FREE PCB SCHEMATIC SOFTWARE
We all know how great using Eagle to create our PCB schematics is, but I’ve come across many issues such as:
- Conversion can be difficult: Converting .brd data to gerbers can cause errors in design which can not be crosschecked.
- Lack of detail:Only describes the basic board, component and keep-in/keep-out shapes. No support for copper areas, routing/tracing, vias, silkscreen etc.
- Board Size: If you’re a hobbyist like myself, you will use Eagle occasionally but what happens when you start a big project? The free trial of Eagle only allows for 100mm x 80 mm, after that you must pay if you want to use it commercially.
- User Interface: Clunky at best, the user interface leaves a lot to be desired.
- No longer developed: There is no ongoing development to produce new versions of the format with support for additional features.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use Eagle, it’s all about personal preference.
Personally, I prefer DesignSpark. It has a schematic capture that feeds the PCB tools. It is straightforward to build custom component pad layouts. As well as that, DesignSpark has options for auto component placement, as well as auto routing.
My favorite features of DesignSpark are:
- Simple Layout
- Integrated 80,000 component online library (Model Source)
- Active community
- Frequent updates
- No board size or schematic limits
Overall, DesignSpark PCB is a very accessible, comprehensive, community-driven PCB Design program. For its minor faults, it still feels almost commercial. The UI is definitely better than EAGLE, with a smaller learning curve. It can be a little rough on the edges, with more properties and options hidden in menus than desired, but at least they’re there. For a free package, DesignSpark PCB is a great deal, and definitely worth giving a shot if you’re looking for new EDA software. And with its collaboration with RS components it can be a really handy tool. Not forgetting to mention it’s free.
PAID PCB SCHEMATIC SOFTWARE
We’re not forgetting the old reliable in paid PCB Schematic software; obviously you get more features and functions due to the price tag,
- If you’re looking down the paid route, I would suggest Altium, though it is pricey, it offers extensive libraries.
- They have recently teamed up with Valydate to allow a new powerful schematic reviewer.
- It is an industry standard.
- Pad and via Management.
That can also be an issue meaning a deep learning curve, That said, the internet is filled with tutorials on how to do x or y on Altium and with the large price tag comes integrated support, should you need it.
Its pad and via management tool is a major plus. This is a great design-reuse tool that lets you create pad templates that can then be applied to specific groups of pads on your PCB for easy replication. One issue that seems abundant in Gerber files we receive can be solved using this tool.
Diptrace is another paid software,
- It is easier to use than Eagle,
- Diptrace has made leap and bounds over the past five years ,whereas Eagle has made steady improvements,
- It’s now one of the best software for importing files.
- Has an intuitive UI.
Though it also has its downfalls, sadly Diptrace is only available on Windows making it less popular and not as widely used as its competitors.
It is important before you start using PCB schematic software weighing out what other options you have, not unlike the list below.
In conclusion, there are various software applications available for creating PCB Schematics, including the software listed above, But it is important to weigh out the pros and cons when making your decision due to the different functions and abilities of the software involved.