schematic capture & PCB lay-out software packages over the years. and, I've tried many other schematic capture & PCB layout packages that I can't even remember the name of. To say the least, it's been a fairly expensive learning curve over the years.

Unless something comes along that really revolutionizes the schematic capture/PCB lay-out process, it's HiWre II and Eagle for this tinkerer!!!

You can avoid reality, for a while.  But you can't avoid the consequences of reality! - C.W. Livingston

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johnrk wrote:
Jorg, When you say you are a BAE user...are you referring to the demo version or the light version?? Or??

John

The light version. I bought it some time ago, when it used to be a bit
cheaper. OTOH, it's been marked for non-commercial use only by that time,
but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore these days, so I figure it's
OK to use the light version (within its limitations) in commercial projects
as well now.

Jörg Wunsch

Please don't send me PMs, use email if you want to approach me personally.

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I do a lot of small R&D boards. About twenty a year. Originally I used Protel 98 but the company would not payout for the jump to Protel DXP.
So now I use Eagle and for simple R&D (SMD etc) it is quite acceptable.
I would not go back to Protel in a fit, the fact I can't convert old Protel files to Eagle is a pain.
I use Eagle for hobby work as well and it is a bit disjointed but for the price who can complain.

I'd love to have a go at some of the full on systems but sadly don't have the opertunity or cash.

It's all down to need and economics. But I do spend too much time getting the layout just right, that is a real time waster. But I regard it as similar to a game of logic and I hate links (zero Ohm resistors) I think they are cheating. my work mates make a lot of jokes about my need to remove them.

73's
Roy
VK5ASY

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I love OrCAD. The only thing that I HATE about it is that there are two separate programs for schematics and layout, and there is some steps to go through before you can begin with the layout.. but after some time, I got used to it :)

Other than that it's great!

Tried Protel DXP also, and loved it. But thought it was somewhere more complicated than OrCAD, so guess reading tutorials some more is required :(

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> ... the fact I can't convert old Protel files to Eagle is a pain.

But that complaint would go to Eagle, wouldn't it?

I recently re-engineered a Protel layout by reading in the Gerber files
generated from it. Except that BAE had some issues with “negative”
parts in the Gerbers, it's been a fairly quick job to let it generate
its own layout from just the Gerbers.

Of course, that doesn't give you the schematics back. But I don't think
there's any two EDA tools that could fully convert the projects of one
tool into their own one.

Jörg Wunsch

Please don't send me PMs, use email if you want to approach me personally.

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Hi Jorg,

I did indeed ask Eagle if they had a converter, they said it was something they were going to look into in the future.
But as the actual layout is the most time consuming it's quite quick to redraw in Eagle using the same arrangement.
I did look at the Gerber files as a resource but I'm too lazy.
It's the custom component library that is a real loss. I suppose over the years I had drawn over 200 in Protel and now I'm slowly converting them and adding new ones in to Eagle.

73's
Roy
VK5ASY

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There should be a standard format for devices. A small xml-file to go with the data sheet which describes the physical and pin properties of a chip or device. The chip manufacturers would supply this file and the PCB/Schematics programs would allow importing it into their libraries.

Unfortunately I'm dreaming...

Markus

Markus

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Just a spreadsheet would help. Xilinx supplies them for their FPGAs and it saves a lot of time when creating parts.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Jorg, libXm.so.2 is what I've been messing with. I've tried older versions, packaged versions, etc. etc. I've tried only the Open Motif and Lesstif versions though. Part of the problem is most likely the fact I'm using Ubuntu at the moment, which even more so than my beloved Debian refuses to play nice with things that aren't 100% free and open. I'll send you an E-Mail, and if you could send me your version of the library and the locations it shows up in I'd really appreciate it. Sorry for the trouble.

Microcarl, thanks so much for chiming in, and with such a detailed explanation of what you've tried and what you liked. I'm only now starting to realize how many software packages are actually available for schematic and PCB work. And with all of them costing so much and having so many faults I'm happy to hear as many opinions from people with a lot of experience.

Even with what's available, it sounds like there's a lot of complaints about a lot of the software available. I'm surprised nobody hasn't just up and started a project to make a descent OSS solution (KiCad I would not consider descent, but I'm sure it's one of the better attempts). Once I've sampled a wide range of applications and built enough boards to know what I'm talking about I just may ask what everyone would want in their ideal package and start a project.

Last Edited: Sat. Dec 29, 2007 - 06:15 PM
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I used Easy-PC for about 15 years before I got Pulsonix:

http://www.numberone.com

It's about the same price as Eagle, and much easier to use. Support is excellent.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Kagetsuki wrote:
I'm surprised nobody hasn't just up and started a project to make a descent OSS solution (KiCad I would not consider descent, but I'm sure it's one of the better attempts).

That would be gEDA/PCB.

Just don't underestimate the time, energy, and algorithmical knowledge
it takes to create a good autorouter. Everything else is relatively
simple compared to that part.

Jörg Wunsch

Please don't send me PMs, use email if you want to approach me personally.

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dl8dtl wrote:

Just don't underestimate the time, energy, and algorithmical knowledge
it takes to create a good autorouter. Everything else is relatively
simple compared to that part.

I didn't even think about the autorouter. I've done a lot of things like path finding in video games, which I'm sure I could use to get something done, but I doubt it would be very attractive.

As for gEDA/PCB, I have it installed but have never seriously used it. To tell you the truth it always just looked less functional than say KiCad, which looks the part but fails to even have an undo function. Playing with PCB now, it seems very straightforward, no BS, and it doesn't fight with me and try to tell me what it thinks I want. I can't seem to figure out how to place pads (with holes, preferably) which is something immediately apparent in Eagle. I'll play around with it some more in the morning.

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johnrk wrote:
OK, Here it is again...I (beginner) use FreePCB and think it's awesome!! It has really gotten much better if you haven't checked in a while! I have done three boards on it now! I love it!

Same here. For me, the combo of TinyCAD and FreePCB is just perfect.
They're good enough for the hobbyist and not subject to the restrictions of the Eagle freeware version (only one schematic page and a max board size of 4"x3" was not acceptable for my needs), although you don't get autorouter natively.

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I've been using Eagle on Linux for a few months and it works well. The Linux and Windows versions are virtually identical which is nice if you ever need to switch between them. Its also nice that the Linux version is not an afterthought. As mentioned, the support and forums are very good.

The Eagle GUI is just a layer above a command based interface. Everything can be done from scripts or the command-line built into the GUI. On a crowded schematic it can be faster to type "value C2 1uF" than to mouse it.

Eagle does have a somewhat odd UI (which I've heard has some similarity to Autocad), but its easy enough to figure out and there is a decent tutorial.

One thing Eagle 4.x is missing (or I have not found) is the ability to put annotations on components. For example, I'd like to put the estimated cost on each part or a note like "place close to pin2". Fortunately, the beta version of Eagle 5 has a pretty nice way to do this.

The more advanced tools like Pulsonix look interesting, but the lack of a Linux version is an issue for me. That's probably a good thing since it reduces the temptation to spend a lot of money on a tool that would be overkill for my needs :)

-Brad

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microcarl wrote:
I think I'll stick with HiWire II and SmartWork, and just transition into Eagle!!!
Carl, I own and like Eagle Professional myself. But, I didn't catch why you were transitioning to Eagle from HiWire II

I did consider purchasing PADS and HyperLynx, but found I could not justify the price for the amount of PCB's I am designing. I found the signal integrity modeling and automated termination recommendations of HyperLynx to be very cool.

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kmr wrote:
microcarl wrote:
I think I'll stick with HiWire II and SmartWork, and just transition into Eagle!!!
Carl, I own and like Eagle Professional myself. But, I didn't catch why you were transitioning to Eagle from HiWire II

I did consider purchasing PADS and HyperLynx, but found I could not justify the price for the amount of PCB's I am designing. I found the signal integrity modeling and automated termination recommendations of HyperLynx to be very cool.

Because with each passing year, the risk gets greater that it (HiWire II) will be rendered useless with the passing of the legacy parallel printer port.

At least two of my current notebooks don't have parallel ports. As the older notebooks fall by the wayside, HiWire will become useless as, the security dongle requires a parallel printer port to get past the security check.

In addition, there are things that Eagle can do, that HiWire II would never be able to do.

But I suppose as long ad there are desk-top PC's and legacy printer port cards, HiWire II will be usable. I just won't be able to sit in my easy chair and work, if having to use a desk-top PC to lay out PCB artwork.

Finally, I know of no other HiWire II users. On the AVRFreaks forum, Eagle is by far the more popular PCB lay out software. Having Eagle puts me more into the compatibility mainstream.

You can avoid reality, for a while.  But you can't avoid the consequences of reality! - C.W. Livingston

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Thanks for the feedback, Carl -- the dongle is hassle, parallel-port based even more so. I didn't realize HiWire II wasn't keeping up with technology changes. Yes, I think Eagle (with all its warts) hits a certain sweet spot, especially with their freee version to get people started using it.

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microcarl wrote:
Because with each passing year, the risk gets greater that it (HiWire II) will be rendered useless with the passing of the legacy parallel printer port.

I just took a look at HiWire II out of curiosity, and had a chuckle reading this: "The demo requires about 640 Kbytes of RAM. On IBM PCs and compatibles, you must have either an EGA or VGA color display."

I think along with the parallel port, the lack of DOS support in Windows is going to be a problem for you at some point also.

Now if I could just find that 16 color EGA video card of mine :)

-Brad

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kmr wrote:
Thanks for the feedback, Carl -- the dongle is hassle, parallel-port based even more so. I didn't realize HiWire II wasn't keeping up with technology changes. Yes, I think Eagle (with all its warts) hits a certain sweet spot, especially with their freee version to get people started using it.

Oh, they (Wintek) do offer a Windows extended version of the HiWire II schematic capture and PCB layout software. But they want $1,600.00 or $1,700.00 for it. And an additions $16 or $17 hundred dollars for the auto-router.

I'm not really interested in another DOS patch!

Yes, yes! I've heard that Eagle is a kluge of DOS conglomerations too! But, at least there are hundreds, if not thousands of individuals or companies using Eagle - I'm not alone anymore. I at least have compatibility with part of the world. And most important, I have compatibility most of the AVRFreaks community.

You can avoid reality, for a while.  But you can't avoid the consequences of reality! - C.W. Livingston

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Thanks for the additional information, Carl. While Eagle doesn't have the most automated features compared to more expensive programs, with some work, you can do with it most everything a typical hobbyist wants. Yes, having the community of users to have library parts, schematics and boards, and tricks and tips does help.

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Quote:
I have tried Mental-Automation, or what ever they call themselves, at the cost of $250.00. The software is not too bad to use, except I had to make my own libraries. What killed my interest in this software was that, the libraries seem to need to live on the computer they were created. The libraries that I made won't work on any other machine.

Carl, I have used Mental Automation's SuperCad and SuperPCB since 1996. I have lived through multiple upgrades and spent over $1000 on the upgrades over the years. The product has gotten to where it is more or less usable. I have the expensive 16 layer version. I have seen the library issue you refer to. But, strangely I have found that if I copy the libraries to the 2nd machine 2 or 3 times they will eventually work. The program has numerous bugs in it that can really be irritating. Tech support has always been good up until the last year or so. I made a decision about 6 months ago to switch to another product. Even though the program is easy to learn and use, I can no longer put up with the strange bugs it has. I have also requested that multiple features be added over the years and the requests have fallen on deaf years.

I have tried Eagle and have about 60 hours of learning time in on it. I have gotten pretty good at using it and creating library parts. The quirky interface is aggravating to me even though I come from the Unix world and I am used to command line operation. But at least it works reliably and it will run on Linux (which is desirable, but not a high priority). I'm still not 100% committed to it.

I downloaded a copy of DipTrace a few days ago and have been playing with it. So far I am impressed but will not make a decision on purchasing it until I have completed a board and generated manufacturing files. Then I will have a better feel for the program.

I think if someone would come up with a good program with a Windows "feel" but with Eagle's reliability in the $500-$750 range, they would have a very marketable product. I am a hobbyist but also use my board program to do occasional contract work for other companies. I realize $750 is a little high for just a hobbyist, but I suspect a lot of the Freaks here also generate additional income with their hobby. The way to look at PCB software is that it is simply another tool in their tool kit.

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bphillips wrote:
I think if someone would come up with a good program with a Windows "feel" but with Eagle's reliability in the $500-$750 range, they would have a very marketable product. I am a hobbyist but also use my board program to do occasional contract work for other companies. I realize $750 is a little high for just a hobbyist, but I suspect a lot of the Freaks here also generate additional income with their hobby. The way to look at PCB software is that it is simply another tool in their tool kit.

I have the impression that Pulsonics is quite close to your needs, then.

If the software wants to penetrate the hobbyist market then there must be a free version with some usable functionality and something almost free ($50) with most features. Eagle has such a scheme and this is the main reason they have their market penetration despite the archaic interface. I think it is essential that users can evaluate the products capabilities without having to fork money over first. $750 is quite a bit of money for a hobbyist, he will create his PCB using cheaper tools. Just look how many hobbyists here fight with a parallel/serial port programmer because they think a $50 dragon is expensive.

On the other hand hobbyists do participate in library creation and share designs, but only for affordable (to them) tools.

Markus

Markus

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Pulsonix is intended for professional users. They also have Easy-PC, a less-complex package for hobbyists and students:

http://www.numberone.com

It's much easier to use than Eagle and costs about the same. I used it for over 15 years until Pulsonix came along.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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markus_b wrote:
Just look how many hobbyists here fight with a parallel/serial port programmer because they think a $50 dragon is expensive.
That a good point. I think a lot of people who choose to spend less don't realize how much more potential hassles (and less functionality) they get compared to spending more for a dragon.

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If you download the demo you can try importing designs for yourself:

http://www.pulsonix.com

I've done it once or twice with OrCAD schematics, it worked OK. If you want to try Pulsonix properly, they will give you a full 30 day license.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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Quote:
I have the impression that Pulsonics is quite close to your needs, then.
Unless I am not understanding their pricing, the 1000 pin Pulsonix cost is roughly $2500. That is a long way from $750.
Quote:
Pulsonix is intended for professional users. They also have Easy-PC, a less-complex package for hobbyists and students:
Easy-PC at $637 for 2000 pins looks promising. I will investigate it further. I do not need all the features like database storage, parts list creation, spice simulation, etc. Just the ability to create a PCB.

Even the autorouter is not that important. I have been designing PCBs for over 25 years and have never used the autoroute feature of any board program. Since 99.9% of my boards involve analog circuits, I've just never felt comfortable letting an autorouter handle the design. Maybe they are smart enough these days that they know how to avoid ground loops, input/output parallel lines, etc. Or maybe I am just old school.

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markus_b wrote:
There should be a standard format for devices. A small xml-file to go with the data sheet which describes the physical and pin properties of a chip or device. The chip manufacturers would supply this file and the PCB/Schematics programs would allow importing it into their libraries.

Unfortunately I'm dreaming...

Markus


Hah :) That's something I think we've all been dreaming about for ages. Some years ago I proposed the same sort of thing on the Protel mailing list, and while everyone thinks it's a good idea, nothing seems to come of the basic concept.

Tom Hausherr and the group at PCBLibraries.com have built a very nice and very complete library set, but it's quite expensive. And I don't think that this is the way to go.

Given the practically universal connectivity these days, the manufacturers should all be using a standard extensible XML format to describe their parts, much like the analog guys to with spice models. They should be available at a standard location within their company parts website, so that any EDA package can reach them.

The XML files would contain a complete description of the part. Everything from the schematic symbol(s), spice models if applicable, footprint(s), 3D models, variations, the works. To avoid data duplication, a lot of this could be references to other chunks of data - I'm thinking footprints mainly here, but can be anything.

This way you don't need a large library of parts locally that may or may not be accurate. Ever been burned by a stock library footprint that was wrong ? Or wrong schematic symbol connectivity ?

Browse to the vendor/manufacturer website, click click click on the parts you need (AVRs for example), or their libraries of passives or common parts. Those XML files come down and the EDA software translates the well-known and standard XML schema to whatever internal mechanism it wants. Internal reference links are resolved and the refs are downloaded as well. It would contain non-default-download references too, like datasheets and Design Notes - those could be pulled down at will.

This puts the onus of accuracy on the manufacturer, and you can bet they will be sure that those files are correct and accurate ... Much more incentive there than the EDA vendor. Dated updates can be posted on their site, and the software can check periodically - "ah, ATMega64 has been updated, download and update ?"

It really wouldn't be hard ... A basic XML schema to cover the basics would be the start - schematic symbols, connectivity, footprints. The hard part is getting the manufacturers on board, but once an Analog or Linear does, the others would come along I expect. Features can be added easily - it's XML - the EDA software just ignores any elements it doesn't know/care about.

Dean 94TT
"Life is just one damn thing after another" Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915)

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The only way this idea can fly is that either a big, commercial company implements it in an open (to its competitors) fashion or that is starts life in an open source package where it is supported initially only by volunteers.
Imagine is starting life in a parts/library editor for geda. If, in a few years, the geda library server hold information about every device available users of big packages will ask their vendors to implement an import capability.

Markus

Pulsonix: Unfortunately the Pulsonix website does not provide pricing information. I *hate* is if vendors don't dare publishing such an essential piece of information.

Markus

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They used to have prices on their web site, I'll ask them about it.

IIRC, it starts at $2,000 for 1000 pins and four layers, and goes up to $15,000 for an unlimited version with all the options.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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bobgardner wrote:
Thats the difference between having the EE that draws the schematic do the bd himself and having a fulltime layout guy to do it for him. Except you have to pay the layout guy every 2 weeks. You only pay Altium every 2 years or how ever often you get an upgrade.

How good are the autorouters? I've never used any autorouter besides Eagle's. I'm reading the datasheet for an ADC and it has a page dedicated to how to route all the paths of the circuit. Do they take into account what the manufacturer recommends?

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The Pulsonix one is very good, it's actually Electra. Things like ADCs should be routed manually.

Leon

Leon Heller G1HSM

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leon_heller wrote:
Things like ADCs should be routed manually.

Leon


Thanks. I was just curious as to how elaborate the autorouters can become.

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bphillips wrote:

> Even the autorouter is not that important. I have been designing
> PCBs for over 25 years and have never used the autoroute feature of
> any board program. Since 99.9% of my boards involve analog circuits,
> I've just never felt comfortable letting an autorouter handle the
> design.

Well, it's not important whether they *involve* analog circuits, but
rather whether there's a substantial amount of circuitry *besides* the
analog part.

For plain analog designs, there's probably still nothing that would
beat a human. However, the ability to just layout the analog part of
your design manually within a day or two, and then tell the autorouter
to run the other 50 % (the digital part) within 5 minutes is
something I wouldn't want to miss anymore. The big thing here (from
my experience) isn't even the ratio between another day of manual
layout vs. 5 minutes of autorouting, but rather the ability to
eventually go ahead and change the entire digital part after noticing
the typical 5-to-12 mistake, and then simply have the autorouter
re-run the connections within another 5 minutes. When doing manual
routing, you'd for sure do *everything* to avoid the step of
re-layouting after recognizing the mistake.

Jörg Wunsch

Please don't send me PMs, use email if you want to approach me personally.

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