Author Topic: Which PCB software to choose  (Read 14234 times)

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Offline Marmes

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Which PCB software to choose
« on: March 27, 2014, 12:47:46 pm »
Hi! This is my first post and already asking for something :D But since most of you are professionals this would be simple to know! :D
My work consists in reversing from pcb to sch some simple old boards like audio equipment etc. But now some people are asking me to do so on more complex designs, with qfp, bga ,smd and stuff like that. I bought Circad, from www.holophase.com wich was cheap, simple and good for what I wanted. But  routing on it comparing with other software is kinda rude and for more complex designs it can be a bit of a nightmare. Since this is a one man job and I apreciate a lot technical support, I want to know wich software , non free(nice support) and not too expensive, that you can recommend me. I tested diptrace, eagle, proteus, cadint and easypc. All of them have pros and cons. Diptrace looks and feels nice but lacks some features I need like back annotation. Eagle is nice, lots of libs, good worldwide support, but rude interface, no back annotation, cannot load images, gerbers or dxf directly. Proteus is very good, for me, the follow me routing is very nice, already has a good library and has one of the best simulation engines that I will not use that much, no back annotation, but it has some nice import features on pcb side, although not enough for me. Cadint can be a bit daunting at first, but after you get along with it, it's very fluid and fast it has everything that I want , the follow me routing and push&shove features are amazing, backannotation is good, loads images, dxf and gerbers quite well. EasyPC is good also, but what you pay for extras is not that good. Libraries in a package should be free, unless you ask for a specific part. Gerber import has 2 option. So now I come to the price part (I want all without pcb limitations): Diptrace USD895, eagle USD1495, proteus USD2322, cadint USD2900, easypc USD1114(no extra libs, advanced gerber import included). I cannot find any pcb program that handles pictures, gerbers and dxf files like Circad, but I need to advance. Holophase is not giving the support I need.
For these prices (3000 USD tops) with no pcb limitations, what would you recommend? If you have any other opinion feel free to tell me. Just one point, it has to have follow me routing, push and shove would be an extra :). I also would like to know wich one makes me  have a better chance to find a job in pcb industry if  life leads to it . As you all know , changing PCB software is like changing religion. Thanks for reading this.
Regards!
 
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 03:11:42 am by GeoffS »
 

Offline DerekG

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Re: Wich PCB software to choose
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2014, 06:38:59 pm »
I bought Circad, from www.holophase.com which was cheap, simple and good for what I wanted. But routing on it comparing with other software is kinda rude and for more complex designs it can be a bit of a nightmare. Since this is a one man job and I apreciate a lot technical support. Holophase is not giving the support I need.

Yes, Circad is actually a great program, especially for scanning in old pcbs to facilitate new designs. The Circad interface if very much like the Protel PCB packages of 10 years ago ............. but still very nice.

You are correct though, very lacking in auto-placement & auto-routing (& component libraries) in these modern times. Whilst it was great value 15 years ago, in todays market it is expensive at US$995 for what it has to offer.

Unfortunately one of the main developers passed away about 2 years ago, leaving just one developer/support guy left. Circad has not been updated for about 2 years now ............... & who knows, maybe it won't be again as I believe the programmer is in his late 50's/early 60's.

The functions you ask for can all be found in the higher end packages like Altium, Pads etc, but not around $2000-$3000 as far as I'm aware.

Just an ask - do you really need back annotation? Normally, if some resign is required, you can update the schematic (as you know what components need to be added/removed or updated) then forward annotate these changes to the pcb.

You can lock the components on the pcb to ensure nothing changes during the forward annotation. You will easily be able to see the new nets (& components) that will be added & those that will need to be removed.

You mention Proteus which is one of the better mid-end packages & I'm just thinking that perhaps back annotation is easily got around by a reversal of procedure.

Remember, on complex boards, always updating the schematic first & forward annotating to the pcb is a good method to avoiding confusion about what changes have been done & what are still left to do.

Just my 2c worth. I too am interested in what other members think re packages around $2000 to $3000 that might fit the request.
I also sat between Elvis & Bigfoot on the UFO.
 

Offline Marmes

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Re: Wich PCB software to choose
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2014, 08:26:30 pm »
Thanks DerekG for you opinion. You are correct. Mr. Fred Leamman is alone in this right now. I just hope that other company or someone continues to support this software. I didn't buy it for the price they sell of course. I see Cadint with follow-me routing and push and shove for USD2900, as seen in www.cadint.com. I just don't understand what they mean with competitive upgrade price.
That would be an interesting price for me if it's what I am thinking it is. Proteus has a nice follow-me routing capabilities, but no push and shove, and the price is bit lower,with the chance to upgrade it with simulation features. since I don't need simulation, I wouldn't be buying those.
But at the same time, I don't see many people using Cadint and  I don't see much about support, it's not very consistent, like 2 years without updates, then 2 updates a year, then nothing again. Proteus has a big user base around the world AFAIK and it gets many updates with newer features and to correct bugs. Cadint can read DXF and gerber, and backannotate to schematic what you design in PCB, proteus can't do it. Well Proteus  can if we do as you say (I think), but gives a lot more trouble to do. I am in a dilema right now :D . Just hope that someone can help me to decide on this :) I know that Altium has all, if in a near future someone orders me something with fpga and etc in mind, I would invest in Altium for sure. I know I asked for something that is also an industry standard, but for small businesses with 1 to 10 persons working , we just need to make our jobs the most eficient way we can. It's important to have other experiences with softwares. Not only one.
How many people here use Cadint or Proteus or other with this capabilities within this price range?
Thank you all for your time!
 

Offline DerekG

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Re: Wich PCB software to choose
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2014, 01:40:55 am »
Mr. Fred Leamman is alone in this (Circad) right now. I just hope that other company or someone continues to support this software.

I don't see many people using Cadint and  I don't see much about support, it's not very consistent, like 2 years without updates, then 2 updates a year, then nothing again.

I know that Altium has all, if in a near future someone orders me something with fpga and etc in mind, I would invest in Altium for sure.

Perhaps you can contact Fred at Holphase to suggest he look at selling Circad to another company or to bring in a younger programming partner to get it up to speed. Sometimes you will get a reply, other times you will not.

It would be a shame to see Circad disappear as I believe it is the EASIEST schematic/pcb package to learn out of all that are out there (just like the early to late versions of Protel was before it moved across to DXP.

Regarding CADint - it looks to me that it takes them around 2 years to introduce new features ........... and then after user input, they bring out another update say 6 months later with all the bug fixes. With software programming, when you introduce new code it can affect the old code so that features that once worked, no longer work :(

Regarding Altium & FPGAs - microprocessors have now taken the bulk of the work that FPGAs used to do. If you find that you need to enter the field of FPGAs, look carefully at the software offered by the manufacturer of your chosen FPGA. You know you can rely 100% on the vendor's programmers & software & their software will support all their parts, even those that were released just last week. Also the vendor's software is generally much more competitive these days than say 10 years ago. They have learnt that their customers often choose the FPGA based on the cost of the software & programmers. Altium entered this field around 2000 & frankly their support for them is pretty dismal when it comes to recently released parts. They have tried to make a tool that supports most vendors products across the range .............. but really have not done a good job of it.

Again, just my 2c worth.

Consider posting a reference to your first post in this thread in the thread below (don't hijack their thread). It may bring your question to the attention of a few more users:

https://www.eevblog.com/forum/eda/pcbeda-software-list/
I also sat between Elvis & Bigfoot on the UFO.
 

Offline Dago

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Re: Wich PCB software to choose
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2014, 07:58:37 am »
Regarding Altium & FPGAs - microprocessors have now taken the bulk of the work that FPGAs used to do. If you find that you need to enter the field of FPGAs, look carefully at the software offered by the manufacturer of your chosen FPGA. You know you can rely 100% on the vendor's programmers & software & their software will support all their parts, even those that were released just last week. Also the vendor's software is generally much more competitive these days than say 10 years ago. They have learnt that their customers often choose the FPGA based on the cost of the software & programmers. Altium entered this field around 2000 & frankly their support for them is pretty dismal when it comes to recently released parts. They have tried to make a tool that supports most vendors products across the range .............. but really have not done a good job of it.

I'm quite confident that very few are using the FPGA features of Altium. Let alone let that feature to define their purchase.
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Offline Marmes

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Re: Wich PCB software to choose
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2014, 07:14:41 pm »
This looks quite strange to me , it seems it is Altium VS the "others". For many people Protel99se is still their tool in Windows XP. From the FPGA point of view you are correct, there is nothing like the   FPGA manufacturer's support, so if we take that from altium, what is the greatest advantange for that price range it gives from other softwares? What I can see here , is all a matter of marketing and setting industry standards concerning pcb design. Altium has a better marketing, so makes it a better tool? There are many tools out there, but what makes them more solid in terms of production and market placement? How do I choose a tool? If I want it for myself and for a small company ? Or should I choose from the tendencies of the market at the moment? How  can I rely in a company that I don't know? I bought Circad 1,5years ago, and now one of the 2 developers died. Of course I cannot predict fatalities, but what makes a company solid enough to make us choose their products?
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Offline nctnico

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Re: Wich PCB software to choose
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2014, 11:46:46 pm »
This looks quite strange to me , it seems it is Altium VS the "others". For many people Protel99se is still their tool in Windows XP. From the FPGA point of view you are correct, there is nothing like the   FPGA manufacturer's support, so if we take that from altium, what is the greatest advantange for that price range it gives from other softwares? What I
I wouldn't be so sure about that. I'm working on a large VHDL project and Xilinx' ISE ('the vendor tool') is just crap to handle the project. I'm using Eclipse and a commercial add-on to get the work done.
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Offline DerekG

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Re: Wich PCB software to choose
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2014, 03:05:05 am »
This looks quite strange to me , it seems it is Altium VS the "others". For many people Protel99se is still their tool in Windows XP.

Protel claimed to be the first PCB CAD software to migrate to the Windows platform. This gave them a head start over many other vendors as their DOS product was already quite mature for a well price schematic/pcb CAD tool.

Protel 99SE fixed most of the bugs in Protel99. I believe it gained a lot of market share as its code was quickly broken & it was extensively used from then on in Asia (in particular). Many Asian board shops still accept Protel99SE as the latest "Altium" file you can send them (so you don't have to worry about generating the gerbers yourself).

Quote
Altium has a better marketing, so makes it a better tool?

The first part is true, the second does not follow.

Protel was a private Australian company started by Nick Martin. He made good inroads into the Australian universities by holding teaching seminars around the country regularly. I remember asking his team at one of these seminars about a "Demo Package" so we could try out these "so called fantastic features". I was told that "Demo's would never be available". My, how times change. This was just an insight into how short sighted Protel (Altium) could (can) be.

Many people use their software, but I was hazard a guess to say that more users hate the software & hate Altium as a company than actually like them both.

Altium was listed on the Australian stock exchange in August 1999 for AUD$2 per share.

From this point on there were shareholders to pay & so the marketing machine cranked up to maximise sales. Altium had previously moved their head office to Silicon Valley as "this was where the action was".

In 2001 (due to high costs & limited success) Altium moved their HQ back to Sydney Australia & later on to China as this was supposedly "where all the action was".

If you search through my posts from a couple of weeks ago you will see the stats for their worldwide sales & Australia/EU/USA still beats China/Asia by quite a lot.

Nick Martin (CEO) was unwillingly pushed off the board approx 2.5 years ago & he held on to his shares for another 2 years before offloading them for more than AUD$30 million in October 2013. Altium shares were worth about AUD$0.25 on his departure but increased 10 fold (to AUD$2.50) in the 2 years under the control of the new board. Based on this, it appears that investors were glad to see the departure of the founding CEO, Nick Martin.

Quote
How do I choose a tool? If I want it for myself and for a small company? Or should I choose from the tendencies of the market at the moment? How  can I rely in a company that I don't know?

It is very hard to know. Look at all the people who invested in P-CAD software. Altium purchased P-CAD & a few years later stopped support for it, forcing users to migrate across to Altium (or leave for someone else's product). There are still many P-CAD 2006 users out there who looked at the special migrating offer that was offered by Altium, tested out the software, said YUK & remained loyal to the last release of P-CAD.

Altium has a wide user base & if you take up existing designs from your customers, you will likely come across it. You would then need to either continue the work in Altium or else be able to port these designs into the package you are using.

What would I do? I currently have Altium 6.9 (2007/2008) & DipTrace. I don't take existing designs from other companies. Instead my company designs the product from the ground up ............... but only if we will manufacture the finished product as well as this is where the ongoing income comes from. We also do a lot of our own designs for manufacture ................ so my needs are different to your's.

I would take a second look at Proteus. Price range from US$250 (unbelievably cheap if you don't need/use autoplacement) up to US$2000 for the full product (just pay the difference as you move up). Take a good look at their videos to determine if it will do what you want. You are worried about no back annotation. Remember, most errors in pcbs are due to the designer & when you use both forward & backward annotation it is easy sometimes to lose track of exactly what you have done & what you have left to do. Yes, there are design checks you can carry out to see what you have missed, but adopting a "rigid" methodology (ie forward annotation only) often helps settle these complicated things in your mind.

One year of support from Altium will cost you close to the top Proteus product. Proteus comes with an autorouter but you can also use the Specctra/Electra interface to run the excellent "freerouting" autorouter or purchase the Electra autorouter for under $500 if you are not using too many layers.

Also, if you work with micros, Proteus has some excellent visual code simulation tools (& you already have the schematic to run them :))

I use the Realizer programming software for STM & PIC micros which has excellent simulation built in. But just as you worry about support, Actum have not kept up support for the latest Microchip micros in a timely fashion. I now find myself using the Micro Engineering Labs Basic Compiler programming software .............. & this can be simulated very nicely using the Proteus simulator. I believe this cuts my programming & testing time to just 20% of what it used to be.

Also, if you are using AVR micros, take a look at the BASCOM basic compiler. This is very nice too & will likely speed up your development heaps.

Again, just my 2c worth.

I encourage other members to post their thoughts in this thread too :)
I also sat between Elvis & Bigfoot on the UFO.
 

Offline Marmes

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Re: Which PCB software to choose
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2014, 12:05:16 pm »
I would consider buying an old protel99se. I contacted directly both cadint and labcenter. In cadint i am eligable to a competitive upgrade plus 10% discount. In labcenter , well, it is basically what they have on their site.
I really need to ponder all this.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2014, 05:48:22 pm by Marmes »
 

Offline tystephens

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Re: Which PCB software to choose
« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2014, 11:45:58 am »
Hi Everyone,

New poster here.

Marmes - having read your requirements, it would seem Pulsonix EDA software could be ideal for you. Admittedly I do work for them so I would say that! However, based on your requirements it does everything you require and more.   

The developers have recently created a Circad importer which means you can read in your designs and libraries straight in to Pulsonix, for your information, Pulsonix has one of, if not the largest import facility on the market. The software allows for back annotation and can also read in pictures, gerbers and DXF files. Furthermore track hugging (follow me routing) and push and shove are standard features in the software.

The budget range you have provided also fits in with the purchase price for Pulsonix, in fact the 1000 pin option starts at just over $2000, so it may be worth you contacting your local distributor for further details. Or ask me.  :-+
 

Offline Wilksey

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Re: Which PCB software to choose
« Reply #10 on: April 22, 2014, 02:24:28 pm »
I think the OP posting something about Easy PC, which is made by the same developers as Pulsonix if I am not mistaken, so it might be worth trying that?
 

Offline mucek

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Re: Which PCB software to choose
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2014, 05:04:54 pm »
Check Target  if it suits you. I use it and it's good, however good autorouter must be purchased seperatly (Electra, same as with Altium), around 400 EUR.

Regards,
Gregor
 

Offline Marmes

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Re: Which PCB software to choose
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2014, 11:17:55 pm »
Hi!
For all packages I seen. Feature/price wise, for me, only two got my attention. Proteus and Cadint. They both have what I want. Pulsonix would be another candidate, but for now I couldn't afford it.
Anual fees are high, and addons can push the price above my budget. I am learning how to work with both proteus and cadint. They don't have all the features pulsonix has, but they can come close.
 

Offline DerekG

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Re: Which PCB software to choose
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2014, 12:54:26 am »
I am learning how to work with both proteus and cadint.

Please let us know your thoughts after you've spent some time with each.
I also sat between Elvis & Bigfoot on the UFO.
 


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