Author Topic: Best software for PCB design ever  (Read 2510 times)

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Offline Chris42

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Best software for PCB design ever
« on: October 07, 2020, 04:37:07 pm »
So ...

I was sorting my old emails from two semesters ago and I found this gem:



Is it some ugly industrial art?

No!

This is PCB design of a DC-DC converter for a power devices class made in ...... Libre Office Calc.
The best software for PCB design on this planet!

How does this work?
It takes a lot of ingenuity to design PCBs in a spreadsheet and the process requires some explanations.

Here is the list of questions that came to my mind when I was mastering this marvelous piece of software:

1) What the hell do those colors mean?
The system is very simple and easy to remember:
 - Gray  = PCB
 - White surrounded by gray = Trace.
 - White not surrounded by gray = Not PCB.
 - Green = Shorted traces.

Then each trace gets it's own color according to the designers choice.  Some colors mean some special things.
I don't know what things. Manual is 1M pages long and has 100M references.

2) Where are the holes on this board?
White cells with thin black outline are the holes. They are quite easy to miss.
If you miss such error, your design is incorrect and cannot be assembled.

3) How do I even define component footprints in this hell?
Each footprint is defined through manual edition of cell borders. Footprint borders are to be set to thick black.
In order to move a component you have to undo all changes to cell borders and the redo them in another place.
That encourages you to get it right the first time!

4) How the hell do I connect things?
First you create a netlist in a separate spreadsheet.
It look's like this:



Each row contains component lead names for a single net.
Then on the board you type the name of each lead into a right cell to connect it to a specific trace.
No net naming is possible. But why bother? You have colors for that!

5) How do I even know that I connected everything?
Once everything is drawn you run a special macro written in ancient runes (VBA or whatever the hell Libre Office runs)
and pray that it works. Macro gives you error message whenever stuff on the board does not match stuff in the netlist.

7) During macro execution my computer summoned Cthulhu!
Ah yes, macros have some undefined behavior in them. Just follow the manual and everything will be fine next time.
About Cthulhu.... well just call 112 or something.

Pros and Cons

Pros:
 - You just passed the class!
 - From now on you will appreciate any CAD software. Or even designing directly on a piece of paper.

Cons:
 - During the design process you will destroy a minimum of 3 keyboards. First one will be destroyed in an attack of rage that frequently occurs during the process of entering all nets.
Then the second one will be destroyed during footprint placement. Then the third one will shatter when you will try to run a macro and you will get an error which will force you to move a couple of components.
 - You will also destroy at least one keyboard per each change in the layout.
 - You will likely have at least one mental breakdown during the design process.
 - You will realize that for the price of all those keyboards you destroyed, you could have bought a 1-year license for Altium.
 - You will try to drop this class but then you will realize that it is obligatory.
 - You will lose hope in humanity.
 - You will start building a spaceship to go to mars and be a potato farmer.

I think the entire industry should adopt this as a new standard! This would make things so much easier for everybody (well apart from Cthulhu but this is just a detail.).
What do you think about this?
« Last Edit: October 07, 2020, 04:56:47 pm by Chris42 »
 
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Offline Dave

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2020, 09:48:39 pm »
What the everloving fuck?  :wtf:
<fellbuendel> it's arduino, you're not supposed to know anything about what you're doing
<fellbuendel> if you knew, you wouldn't be using it
 
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Offline ANTALIFE

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2020, 12:15:56 am »
Looks like a veroboard/breadboard

But even then, why tho ?_?

Offline Chris42

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2020, 06:34:59 am »
Looks like a veroboard/breadboard

But even then, why tho ?_?

I still sometimes ask myself this question. But I can't find any answer that would make sense.

Good thing that my lab partner did most of the work in the spreadsheet. I just drawn all traces on a piece of paper and he did all the hard work transferring them to this CAS (Computer Aided Suffering) software.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2020, 06:46:04 am by Chris42 »
 

Offline Ranayna

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2020, 06:52:14 am »
The why is easy i think:

Excel, and similarly it's "clones" like Libre/Open Office Calc, are powerful pieces of software, that were taught at schools 25 years ago. At least my school did this, alongside with Microsoft Word.
Learning a proper PCB CAD software is even tougher, and mostly has to be done on your own. And many people do not like to learn something new.

And if all you have is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail ;)

That is why Excel is so damn common, even in large companies that would have the resources to use better tools. Everyone thinks they can use it :p
That is why the UK lost over 16.000 Corona Tracking datapoints: They used the Columns of an Excel sheet gather peoples information.  |O
 

Offline Chris42

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2020, 07:05:37 am »
The why is easy i think:

Excel, and similarly it's "clones" like Libre/Open Office Calc, are powerful pieces of software, that were taught at schools 25 years ago. At least my school did this, alongside with Microsoft Word.
Learning a proper PCB CAD software is even tougher, and mostly has to be done on your own. And many people do not like to learn something new.


Then why not just use a pencil and a piece of paper? That would be like 100 times easier and would take less time.
Just print the outline of the prototype board, draw traces with a pencil. Then draw the component footprints with a ruler and you are done. If you need  to change something,
use rubber to erase the part of the design and redraw it in a different place. It still sucks compared to Eagle or Altium but at least you are not manually editing cell borders and doing other stupid things that this system requires.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2020, 07:07:35 am by Chris42 »
 
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Offline Simon

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2020, 07:06:11 am »
Cmon, KiCad is not that hard to use.
 
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Offline S. Petrukhin

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2020, 07:32:00 am »
Paint is our everything!  :box:
And sorry for my English.
 
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Offline SilverSolder

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2020, 12:17:55 pm »
[...]
That is why the UK lost over 16.000 Corona Tracking datapoints: They used the Columns of an Excel sheet gather peoples information.  |O

Whatever the merits of using Excel, they lost the data due to not having a backup or even working in a separate copy to the original...   showing a lack of even the most elementary computer skills and data hygiene habits!   Would you trust a person like that to walk your dog?     :palm:
 

Offline Ranayna

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2020, 01:33:12 pm »
Backups or multiple copies of the same document would not have helped them if i have understood their issue correctly.

They used an automated process to fill that excel sheet with data from various sources. Sounds good and fine  :-+
But their process did not validate if the data was actually added to the document and apparently did little to no errorchecking. So they did not notice when the excel document hit the column limit.  :palm: You can backup as many copies of the document as you want at this point, it will not help.
I guess someone at some point wondered why there were no new entries  :-BROKE

As far as i know, there was no actual data loss. This excel sheet was used for contact tracking and notifications, which are obviously time sensitive.

Regarding on "Why not pen and paper?". This seems to be a recent happening. What modern student still carries pen and paper?  :P I know thats likely hyperbole, at least i hope so...
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2020, 04:32:38 pm »
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000n4vq

They used excel as a database because they are a bunch of idiots and yes the file format (the old excel file version of course) could not handle the data. The noticed at some point that no new cases had been recorded....................
 

Offline SilverSolder

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2020, 04:36:05 pm »
Backups or multiple copies of the same document would not have helped them if i have understood their issue correctly.
[...]

Not sure I understand what you mean.  At our company, the IT department can bring back any version of any file, going back years if necessary?   They will swear at you a lot while doing it, of course...   and you will be forced to go to an IT re-education training camp....  but still...  :D
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2020, 04:38:09 pm »
Backups or multiple copies of the same document would not have helped them if i have understood their issue correctly.
[...]

Not sure I understand what you mean.  At our company, the IT department can bring back any version of any file, going back years if necessary?


They tried to feed into excel more data than the sheet would take, it simply ignored the excess data. They would never have had anything to backup, the data was entered, but never saved.
 
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Offline SilverSolder

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2020, 04:44:44 pm »
Pretty poor design from Microsoft, that Excel lets you enter more rows than it can save...  it should have put a stop to that with an error message...

That said, the actual file size limit of an Excel spreadsheet is 2 GB?

...and Excel supports Autosave every 10 mins or whatever?
« Last Edit: October 08, 2020, 04:47:46 pm by SilverSolder »
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2020, 04:54:26 pm »
You are talking about the makers of some of the worse software on earth right? They don't have to care. No one buys Microsoft software because they want to but because they have to!
 
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Offline Wilksey

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #15 on: October 08, 2020, 05:03:26 pm »
You don't need to use the "Excel" program to read and write xsl/xslx files, it could be done pro grammatically, or use something like a VBA macro, and i they have the "ON ERROR RESUME NEXT" nugget in the code then it's a given, Excel won't as far as I know let you go above the number of rows it supports, hence my thinking that they did not use excel as front end just the back end.

You should be using something at least like EasyEDA / KiCAD to produce a decent project that can organise your files (schematic / pcb / libs) and generate Gerbers, it's just not worth making them at home anymore.

Why make it hard for yourself?
 

Offline apurvdate

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2020, 06:30:51 am »
I once met a guy who used to work in local small scale fab & was using CorelDraw for layout.
He said adjusting individual trace width becomes so easy and one can draw curved tracks also.
No gerber export but directly as *.ps file & film printing.
 :D
 

Offline perieanuo

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2020, 06:57:06 am »
I once met a guy who used to work in local small scale fab & was using CorelDraw for layout.
He said adjusting individual trace width becomes so easy and one can draw curved tracks also.
No gerber export but directly as *.ps file & film printing.
 :D
yep, those 'software' guys think they can figure out everything. i hate when I have to explain to one of those entities the hardware cannot be driven with excel vba's :)
someone said excel not reporting data entry exceeding his capabilities, I think the 'software analist' didn't give a f...ck about monitoring data integrity
well, most of the time best software creators are the hardware guys :)
 

Offline E-Design

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #18 on: October 09, 2020, 12:01:13 pm »
I used to know I guy who used Microsoft Word for layout - we called it word-cad. He was the only adopter.

Microsoft Word -let that sink in. Absolutely terrifying.
The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
 
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Offline madengr

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #19 on: October 12, 2020, 03:04:43 am »
20+ years ago, there was a harmonic balance simulator written in Excel.  Pretty crazy.
 

Online blueskull

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #20 on: October 12, 2020, 03:44:54 am »
20+ years ago, there was a harmonic balance simulator written in Excel.  Pretty crazy.

When I was doing my electronics packaging course, our professor asked us to write a thermal conduction simulator using tools of our own choice, and most used Excel.
 

Offline Berni

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #21 on: October 12, 2020, 06:11:44 am »
I once met a guy who used to work in local small scale fab & was using CorelDraw for layout.
He said adjusting individual trace width becomes so easy and one can draw curved tracks also.
No gerber export but directly as *.ps file & film printing.
 :D
yep, those 'software' guys think they can figure out everything. i hate when I have to explain to one of those entities the hardware cannot be driven with excel vba's :)
someone said excel not reporting data entry exceeding his capabilities, I think the 'software analist' didn't give a f...ck about monitoring data integrity
well, most of the time best software creators are the hardware guys :)

I have Excel sheet that does EMI testing by running a spectrum analyzer via SCPI.

Yes it is as crappy as you might think. It was only done because i needed a quick way to pull data from the spectrum analyzer and someone made a Excel VBA macro for it. So then i also added a button to reconfigure the spectrum analyzer for various tests. Then also moving data round manually became annoying, so i added some fancy graphs in driven by macros. The plan was to eventually take some time and rewrite the whole thing in C# or something...

Well you know what they say about the permanence of temporary solutions that work... yeah years later its still run by an Excel sheet that seams to only work correctly in a few specific versions of Office. I deeply regret creating this monster and unleashing it upon the world.
 

Offline Simon

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #22 on: October 12, 2020, 06:40:20 am »
We have the same at work, our sub contractor used excel as a visual control input which was the easiest way to do it at the time as otherwise it was type stuff into a terminal window. It was quite clever although we plan to move on from that.
 

Offline SilverSolder

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #23 on: October 12, 2020, 02:26:49 pm »

The whole idea with Excel and VBA is that non-professionals should have an accessible way to make workable computer programs on Windows PCs.

If it works reliably and solves its intended purpose...  it is an appropriate solution, in my view. 


The opposite end of the "knock it up in Excel" spectrum is to gild the lily and write applications in C++ or other professional level languages, which then requires a professional programmer to understand your specification, write, alter, and maintain the code afterwards.  That isn't necessarily cost efficient in all circumstances, to put it mildly!  :D
 

Offline srb1954

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Re: Best software for PCB design ever
« Reply #24 on: October 13, 2020, 04:58:20 am »
I used to know I guy who used Microsoft Word for layout - we called it word-cad. He was the only adopter.

Microsoft Word -let that sink in. Absolutely terrifying.
Microsoft Word is causes considerable frustration even when used for its intended purpose of word processing.

« Last Edit: October 13, 2020, 05:08:24 am by srb1954 »
 


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