I am guessing your "runner-up" rating for KiCAD (from first blog) is due to the lack of a decent footprint wizard? Have not progressed to that stage yet, but already am finding the hunt through the footprint libraries tedious. And then to verify the dimensions of the library footprint one must go to the layout stage (even with schematic not yet completed) to analyze the chosen footprint dimensions to be sure it is really the one you want.
The only reason I chose KiCAD as my first PCB tool learning experience was because a colleague has used it, and might be able to assist me through the learning curve.
Your series on these PCB layout tools is going to be very educational. Thank you.
To beign a new project these free tools looks attractive. However, soon one gets entangled in limitations and very valuable time is lost. I had similar experience and I eventually got Eagle from element14 and it worked very good.
Thanks for adding your experience to the comments. It is nice to hear that you ue the autorouter in a similar fashion as I do. What you say about their forum has also been nice. I have found a lot of the "hidden" features mentioned in the forum. Things like using F10 for moving text and such.
I had been using Circuitmaker 2000, but finally outgrew it's capabilities. When it was time to graduate to a more capable CAD system, we evaluated half a dozen of them and Diptrace came out to be the clear winner for our needs. For the past four years I have used Diptrace almost every day. I find it to be intuitive and easy to learn. I had always been skeptical of autorouters, and in the past I tended to hand route all but the most complex boards, but the autorouter in Diptrace changed my mind. Yes- I still have to do a lot of cleanup after autorouting, but it has proven to be a tremendous timesaver.
Also, I'd like to mention that when I find a bug or have a problem with a feature, I can ask a question on their forum and often get a response (and resolution) from the authors of the software within hours.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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