In the coming future, the focus is going to be on more compact technologies and automation. With electronics all around us, circuit and PCB design is becoming an extremely important engineering discipline.
There are numerous software programs available to help engineers and designers work on the most complex PCBs and create innovative and essential technologies.
With this said, it is a pretty difficult task, selecting the best PCB design software. With hundreds of programs available, with a variety of features and prices, it can be tricky picking the correct one for you.
Hence, here is our Best PCB Designing Software comparison guide, where we compare 28 programs and discuss their details and highlights.
What Is The Best PCB Design Software?
To select the best PCB designing software, a number of factors must be considered. Some of the parameters we will be discussing in this article are key features, pros & cons, pricing, unique selling point (USP), target user base and so on.
The best PCB design software for you will be the one which offers you all the tools you require, at an affordable price and with system requirements that can meet your computer specifications.
Here are our picks for the Best PCB Design Software to use this year:
1. Altium Designer
Altium Designer is considered one of the industry’s best EDA and PCB design programs. It is developed by Altium and has been in the market for nearly two decades now.
With this software, you get the best of both worlds: simplicity and performance. The user interface is intuitive and easy to use, moreover, it is customizable. So, every user can personalize their workspace according to their needs and hence improve their work efficiency.
On the other hand, Altium provides high quality performance and a wide range of features to cater to all your designing needs.
Complex PCB designs can be made using the many tools it offers, such as hierarchical schematic display, interactive routing, design of high-speed features, FPGA design functionality, cloud-based team collaboration and so much more.
Read on to know more about the details of what Altium Designer 20 offers.
- Hierarchical Schematic Display: To help you work with complex schematics involving multiple sheets, Altium converts it into a hierarchical structure and displays information in a coherent manner with single sheets, making it easier to understand and work.
- Cloud Based Remote Working: For projects that involve multiple team members working on different aspects of the design, Altium has a real-time cloud-based working platform, which designers can use to collaborate on. They can work and share updates instantly, which will be reflected to everyone else in the team.
- Interactive Routing: Altium gives you the option of both manual and automatic routing. However, to make manual routing more efficient, it offers a set of interactive tools such as: obstacle avoidance, push & shove, hug &push and so on.
- Online Libraries: With a host of libraries that contain over 400k+ components, Altium’s libraries can help you with parts that are ready-to-use and can be downloaded and imported into your workspace directly.
- Supply Chain Management: A solution for users who are designing boards with a production point of view; Altium has a supply chain management system, that can take the details of parts you use in your project, obtain pricing, availability and other such information from the suppliers directly.
Why Choose Altium Designer? (PROS)
- ActiveBOM, the Bill of Material module of Altium has a smart system that dynamically makes changes to the BOM as you work on your project, and offers easy compilation options.
- The customizable UI is a great feature, and allows you to have a clutter-free work environment, with only the tools that you need.
- The Draftsman integration offers the functionality to generate production drawings and place them directly on to a Draftsman document.
- The ECAD-MCAD support gives users the option to check the fitting and tolerances of their board with its mechanical enclosure.
- Altium Designer can only be used on 64-bit Windows OS devices.
- The license costs are quite expensive.
What Is Unique About Altium Designer?
Given the amount of features it offers, and the level of complexity of the projects that you can work on with Altium, one would expect this to be a difficult program to learn and use. But it is actually really easy to get started with.
Beginners with low experience in designing can also use Altium Designer. Of course, the difficulty does increase as you move on to more complex operations, but there are tutorials to help you whenever you get stuck.
Who Altium Designer Is Best For?
Altium has a set of features for even the most expert users, and can help them work on advanced projects.
At the same time, it also has a simple and user friendly UI that allows novice users to get started with PCB design. The high costs might be a downside, but it is software that everyone can use.
- Altium offers a free trial with all the features, for a 15 day valid period.
- Academic trial versions are available for a 6-month period for free, to eligible institutions and students after registration on their website.
- Altium Designer 20 (Base version) starts at $7245.00 for a perpetual license, which can be paid in 12 monthly instalments. Additional features cost extra.
- There is no free version of Altium Designer.
Is Altium Designer Worth It?
The cost of purchasing an Altium license starts at over $7000. However, the cost is more or less justified with the functionality it provides. You get an integrated package which serves as a complete design solution for the entire design to production process.
Hence it is a program that will appeal to both beginners and experienced users alike.
2. AUTODESK EAGLE
Eagle is a powerful EDA platform initially developed by CadSoft Computer GmbH, which was acquired by Autodesk in 2016. In the past four years, Autodesk has made considerable improvements to the UI and the performance, and has updated the feature set to meet the rising demands and challenges in PCB design.
EAGLE is an acronym that stands for Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor. It now comes as in inclusion with the Fusion 360 software bundle from Autodesk.
Users get a variety of new tools such as a multi-window GUI, task scripting to automate regular and frequent tasks, a new routing engine, design and electrical rule checking and more.
Eagle 9.6 is the latest version and is available on a subscription basis. Thanks to the Fusion 360 package, designers get a host of electrical-mechanical collaboration features that allows for a more in-depth understanding and verification of designs.
- Design Reusability: With Eagle, you get modular design blocs. This allows you to select and save certain sections of your design and re-use them in a different project. Similarly, this can also be applied to shapes and patterns created, which can be saved as design objects to use in other projects.
- DRC & ERC: A good rule check system is crucial to quality control and design validity. Eagle provides a comprehensive set of design and electrical rules that can be checked against your design. The software quickly indicates any violations and you can correct them before building the next section of the design.
- New Routing Engine: To help you with routing complex boards, Eagle offers an OAR (Obstacle Avoidance Routing) system. This provides alternative paths around obstacles and allows you to trace by avoiding any obstructions in the path.
- Design of High-Speed Features: For certain types of PCB design applications, you might have to work with high-speed features. These come into play when the physical constraints of the board start affecting signal integrity and circuit performance. Eagle has functions to help you work with such boards such as length tuning, various types of vias and a tool kit for diff pairs.
- HDI Structure Design: HDI structures or High Density Interconnect structures are found in boards that are designed for compact technology such as micro-devices or wearable tech etc. Designing such high density PCBs requires a set of features. Advanced BGA (Ball Grid Array) fanout routing is one such feature that Eagle provides.
Why Choose Autodesk EAGLE? (PROS)
- DDS, or the Dynamic Design Synchronisation feature allows users to make simultaneous edits to both the schematic and the layout at once.
- A subscription based license system means you only have to pay for as long as you need to use the software.
- Eagle runs on Windows, macOS and Linux based systems, so you can use it on a variety of devices.
- The design reusability features such as modular design blocks helps in reducing time taken to complete projects.
- The UI is a bit difficult for beginners to understand and work with.
- The software is sold on a subscription basis, but recurring costs such as the annual maintenance fee tend to make the program expensive.
What Is Unique About Autodesk Eagle?
Eagle is a serious design platform for PCB designers with some experience and who deal with intermediate to advanced projects.
The great thing about Eagle is the integration it has with MCAD platforms, which allows users to open their ECAD files in MCAD platforms and check the interaction of the PCB with its mechanical enclosure and components.
Who Autodesk EAGLE Is Best For?
Eagle provides a great tool set for working with all kinds of projects, and has a lot of options that improve working efficiency and productivity.
Moreover, it works on all major operating systems such as Windows, macOS and Linux. You can avail it on a subscription basis, and pay according to the plan you require.
Free Version is available with Limited Functionality (Available for 12 months): Included with a Fusion 360 for personal use subscription, EAGLE free download is a limited version for hobbyists including 2 schematic sheets, 2 signal layers, and an 80cm2 (12.4in2) board area.
- A full-featured free trial is available for 30 days.
- Monthly Subscription: $60.00
- Annual Subscription: $495.00
- Three-Year Subscription: $1335.00
Is Autodesk Eagle Worth It?
Although this might come across as a bit of a challenge to novice users, Eagle provides a good set of features to designers who have a bit of experience and can understand the Eagle interface and navigation.
Given that it works on multiple operating systems and comes as part of the Fusion 360 bundle, the subscription costs are more or less justified, and make this a software program that you can go for.
3. Cadence OrCAD PCB Designer
PCB designers globally have used OrCAD for years now, and the feedback has been mostly positive. OrCAD isn’t fancy software with over-the-top features, but has a reliable and strong platform that provides all the essential features for carrying out most PCB design related tasks.
OrCAD is available with different versions to suit the needs of different users. It is a scalable program that offers investment protection.
With increasing requirements, users can upgrade their software to a higher version on the same design platform like OrCAD Professional or to Allegro PCB, the flagship design software from Cadence.
You can use OrCAD for various design projects with its features such as: signal integrity checking, simulation for mixed signals, auto-routing, rigid-flex design, vast online libraries with a library management system and more.
- SPECCTRA Auto Router: OrCAD offers users a powerful and advanced auto routing system with SPECCTRA, which can work with an unlimited number of layers. There are a number of adjustments you can make and parameters that can be set for fine tuning the routing.
- OrCAD Capture for Schematic Entry: For a quick and accurate schematic capture, OrCAD provides a great schematic capture tool in OrCAD Capture, which uses hierarchical or flat schematics. Moreover, these can be managed based on a thematic basis from the navigation panel.
- Constraint Management: A great feature for design validation and verification, the constraint manager system allows users to define custom rules and constraints for any module they are working on.
- Signal Integrity Checking: To perform simulations for signal integrity and circuit performance, OrCAD allows you to import and use Cadence or IBIS models. You can select a net in the schematic and run a simulation. Users can also change parameters such as length or impedance for analysis.
- High-Speed Design Rules: For those of you, who have to work with high speed features for boards such as memory boards, can use OrCAD for a comprehensive set of constraints especially for high speed features. The rule checks cover min-max length, diff impedance, routing layers and much more.
Why Choose OrCAD PCB Designer? (PROS)
- MATLAB support allows users to open and simulate MATLAB projects in OrCAD.
- Tools and automatic assistance while working on HDI structures or routing BGA fanouts.
- The CDIR (Constraint Driver Interactive Routing) gives automatic feedback and improves routing speed and reduces errors.
- Physical PCB layout editor available on the new OrCAD PCB Designer provides a new range of automation and layout features.
- This program offers a low level of integration and instead works with a lot of standalone applications, increasing loading and navigation time.
- The number of libraries available free of cost are limited.
What Is Unique About OrCAD PCB Designer?
Cadence OrCAD PCB Designer is a powerful platform for PCB designing, which can also be used for complex projects. You also get real-time feedback with the ECO system, which helps you identify and fix issues in your design. MATLAB projects can be opened in OrCAD for simulation and analysis.
Another great option Cadence OrCAD provides is the scalability feature. Beginners can use this software, and upgrade its features and functions as the requirements grow.
Who Is Cadence OrCAD PCB Designer Best For?
The ideal target audience for OrCAD is users who work on large sized boards, or have to carry out a large number of simulations. With students, teachers, engineers, professionals and more such people using it, OrCAD has a wide user base.
- OrCAD provides a free trial for 30 days
- There is an OrCAD lite student version available, free of cost.
- $1300.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Standard (1 Year License)
- $2630.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Standard (Perpetual License)
- $2300.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Professional (1 Year Lease)
- $7,040.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Professional (Perpetual License)
- $3600.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Professional with PSpice (1 Year License)
- $11,250.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Professional with PSpice (Perpetual License)
Is Cadence OrCAD Worth It?
Cadence here has provided a great PCB design tool, catering to a wide range of users with a clean and functional UI and a set of advanced tools to help users work on complex projects.
It is priced in the mid-range as compared to other design software. It also has a free trial, so you can use and see if it suits your needs.
DipTrace is an EDA solution for creating schematic diagrams and layouts for PCBs. DipTrace was first released in 2004 by Novarm Ltd. The latest version is DipTrace 4.0, with a whole range of improvements and new features.
DipTrace provides users its functions through four sub-modules, namely, SCE (Schematic Capture Editor), PCB Layout Editor, Component Editor and a Pattern Editor. The layout editor is known for its shape based auto-routing.
In the latest version, you’ll find a lot of new features, such as Gerber X2 manufacturing file support, ODB++ version 7.0, differential pair constraint manager and DRC with a constraint management system.
In addition to the above features, you also get an option to control phase and length tolerance in real-time, recognition of paired traces, phase tuning tools and the option to define paired pads automatically/manually.
Let’s take a look at some of its highlights.
- Component Editor: The component editing platform of DipTrace is quite well developed. Create single or multiple part components using templates and giving certain inputs such as dimensions, electrical and visual details; you can also import BSDL files, name pins and work with the part management system.
- Advanced Schematic Capture: DipTrace offers an extensive set of tools for working with schematics. A multi-sheet and multi-layer schematic can be worked on with the hierarchical capture tools, you can convert principal circuits to boards using the cross module management, perform front-back annotation and more.
- High Speed Feature Design: Now you can work on complex projects that involve design of high-speed features, such as RAM and USB boards. DipTrace provides features like length-matching, DRC for length tolerance and meander placement, dynamic length comparison tables, length matching and so on.
- Pattern Editor: The pattern generator module in DipTrace allows you to create and build patterns with various shapes, polygons and more, create footprints, and all of this is done in accordance with the IPC-7351 standard for quality assurance. Moreover, you can reuse custom templates, and save and export DXF files, used in manufacturing processes.
- 3D Model Library: The new version of DipTrace offers a range of 3D viewing and building features. This functionality is integrated with the layout and pattern editor, allowing faster model generation. You can also export the models in native CAD formats such as STEP, VRML, IGES, 3DS and more. DipTrace also has libraries with over 11k+ 3D compatible models that you can download and use for your project directly.
Why Choose DipTrace? (PROS)
- You can generate 3D models of your PCB and check it for various parameters.
- DipTrace offers a wide range of pricing options, which allows more users to be able to afford it.
- DipTrace works on Windows, macOS and Linux devices; hence it can be used on most computers.
- The UI is simple and functional, and there are tutorials to help beginners learn the software quickly and start designing.
- DipTrace doesn’t offer adequate features related to supply chain or production.
- A low level of hardware and GPU acceleration leads to the software running slowly during resource-intensive tasks.
What Is Unique About DipTrace?
Perhaps the best thing about DipTrace is that its very user friendly. Even novice users, who have little experience of PCB designing, can use this software and learn with its tutorials and guides.
Moreover, their pricing plans offer a range of prices and versions, which can suit most designers.
Who Is DipTrace Best For?
DipTrace is an EDA platform that is suited to most kinds of PCB designers. It contains features that can be used by designers from beginner levels to professional levels.
Users working on extremely complicated designs might feel a slight lack of tools and high level functions, but mostly they won’t. Also, the cross platform support and range of pricing options put it within reach for a wider user base.
- DipTrace offers a free version.
- It also provides a DipTrace Lite version for free to students and academic institutions.
- DipTrace Starter (300 pins, 2 signal layers): $75.00
- DipTrace Lite (500 pins, 2 signal layers): $145.00
- DipTrace Standard (1000 pins, 4 signal layers): $395.00
- DipTrace Extended (2000 pins, 6 signal layers): $695.00
- DipTrace Full (Unlimited pins, Unlimited signal layers): $995.00
Pricing plans for businesses, commercial ventures and academic institutions are different and a quote for the above options can be requested from the DipTrace website.
Is DipTrace Worth It?
For such a program, the answer certainly is yes. DipTrace proves to be a pretty great software application to meet your PCB design requirements. The performance is commendable; along with its vast range of features and the quick workflow makes this a good option to go for.
5. Altium CircuitMaker
Altium CircuitMaker is an EDA software program for PCB design, ideally meant for hobbyists, beginners, developers and the design community. It is written on a Delphi, C and C++ platform, and was released by Altium in 2015 initially. The entire package is a total of 600MB.
The unique thing about this product is that it is an open source and free of cost software app. The projects built with this can be used for both commercial and non-commercial uses.
This program has been developed by various publishers over time, and Altium has now upgraded it and added a lot of functions to assist you in carrying out all of your EDA work, with its latest version of CircuitMaker 1.3.
- Full Functionality at no cost : This open source freeware from Altium has one of the best feature sets in any free EDA platform. With this, you can work on 16 signal + 16 plane layers, with no limitations on dimensions of the board.
- Extensive Library Content: The massive Octopart database contains hundreds of thousands of components, which can be sorted and searched for by design parameters, suppliers and more.
- Team Collaboration: CircuitMaker allows team members to work together on a design, and hence speed up the process. Edits are reflected to every team member and designs once published can also be re-modified.
- Native 3D Visualisation: With native 3D, you can generate a 3D model of your PCB with a single key click. Moreover, the system will also indicate any clearance violations to help you get your design perfectly right.
- Interactive Routing: To make routing simpler and more efficient, Altium offers a host of interactive routing features that you are not available even in some paid software. Hug & push, obstacle ignore, push & shove etc. are all available in this program.
Why Choose CircuitMaker? (PROS)
- To simplify schematic editing, CircuitMaker has a multi-sheet schematic editor.
- CircuitMaker also offers you the Situs topological autorouter that works with BGA and SMT fanout, parallel memory, hug and via optimization and more.
- The DRC and DFM validation options and the host of formats available help you publish quality files for production.
- You can also import files from other EDA platforms such as OrCAD, EAGLE, PADS and more. The importer allows you to import both PCB and Schematic Documents.
- Offline saving is not an option, and only two projects can be saved online at once.
What Is Unique About CircuitMaker?
CircuitMaker has some of the best features you will come across in any free PCB design software. CircuitMaker also provides a range of features from its Altium Designer software, which include the ActiveBOM system and more.
It’s also free to use and is open source which makes the source code available to developers for editing.
Who Is CircuitMaker Best For?
This software is best suited to individuals looking to get started with PCB designing, hobbyists, and even professionals. The UI is easy to navigate and there are plenty of features that can cater to professional users as well.
The free version doesn’t have a non-commercial clause hence designs made using this can also be monetized.
Altium CircuitMaker is completely free to use, with no limitations on the features, and no payment of any kind is required.
Is CircuitMaker Worth A Try?
Although there are restrictions on saving files online, everything else about Altium CircuitMaker is great, the features, performance, manufacturing related options, and so on- they all work really well for a free to use software platform. So you can definitely try it out.
6. Cadence Allegro PCB Designer
As mentioned earlier in the article, Cadence provides a variety of PCB Design software solutions. These also include OrCAD. And Allegro, is the top of the class, flagship application from Cadence.
Allegro PCB Designer offers a suite of features that can cater to new and beginning users, and professionals alike. It was also the first program in the industry to be given the Fit for Purpose – Tool Confidence Level 1 (TCL1) certification. This applies to technology made for automobiles.
A host of new features is available in the latest versions, such as: rigid-flex designing, layout functions for design of high-speed features and RF antenna, DFM tools and more.
Allegro also includes design reusability features, automation and scripting, that allow you to schedule and automate certain routine or regular tasks, and improve your working efficiency.
- Allegro Miniaturization: Allegro’s take on compact technology, the Miniaturization features allow you to check required cavity space, part height vs. layer stack-up, clearance and more for part embedment. Rule checks are also available for HDI structures like microvia rules.
- PCB Library Management: You can now create and manage existing libraries with Allegro. It’s also easier to build 2D footprint drawings and 3D models. The libraries support both MCAD and ECAD content, and contain models that are ready to use. Furthermore, custom new 3D packages can also be created using templates and saved in the libraries.
- PCB Documentation Editor: To deal with the hassles of documentation, Allegro offers an efficient solution. Using the Allegro Manufacturing documentation module, you can create organised documents and files with production drawings, details and assembly guidelines etc.
- Symphony Team Design: For team members working on a project, Allegro provides an online platform where they can collaborate on the same project. The design allotted to each member can be done individually and shared in real-time.
- FPGA Design Planning: Programming an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) is a challenging task, and processes such as assigning pins take time. So, Allegro offers an FPGA planning tool, which allows users to keep a log of all the changes made to the FPGA, HW and layout design.
Why Choose Allegro PCB Designer? (PROS)
- The integration of Keysight ADS greatly improves the designing process.
- Allegro’s DesignTrue module for DFM (Design for Manufacturing) provides an easy method for checking rules and verifying your design from a manufacturing perspective.
- The ability to set custom constraints is very useful in getting dynamic design validation and accuracy.
- To simplify designing with high-speed features, Allegro gives you interactive commands that can be used for tasks such as phase tuning; moreover, you can color code the overlays for easy identification.
- The process for creating library symbols takes time and can be improved.
- The learning curve is a bit steep, beginners might find it difficult to use.
What Is Unique About Allegro?
One of the best features Allegro provides is its Symphony Team Design module. This allows team members to remotely work on a project in real-time. This can be used in two ways, the Concurrent Canvas and Partitioned Canvas.
By selecting the concurrent method, a shared canvas will be simultaneously available to all the designers, and their work is synced in real-time.
In the partitioned method, the design is distributed to individual team members and they can work separately to complete the overall design faster.
Who Is Allegro Best For?
This program from Cadence is mainly targeted at experienced users looking for an advanced design platform. Organisations with a large workforce can opt for Allegro.
It is also good for research and engineering professionals. This is not ideal for beginners and better suited to users who are more experienced.
Pricing plans for purchasing an Allegro PCB Designer license are given here:
- A student version is available as a free trial for 30 days.
- The cost for an annual license for Allegro PCB Designer is approximately $2800.00 to $3000.00, with extra features billed additionally.
- For the exact price, a quote can be requested from the official Cadence website.
- There is no free version. A demo version can be requested from the website.
Is Allegro Worth It?
Cadence Allegro is a highly capable and powerful design software program. It provides a range of advanced tools such as 3D model generation, simulation options, remote working environments, and so on.
For this reason, it’s used widely by design engineers and professionals. It is competitively priced and overall is a good choice for PCB designers.
7. KiCad EDA
KiCAD is truly a unique kind of PCB design software with a strong user base and market share, which has grown since its initial release in 1992. Over nearly three decades, KiCAD has improved its user interface, algorithms, and performance greatly.
It offers all the essential tools any PCB designer requires for schematics and layouts. Additionally, you also get a BOM (Bill of Material) generation system, the option to save files in a Gerber format, create artwork and more.
KiCAD is a free to use PCB design program, which works on multiple platforms such as Windows, macOS and Linux. KiCAD consists of five main sub-modules, which are:
- KiCad: (Project Management)
- Eeschema: (Schematic Capture and editor)
- Pcbnew: (PCB layout solution, with 3D capabilities)
- GerbView: (Gerber viewer)
- Bitmap2Component: (Image to PCB footprint conversion)
- PCBNew Routing Module: Users get a new layout and routing system called PCBNew, which proves to be faster and more efficient than its previous versions. Interactive routing features such as: push & shove routing, obstacle avoidance; autorouting and more.
- Eeschema for Schematic Capture: Eeschema is a great solution for schematic related tasks. It has a fresh and clean user interface, with all the tools placed where they should be. You also get hierarchical display for multi-sheet schematics and a range of formats such as PDF, SVG, HPGL and Postscript etc.
- Open Source and Cross Platform Functionality: KiCAD is a free of cost, open source and cross platform PCB design program. This means, the source code is available to software developers for free. Using this, they can easily work on debugging, improvements and releasing new versions with upgrades. KiCAD also runs on all major operating platforms.
- Gerbview Support: KiCAD features a Gerbview package that allows you to open modern canvases like OpenGL and Cairo. You also get new tools for measurement, and an option to export files in Gerber X2 formats, for manufacturing and more.
- Customizable Keys and UI: The user interface on KiCAD is simple and easy for beginners to understand and use. Moreover, it is customizable and allows you to set custom hotkeys for navigation and other tool shortcuts to make your work faster and improve productivity.
Why Choose KiCad? (PROS)
- It’s completely free of cost, can be used on multiple platforms and is open source.
- Eeschema uses ngspice integration to provide a full range of SPICE simulation products.
- You can use the partial clipboard feature to move symbols and nets between hierarchical sheets.
- The option to edit hotkeys and the simplicity of the UI are great features for faster PCB designing.
- KiCAD is not ideal for advanced designing such as HDI structures and boards with high-speed features and so on.
What is unique about KiCad?
Perhaps the thing that sets KiCAD apart from most of the other PCB designing applications is the great feature set it provides, along with its fast performance and all of it is free of cost.
You get updates easily, as it is open source, and hence you can develop it and customize it for your application if required.
Who Is KiCAD Best For?
KiCAD is not a very difficult application to learn hence novices can also try it. And it also provides some advanced features for experienced users.
Moreover, it has a simple UI and the installation and set-up processes are quite easy to follow. So it can mostly be used by anyone. For industrial use however, this might not be the best option.
KiCad is a completely free of cost PCB design program, with no maintenance or hidden charges. Upgrading to a newer version will also not require payment.
Is KiCAD Worth A Try?
Considering the entire range of PCB design solutions you get with KiCAD, for no cost, KiCAD is suitable option to go for.
It allows users working on different platforms such as Windows or macOS or even Linux to use the software. And the core tasks of PCB design, schematics and layouts, can be easily worked on with KiCAD. So it is overall a great choice.
8. Altium CircuitStudio
CircuitStudio is a more affordable, yet powerful PCB design application from Altium, which also publishes Altium Designer an industry-leading PCB design platform. CircuitStudio was released in 2015, and in some ways, is quite similar to Altium Designer.
Having the same developer, the UI has a few similarities, and users who learn either software can shift to the other without much difficulty.
CircuitStudio has some limitations in terms of features and performance as compared to Altium Designer, but at the same time, is available for a much lower cost.
The CircuitStudio UI is comparatively easier to work with for beginners. It includes a search bar which can also be used to type in commands, to run certain tasks. It also has format compatibility for projects saved in EAGLE or OrCAD workstations, and even .MAX files.
- Library and Content Management: With CircuitStudio, you get a large source for pre-built content and templates, in the included offline and online libraries. More than 350,000 components are available, which can easily be added to your project.
- Constraint Driven Interactive Routing: Users also get Altium’s proven CDIR features. Smart autorouting features, support for diff pairs, and more. These greatly improve the efficiency of your routing process.
- 3D Visualisation: Designers can generate 3D views of their 2D drawings. CircuitStudio also provides a range of ECAD features, and format support that makes your files compatible with other CAD software.
- Advanced Schematic Capture: With CircuitStudio, you get a powerful yet easy to use schematic editor. It generates high quality files with a wide range of format options. Additionally, there are tutorials to help beginners learn the essentials of schematics and work on projects.
- SPICE Simulation: CircuitStudio also has a SPICE integrated simulation package, with which you can run analyses and simulations to test your circuit performance and validate your design. The results are quite accurate and the process is optimized, so it doesn’t take up all your computing resources.
Why Choose CircuitStudio? (PROS)
- CircuitStudio provides heuristic and shape based interactive routing and topological routing, with simple collision avoidance and obstacle circumnavigation features.
- The ribbon based UI is clean, clutter free and puts the focus on productive tools in an organised and easy to learn environment.
- The design and electrical rule checking modules are well developed and work fast.
- You also get a command centre that can work as a search bar also, plus hotkeys and shortcuts for quick functions.
- CircuitStudio doesn’t support importing or opening FPGA, Core, and Embedded or Script project files.
- Making custom libraries for projects is a tiresome task, and requires you to copy paste schematic components into it manually.
What is unique about CircuitStudio?
CircuitStudio provides you the Altium PCB design platform, but at a much lower cost. It provides all the main and essential tools for working with PCB designs and creating high quality and accurate circuits and boards.
It also offers online cloud based team work sharing, which allows users in teams to work together and share their updates.
Who’s it for?
CircuitStudio is a great option for users looking to work on basic to entry level advanced projects. It can be used by students, organisations, and so on.
It isn’t exactly meant for large industries etc., because it is limited in terms of some of the advanced features. But for the price, it is a pretty good option.
Below are the plans available for purchasing CircuitStudio. This is license based software; hence with a perpetual license you can have lifetime ownership of the application.
- A free trial is available for eligible students for 6 months.
- A free trial is available for 30 days for new users.
- A Perpetual License costs $695 (Lifetime Ownership)
- In case you are switching from an existing Altium product, $495 (Perpetual License).
Is CircuitStudio Worth It?
CircuitStudio is a well performing, affordable product from Altium for PCB designing. It can be used by beginners as well, and even by professional engineers and designers.
The system requirements are also not that demanding, and the software comes in a small sized download package. For the affordability, feature set and performance, this proves to be a great software application.
9. Labcenter Proteus
The Proteus PCB Design Suite is an EDA tool developed by LabCenter Electronics. It was first published in 1988, and is primarily a Windows based software application.
This is mainly used by designers and engineers to make schematics and layouts for printed circuit boards, and even create projects for manufacturing. It can be purchased with various specifications, to make it more tailored to your needs, based on the size of boards you deal with, and other factors.
Some features however, are standard to every version, which include a shape-based autorouter, mixed-signal circuit simulation with SPICE, and so on.
- Footprint Libraries: The inbuilt libraries cover all your component requirements with the full IEC libraries and SMT footprints; the standard SMT libraries which are IPC-782 and IPC-7351 compliant are also included.
- Template technology: Users can create multiple board templates and technology data and re-use it for multiple projects. New layouts can be created using existing information to save time and get your work done faster.
- Intelligent Manual Routing: You can track anywhere, and Proteus will automatically remove ratsnest lines, move around obstacles and more. It is also possible to re-route any section of the track that has been routed. Easy commands are available to change track parameters.
- Shape-Based AutoRouting: The Proteus shape based autorouter is standard in all the versions. It uses advanced cost-based problem solving algorithms to enhance the rate of completions even for the most challenging board routes.
- Power Planes: Users get an advanced set of features in Proteus for power plane support: custom placeable polygon shaped regions in which the system can automatically create boundaries around existing pads and routing.
Why Choose Labcentre Proteus? (PROS)
- In all the versions, you get minimum 16 Copper Layers, 10nm Resolution, and any angle placement is allowed.
- Proteus provides a really well developed hardware acceleration system to improve your display experience manifold.
- The interactive routing includes design rule validation for both curved and straight interactive routing; and you also get Constraint Driven Layout features.
- The shape based autorouting and mixed signal simulation features are standard in every version of Proteus.
- The features for working with high-speed designs are limited in the Ares layout tool.
What is unique about Proteus?
Proteus is among the best software for PCB design in the world. It provides you with some truly unique and innovative features, that are actually useful, and not just for namesake.
The entire product is built around features that improve productivity, reduce loading and navigation times, and offer the best possible performance with the given resources.
Who’s it for?
With a variety of plans and an option to scale up when required, this software can be used by users with some experience in designing to experts looking to work on complex boards or working in industries for production of PCBs.
- Proteus Platinum Edition: $8,003.00
- Proteus Enterprise Edition: $6,592.00
- Proteus PCB Design Level 1: $487.00
- Proteus PCB Design Level 1+: $652.00
- Proteus PCB Design Level 2: $982.00
- Proteus PCB Design Level 2+: $1,642.00
- Proteus PCB Design Level 3: $2,022.00
- Proteus PCB Design Starter Kit: $248.00
Is Proteus Worth It?
Proteus has been in the market for about 25 years now, and over this time it has greatly improved its platform based on user feedback.
There are a plethora of pricing options available based on the version you pick. In terms of performance and functionality, Proteus has almost everything you could require for working on virtually any PCB design. So, this program is definitely worth it.
EasyEDA is a unique PCB design platform in the sense that it is an online EDA application. It provides quick access to a wide range of design tools and features that can be used without any setup or installation.
With EasyEDA, you can easily carry out tasks such as schematic capture, layout, circuit routing, library creation and management, project management, and you also get team collaboration features.
All of this is available for free, and users of all major operating systems can use EasyEDA. It doesn’t require any installation or file downloads. There is an optional downloadable package that can be used offline, on your computer.
EasyEDA contains libraries with pre-built components, which can be directly added to your projects. Over 1 million parts are available for you to use as required. It also offers catalogues from LCSC, one of the largest PCB component makers, and provides you with part details and pricing for more than two hundred thousand components.
- Online Workstation: The unique feature of EasyEDA, that it is an online design program has a lot of benefits for designers. Firstly, you can open the software website using your regular web browsers. Secondly, since it’s online, you can access your project from multiple devices, at any time, and work on your project anywhere. It also allows cloud storage of files for reference or use later.
- Image to Shape Conversion: This feature in EasyEDA allows you to import an image, from all major formats, and use a tool to convert it into a shape. You can define certain parameters and settings, and then the software will generate a shape based on the image you imported.
- Team Collaboration Features: Team members working on the same project can now collaborate, share files and updates. EasyEDA offers an online system which designers working in teams can use to remotely work on a design and the changes are reflected to all the other team members.
- Productive User Interface: The EasyEDA UI is a simple, yet very productive environment, with a focus on making the essential tools easily accessible without much navigation. Even beginners can easily understand the workspace, and further learn using the tutorials provided by EasyEDA on their website.
- Autorouting and SPICE Simulation: Two features that are used in the core of PCB design, EasyEDA provides them both in its online program. The autorouter allows a range of parameters to be set by the user such as: via diameters, track widths, number of route layers and so on. The simulation features are based on the Ngspice engine, and allow you to perform analog and digital circuit simulation.
Why Choose EasyEDA? (PROS)
- You get a WaveForm viewer, along with SPICE simulations in the Schematic Capture module.
- EasyEDA also supports 3D model generation from 2D files and data, and viewing 3D models and rendering.
- Team members can work and collaborate online using the EasyEDA team platform.
- EasyEDA is a free to use software application, and can be run on Windows, macOS and Linux systems.
- This software isn’t ideal for advanced designing and complex PCBs.
- Internet connection issues can hamper your work, so a good and stable internet connection is required at all times to work freely.
What is unique about EasyEDA?
EasyEDA is an online program for PCB designing, and it is also free of cost. Users on a variety of operating systems can use it for quick and easy designing.
The feature set is great, with some features that certain paid software also has only recently added.
Another great thing about EasyEDA is that the library content they provide is excellent, with a huge variety and easy access and usage for design projects.
Who’s it for?
Ideally, anyone can use this software. Students, teachers, hobbyists, even small to mid-sized businesses or industries. The free version is also allowed to be used commercially. And with its cross-platform compatibility, users with various devices can try EasyEDA.
The standard version of EasyEDA is completely free to use and can be used as an online editor or a desktop client.
There are two paid versions available with extended support and slightly better features. These versions are available for: Professional for $4.9/month and Enterprise for $9.9/month.
Is EasyEDA Worth It?
EasyEDA is definitely a capable EDA platform, and provides many useful options and tools for designing circuits and PCBs. The work environment is simple and clean, and doesn’t require too much experience to understand it.
Given that it is also free, online, and works on all major OS devices, this is certainly a great option for designers.
Pulsonix is an electronic design automation software suite for performing PCB design related tasks. It is developed and published by WestDev, which is based in England. Pulsonix was initially released in 2001, and is based on the Windows Operating System platform.
Pulsonix offers three main versions. They offer from 1000 pins to an unlimited component pins for larger boards. An autorouting feature is standard in all the versions. Users also get a variety of import options to help them import their files from the database of another EDA platform to Pulsonix without any issues.
Let’s take a look at some of the main features of Pulsonix.
- Dynamic Copper Pour: This is a new feature offered in the latest version of Pulsonix, and performs automatic healing of damaged copper areas with an interactive editing module that also works in sync with thermal, copper pour and net rules.
- Selection Mask Browser: Another new feature in Pulsonix 10, it allows precise and refined user-defined selections with the advanced Selection Mask Browser.
- Advanced PCB Technology: For designers working on projects with complex requirements, Pulsonix can be used as it provides: flexi-rigid design, embedded components, chip-on-board and more such options.
- Accurate Component Placement: Component placement is an extremely crucial part of PCB design. The placement sites feature allows you to import DXF and place components in a precise manner with a snapping tolerance that can be defined by the user.
- PCB Documentation: PX makes it easier to generate reports and documents, where you can use standard or create custom files for BOM, pick & place, PCB acceptance reports, netlists and save them in a variety of formats.
Why Choose Pulsonix? (PROS):
- Interactive routing with features like Push, shove and hug routing.
- The manual routing supports differential pairs, multi-trace routing, pin-swapping and gate-swapping as well.
- Pulsonix also allows you to stitch vias within custom pads and shapes.
- With PX, you can also generate files for manufacturing with Gerber and ODB++ formats.
- The license costs become rather expensive when all the add-on features are included.
- There is a steep learning curve given all the advanced features included.
What is unique about Pulsonix?
Pulsonix offers users all the advanced PCB design tools you might find in a high-end PCB design application. It also does not compromise on performance, with a smooth user interface, and optimization for Windows based systems.
The latest version of Pulsonix also offers some new features such as dynamic copper pour and the user selection masking etc. These are really handy features that improve your working flexibility.
Who’s it for?
A lot of users have used Pulsonix for designing electrical systems such as lighting for automobiles and more. This software is not for absolute beginners and has quite a learning curve.
It is more suited to designers and professionals who have experience and require advanced features.
Pulsonix is available in three main versions. A free trial version is also available, with full functionality; the only limitation is a 100 component pins limit.
The CAE bundle of Pulsonix costs approximately $5000. For an exact quote based on the version you wish to purchase, a request can be made on the Pulsonix website.
Is Pulsonix Worth It?
In terms of features, Pulsonix does offer a lot of functionality to the users. When you compare it against the pricing though, the top version turns out to be expensive. There are other low end software with some limitations but mostly the same features, and cost much less.
And similarly, if you are willing to spend this much, you could go for the high-end software. There is still, a free trial available, which you can use and check with your work requirements.
12. SOLIDWORKS PCB Designer
Solidworks has been known globally as a tried and tested mechanical CAD platform from Dassault Systems. Their EDA software is SolidWorks PCB. With the great reliability of Dassault, you also get the EDA platform used in Altium’s PCB design products, as this is powered by Altium.
The collaboration provides you an elegant solution with dual ECAD-MCAD possibilities, and allows you to integrate factors of electro-mechanical design in your PCB project.
The program has some highly productive features for schematic capture and editing, and circuit layout. You also get DFM file generation, BOM (Bill of Material) generation module and more.
SolidWorks has all your fabrication related needs covered as well. Let’s take a look at its highlights and more.
- Altium Design Platform: SolidWorks provides you the best of both worlds. EDA and CAD modules in one integrated environment work great. Users get layout, routing and more essential PCB design requirements with the Altium engine.
- ECO System: The Engineering Change Orders system, or ECO system, allows you to sync edits between CAD and EDA platforms of SolidWorks easily and avoid making manual changes in two places, such as managing the board shape, part orientation, mounting holes and more.
- Rigid Flex Design: To help you work with rigid flex designing, SolidWorks includes options to improve spatial efficiency, and give you more control over parameters and settings for flexible board substrates to get the required shape.
- Design Feedback and Review Features: For projects that involve designers working in teams, this is a great inclusion. This feature allows you to edit history of the entire project, which makes it easier to debug and enhance quality control.
- Advanced Simulation Features: A seriously powerful simulation system is available in SolidWorks, with which you can output PCB Copper geometries. SolidWorks includes databases with detailed info about copper, and allows you to conduct analyses such as thermal and vibrational simulations for board performance.
Why Choose SOLIDWORKS PCB? (PROS)
- The MCAD features allow you to instantly open your ECAD model in a 3D environment and interact with mechanical tools.
- A wide range of content and components is available for use in the SolidWorks libraries, with part details from suppliers as well.
- The SPICE 3f5 simulation module provides analog, digital and mixed signal simulation.
- Supply chain management is also included, which allows you to obtain component related details in advance, and receive updates on them dynamically.
- Beginners might have some difficulty working with SolidWorks PCB because there is a slight learning curve.
- The system requirements are a bit high and the installation and set-up are lengthy processes.
What is unique about SOLIDWORKS PCB?
The thing that makes SolidWorks PCB so efficient and productive for PCB designing is its collaboration between Dassault and Altium. You get a great EDA platform along with a CAD environment where you can use electro-mechanical elements to achieve a perfect design.
Who’s it for?
The software can be used by anyone with some experience in PCB design. Absolute beginners might find it slightly challenging with its learning curve, but can use it with some guided learning.
SolidWorks PCB is available as a perpetual license with an annual maintenance fee. The one-time payment is $3995.00. And the maintenance fee, which covers updates and support, costs $1200.00.
No free trial is available. For exact pricing according to your requirements or academic/institutional versions, a quote can be requested from the official SolidWorks website.
Is SOLIDWORKS PCB Worth It?
SolidWorks PCB is a powerful and capable design solution, which gives an integrated and efficient platform for intermediate to complex projects. Both CAD and EDA features are available in SolidWorks.
Although the license costs are on the higher end of the range, for slightly more money, you could opt for some of the more advanced software programs if your work requires more features than offered in SolidWorks.
13. PADS PCB Design Software
Mentor PADS is a Siemens product for working with electronic design and simulation. This is a PCB design and analysis tool for users looking for a capable and powerful EDA solution.
Mentor PADS provides you with the required tools for design, validation and production related tasks for printed circuit boards. Its Xpedition technology is well developed and delivers great performance.
The learning curve is gentle, and beginners can also use this software, and this comes at an affordable price as well. There are features for professional users as well, so they can work on the more complicated projects without facing any issues like lack of features or inadequate solving capabilities.
Read on for an in-depth review of its details and functions.
- Xpedition Platform: The PADS Professional edition is built using the same platform as Mentor’s top of the line design programs, with lots of feature upgrades and improvements over time. This ensures a good performance even for complex tasks.
- Scalability Features: A great option for users with varying requirements, PADS can be scaled according to your design needs. As your needs increase with time, you can upgrade your existing PADS license to a higher version with more functionality and features, whilst maintaining your account and database.
- CIM (Component Info Management): The library management system also features a sub-module for part handling. You get over 11k+ parts and a range of partitions and categories for easier search and navigation. The libraries follow the IPC-7351B standards.
- Design Reusability: The variant management function available in PADS allows you to select sections of your schematic design or layout and use it for multiple different iterations. This also applies to parts and shapes that you create in the software.
- FPGA Design Features: The symbol generation tasks for FPGA can be automated to save time, PADS offers FPGA integrated services to reduce the processing time for design to production.
Why Choose PADS? (PROS)
- Advanced simulation options, such as thermal mapping for the electronic circuit.
- Signal integrity and power integrity analysis to find IR drops, voltage drops and other power distribution related issues.
- The PADS features for routing, such as the Multi-Trace HSD works even for high-speed features and reduces process time.
- The PartQuest libraries contain more than 450k+ components.
- PADS doesn’t offer team collaboration or cloud based working features.
- The license costs are quite high, and upgrades cost extra.
What is unique about PADS?
PADS provides a powerful system for serious PCB designing. Although it doesn’t have a very fancy user interface, it is still very functional and intuitively built.
The Xpedition technology it provides is used for high tech projects that include constrained topologies power distribution, diff pairs, wide buses, HDI structures and more such technologies.
Who’s it for?
Users with all kinds of experience levels can use this software, from novices to expert users. It works on both 32 bit and 64-bit Windows systems, and provides a good range of features to suit designers and engineers in various fields.
Below are the pricing plans for Mentor’s PADS professional edition.
- A full-featured free trial is available for 14 days.
- A student version license can be availed for 1 year.
- PADS professional perpetual license starts at $8995.00.
- Note: Annual maintenance has to be paid for upgrades.
Is PADS PCB Design Software Worth It?
PADS helps you work on even the most advanced PCB designs and proves to be a strong application to deal with large projects efficiently. The software doesn’t provide very extensive features for remote working or team collaboration.
Although even despite all the benefits it offers, the fact remains that the license cost is very high, and added with that the maintenance fee for upgrades, this becomes an expensive program.
14. NI Ultiboard
NI Ultiboard is an EDA platform developed by National Instruments. It is included with the NI Multisim software suite that is a collection of circuit design programs. Ultiboard offers a lot of features to aid high quality design, such as the real-time rule checking system.
Ultiboard was initially introduced by Ultimate Technology, and later acquired by National Instruments. Being an NI product, it is specially focussed on academics and enhancing teaching-learning processes.
Multisim brings you SPICE simulation packages to help you analyze circuit behaviour and board performance quickly.
- Customizable UI: The user interface on Ultiboard is fresh and new. It has a modern look, with a focus on essential tools. Moreover, users can customize the UI to place the tools they need and where they need them.
- Data Visualisation: Multisim gives users 20 powerful analyses that include transient analysis, noise and much more. The data can be visualised in the NI grapher.
- Data Comparison: Using the NI Educational Laboratory Virtual Instrumentation Suite II (NI ELVIS II), users can compare data from circuit simulations to real-world measured and recorded on physical devices.
- PLD Schematic: Students can use NI Multisim to generate VHDL from digital circuits that can be captured and simulated using the PLD schematic feature. The Programmable Logic Device can work with the VHDL file to handle FPGA boards and more.
- Advanced Schematic Capture and Routing: With this software, users can opt between automatic or manual routing. The manual mode has interactive features, along with Constraint-Driven routing. Users also get forward/backward annotation with Ultiboard, a symbol editor, 3D breadboard and other such features.
Why Choose NI Ultiboard ? (PROS)
- With Multisim, you can perform advanced analyses even early in the design phase.
- Thanks to the Ultiboard integration, you can easily transfer the schematic to the PCB layout.
- The libraries offer more than 55,000 manufacturers verified components that can be used for your projects easily.
- Output formats include Gerber and DXF, which help in easy manufacturing of your design.
- The license costs are quite expensive, and similar features can be found in lower priced applications also.
What is unique about NI Ultiboard?
NI Ultiboard, along with Multisim, creates an environment for high quality academic functioning. The software provides a host of advanced features that facilitate a realization between software simulations and real-world data measurements.
Who’s it for?
Ideally, this is best suited for teachers, students at various levels, research workers and so on. It can be used by individuals as well, but it is not recommended for absolute beginners. It is better to have some experience before trying this.
The prices indicated here are for perpetual licenses.
- Base Version: $1869.00
- Full Version: $3267.00
- Professional Version: $4838.00
- Education Version: $662.00
Is NI Ultiboard Worth It?
The answer here depends on your requirements from the software. If you are in academics, this is probably the best software you can pick.
If you are a standard user, you can find programs that are priced lower, but still offer more or less similar kinds of features. NI has a standard edition for regular users, so you can try that if required.
15. DesignSoft TINA
TINA from DesignSoft is an EDA platform, where TINA stands for Toolkit for Interactive Network Analysis. It is a SPICE powered circuit design application mainly used for carrying out simulations and analyses.
It offers analog, digital and mixed circuit simulations and all the essential tasks for designing PCBs.
TINA was first released by DesignSoft in 1990, and in the past 30 years, it has improved immensely to become a contender for the best PCB design software. You can run this application on Windows, macOS and Linux, and it also has some online versions which can be run directly through your browser.
- Complete Simulation Suite: With TINA, you can conduct offline, online and SPICE simulation, in addition to model development. It offers real-time testing for analog, digital, IBIS, HDL, MCU and mixed signal circuits.
- ADC and DAC Simulation: TINA also includes features to help you with DAC and ADC converters and more with a parallel and SPI interface. You can even import IBIS models to check the signal integrity.
- Microcontroller Simulation: With TINA, you also get a host of microcontrollers that can be tested, debugged and more. Also, they can be run in an interactive mixed-signal circuit workspace with simulation.
- Circuit Design and Optimization: The optimization tool included with TINA allows you to determine unknown circuit parameters and by doing so, the network can produce a target output that you want to reach, be it min or max.
- Integrated PCB Design: TINA also offers a highly integrated PCB design module. You can use this for designing even complex PCBs, with features like multi-layer PCB design with split power plane layers, auto-placement, auto-routing and much more.
- TINA also includes a variety of virtual instruments for simulated and real time measurements.
- Specifically focused student editions are also available, with features to help them learn and test their knowledge and skill.
- LabXplorer and TINALab II multifunction instruments are also available.
- In the latest version, export format compatibility with software such as OrCAD and Altium has been improved for Schematic export.
- This application focuses on simulations, hence it is not meant for people looking for a PCB design program specifically.
What is unique about TINA?
TINA is a unique software suite for engineers and designers who specialize in the field of PCB analysis and circuit performance simulation.
It offers unmatched capabilities in these areas, along with providing all the core PCB design tools, to give you a complete solution for working and simulating circuits to validate your designs.
Who’s it for?
Although TINA offers design features as well, its main target user base is those who are looking to work on circuit behaviour analysis and carrying out simulations for all kinds of performance factors and design validation.
- TINA 11.0 Design Suite Basic Edition, Single User: $129; comes with free TINACloud Basic registration (1 year).
- TINA 11.0 Design Suite Basic Plus Edition, Single User: $299; comes with free TINACloud Basic registration (1 year).
- TINA 11.0 Design Suite Classic Edition, Single User: $600; comes with free TINACloud Basic registration (1 year).
- TINA 11.0 Design Suite Industrial Version, Single User: $1200; comes with free TINACloud Industrial registration (1 year).
Is TINA Worth It?
In the field TINA works, there are not many other programs that provide this kind of functionality and support. The license costs are also justified according to the features included.
The optional student version allows you to practice and train students in PCB related design and analysis. Overall, this software is a great option for the work it does.
16. Easy PC PCB
For PCB designers, Easy-PC PCB has been in the market for many years, proving itself as a reliable, affordable and easy to use app. Although Easy PC is not free, it is a highly cost effective solution for circuit design.
The basic version starts at around $200, and it includes just the essential tools for PCB design. Users looking to get started in this field, hobbyists, or novice users will find this most useful.
Beyond the base version, there are a variety of additional options that can be purchased to increase the functionality, as per your requirements. Moreover, Easy PC is also really easy to use. Let’s take a look at what all it offers.
- Selection Mask: The version 23 of Easy PCB includes a new toolbar with options for instant selection masks for component, routing, shapes and text.
- Component Rules: The new design technology allows you to define constraints by component areas. It also offers an online design rule check for component areas.
- New SCM and PCB design wizards: The new schematic and PCB design workspaces allow you to create designs more easily than ever. Parameters such as layers, powerplanes, solder resist or paste masks can be constructed using simple selections.
- Smart Gerber Import: Now, Gerber, Excellon or BOMfiles can be imported using a simple drag & drop feature into the intelligent Gerber import window/dialog.
- Libraries with component search engine: The libraries offered in Easy PC PCB contain over 15 million components with their symbols which can be downloaded and used in the project easily.
Why choose Easy-PC PCB? (PROS)
- Manufacturing and supply data is available with the component details.
- Works on both Windows 32 bit and 64 bit systems with full free technical support.
- The new V23 includes an improved fanout creation pattern feature.
- Affordable versions with customizable add-ons to make the software meet your design requirements.
- Absolute beginners might find the various features confusing such as applying rules for RF and more.
What is unique about Easy PC PCB?
Easy PC PCB is a quite affordable design solution for PCBs. It offers some really good features for its price, and also is compatible with all major import and export formats.
This makes it easier to transfer files from an older EDA platform to Easy PC, or to migrate from this to a different program.
Who’s it for?
This is ideal for individuals, who want to work on basic to intermediate programs, fast and without the hassle of too many complicated features. There are multiple versions available that can be customized with features as required.
- Unlimited Pins License: $847.00
- 2000 Pins License: $657.00
- 1000 Pins License: $487.00
- Update to Version 23: $147.00
Is Easy PC PCB Worth It?
Easy PC PCB proves to be an easy and efficient software program for hobbyists and intermediate designers. Considering all factors, this is a cost effective design solution with decent performance and good reliability.
ExpressPCB is an EDA software program which is available in two main variants: ExpressPCB Classic and ExpressPCB Plus. This program has been in the market for around two decades.
The Classic version is meant for users looking for a more essential design tool, with all the basic functions, in an easy to use user interface. The Plus version is more suited to experienced users, and offers some advanced features to help you work on more complex projects.
The great thing about ExpressPCB is its navigational simplicity. The toolkits are intuitively placed and are really easy to access. The libraries offer a quick component search. There are many more such features, the details of which are given below.
- Modern design features: ExpressPCB allows you to work with 2-6 layers, with a minimum via drill or pad of .006”. You can also trace routes on internal layers. The min hole drill size is 0.010”. Additionally, the silkscreen is available both on bottom and top.
- The latest version also offers the option to route with a 5 mil trace/space. Moreover, some constraints and rules can also be defined or edited by the users such as min space, trace, thermal relief width, smallest hole and more.
- User friendliness: One of the main features of ExpressPCB is how easy it is to use. The simplicity of the user interface and the intuitively placed toolkits make this a great choice for beginners.
- Production and Documentation Features: ExpressPCB includes a set of functions for production tasks. You get the option to create design notes and documentation, generate a Bill of Material and even get quotes and orders from suppliers directly.
- ExpressPCB also offers manufacturing services. The board you design in the software can be sent to manufacture at ExpressPCB at minimal fabrication costs.
Why choose ExpressPCB? (PROS)
- The software applications are completely free to use.
- The user interface and toolkits are simple and can be used easily.
- ExpressPCB places no limit in terms of functionality, board sizes, and number of sheets and so on.
- The layout files generated are well suited for toner transfer process while etching during PCB fabrication.
- The output files generated cannot be saved in Gerber format.
- The designs can only be given for manufacturing to the ExpressPCB fabrication shops.
What is unique about ExpressPCB?
ExpressPCB is a free to use, simple PCB design tool available in two levels of functionality. Despite being user friendly, it is capable of handling some advanced designs also.
The files generated can directly be sent for manufacturing to ExpressPCB through the software itself.
Who’s it for?
ExpressPCB is ideal for beginners, or anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience in PCB designing. However, it can also be used by experienced users for a little more complex designing. Since it is free, you can easily download and try it out.
The software, both ExpressPCB Classic and ExpressPCB Plus, are free to use. Files created in these programs can be manufactured at a low cost at the ExpressPCB manufacturing centers. The prices for fabrication can be obtained from their website.
Is ExpressPCB Worth A Try?
If you are an engineer or designer looking to get PCBs manufactured quickly, at affordable prices for casual use, this is a great option to pick. It is free, and the system requirements are also not that high, so it can run easily on most Windows systems.
PCBWeb is a free to use PCB design and EDA software application. It is available for Windows OS devices, and can be downloaded and installed easily. Users who are just beginning with circuit design will find this to be a good option.
PCBWeb has a partnership with Digi-Key and other PCB makers as well, however you can export your files in standard manufacturing output formats to fabricate from your preferred manufacturer.
Free software usually doesn’t offer a lot of functionality, but in this case, PCBWeb strikes the right balance between a good mix of features and simplicity of using the software.
- Schematic Capture: PCBWeb makes it much easier to navigate around while working on schematics both with the mouse and keyboard. Intuitively placed tools that can be accessed using shortcuts make this easy to use.
- Part Placement: PCBWeb offers a very well integrated component catalogue which you can easily browse and search with filters and place parts directly in your project, with both a symbol and a footprint.
- BOM Management: You also get a Bill of Material manager with PCBWeb. Each part in the design has a valid Arrow part number, and the system generates a list with all these parts and an orderable link.
- Design Rule Checking: With PCBWeb, you get both design rule checking that covers mechanical rules, and electrical rule checking. Running a rule check can be done simply by clicking an icon on the toolbar.
- Selection Filters: PCBWeb allows you to mask certain objects while working on the layout of the design. This helps you improve your design efficiency as it limits the number of active objects in the selection filters/mask.
Why choose PCBWeb? (PROS)
- Completely free to download and use.
- Wide range of PCB design features that work very efficiently.
- The Copper Pour process is very easy to carry out and can be done with great precision.
- You can easily design multi-sheet schematics using the writing tool in PCBWeb.
- PCBWeb does not offer features like 3D modelling or rendering.
What is unique about PCBWeb?
The simplicity of working with PCBWeb is great. It is a free software application that is really easy to work with. Moreover, it also offers some great features such as electrical and design rule checking and a Bill of Material management system with an included catalogue for supply info from suppliers.
Who’s it for?
PCBWeb is best suited to new users, novices with little experience in PCB design, or anyone looking for a capable, yet free tool for circuit design. Users looking to work on advanced projects might find it lacking in terms of some features. But then again, it’s a free program.
PCBWeb is a free to use PCB design tool, hence no payment of any sort is required.
Is PCBWeb Worth A Try?
Considering that this is a free application, the functionality is limited to an extent, however, all tools needed for designing basic circuits and PCBs are present.
Not recommended for advanced designing. Windows users can give it a try to see if it meets their requirements.
19. DesignSpark PCB
DesignSpark PCB is free EDA software that can be accessed with a simple registration process on their website. It was first released in 2010, and can be run on major operating systems such as Windows and Linux (through Wine).
The newest stable release version of DesignSpark PCB is the 9.0.2, which was published in January 2020. DesignSpark is a partnership between RS Components and Number One Systems. It also supports multi-sheet schematics with one layout file.
- No Design Limitations: With DesignSpark PCB, there are no limitations on schematic size, number of sheets in the PCB, layers, or maximum number of nodes, pads, connections. The max board size possible is 1m x 1m.
- Custom and Standard Libraries: Users can create custom part models using the library editor module or use the embedded libraries.
- In addition to these features, you can also prepare files for manufacturing with standard output formats such as Gerber and ODB++, and the program also finds quotes from manufacturers using PCB Quote.
- Bill of Material Generation: DesignSpark PCB also offers BOM creation and editing with fast and easy to use tools, with a range of formats to save it in. Further, you can upload the file to the RS Components website using the BOM-Quote feature and the system will find the right parts.
- Smart Autorouting: DesignSpark PCB includes auto-routing capabilities that smartly place tracks between components on the layout. Parts can also be auto-placed.
Why choose DesignSpark PCB? (PROS)
- Completely free to use, and runs on Windows and Linux platforms.
- The UI is really simple to understand and navigate around.
- Extensive library support and the option to create custom libraries is quite helpful.
- The software also provides video tutorials to guide you through the process and get the best out of the software.
- This software doesn’t provide simulation features.
What is unique about DesignSpark PCB?
To find this level of functionality in a free software program is rare. But DesignSpark PCB provides quality performance and proves to be a capable EDA platform.
Low on automation and a lot of the tasks need to be done manually. But still, it is quite easy to use and even includes video tutorials to guide you.
Who’s it for?
All engineers and designers who are looking to quickly design a PCB with fast tools can opt for this. Moreover its free and the UI is functional while not being complicated. This software is not ideal for projects that are complex or involve advanced features.
The DesignSpark PCB software is free of cost, and can be downloaded from the DesignSpark website for no charge at all.
Is DesignSpark PCB Worth A Try?
In terms of freeware, this software does turn out to be quite good, with its production related features, easy layout and schematic editing, and no limitations on design parameters such as number of sheets and layers etc.
So, overall it’s a good choice for basic to intermediate projects.
20. PCB123 – Sunstone Circuits
Sunstone Circuits provides a complete PCB design solution, to take our board from scratch to manufacturing. PCB123 Is software built around the concept of getting the work done fast and accurately.
It is a free program, which offers quite a lot of features. This is Windows based software. PCB123 has been created to be intuitive and enhance productivity and cut down on time wastage.
It does so based on the user feedback Sunstone has garnered over about four decades. It even has the option to send your PCB for fabrication from within the software. The boards ordered through the software are given priority in shipping and are available at lower prices.
Below are mentioned some of the key features of PCB123 and their details.
- This software has an option to import netlists from multiple external sources and CAD vendors. It also lets you design on both sides of the board and use silkscreens and set connections.
- Users get component libraries with over 145,000 parts that can be imported into the project window directly upon download. It also features 3D model generation from 2D drawings. Part creation process is also really simple with PCB123.
- You can work with boards having 2/4/6 layers. PCB123 also includes Copper Pour facility with net connectivity. The Copper Fill also automatically checks and provides clearances for pins and parts.
- Some of the features in the new version include: enhanced user controls such as unified toolkits and control panels, faster rendering, smoother drag&drop and so on. You also get a complete access pass to all of Sunstone’s manufacturing capabilities.
- Real-Time Bill of Material generation, as the layout, schematic and BOM all stay in sync and get updated dynamically. Moreover, you can also obtain supply related information on parts and quotes from the suppliers and order from within the software itself.
Why choose PCB123? (PROS)
- Despite being a free software package, this offers DRC and DFM capabilities to ensure a valid and manufacture-ready design.
- Drill sizes on orders placed through PCB123 are unrestricted, and slots and cut-outs are available on the PCBs and in the definition of the parts.
- Users also get toll free technical support during business hours which can be availed on facing any sort of technical issue regarding the software.
- Free software with cheap production rates, and helps you design quite quickly.
- The autorouting functionality is limited and only one trace width is allowed.
What is unique about PCB123?
PCB123 is an EDA software program that you can use for free, and it comes as a really small installation file, only around 6MB in size. They have not put any restriction on board parameters, and also provide manufacturing for your PCB from within the software itself, at discounted rates.
Who’s it for?
Anyone looking to quickly design a circuit and get a PCB manufactured can easily turn to this. PCB123 is not very tricky to use, and also provides technical support.
Individuals, students, hobbyists- they all can try this, and since its free, others can also quickly download and see if it meets their PCB design needs.
PCB123 from SunStone Circuits is a free to use PCB design program. No payment is required for using the software.
Is PCB123 Worth A Try?
With PCB123, users get some advanced features like DRC and DFM, which ensure that you have a smooth design to production process.
Additionally, it includes a real-time BOM management system, which changes as you work on your layout and schematic. So considering these factors, and the fact that you can send your board for production directly, this is a good free solution for PCB design.
Fritzing is an open-source electronics hardware platform, with an aim to make electronics design accessible to everyone. It offers a software design tool, a forum as a community website and processing services as an integrated ecosystem.
You can document your prototypes, upload them and share them with other users, use this software for teaching and even prepare layouts for production. It is free software and can be run on a device with a Windows XP-10, Mac OS X 10.5 and up and Linux with libc greater than or equal to 2.6.
Being open source, it means any developer can access the source code and make modifications or improvements if needed. It can present the workspace in three main views: the Breadboard view, Schematic view and PCB view.
- Dynamic Library Updates: The Fritzing libraries are now stored at Github, and it is also checked automatically for updates. This means whenever new parts are added or some bug is fixed, you get the edits instantly, and don’t have to wait for a new Fritzing version to release.
- Intuitive Workflow: Carrying out design tasks is intuitive and quick. You can pick pre-built parts or make custom parts, make connections and edit the circuit. You can even edit the parts and their properties or switch between project views.
- Fritzing Community: Since Fritzing is open-source, they provide a portal for discussion and communication. On their forum, you can interact and get support or share ideas with other users and friends and even contribute by sharing custom parts and code development etc.
- New Additions: Some of the new features include a High-DPI display support, easier part management, TLS for all links, color coded wires (according to their lengths) and much more.
- Simplicity of use: Fritzing is a really good place for beginners to start PCB designing. It’s really easy to work with, provides fast results, and even the autorouter gives a decent output.
Why choose Fritzing? (PROS)
- Free, open-source and cross platform functionality.
- Easy to understand and use, and allows you to create custom parts or use stock components.
- Dynamic library content updates that help new components reach you instantly.
- Project views such as Breadboard, PCB and Schematic view let you work in the environment you prefer.
- Creating custom parts can be a tiresome process.
What is unique about Fritzing?
Fritzing is an open source, free software platform that is also quite easy to use. Moreover, it provides tools to work on all core PCB design tasks, and they work fast and well. You can also place orders for manufacturing your designs directly.
Who’s it for?
This software is best suited to novice users, hobbyists and designers who want to get a PCB built quickly. Mostly meant for individuals, students and so on, considering it’s freeware.
This is a free to use software program, and hence no payment is required. Optional donations can be made to fund the development of the platform.
Is Fritzing Worth A Try?
When it comes to free software, you usually find limitations or a lack of features. With Fritzing, this is not the case, and it does have some good features, but still can’t be used for advanced designing.
This is targeted at basic design projects, and works well for that.
Upverter is an all-encompassing EDA solution with a focus on design realisation. It was first released in 2011, and this works as a cloud/web based platform. It allows users to build projects, design schematics, and create layouts and much more.
In 2017, Upverter was acquired by Altium. And in 2018, it was announced that Upverter and CircuitMaker would be offered together. With Upverter, you can generate a Bill of Material, export files in Gerber format, and even generate 3D models from 2D drawings. What’s more is that it doesn’t require any payment, and is free to use.
It is also really easy to use, and can be used by all those who are looking to get a PCB manufactured, regardless of their expertise in this field. Users can opt for existing project templates or customize their designs and create their own components.
- With Upverter, users get Multiple Object Inspection and Similar Instance, which allows you to make property changes to a selection of multiple objects at once.
- Assisted Net and Bus Routing: To save time and create a better comprehensive design, this software features real-time routing of schematic wires.
- Library Management: An advanced search system is included with Upverter that searches the millions of components available in the Upverter libraries. You can also search based on tolerance, component type, packaging, manufacturer, and much more.
- While designing, Upverter offers a feature which allows you to replace all the similar parts in the design with some other components without any hassles. The pins are also automatically re-connected smartly.
- Configurable Settings: You also get the option to configure design rule settings using the Constraint Manager, including fine-tuning and re-defining constraints by filtering and more.
Why choose Upverter? (PROS)
- The libraries also include direct links to part datasheets and manufacturer details.
- Users also get flexible Silkscreen re-sizing and alignment options that work on both custom silkscreen art and text.
- A really helpful feature, Upverter allows you to undo and redo through the entire design history.
- It is free, and comes now with Altium CircuitMaker where they work in tandem.
- Although this is an online platform, it is sometimes unstable while performing heavy duty tasks or moving too many parts etc.
What is unique about Upverter?
A great feature available in Upverter is that it allows users to collaborate on their designs online. Changes made in the design are reflected to the other collaborator instantly.
Moreover, if you go for the Altium and Upverter suite, you get the CircuitMaker platform as a desktop client and the Upverter application as an online tool.
Who’s it for?
This software is mainly intended for basic to intermediate design tasks, and is best for users who need free and quick access to a design platform with good functionality.
This program is offered as freeware by Altium LLC, and no payment is required to use it.
Is Upverter Worth A Try?
Upverter offers some quality features, such as 3D visualization, a simplified user interface and of course, the online functionality. Overall, this proves to be a great online platform for EDA and circuit design. It’s free as well, so it proves to be a pretty good choice.
23. Zenit PCB
Zenit PCB is a great tool for designers and engineers who want to create a quick and accurate PCB prototype. It works on Windows OS devices and allows you to design PCB projects with up to 1000 pins.
The Zenit software suite comprises of sub-modules. It contains the Zenit Layout tool, with which you can design the main layout through the netlist of components that are to be used. The Zenit Capture Schematic tool helps you select circuit components and create netlists.
This is also free software. It also features a compact and basic user interface, and supports all major formats for import and export, such as Gerber. In the next section, there are some of its highlights and main features.
- Auto-Jumpers: In the latest version of Zenit, auto-jumpers have been added. While routing, the jumper list can be invoked and you can place the selected jumper where you want to.
- PhotoView: Zenit also allows you to view the PCB as it would look on production, complete with the silkscreen, slots, through holes and other features. This is quite helpful in analysing the board and checking for errors.
- DXF Support: With Zenit, you can also import and export DXF files from major CAD platforms like AutoCAD and more. It is also possible to export every single layer and every item such as traces, slots, pads, vias and more.
- Alternative Bottom Component: A PCB with a bottom component allows you to change the footprint. Using the component library, you can set the bottom footprint.
- Trace Current Calculator: The software can calculate the trace current capacity, and tell you how many Ampere a trace is carrying, or could carry. This solver works on a few input parameters and uses empirical equations to solve the problem.
Why choose Zenit PCB? (PROS)
- IDF export capabilities allow you to export files in IDF format with 3D data, which can be opened in most mechanical CAD programs.
- The option to create Obstruct Shapes within which certain operations are denied is quite functional.
- Free and supports a variety of formats for import and export.
- With a command, you can rename all the components inside the layout based on a variety of parameters.
- Offers basic features, cannot be used for complex projects.
What is unique about Zenit?
Among free software for PCB designing, Zenit is considered to be a good option. It provides a fast and effective system for creating quick designs. With features like Electrical Rules Check and a host of formats supported, this is a capable platform for basic and casual to intermediate designing.
Who’s it for?
Budding designers, individuals and hobbyists can use this, or anyone who wants to try their hand at PCB designing without investing in paid software can go for this.
This is a free to use software program.
Is Zenit Worth A Try?
Zenit is a good software program for EDA tasks, and it comes for free. Although there are other free programs that offer more in terms of features than Zenit, this software has some productive and innovative features in a basic and functional environment to help you work fast.
24. PCB Artist
PCB Artist offers users an integrated PCB design environment, which is user friendly and can be used to perform day to day PCB design tasks. It is developed by AC4PCB and works on Windows devices and is specifically helpful to users with little to no prior experience in PCB design.
PCB Artist is free software which offers extensive libraries and tools. The user interface is simple and focuses on basic functionality as a priority. This helps beginners to not feel intimidated by too many features at once.
However, at the same time, this program also contains some advanced features, that can be used by more experienced users to work on projects involving more high level technology. Let’s take a look at some of these features.
- In-App Quote and Ordering: With PCB Artist, users can design the PCB, and upload the design to AC (Advanced Circuits), one of America’s leading PCB manufacturers. This makes it easier to get direct quotes and production.
- Comprehensive Component Library: The vast library available to you with the software helps in reducing the time spent in creating components from scratch. You can also use footprints created by other designers. Over 500,000 components are available.
- Powerful Design Features: This software allows you to create schematics with up to 28 layers; and has features like: auto-router with a number of settings, native EAGLE file import, symbol/footprint/part creation wizard, design status reports and much more.
- Live Technical Support from Advanced Circuits: Through PCB Artist, users can contact AC for their technical issues and queries, via phone and email during business hours. Tutorials and guides are also included to help users.
- Free DFM (Design for Manufacturing) and rule checking is available to ensure your design is valid, error-free and ready to manufacture. Moreover, this software also features a BOM management system.
Why choose PCB Artist? (PROS)
- Easy manufacturing orders and quotes are available directly from the software.
- Library content includes more than 500,000 parts for easy usage in the project.
- The component auto-placement and auto-routing features work well.
- Free and easy to use, contains tutorials to help beginners also.
- No Simulation features are available.
- Production costs for PCBs ordered through the software are pretty high.
What is unique about PCB Artist?
The best things about PCB Artist would be its simplicity and the balance it creates between being an easy to use software program and the advanced functions it also provides.
The live tech support from Advanced Circuits is a good and helpful feature, which also offers easy order placement for manufacturing the board.
Who’s it for?
PCB Artist is best suited to individuals and students who can use this software to quickly design and manufacture a PCB, with decent high level features and lots of tutorials to help users with little experience in circuit design.
PCB Artist is free to use software, and no payment is required.
Is PCB Artist Worth A Try?
For a free software application, the functions and tools provided are quite good. It also creates just the right mix of features and simplicity, so as not to make the UI too complicated for beginners.
Hence, it’s ideal for novices and engineers looking for a quick design to production process for PCBs.
25. FREE PCB
Free PCB is a completely free to use, and open source PCB design editor for performing circuit design and editing tasks. It is built for Microsoft Windows operating system devices, under the GNU General Public License.
Its main focus is ease of use and quick learnability. And yet, it is still capable of handling advanced professional designs. It comes with an intuitive UI and can handle up to 16 copper layers.
You also get a footprint wizard and a footprint editor along with libraries and the option to create custom parts. Some of its key features are mentioned below.
- Ease of Use: In addition to the standard design tools, some extra features are there that make the design process much easier. The autosave feature stores files incrementally. File handling also allows you to re-use project files or import them into another project.
- Footprint Wizard and Editor: You also get a wizard that makes it easier to create footprints. You can also edit existing footprints, or download some from the libraries and customize them for your project.
- Design Rule Checking: The Free PCB DRC system works really well, and handles constraints such as trace widths, unconnected pins, clearances between features and holes, pad sizes and more.
- Netlist Import: With wide format compatibility, you can create the netlist in any schematic editor and import it into Free PCB; this can be done with any program that can save output netlists in PADS format.
- Functional UI: The user interface is basic, and includes essential elements that are placed intuitively. You also get a selection mask, a function menu and shortcut commands that are displayed at the bottom of the screen/window.
Why choose Free PCB? (PROS)
- Free PCB includes the option to export files in a Gerber (RS274X) format.
- The output files can be used to make boards of sizes up to 60in x 60in.
- The Free PCB libraries also contain components from Ivex Design International, PCB Matrix and IPC.
- Free PCB also offers a DRC and autosave feature, as well as allowing you to perform copper fills.
- Advanced features such as 3D rendering are not available.
What is unique about Free PCB?
Free PCB is a unique tool in the sense that it is one of the most basic PCB design tools, but also has features that are highly functional and help you design clutter-free designs in a clean work environment.
Who’s it for?
Students, individual designers, hobbyists, or anyone looking for a basic design software program to help them work on PCB designs without too many complicated features etc. can definitely use this program.
Free PCB is freeware, and hence requires no payments to be made.
Is Free PCB Worth A Try?
For anyone who is looking to make basic designs in a clean and functional workspace, will find this software really worth it. Moreover, since it’s free, others can also try it and see if it meets their requirements. This application does everything it claims, and does it well.
TinyCAD is an EDA software program for making schematic drawings. You can also use it for layouts with multiple netlist export formats. Standard and custom symbol libraries are also supported.
Further, it can also be used to create and export SPICE simulation netlists. Most users use this for drawing one-line diagrams, presentation drawings, teaching and making block diagrams. Its source code is available on Github, along with its documentation.
TinyCAD also has some great features, such as BOM generation, rule checking, and multi-sheet schematic and so on. Moreover, it is free of cost for use. Some of the main features are mentioned in the next section.
- Various Electronic Components: The TinyCAD workspace offers a variety of electronic components such as symbols, wires, junctions (that can be automatically placed), labels, power, no-connects and more. It also allows you to draw components with its range of shapes.
- Improved Editing Tools: A number of editing features have been provided in TinyCAD to ensure smoother workflow, such as: shortcuts for editing, block tools to work with entire selected areas at once, automatic wire drag with symbol and so on.
- Export Format Support: TinyCAD also offers a range of formats you can save your files in, such as PNG, EMF, text files, PADS, and all major EDA and ECAD file formats.
- The Electrical rules checking feature checks wiring errors, connection errors and much more. You can also have multiple sheets in one schematic, and create symbol references automatically.
- TinyCAD is a free and open source software application, which receives regular updates and bug fixes, and the source code is on Github for developers to modify as per their requirements, if needed.
Why choose TinyCAD? (PROS)
- TinyCAD supports flat or hierarchical schematic creation and editing.
- It also provides features to embed graphical images in drawings, easily.
- You can save your file in all major formats compatible with most EDA and ECAD software programs.
- Free of cost, and easy to use. It is also open source, which helps in receiving updates and bug fixes quicker.
- The user interface has quite some scope for improvement.
- The libraries have multiple versions of the same file in some cases.
What is unique about TinyCAD?
TinyCAD has some high quality schematic working features, which allow you to create multi-sheet schematics, arrange sheets in hierarchical order and more.
You can also insert graphical images in drawings, which helps in creating better PCB documentation.
Who’s it for?
Designers and engineers, who need a free program to work on their PCB designs, can use TinyCAD. It offers good performance and productive features that can be used to work on basic to slightly complex designs.
The TinyCAD software program is free to use, and there are no license costs for TinyCAD.
Is TinyCAD Worth A Try?
In the market, there are a number of free EDA software applications. But TinyCAD manages to stand out given its work environment and features that allow experienced users to create better schematics more easily. And since this is free software, anyone can download and try it.
27. PCB Creator
PCB Creator presents itself as a free software program for PCB designing and general EDA tasks. It is developed and published by Bay Area Circuits. This is a free tool for layout and schematic capture.
This software integrates an ordering system for manufacturing your designed boards. You can design custom boards with 2-4 layers. PCB Creator also contains tutorials that follow a step-by-step approach to help users design their circuits better.
The program also offers simple manual routing and auto routing tools, in addition to pattern and component editors, which can be used to create and edit custom parts and footprints. A host of formats are also supported for import and export of custom libraries, and other files.
- Multi-Level Schematics: To make schematic editing easier, PCB Creator includes the option to insert hierarchy blocks into the main schematic sheet or into the blocks itself as required. Users can arrange the components directly on the PCB and use the placement and routing features to connect blocks with the PCB Layout.
- 3D Viewing: You can easily generate 3D models or import them from external sources, or download them from the libraries which contain over 6500 free models. You can also interact with the model and view it in different orientations.
- Intelligent Project Structure: PCB Creator supports net division by net classes with parameters that can be defined by the users and class to class constraints.
- Placement Features: You can set the software to place components automatically or manually. The system places pads and components at an optimum distance.
- High Speed Design Features: A great feature set, PCB Creator offers tools to help with design of high speed features, such as: routing tools for diff pairs and high-speed transmission lines, which also work with phase constraints to maintain signal integrity. DRC also works with high-speed features.
Why choose PCB Creator? (PROS)
- The high speed features are highly capable and allow for single and double track routing. Real Time design rule checking is also available for High Speed features.
- Runs on Windows, support for MacOS X is also there.
- You also get 3D preview and export options, with more than 6500 3D models.
- The hotkeys are customizable and can be defined as required by the user.
- Powered by DipTrace and provides an integrated design environment.
- The maximum number of layers you can design with is limited to 4.
- Upgrades are available, but they are paid.
What is unique about PCB Creator?
PCB Creator works in collaboration with the DipTrace design platform. It features four sub-modules to handle all our PCB design tasks. This is also one of the only free software programs that offer high speed design features, 3D rendering, supply chain management and more such advanced features.
Who’s it for?
Although this software is free, its capabilities are not limited at all. In this sense, it can be used by everyone from beginners to even professional users who need to work on technologically advanced boards.
This is a completely free to use program and does not require payment of any kind.
Is PCB Creator Worth A Try?
This is one of the best free EDA programs available currently. The features it offers can be used to work even on advanced boards and circuits.
It integrates great functionality in a modern and clean UI, with customizable shortcuts. Overall, this is a capable PCB designing platform.
28. Osmond PCB
For all the Mac OS users who want to work on PCB designs, Osmond PCB is a great and smart product for the same. Osmond supports multiple units and provides a set of features for setting up the program as you need it.
This software helps you work without restrictions and bring out the maximum potential of your design skills. Osmond is a pretty easy program to understand and use, and beginners should not have much of a problem in starting their first design using this.
Osmond also offers Osmond Cocoa, which is a simple app that can be used to design a basic miniature version of the PCB that you actually need to design. This has been designed using the Cocoa app framework in Mac. The user interface in Osmond is modern and high on functionality. Some of the main features of Osmond are given below.
- Dimensional Freedom: With Osmond, you get to choose your preferred units. The software can be run with imperial units, metric units, or even both. Within a project as well, you can switch easily between the units to work with the one you require.
- Schematic Import: Upon importing a schematic file from an external application, Osmond can import the netlist and part list while maintaining the specified constraints and design rules. The entire process can also be done in a custom manner and you can start from scratch.
- Tracing Options: Apart from all the standard functions such as moving and re-orienting parts, connecting and routing traces, editing traces and pads and pad stacks, Osmond also allows you to make curved traces and create PCB labels.
- Flexible Grid: Users can import any PDF document and set it as the background image. This can come in handy when you have to match your design to an existing design or verify something in your design.
- Part Editor: Included with Osmond is a Part Editor, using which you can create and define new part types or edit existing ones. Moreover, both through-hole (TH) and surface mount (SMT) part types are supported in addition to standard geometrical pad shapes.
Why choose Osmond? (PROS)
- Osmond offers a spatial resolution of 10nm for precise working.
- Parts can be placed on the board anywhere, with any orientation.
- The software includes a part editor which can be used for easily making new parts or editing existing parts.
- You can use it for free for designs with up to 700 pins.
- Only available for Mac OS devices.
- The free version supports up to 700 pins, for larger designs, the paid version needs to be used.
What is unique about Osmond?
Osmond is a dedicated EDA program for Mac OS users, and offers a simple and well developed circuit design solution. It offers precise and accurate design tools, in a clean and modern looking user interface.
The software doesn’t pose any restrictions on the design in terms of size and number of layers, only in terms of pins.
Who’s it for?
For Mac OS users, this is a great choice. The program is quite simple to learn and work with. The navigation is smooth and working with the tools and features provided makes the experience rewarding.
Individuals and casual designers can use this, or anyone who wants to try PCB designing on a Mac device.
The Osmond software package is free to download and use for projects with less than 700 pins. The Osmond Cocoa program costs $79.00 for a perpetual license.
Is Osmond PCB Worth It?
Osmond is a worthy design solution for circuit and electronics engineers who use a Mac OS device. With this software, you get a good balance between simplicity, a modern user interface and features that give a good response and are not too complicated to use.
The files can also be output as Gerber files, so you can send your designs for production as well. With this, considering that it is freeware, Osmond becomes a capable choice for PCB designing and EDA tasks.
What Are The Features That Make The Perfect PCB Design Software?
PCB Design software is crucial in creating a valid and good prototype before sending your board for production. The best PCB design software programs are the ones that have features like the ones mentioned here:
 Essentials: Good Schematic Capture and Layout
Perhaps the most obvious yet understated feature, programs with a good schematic editor and layout are the ones you should go for. Considering that these are the essential and core tasks for PCB design and you will focus most of your energy here.
 A normal learning curve
Given that a good EDA program can be slightly complex to use, we don’t expect a very easy program. But software with steep learning curves will mean that unless you are an expert user, you might end up spending more time reading the manuals than actually working on the design.
 Simulation Features
Performing an accurate simulation can go a long way in ensuring that your PCB is performing as per your design, and that there are no mistakes in the design that might affect signal integrity or board behaviour. It is better to pick software that supports analog, digital and mixed signal circuit simulations.
 Community Support
This is also really important, and can be judged by the popularity of the software. Popular and widely used software will have a large community, which will help you find quick answers to your queries and share ideas.
 Innovative and Intuitive Features
After considering all the broad points, you can narrow down on to the specific features that the programs provide. Intuitive features, well designed UIs etc. will help you design much faster, and without navigating unnecessarily or wasting time looking for tools.
How to Choose Best PCB Design Software
Selecting the right PCB design program for your use revolves mainly around your requirements. However, some general guidelines and factors are extremely crucial and should be considered while choosing the software. Those factors have been described below:
 Local Software/ SaaS Online Software (Software as a Service)
This is important to consider, as it will dictate how you will be working and to a large extent, the kind of features you will get and you will have to check your system specifications and the software requirements to see if they are compatible.
 The Cost
See if the cost is within your budget. You must also know what type of license the software offers (Subscription based/ Perpetual License based) and if there are annual payments or any additional payments.
 Your Requirements
Does the software support the size of board you need to design? Check for any restrictions in size, number of layers, sheets or pins etc. and only purchase the software if it meets your requirements.
 Technical Assistance
You should also ensure that the software developer provides servicing, maintenance, tech help and so on. Even if you don’t require assistance, it is always good to know that you have some help should you need it.
 Format Compatibility
This can be really important if you work with multiple software, or are converting from one program to the other and do not want to lose all your files. Also check whether the new software supports standard import and export formats.
 Library Content and Management
Having content libraries is a great help. It saves you from the trouble of having to create everything from scratch. The management features help you sort and arrange custom parts and pre-built parts and use them in the design as required.
Who Uses PCB Designing Software?
PCB design software or EDA software is used mainly for designing and building printed circuit boards in a constrained environment before sending the board for manufacturing.
Using this software, engineers and designers go through multiple iterations of layouts and create many schematics, before finalising on the best possible design, in which all the requirements of performance and physical constraints are satisfied.
Cost is another factor in this. Through the software, design engineers can come up with accurate PCB models while also considering the cost to manufacture and assemble the board. This helps in making a cost effective design.
Finally, the software can also be used to enforce quality control through rule checking and validation, design verification, dimensional checking and so on.
Simulations can also be carried out to test the performance and behaviour of the PCB, and see if it performs as intended by the design engineer.
Which is The Best Free PCB Design Software?
In terms of selecting the best free PCB design software, the answer would be KiCAD. It is a completely free to use, open source and cross-platform EDA solution.
KiCAD offers great features, with support for making layouts with up to 32 copper layers. It has a good user interface which provides for easy tool access and navigation. You also get 3D viewing and rule checks and production related features.
EAGLE is also a good choice, but it is paid for projects with more than 2 layers. You can read a detailed comparison here (KiCad Vs Eagle). Hence, the winner here is KiCAD.
Which is The Best PCB Design Software For A Beginner?
As a beginner in PCB designing, selecting the right software is very important. Here, we suggest three of the best PCB design software for beginners. They are: KiCAD, DipTrace and ExpressPCB.
These three offer a simple user interface and include tutorials and guides to help you learn better. All three of these are also available free of cost. However, if you must pick one, we suggest you could try DipTrace.
DipTrace provides all the essential design features, and some advanced features too. You also get a well-designed UI, along with toolkits that are placed intuitively in the workspace. Moreover, it can be arranged and customized as per preference. Also included are some tutorials and documentation to help you design.
Which Software is Best For A Layout of Any Circuit Design of PCB?
When it comes to layout creation and editing, the software which has focussed tools for this is EAGLE. Although there are many programs with good layout wizards, Autodesk EAGLE happens to be slightly better than the rest in this aspect.
In fact, EAGLE has features such as: real-time design sync between the schematic and the layout, intuitive alignment tools, advanced ERC and DRC and much more.
It also features a new routing engine, with interactive push and shove routing, obstacle avoidance routing and customizable constraints. Together, they make EAGLE a very capable choice for layout editing, related tasks and work.
Which is The Best PCB Designing Software For A Startup?
Start-ups ideally require software that doesn’t need too much investment, can be run on computers without the need for high-end specifications, and are easy and quick to use.
We would suggest three software programs. They are CircuitStudio, CircuitMaker and PADS standard. The first two are Altium products, while PADS is by Mentor.
PADS is the most expensive out of these, CircuitStudio is more affordable and CircuitMaker is completely free. For those start-ups that are looking for a free solution, CircuitMaker will be their best option.
Which PCB Designing Software is Used in Industries?
For large industries, a lot of factors need to be taken into consideration. And although a lot of programs in our list are used by industries, the choice for the best software here is Altium Designer.
Altium has improved and optimized its product to a level where it can be used for designs of all complexity levels, with no restrictions and blazing performance.
The team collaboration and cloud based features, ActiveBOM and supply chain management features, customizable UI- all these and much more comes with this software, and that’s the reason it is known as an industry-leading EDA solution.
After having read our comprehensive guide on choosing the Best PCB Design Software, you might have a clear idea about which software will be the best for you. Even so, it is not the software alone that will help you get a good PCB design and model.
You, as a designer can do a lot to add to that. Having a good knowledge of the circuit’s functioning, PCB assembly, fabrication and so on can help you make your designs even better. So, pick the right program and start designing.
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