There are hundreds of software programs in the market today, for EDA (Electronic Design Automation) and circuit design. PCB design is an extremely important field in engineering and design, and good software plays a major role in enhancing your skill and producing better boards. Selecting the right one from these is a rather tricky task.
To help you decide better, here is our guide, comparing two popular programs, with all the right details and important information, so you can make an informed choice. This article will deal with DipTrace vs KiCAD, and discuss the main differences between them.
The comparison between KiCAD vs DipTrace mainly focuses on their differences in terms of some major factors such as pricing, features, performance and more. Read on to know which program is the best for you.
10 Major Differences Between DipTrace Vs KiCad
Although both of these are capable PCB design programs, they have their pros and cons. And the detailed comparison here is based on 10 of the main differences between them. This will help you pick the right software.
 Pricing Plans
One of the most important factors while purchasing PCB design software, pricing of DipTrace and KiCAD is a major difference.
KiCAD is a completely free to use software program. You don’t have to pay for any upgrades either. There are no hidden fees or limitations that require payment to unlock or use. On the other hand, DipTrace is paid software.
DipTrace comes in a variety of pricing options and variants. The base version starts at $75.00, and allows you to work with projects having 300 pins and 2 layers. The DipTrace Full Version is priced at $995.00, with unlimited pins and unlimited layers.
There are separate pricing plans available for academic institutions and businesses, which can be requested from their website. The free version of KiCAD can be used for both commercial and no-commercial applications as well.
 Component and Pattern Editors
With DipTrace, you get an easy and efficient component editor and a pattern editor module. This gives you access to features like BSDL import, pin naming and part management, and much more.
It allows you to create single/multi part components with the help of templates. You can enter dimensions and edit the settings, define visual and electrical pin factors, start up a Spice model and generate 3D models as well.
The pattern editor helps you in making patterns and footprints using various shapes. The pattern libraries follow the IPC-7351 standards. Patterns and footprints made in the software can be exported or uploaded to the libraries for future use. You can also save files in the DXF format, which is widely compatible with both ECAD and MCAD programs.
 3D Modelling and CAD Format Support
With DipTrace, designers get a variety of 3D related options. The 3D module is integrated with the layout and pattern editors, which allow a one-step model generation process. You can easily edit, view, orient and interact with the model.
The online libraries also contain multiple models and CAD data. You can access these libraries from the software directly, and download whatever you require. More than 11,000 models are available.
When it comes to formats, DipTrace offers a host of formats that are supported. You can save your model as a STEP, VRML, IGES, 3DS and much more. These formats are compatible with all major MCAD and ECAD programs, and you can use any of those software apps to open this model.
While KiCAD also offers 3D model rendering and viewing. You can use 2D drawings and generate 3D models easily. The features related to export and formats however, are somewhat limited as compared to DipTrace.
 Design of High Speed Features
With the rising challenges put forward by the rapid expansion of compact technology and advancement in circuit design, the focus is on HDI boards and circuits with high-speed features.
DipTrace offers a variety of tools to help you work on designs that include high-speed features. Some of these are: dynamic length matching, length comparison tables, rule checking for high speed tasks like length tolerances and so on. Meander placement for measuring the timing of nets and buses is also available and works efficiently.
You can also route differential pairs while adjusting parameters like phase and length, in both single and double tracking processes. Users also get fine tuning options with the phase tuning tool, to make shift corrections more precisely.
KiCAD doesn’t have tools to make high-speed feature design more efficient, and even though you can use it for high-speed design, it is not recommended for such tasks.
 Open Source
KiCAD is an open source PCB designing software platform. This means that the developer has provided the source code of the software. The source code being made public has far reaching effects.
Using the source code can allow you to control almost every aspect of the program. Software developers can modify and edit the code by downloading the code package on their system and editing it in an IDE.
The benefits of this to you – the user, are plenty. Since the source code is available to multiple developers around the world, they can fix any bugs or errors in the program quickly.
Moreover, they can add improvements, make adjustments and so on. They can add new features, change the user interface, and improve functionality and navigation and so on.
A new version can be uploaded with all of the fixes and upgrades, free of cost, to the internet. You can download that version and see if it works well for you. Or you can even work on the code yourself and make the changes you need.
With an open source program, you don’t have to worry about getting quick updates. This also encourages a community for users to discuss their issues and ideas actively.
 Ease of Use
One of the most important things to look for in an EDA program is its ease of use. If you are a beginner, or even if you have experience in PCB design, no one wants software that is too difficult to understand and use.
A simple software application, with a well-designed user interface is a welcome sight. The UI should not be too cluttered or display too many complex features at once, as that might be confusing. In this aspect, DipTrace would be the better choice.
DipTrace offers a much better user interface and simplicity of handling. You will find it much easier to work with DipTrace, and the search operations, library handling, navigation and organisation of tools in the program are done quite well.
Another thing here is tech support. At times, you might require support from the technical team of the software. Here also, you get much better service with DipTrace as compared to KiCAD. Since KiCAD is a free and open source platform, most of its support is in the form of online communities and forums.
 Schematic Capture Features
When you use KiCAD, your schematic tasks will be handled in their module known as Eeschema. This is a dedicated schematic capture and editing solution, which works decently considering this is a free program.
With this, you can work on multi-sheet and multi-layer schematics. It also makes your job a little easier by offering hierarchical conversion for complex schematics, which comes in handy sometimes. You can export your files in PDF, SVG, HPGL, Postscript and other such formats.
In DipTrace, you get slightly more advanced features in addition to the ones available in KiCAD. Depending on the version you purchase, you can work on projects with different number of layers. Tools available in DipTrace include: cross module management, with which you can convert principal circuits to boards.
It also allows front and back annotation, which lets you make simultaneous annotations in both the schematic and the board. DipTrace also provides format support which allows you to import and export netlists to other software.
 Library, Component and Pattern Management
DipTrace includes a library management system that helps you keep track of all the components available, import parts, models, patterns and footprints from external sources. You can also use this to download templates and create custom parts.
The libraries contain over 160,000 components and more than 22,000 footprints. Designers can also find 3D models and edit them for use in their projects. The Smart Component Management system ensures quality standards in accordance with the IPC.
It also provides a component and pattern verification system to ensure that all the items are accurate and meet the standard specifications.
KiCAD naturally also has libraries and a component and pattern creation system. But unlike DipTrace, there is no management system available here, which can make the process of working with multiple models such as in large projects, a slightly tiring and long process.
The KiCAD libraries however, are available for free on Github, and get updated very regularly.
 Performing a Simulation
This is an important point as simulating your PCB tests it under different conditions and gives results based on how it would perform once put in use after fabrication.
Hence, running an analysis or a simulation can point out errors, indicate performance variation from the design, and let you know if the board is behaving as per the design or if some changes need to be made.
KiCAD has a SPICE based simulation engine. SPICE is an acronym that stands for Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis. It is an open-source platform and one of the most widely used simulation engines across various PCB design software.
With KiCAD, you can perform simulations using its ngspice module. You can set up the simulation, enter the SPICE related details in the schematic, and test the board.
DipTrace does not have an integrated simulation module. With DipTrace, you can export files that are compatible with SPICE platforms, and run simulations in external apps.
 Rule Checking
Rule checking is a method of verification to ensure that your design does not violate any rules, and hence, is valid. It is used for quality control and to finalise the design as accurate and valid, before it goes for production or fabrication.
Now, with KiCAD, users get a design rule checking (DRC) and electrical rule checking (ERC) system. These two together, check both mechanical and electrical rules. Also, errors such as unconnected pins, conflicts at output pins, missing drivers and more are also covered.
Users, who perform rule checks in DipTrace, are provided with some more features as well. DipTrace offers a constraint manager.
This is essentially a system for handling existing rules, defining new constraints, in addition to rules to check and indicate conditions such as unconnected pins, short circuits, single pin nets and more. Using this, you can figure out where there are rule violations and avoid such situations, ensuring that the board is valid and works correctly, following all rules and standards.
The feature to define additional constraints comes in handy while working on unconventional projects, or designs that involve some new or rare technology. So you can do that easily with DipTrace.
Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, DipTrace Vs KiCad
If we are to consider the software in terms of their design capabilities, the answer would be DipTrace. It works fast, has a great feature set, provides all the tools you may need to work even on difficult and complex projects, and it’s available in a variety of versions to suit the different needs of different designers.
KiCAD, on the other hand, is free. And if you consider this, then KiCAD also has a plethora of features that work well, once you get to learn how to use it. It is easy to use, as is DipTrace, but being freeware it has less in terms of tools that DipTrace offers for PCB design. So, the choice for designing would be DipTrace.
DipTrace Vs KiCad: Who’s the Winner?
All factors considered the winner will be the one that meets all your design requirements. Now, if you need to work only on basic or intermediate projects, you can do so free with KiCAD.
In that case you need not spend on design software. It does have features to help you work on complex designs as well, but that might become tiring without certain features.
But sometimes it’s better to go for the program that can meet certain requirements you might have after some time, when you may need more features and tools. Hence, in the long run, DipTrace might be the better option to go for. The base version costs $75 and you can go up to the $995 version should you need it.
Anyhow, they both offer free trials, so you can download both and see which one suits you better.
So, Which One Should You Pick?
As mentioned above, the right software between DipTrace vs KiCAD for you will depend on what you need the software for, and other factors that affect your selection. If you need software you can learn quickly and get straight to designing, you can go for KiCAD, as it has a more basic UI and is also easy to learn.
Similarly, if you can give the software some time to understand it, then DipTrace is also a very good choice. It is easy to learn as well, but offers more complex features too, if you need them.
You can also upgrade your base version to the higher ones while retaining your files and database, so as your requirements increase, you can scale up the software’s capabilities to meet the rising technical needs.
Hopefully, you have found this DipTrace v KiCad comparison guide worthwhile and it has helped you to make an informed choice about these two PCB Design Software.