@Aeroengineer ...The fact that changes do not automatically propagate through the entire design. It is rather tedious and error prone when trying to update something. ...
It's still easier than one of the higher end programs that I've used where you have to produce a net list from the schematic then do a compare to generate a change file which you can finally apply to the PCB... At least DipTrace has an update from schematic feature that eliminates several error-prone steps from the process.
I know that both DipTrace and DesignSpark PCB allow for that. I am almost sure that all the others that I mentioned will also allow for that as well, I just do not yet have any experience with these packages. I will soon enough.
I have been using DipTrace, and I do like it for it being intuitive. There is one thing that I really do not like, and I consider a fatal flaw. The fact that changes do not automatically propagate through the entire design. It is rather tedious and error prone when trying to update something. That aside, I can say that it was a package that I was able to pick up and have a board designed in under a week of an hour or so after work.
Sam, I have heard that SprintPCB is a nice package, though it was missing a few features that I was looking for in my search. It is one that I will be watching. I have heard many say that they particularly like some of the features.
Bill, I did actually look at that one, but it did not come close to meeting the things that I had laid out for what I am looking for in my PCB tools. There are tens of other packages that are out there, and while I do not minimize their value, they just did not meet what I am personally looking for. Thank you though for mentioning why you like you find gEDA appealing.
I missed any reference to gEDA which must be the first open source schematic capture tool. It's still available with PCB layout tool at
along with KiCad, which was mentioned. It was originally designed to run under Linux, but versions are availalbe that run under other operating systems.
Someone asked for Spice compatibility, and gEDA goes one better with it's own improved version of Spice - ngspice - which offers native digital and mixed mode simulation.
I've not used any of these packages for any serious work - I've downloaded them from time to time whenever I up-grade to the next version of SuSE Linux, and created the occasional schematic, but that is as far as I've gone.
I would add for ease of use Abacom's SprintPCB 6.0. While it does not have a full autorouter or a linked schematic input at $55.00 or so US it is a very powerful tool for doing up to 4 layer PCB's with auto groundplane on each layer. No limitaions on components or connections. The original board size limitation is 12 X 12 inches but I think that has been increased with the current version.
While not free, it is a little more than free but with real support. Not that you need much support as their slogan is "Just draw it". Footprint and component creation is a snap. Several other useful features like turning inported 274X gerbers into editable PCB's. This feature alone has save me when dealing with old inherited designs. Another is flotable bitmaped layers for dealing with scanned layouts that appear in magazines. I have used dozens of packages and this one is my go to package for cranking out quick and easp PCB's as well as some fairly complex designs. It even has the ability to output isolation type HPGL files that can be used to output to a CNC PCB router (you know. the PCB "Santa Claus" machine that you always say that you are going to build...).
I have done a couple of dozen board designs with the product and I can say that it is well worth the 55.00 USD (Note the program is downloadable from their EU site. This means that they will send you an invoice payable by PayPal and if you are not in the EU the EU cost is discounted by 19% (the VAT). That is how I arrived at the $55.00 US (49.9 euro -19% at the time I checked the exchange rate).
They have a companion schematic program splan7.0 also at 49.9 euro (see a theme here).
Definately worth a look. Demo (save inhibited) versions available for download along with free viewers as well.
The other free one is DesignSpark PCB. Looks very powerful. I think one can get up to 12 licenses for free. Sponsored by RS Components I believe.
If you need more power at a moderate cost I don't think that you can beat the full blown DipTrace package (900.00 or so for the unlimited version).
I believe that the next step up would be the entry level OrCAD PCB and Capture Schematic (node locked pepetual license) I think I was quoted something like 2500.00 for that but I have not used the OrCAD PCB package so I can not comment on that but I do still like Capture.
Link for SprintPCB, Splan7.0 and other cool inexpensive stuff.
P.S. I went looking for a low cost, run on any Windows machine PCB program when I could no longer get my favorite DOS PCB program (Tango PCB Series II+) to run on a Win7 machine. The only thing I miss is my libraries but creating components SprintPCB is easy.