Hi Adam -- this is tremendously useful stuff -- I can't wait to see your similar treatments of the other free PCB tools, including DesignSpark PCB and Eagle PCB -- this is going to help a lot of hobbyists and small companies make a decision.
@Cylon0: It has some minor negatives, like those mentioned; however, it gets the job done.
Great -- thanks for providing feedback -- a lot of folks read these articles and say to themselves "I agree with that" or "I don't agree with that" or "He/she should have mentoned..." but then they wander off and do something else without realizing that just saying "I agree" can be incredibly valuable to other readers...
This is so very true Max. It is interesting to read through the the reviews of a product on Amazon. There are times that you can tell that the people that are satisfied with the product have not come back to post about it, and all you are left with are reviews of not actually the product itself, but how the delivery man dumped it in a a bunch or water and despite this the part still worked. Yet they will still rank it 1 star.
I remember your original article- have you evaluated PCB Elegance?
Recently released to free use, it is loosely based on Mentor graphics and is actually quite good. Of course, all such tools have their idiosyncracies, but I've done some pretty impressive things with PCB Elegance.
Free- source code available as well. I hope it becomes an open source project.
I have not heard of that one. I did a very quick (a 30 second scan of a Google search) and I did not find a link to the site that is responsible for maintaining the code. I found a few places to download it. Can you point me towards the actual website of the group?
Last time I did a PCB layout was with blue and red tape on mylar, ever since there has always been a CAD expert that I could sit down with to do the layout. I spec'd the trace and dielectric dimensions for impedance control, the PCB layout guru did the work. I inspected the layout files and asked for minor changes if needed. Between the both of us we got things done.
Now things have changed. A couple weeks ago I started to learn KiCAD, then after 2 days got sidetracked into a "more important" project, so saved all the files to my thumb drive to learn later. Today is a Texas Work-at-Home Ice Day, and to start I could not even get my saved files to work. With help from the local home IT guru (my stepson) we figured out that the files had to first be loaded into the Programs... folder.
Then I could not save the reworked schematic. No clues, no tips, no warnings, the only indication that the file was not saved was a peek into that folder that showed the file was still dated 20Nov2013. ARRGGHH!
Again the local IT guru stepson to the rescue. He figured out that I needed to open the KiCAD as administrator.
Why does this wonderful software not give one clues as to what is wrong when something does not work? It would have been a no-brainer for a popup to say something like "File not saved. You need to save as an administrator. To be an administrator go to ... etc"
And while on this rant, is there no way simple things like schematic capture cannot be standardized? It is one thing to "unlearn" previous habits, but when using things like LTspice (yes analogspiceman, spelled it right), then TinyCAD, and now KiCAD all the mouse clicks are totally different for each. It is no longer a simple "move the object", it has now become "remember what application you are using and choose from the applicable mouse click menu". Grrrrr!
KiCAD works for me, but my requirements are a little different to most.
First, I need software that can run off a USB stick, ie. a "Portable App". This allows me to use other people's machines, without loading their systems.
Second:when I'm at home, I have a Mac. I don't have a virtual machine (yet) so any software needs to have a Mac version. If I had a Windows PC, I would install the full Windows version of KiCAD, but until then...
With this combination, I've managed to do stuff at work (during lunch break) and at home. Nothing spectacular, just a PMOD compatible calculator keypad. Once I shrink it under 10cm wide I'll be getting boards made.
Thanks for the information on KiCAD. That is one that I am watching. In its current incarnation, it does not quite meet my 6 requirements that I outlined in my first story, but I have seen that there are some pretty major upgrades in the pipe.
I too am a big believer in programs making it easy for the user. Some complaing and call this bloat, but if I can do something in an hour in one program that in another would take me four, I really would not care if the first program were a gig larger install. Storage space is cheap these days. Even in tablets. Tomorrow I have a Dell Venue 8 Pro 64GB tablet coming. I am going to do a review of it from the perspective of using it as a mobile platform for coding and doing circuit design stuff.