Software tool

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One of several techniques for building Printed Circuit Boards and other kinds of electronics involves software design tools.

Software design tools[edit]

Some people still build circuits without ever using any software tools. For complicated circuits, software design tools can save a lot of time.

This section is being reorgnized and expanded, it may be a bit messed up for a few days.

The design tools fall into several classes:

Schematic Capture[edit]

Listed in Class as SchCap

PCB Layout[edit]

Listed in Class as PCB, generally includes a footprint editor to make new parts.

Circuit Simulation[edit]

Listed in Class as CirSim.


Other tools that do not fall in the classes above


"Suites" that combine schematic capture, component editor for the components used in schematic capture, circuit simulation, PCB layout, autorouter, and footprint editor for the footprints used in PCB layout. A suite can be nice as you need draw the circuit only once.

Quite often people mix-and-match tools -- using a schematic capture from one suite to generate pretty schematics and a netlist, then importing the netlist a third party Specctra autorouter, then importing the result into a PCB layout program from another suite for the final manual clean-up and design rule checking. For this to work the tools must have compatible import and export tools.

(Is there another place for listing stand-alone tools such as a switching power supply "wizard" and a RF analysis tool? -- yes as this section is not limited to suites [anymore] )


In no particular order:

Class Name Platform License AutoRouter Comments
*SchCap *CirSim *PCB EasyEDA Web-based Free autorouter Web-based EDA suite; runs in browser. Schematic capture, Ngspice based simulation, PCB layout. Tool is free for an unlimited number of public and a small number of private projects. More private projects can be earned by contributing high quality, well documented symbols, footprints etc., or can be paid for by a small subscription. All files in open format JSON. Can import Altium, Eagle schematics and also LTspice schematics for (limited) simulation and for conversion to PCB with full BoM support. Spice netlist import and export. Altium, PADS and Free PCB netlist export. PDF, PNG and SVG image export of all files.

Users can download Gerbers and are not tied to the tool for PCB manufacture but they can buy PCBs and fully assembled PCBAs from EasyEDA if they wish.


Simulation eBook

*PCB Liquid PCB Linux, Win32 GPL no Liquid PCB wiki at SourceForge Liquid PCB is a computer aided design application for designing printed circuit boards. You are not restricted to straight tracks and 45º angles, you can draw tracks any way you like. The tracks will move and bend as required to maintain your design rules. It is open source, and still in the Alpha stage.
*PCB gEDA Linux, *BSD Free, OSS autorouter This may be the goto open source tool for schematic capture through PCB. Generally does not run on Windows. There are no restrictions on the package to cripple it for a paid version. Boards may be very big. Would be nice to have a full review sometime. gEDA wiki includes schematic and PCB for makeing gerbers etc...
*PCB McCAD EDS Lite MacOSX, Win32 Free demo max 200 pin autorouter Free demo version available for download, 200 pin limit
*PCB McCAD EDS SE MacOSX, Win32 "free"? autorouter Free with book, "Apple I Replica Creation". Supports 750 pins, 11"x17" sheet size, 6-8 data layers. <tangent>(any useful tips in this book for those who want to build a CPU from scratch?) <reply>No, there are not. The book is more entry-level. - Tom Owad</reply></tangent>
*PCB FreePCB Win32 GPL can use FreeRoute PCB Design Software
*SchCap TinyCAD Win32 LGPL n/a Schematic Drawing Software. TinyCAD wiki.
*SchCap, PCB KiCad BSD, Linux, MacOSX, Win32 GPL autorouter Free and open-source. EDA suite ; KiCad wiki. (Help and tutorials)
*SchCap *PCB Express SCH/PCB Win32 Free use crippleware ? ExpressPCB's propietatary free schematic capture & PCB layout designer locking you to use ExpressPCB for manufacture explicitly. Manufacture in 3 business days of two boards for ~100 USD.
*PCB Protel DXP Win32 autorouter independent Protel users FAQ; Protel users wiki
*tbd Eagle Eagle Links Win32, Linux Free use crippleware ( Russ Hensel says>> ) I have been kicking around as a hobbyist for a while and Eagle seems to be the main hobbyist circuit/pcb cad program. It supports schematics and board layout with an auto-router. The free version can easily support 2 dual op amps with wide traces and a one sided board. There is quite a lot of info on the Internet and many projects supply eagle files. There is also a $125 non profit version supporting larger boards. It then gets expensive. Eagle is not really easy to learn: cut for it would be copy in almost any other program. It probably deserves a page or more of its own. ( << end RH )
Eagle tutorial from Sparkfun
Eagle tutorial (makezine)
*tbd DipTrace Crippleware 250-pin Freeware or Purchase more advanced versions
*tbd WinQcad Crippleware Demo with max 499 pins available for download
*tbd Rimu Schematic and Rimu PCB Win32 Payware Schematic & PCB design for MS-Windows
*tbd SuperCAD and SuperPCB Win32 Mental Automation schematic & PCB for MS-Windows
*tbd AUTOTraxEDA needs MS-NT, won't work on MS-W98/ME. User forums have shown a certain lack of satisfaction with the program.
*tbd Win32 Crippleware Circad's DOS version is free for non-commercial use.
*tbd BSD, Linux, MacOSX GPL autorouter xNIX Electronic Design Automation project has Schematic capture with PCB CAD.
*tbd Win32 autorouter Vutrax for MS-Windows. Free for under 256 component pins.
*tbd Electronic Workbench, 400 USD for 500 pins. Includes schematic capture and simulation, virtual instruments and PCB layout. Said to be stable.
*tbd Harry Eaton's PCB BSD?, Linux?, MacOSX?, Win32 GPL autorouter PCB design program which can work under any POSIX compliant operating system like Linux (or BSD under API compability layer). Have Gerber and PostScript output options.
*tbd They have a lite version "PIC bundle" ~149 USD includes schematic + simulation + pcb layout. You can write pic code for your pic schematic design and simulate. Even multi-pic, keypad, lcd display. Right now it can only simulate PIC16x83, PIC16x84 (lite version limited to 1k program code). Working on more pic modules. Will not produce Gerber or Excellion drill files. Only dxf, bmp, hpgl, tiff output (not sufficient!).
*tbd Payware Winboard PCB Layout, now
*tbd Linux, Win32, DOS Draftcad, Schematic Capture and PCB Design
*tbd Win32, Linux+Wine MicroCad
*tbd "PCB ARTIST" Win32 ? schematic + layout. Seems to lock you into using Advanced Circuits for manufacture (?).
*tbd PCB123 Win32 ? schematic + layout. Seems to lock you into using Sunstone for manufacture (?).
*tbd ProSchematic Win32 "free trial" no can make schematics that look almost like photographs of a solderless breadboard.
*CirSim Spice Various Various na The generic term for many simulation programs.
*CirSim LTSpice Windows free na A free version of Spice from Linear Technology. Draw the schematic and see its simulations. Many components. Seems to be very popular. Should ( will ) have a page here of its own.
* PCB PCB 3.0
* PCB VeeCAD autorouter VeeCAD Stripboard Editor
* CirSim Qucs
* CirSim Java Breadboard Simulator[1][2]
* SchCap, PCB Fritzing autorouter
* CirSim GarlicSim Windows, Linux mostly LGPL2.1 If you want to write a circuit simulator or a microcontroller simulator, GarlicSim may be a nice starting point.
* SchCap, PCB DesignSpark PCB Windows, WINE[3] freeware autorouter[4] seems to require some kind of on-line activation?

* SchCap, PCB pcb-rnd as a pcb editor freeware It's free (GPL 2+), runs on *NIX (inlcuding old UNIX systems, Linux, macOSX). It has a builtin autorouter and can interface to 2 different external autorouters at the moment.

Some minor fix porposals in the gEDA group of tools:

- pcb-3.0 was a fork of geda/pcb from the mid 2000s - it's not maintained anymore. It basically supports similar things to what you listed as Harry Eaton's pcb, plus tcl bindings.
- Harry Eaton's pcb is the same as gEDA/PCB; it's just the previous name of gEDA/PCB. Harry used to maintain it from the mid 90s to the early 2000s, way before gEDA happened. Later on the project joined the gEDA effort and we started to call it gEDA/PCB. Here's a timeline of the project's full history, traced back to the very roots:
- gEDA is more than just pcb - it's actually not a project, but a group of interconnected projects - including multiple pcb editors, simulators, netlist tools, and a schematics editor. It's like a linux distribution, which is not a kernel, not an X server, not a web browser, not a shell, but all these together.

Tibor 'Igor2' Palinkas pcb-rnd lead developer

(Some of this information in this table came from the list of software design tools at the Massmind).

A SourceForge search for "schematic" lists dozens of tools. Other than the ones already listed above, what tools in that list are useful for open circuits?

Is there any way to objectively compare these tools? How well did they do at the PCB Top Gun contest ?

Timing diagrams:

When you want to post a picture of a schematic or timing diagram on a web site, should you use JPEG or PNG? I hope these 2 pictures answer your question:

Circuit simulation tools[edit]

Should this be integrated into the above list? Or should this be split out into a separate page?

Which kind of circuit simulation tool is most appropriate for experimenting with various relay CPU configurations?

In no particular order:

analog electronic simulators[edit]

Quite Universal Circuit Simulator has a wiki

Quite Universal Circuit Simulator (Qucs) is a open source electronics circuit simulator software released under GPL.

gEDA is an open-source suite that comes with, among many other tools:

  • ngspice, a mixed-signal circuit simulator based on: Spice3f5, Cider1b1 and Xspice.
  • Gnucap is the Gnu Circuit Analysis Package, designed for mixed-mode simulation.
  • gspiceui (GNU Spice GUI) provides a GUI for GNU-Cap and Ng-Spice.

"Oregano is a schematic capture and circuit simulation program using the GNOME libraries. Coupled with ngspice, it can do DC sweeps, AC Sweeps, Time domain analysis, and Fourier analysis. All kinds of good stuff, and GPL licensed to boot."

LTSpice/SwitcherCad simulator simulator

"Can you simulate a schematic?"

Circuit simulation software

What are the freeware SPICE simulators available?

Program for simulating circuits on linux

NSPICE, a Forth Package to Simulate Electronic Circuits

Electrical Circuit Simulator circuit editor written in JavaScript to run in a web browser; passes to circuit simulator on the server written in C.

Gnucap is the Gnu Circuit Analysis Package. The primary component is a general purpose circuit simulator. It performs nonlinear dc and transient analyses, fourier analysis, and ac analysis. Gnucap is not based on Spice, but some of the models have been derived from the Berkeley models.

"Web lectures on electronic circuits" "The circuits are emulated using Javascript functions, which make it feel like you are interacting with the circuitry itself." l

Hans Summers. "Huff & Puff Oscillator Stabiliser Frequency Simulator" (source code in Java can be downloaded here)

digital electronic simulators[edit]

tkgate open-source gate-level schematic entry and simulator


The Iowa Logic Simulator: a tool for modelling digital systems.

the Tofu relay circuit simulator. might be useful for designing a Relay CPU.

FGDIANASYM digital simulator

microcontroller simulators[edit]

A Really Basic Guide to the PIC Microprocessor and BoostC describes how to use the PIC simulator included with BoostC.

[PIC simulators] "Hades includes simulation models for ... the 8-bit PIC16 microcontrollers ..."

[PIC simulators] miSim DE 2.1 is now FREE miSim DE 2.1 development environment ... It includes an editor, assembler and disassembler ... a simulator that simulates not only the microcontroller itself, but also devices connected to it in real time - from simple switches and LEDs to video displays and stepper motors. ... Also runs as web Applet

[68HC11 simulators] "THRSim11, ... allows you to edit, assemble, simulate and debug programs for the 68HC11 on Windows 95/98. THRSim11 simulates the CPU, ROM, RAM, all memory mapped I/O ports, and the on board peripherals."

8051 simulators[edit]

JSIM-51 is a free 8051 simulator by Jens Altmann. [5]

"uCsim: the 8051 simulator for SDCC"[6]

The Moravia Microsystems MCU 8051 IDE apparently includes a 8051 simulator and SDCC. [7]

Z80 simulators[edit]

SDCC includes uCsim, which supports the 8051, Z80, and other microcontrollers. [8]

Atmel AVR simulators[edit]

ucSim also supports the AVR family. [9]

visual diff tools[edit]

"Improving open source hardware: Visual diffs" [10] via "Hardware version control using visual DIFF" [11]

"Visual Diff Tools Revisited" [12]

"The Power of Visual Diff for Schematics & Layouts" [13]

(Didn't DavidCary write up a description of "blink" alt-tab comparing files somewhere?)

Further reading[edit]