Forums

Affordable PCB Layout Software ???

Started by Blackwater July 30, 2008
Um ... has there been some kind of conspiracy at work over
the past few years to totally drain the marketplace of 
decent PCB layout/routing software ??? 

Circuitmaker, Protel, Traxmaker ... the sub-$200 kind of
goodies that combined all the good features with intuitive
no-BS interfaces - gone. Seems they've all been bought-up
and destroyed by Altium - which will now generously sell you
their "complete system" for more than your slightly-used
SUV will get you at trade-in nowadays. 

Well, I don't *need* a "complete system" ... I just need to
be able to blast out smallish PCBs using mostly manual routing
and create files that the cheap commercial boardmakers can
use with their latest machines (lately we seem to see a lot
more boards produced by milling technology). 

Oh sure, some of those boardmakers will generously let you
use THEIR layout software ... "theirs" in that they've tweaked
it so you can only send the design to THEIR company instead
of a competitors - unless you want to toss all your old
designs and start from scratch. 

Conspiracy, or racket ?

For now I'm using my creaky old TraxMaker-3 program. GREAT
package, EASY to use, LOTS of options, point-n-click and
spin and drag stuff anywhere you want ... but it's OLD and
can't do the trick for milled boards. OK if I want to make
phototemplates and do a few prototype boards myself, but ...

I've looked at some of free/cheap stuff - Vutrax, Pad2Pad,
Eagle etc and frankly they STINK. Not intuitive or overly
attached to autorouting or miniscule component libraries
or mostly some combo of "all of the above". 

Is there some middle ground left out there SOMEWHERE ?
I'd love something that has much the look & feel & ease
of Traxmaker but a more modern selection of capabilities,
libraries and export options. My wallet isn't that deep 
however... I could afford maybe $250-$350, somewhere in
there. 

Is there any hope ? Something I've missed ? Winders ? Linux ?
Address of the "Society For The Prevention of Software Rip-Offs" ???

Cadsoft: EAGLE

For free in use for private, noncommercial and with limited capabilites in
PCB-size and layers. I use it professionayl at work in a payed-for version
able to do bigger PCBs and more layers than the outer two.

Blackwater wrote:

> Um ... has there been some kind of conspiracy at work over > the past few years to totally drain the marketplace of > decent PCB layout/routing software ??? > > Circuitmaker, Protel, Traxmaker ... the sub-$200 kind of > goodies that combined all the good features with intuitive > no-BS interfaces - gone. Seems they've all been bought-up > and destroyed by Altium - which will now generously sell you > their "complete system" for more than your slightly-used > SUV will get you at trade-in nowadays. > > Well, I don't *need* a "complete system" ... I just need to > be able to blast out smallish PCBs using mostly manual routing > and create files that the cheap commercial boardmakers can > use with their latest machines (lately we seem to see a lot > more boards produced by milling technology). > > Oh sure, some of those boardmakers will generously let you > use THEIR layout software ... "theirs" in that they've tweaked > it so you can only send the design to THEIR company instead > of a competitors - unless you want to toss all your old > designs and start from scratch. > > Conspiracy, or racket ? > > For now I'm using my creaky old TraxMaker-3 program. GREAT > package, EASY to use, LOTS of options, point-n-click and > spin and drag stuff anywhere you want ... but it's OLD and > can't do the trick for milled boards. OK if I want to make > phototemplates and do a few prototype boards myself, but ... > > I've looked at some of free/cheap stuff - Vutrax, Pad2Pad, > Eagle etc and frankly they STINK. Not intuitive or overly > attached to autorouting or miniscule component libraries > or mostly some combo of "all of the above". > > Is there some middle ground left out there SOMEWHERE ? > I'd love something that has much the look & feel & ease > of Traxmaker but a more modern selection of capabilities, > libraries and export options. My wallet isn't that deep > however... I could afford maybe $250-$350, somewhere in > there. > > Is there any hope ? Something I've missed ? Winders ? Linux ? > Address of the "Society For The Prevention of Software Rip-Offs" ???
KiCAD: free, open source

http://kicad.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
In this BOOK

http://dev.emcelettronica.com/pcb

see the "PCB Design CAD" page

Emanuele
I know what you mean.
"CAD tools for the electronics sector are generally a nuisance for the
user. For no other piece of software would it be accepted to pay such
horrendous sums of money for such poorly programmed, poorly documented
and faulty programs. Only to give an example: For a mechanical
engineer it is absolutely incomprehensive that a certain tool can
survive on the market which cannot produce output that can be
processed by a manufacturer."

http://bwrc.eecs.berkeley.edu/People/Grad_Students/jbeutel/cad_tools_e.html

I use Cadence for work and I find it to be abysmal; an archaic,
outdated and buggy pile of crap. And slow.
There is definitely something weird in that industry, it is full of
masochists of the highest order. I mean already EEs have to be
masochists, but PCB designers are the next level up.
Why we are stuck with atrocious expensive software is a mystery.
"Blackwater" <bw@barrk.net> wrote in message 
news:489081d0.15733031@news.east.earthlink.net...
> Circuitmaker, Protel, Traxmaker ... the sub-$200 kind of > goodies that combined all the good features with intuitive > no-BS interfaces - gone.
Yeah, although many of them still work OK under Windows XP if you can find a copy. Beside Eagle and KiCAD that others mentioned, gEDA is the "heavyweight" of 100% free schematic capture/PCB layout software. Probably doesn't fit your "good features with intuitive no-BS interfaces," but you might check it out anyway (it's more "tons of features, interface requires a fair learning curve, it won't necessarily be easy, but it does get the job done..."). Pulsonix has been slowly upping their prices as they've added features, but their "performance per dollar" ratio is still quite good -- certainly many times that of something like OrCAD. (Although some of their "upping the price" apparently has to do with the weakness of the U.S. dollar...) This topic comes up regularly here (and on sci.electronics.cad) -- if you search the archives you'll find long threads discussing the various packages, pricing, etc.
> Oh sure, some of those boardmakers will generously let you > use THEIR layout software ... "theirs" in that they've tweaked > it so you can only send the design to THEIR company instead > of a competitors - unless you want to toss all your old > designs and start from scratch.
Some of them (e.g., Advanced Circuits) will give or sell you the regular Gerber files after you've placed an order through them. Many packages let you import files from other packages, although it's often a less-than-perfect translation based on the differing feature sets in each package (and just bugs in the code that does the import).
> Conspiracy, or racket ?
Schematic capture/PCB layout is a nichey enough market that I think it's rather difficult to make a living if you're selling the software for a couple hundred bucks. You do have the occasional individual and small company (e.g., Eaglesoft) that's noticeably more efficient than most and can do so, but if you just round up a bunch of average programmers these days and ask them to write EDA tools it's not surprising to me what sorts of prices you get by the time they're done.
> I've looked at some of free/cheap stuff - Vutrax, Pad2Pad, > Eagle etc and frankly they STINK. Not intuitive or overly > attached to autorouting or miniscule component libraries > or mostly some combo of "all of the above".
My only comment here is that "intuitive" is somewhat subjective and "miniscule component libraries" might actually be a plus -- in most cases you'd want to build your own component library anyway. :-) ---Joel
<a7yvm109gf5d1@netzero.com> wrote in message 
news:6f73a65d-098a-43dc-bdcd-d92fb9619e8d@e53g2000hsa.googlegroups.com...
> There is definitely something weird in that industry, it is full of > masochists of the highest order. I mean already EEs have to be > masochists, but PCB designers are the next level up. > Why we are stuck with atrocious expensive software is a mystery.
1) Most companies stick with what they started with, because once something has become "the company standard" anything different has to be overwhelmingly better to get most companies to change. Some of the reluctance to change is legitimate -- there are real re-training/re-entry costs involved -- but much of it is just human nature: Many people prefer to stick with what's comfortable for them at the expense of their employer, a couple of very loud "no, let's not change!" voices are often allowed to outweigh a dozen, "yes, we should change!" ones, etc. 2) It's not just EDA tools. It's a lot of somewhat nichey industries where automation software was introduced back in the '80s/early '90s, and often times the *only* solutions available weren't particularly stellar, but OK for the day. These programs became entrenched, leaving you with problem #1, even as far better programs were brought to the market in the late '90s/early otts. As an example, customer care/billing databases (and their front-ends) originally designed for small, independent doctor's clinics (and dentist's offices) have a similar problem: Many still have antiquated user interfaces with proprietary data formats with few or no options to import/export the data. The later is often used as a means to try to lock in customers from switching, by making it much, much more expensive to do so than to stick with the same program, paying maintenance year after year, rather than changing ships. ---Joel
On 30 Jul, 16:27, b...@barrk.net (Blackwater) wrote:
> Um ... has there been some kind of conspiracy at work over > the past few years to totally drain the marketplace of > decent PCB layout/routing software ??? > > Circuitmaker, Protel, Traxmaker ... the sub-$200 kind of > goodies that combined all the good features with intuitive > no-BS interfaces - gone. Seems they've all been bought-up > and destroyed by Altium - which will now generously sell you > their "complete system" for more than your slightly-used > SUV will get you at trade-in nowadays. > > Well, I don't *need* a "complete system" ... I just need to > be able to blast out smallish PCBs using mostly manual routing > and create files that the cheap commercial boardmakers can > use with their latest machines (lately we seem to see a lot > more boards produced by milling technology). > > Oh sure, some of those boardmakers will generously let you > use THEIR layout software ... "theirs" in that they've tweaked > it so you can only send the design to THEIR company instead > of a competitors - unless you want to toss all your old > designs and start from scratch. > > Conspiracy, or racket ? > > For now I'm using my creaky old TraxMaker-3 program. GREAT > package, EASY to use, LOTS of options, point-n-click and > spin and drag stuff anywhere you want ... but it's OLD and > can't do the trick for milled boards. OK if I want to make > phototemplates and do a few prototype boards myself, but ... > > I've looked at some of free/cheap stuff - Vutrax, Pad2Pad, > Eagle etc and frankly they STINK. Not intuitive or overly > attached to autorouting or miniscule component libraries > or mostly some combo of "all of the above". > > Is there some middle ground left out there SOMEWHERE ? > I'd love something that has much the look & feel & ease > of Traxmaker but a more modern selection of capabilities, > libraries and export options. My wallet isn't that deep > however... I could afford maybe $250-$350, somewhere in > there. > > Is there any hope ? Something I've missed ? Winders ? Linux ? > Address of the "Society For The Prevention of Software Rip-Offs" ???
EasyPC: http://www.numberone.com Leon
Blackwater wrote:
> Um ... has there been some kind of conspiracy at work over > the past few years to totally drain the marketplace of > decent PCB layout/routing software ??? > > Circuitmaker, Protel, Traxmaker ... the sub-$200 kind of > goodies that combined all the good features with intuitive > no-BS interfaces - gone. Seems they've all been bought-up > and destroyed by Altium - which will now generously sell you > their "complete system" for more than your slightly-used > SUV will get you at trade-in nowadays. > > Well, I don't *need* a "complete system" ... I just need to > be able to blast out smallish PCBs using mostly manual routing > and create files that the cheap commercial boardmakers can > use with their latest machines (lately we seem to see a lot > more boards produced by milling technology). > > Oh sure, some of those boardmakers will generously let you > use THEIR layout software ... "theirs" in that they've tweaked > it so you can only send the design to THEIR company instead > of a competitors - unless you want to toss all your old > designs and start from scratch. > > Conspiracy, or racket ? > > For now I'm using my creaky old TraxMaker-3 program. GREAT > package, EASY to use, LOTS of options, point-n-click and > spin and drag stuff anywhere you want ... but it's OLD and > can't do the trick for milled boards. OK if I want to make > phototemplates and do a few prototype boards myself, but ... > > I've looked at some of free/cheap stuff - Vutrax, Pad2Pad, > Eagle etc and frankly they STINK. Not intuitive or overly > attached to autorouting or miniscule component libraries > or mostly some combo of "all of the above". > > Is there some middle ground left out there SOMEWHERE ? > I'd love something that has much the look & feel & ease > of Traxmaker but a more modern selection of capabilities, > libraries and export options. My wallet isn't that deep > however... I could afford maybe $250-$350, somewhere in > there. > > Is there any hope ? Something I've missed ? Winders ? Linux ? > Address of the "Society For The Prevention of Software Rip-Offs" ??? >
I've done several boards with Sprint-Layout 5.0. http://www.abacom-online.de/uk/html/sprint-layout.html 39 Euros, download and go. (sPlan, their schematic editor, is available for the same price, but I haven't used it.) I like Sprint-Layout quite a lot. Particularly, I find the menus and functions clear, fast, and logical. It's compact, and easy to make footprints, outputs Gerbers, etc. Control of trace widths and pads is wonderfully simple. I've never had it hang or crash. Its only failing so far is the pin-to-pin autorouter, which does crappy routings. Protel's EasyTrax did that very well, and I miss it, but hand-routing isn't difficult. I love the rubber-banded wiring feature: quickly click in wires you plan to place and a blue trace appears to remind you to make each connection. I mean to try gEDA some time, but this is what I use now. HTH, James Arthur
Joel Koltner wrote:

> <a7yvm109gf5d1@netzero.com> wrote in message > news:6f73a65d-098a-43dc-bdcd-d92fb9619e8d@e53g2000hsa.googlegroups.com... >> There is definitely something weird in that industry, it is full of >> masochists of the highest order. I mean already EEs have to be >> masochists, but PCB designers are the next level up. >> Why we are stuck with atrocious expensive software is a mystery. > > 1) Most companies stick with what they started with, because once > something has become "the company standard" anything different has to be > overwhelmingly > better to get most companies to change. Some of the reluctance to change > is legitimate -- there are real re-training/re-entry costs involved -- but > much of it is just human nature: Many people prefer to stick with what's > comfortable for them at the expense of their employer, a couple of very > loud "no, let's not change!" voices are often allowed to outweigh a dozen, > "yes, we should change!" ones, etc. > 2) It's not just EDA tools. It's a lot of somewhat nichey industries > where automation software was introduced back in the '80s/early '90s, and > often times the *only* solutions available weren't particularly stellar, > but OK for > the day. These programs became entrenched, leaving you with problem #1, > even as far better programs were brought to the market in the late > '90s/early otts. > > As an example, customer care/billing databases (and their front-ends) > originally designed for small, independent doctor's clinics (and dentist's > offices) have a similar problem: Many still have antiquated user > interfaces with proprietary data formats with few or no options to > import/export the > data. The later is often used as a means to try to lock in customers from > switching, by making it much, much more expensive to do so than to stick > with the same program, paying maintenance year after year, rather than > changing ships. > > ---Joel
Well, someone else meantioned it here: GEDA Indeed, that's a fine piece of software, and I would have preferred it over Eagle, but after four years of using Eagle I'm satisfied with what it does and have all my libraries made in it, so , for GEDA I'd have to redo most of the stuff. Well, so I stay with Eagle. But when they would rise the price I'd be gone. -- Sincerely Ruediger