Author Topic: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?  (Read 25802 times)

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Offline Roader

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Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« on: January 16, 2016, 01:59:01 am »
Hi,

I am just getting started with Kicad, and wondering whther it worth learning Altium? Since Kicad is free, has lots of tutorials, and also a lot of new features, does it really make sense to learn Altium? What is it that Altium has which you find really interesting?
 

Offline c4757p

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2016, 02:29:48 am »
Can you afford Altium? It's certainly more useful to you to put on a resume. As for your own private use...

My personal view on this is that KiCad is great for most small to medium-sized projects, especially if you're a hobbyist or beginner, but you do have to have some patience for slightly unpolished software. It spent a long time languishing before development finally started picking up again, and we have a lot of so-called technical debt to deal with. Some things are waaaaay nicer than they were - some way nicer than the "competition" as well (try to find any PCB router anywhere near this good for a similar price point. ;)) But then you go to the schematic side and things are still old and crusty - we're still digging our way out from under the old code.

If you have the patience to deal with what is really a fairly typical solution for FOSS, I say KiCad is absolutely perfect if you're a hobbyist, and useful if you want to learn how to design PCBs in general, but if you're looking for software skills directly transferable to a Real Job, maybe not so much, Altium will be of more use to you.

Source: I'm a KiCad developer.
No longer active here - try the IRC channel if you just can't be without me :)
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2016, 03:19:15 am »
KiCad isn't much use on your resume, if that's important to you.
 

Online blueskull

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2016, 05:21:55 am »
I tried KiCAD and EAGLE as well as gEDA. No one fits me nearly well as Altium does.

Altium is waaaay more powerful and easy to use once you got used to it.

So my suggestion, get a cracked copy, version number does not matter (basic shortcuts and workflow remains the same from Protel 99SE to AD16), and practice using it.

Your boss will be happy if you can use it, and he will happily pay for it if you use it in daily work.

It is much, much, more efficient than any other tools I've ever used (sadly, I only used AD as a big $$$$ tool, so no comparison with PADS or SPB).
 

Offline Roader

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2016, 06:53:50 am »
Thanks for the replies  ;)
 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2016, 07:09:32 am »
If the school you go at also has Allegro by Cadence it will look good in combination with Altium and OrCad (also own by Cadence)

For what I've heard because I don't have either but seen Allegro been used at my previous jobs, Allegro is the choice for anything on the highest GHz range.
 

Online AndyC_772

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2016, 07:44:19 am »
Orcad PCB Designer is the exact same binary as Allegro, just feature restricted by a licence key. The old Orcad layout tool is dead.

It still puzzles me that Altium is the professional tool that gets all the discussion on the forum, while the Mentor and Cadence products are barely mentioned at all. It's especially odd given that Orcad is relatively affordable.

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2016, 07:52:36 am »
I guess I'll assume that Orcad got that way after being acquired by Cadence.

Back on the mid 90's Allegro was the only game in town.

Edit: But for very high speed designs, Allegro is still the best, Orcad is there to compete with Altium and the rest.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 07:54:39 am by miguelvp »
 

Online AndyC_772

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2016, 08:18:15 am »
Sure; I don't see it would have made any sense to continue developing a separate low-to-mid range layout tool when you can just prune down a high end one.

Orcad PCB designer comes in 'standard' and 'professional' editions. The 'professional' edition is comparable in price to Altium and PADS, while the 'standard' edition is considerably cheaper... certainly within the range of a serious hobbyist or small business, and it's what I've been using to make a living for the last few years. My local distributor occasionally tries to get me to upgrade, but I just don't need the extra features.

Online EEVblog

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2016, 08:48:47 am »
Sure; I don't see it would have made any sense to continue developing a separate low-to-mid range layout tool when you can just prune down a high end one.

Altium did!
BTW, how has Circuit Maker takeup gone? I haven't followed it for a long time now.
 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2016, 08:59:17 am »
Altium wanted to compete with both Cadence and Mentor at the same time so they felt short both ways, focus on FPGAs or on Design if you want to break in either one, but not both.
 

Offline Karel

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2016, 09:25:53 am »
So my suggestion, get a cracked copy, ...

Maybe not in yours, but in most western countries this is considered illegal.
The difference between theory and practice is less in theory than
the difference between theory and practice in practice.
Expensive tools cannot compensate for lack of experience.
 

Offline Karel

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #12 on: January 16, 2016, 09:30:43 am »
What is it that Altium has which you find really interesting?

To be honest, very little. I have used it for a full year. My opinion, it's unstable and memory hungry.
The design files are closed/undocumented.  It also forces you to use windows.
Apart from that, it has a marketshare of only 10% so don't worry about your resume.
The difference between theory and practice is less in theory than
the difference between theory and practice in practice.
Expensive tools cannot compensate for lack of experience.
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #13 on: January 16, 2016, 09:44:48 am »
Apart from that, it has a marketshare of only 10% so don't worry about your resume.

At the average company PCB design level, Altium is quite dominate, way way more than 10%.
If I had to pick PCB package to have on your resume that was the most valuable in the industry, it would be Altium.
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2016, 09:46:11 am »
Altium wanted to compete with both Cadence and Mentor at the same time so they felt short both ways, focus on FPGAs or on Design if you want to break in either one, but not both.

It took them 15 years, almost the financial death of the company, and a change of leadership to finally realise that.
 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2016, 10:10:28 am »
So what does Gary Smith has to say about it? if that is still relevant?

I don't have the coins to look into the current market but Cadence used to preside. Even if Ansoft was purchased by (Mentor I think)
But Mentor probably presides now on FPGAs.

When I went from embedded to full software before 2000 Cadence had the bigger market share at over 33% not sure where is at now.
 

Offline Karel

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2016, 10:23:48 am »
At the average company PCB design level, Altium is quite dominate, way way more than 10%.

The only thing Altium is quite dominate in, is advertizing and giving people the impression that they are quite dominate.
Have a look here (scroll down to page 50):

http://www.altium.com/resources/investor-announcement/investor_presentation_august_2015.pdf

The difference between theory and practice is less in theory than
the difference between theory and practice in practice.
Expensive tools cannot compensate for lack of experience.
 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #17 on: January 16, 2016, 10:30:31 am »
I don't see any figures against competitors, or is that what you mean?
 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #18 on: January 16, 2016, 10:58:17 am »
Altium wanted to compete with both Cadence and Mentor at the same time so they felt short both ways, focus on FPGAs or on Design if you want to break in either one, but not both.

It took them 15 years, almost the financial death of the company, and a change of leadership to finally realise that.

Well, there is no way they could catch up with Cadence, so their best bet would have been agaisnt Mentor at the time.
I guess the ambivalence of the situation hurt them more. But they never had a chance against Cadence in the high end.

It was probably best for them to keep on growing steadily in the low-mid range.
 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #19 on: January 16, 2016, 11:34:37 am »
Not real research, but according to the interwebs Synopsys was leading both Cadence and Mentor by 11% in 2010 with Mentor being ahead of Cadence by a little:
https://www.garysmitheda.com/2011/01/2011-complete-market-trends-executive-summary-eda-grows-again/

But no mention of Altium there.

Would love to know who is ahead nowadays.
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #20 on: January 16, 2016, 12:06:33 pm »
With those market percentages be very careful what you are comparing.
Altium does PCB and practically nothing else.
The other biggies make most of their sales from IC and other high end tools, i.e. EDA instead of PCB.
So those market share numbers are based on company revenues, not actual PCB seats.
You essentially can't compare the EDA and the PCB only markets.

If you look at the actual real world design engineering level PCB tool market (that is difficult to get numbers on) you'll find that Altium is one of the dominate players, if not the dominate player. Hence it's value on the resume of a design engineer.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 12:08:51 pm by EEVblog »
 

Offline Karel

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2016, 05:19:19 pm »
With those market percentages be very careful what you are comparing.
Altium does PCB and practically nothing else.
The other biggies make most of their sales from IC and other high end tools, i.e. EDA instead of PCB.
So those market share numbers are based on company revenues, not actual PCB seats.
You essentially can't compare the EDA and the PCB only markets.

The document I referred to talks about PCB Design Software marketshare.


The difference between theory and practice is less in theory than
the difference between theory and practice in practice.
Expensive tools cannot compensate for lack of experience.
 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #22 on: January 16, 2016, 06:07:30 pm »
With those market percentages be very careful what you are comparing.
Altium does PCB and practically nothing else.
The other biggies make most of their sales from IC and other high end tools, i.e. EDA instead of PCB.
So those market share numbers are based on company revenues, not actual PCB seats.
You essentially can't compare the EDA and the PCB only markets.

The document I referred to talks about PCB Design Software marketshare.

No, he is right, it's EDA in general, the PCB study itself is $1K so the only thing we know it's that it grew over 6% in that year for all players.

No details are given on that synopsis and I'm not about to spend a large one to find out.

 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2016, 07:01:13 pm »
No figures on who is on top in this summary but it shows Cadence, Mentor and Zuken as the tools for power users and the last two as for the upper mainstream users for PCB design.

Altium is around the lower mainstream users with Orcad

https://www.garysmitheda.com/2009/01/mentor-buys-valor/

Of course the people that bought the data, can't disseminate it or they'll get into trouble. Unless it was a magazine and they did publish it. But it's hard to find real numbers on who is on top,

But since Valor represented 46% of the PCB market share, I will say: Mentor > Cadence > Zuken/Altium
Edit: NI is there too, but probably in the low noise.
PCB market share is just 10% of the total EDA figures, and the PCB market is really not that big anyways. Just $75.5 Million in 2008, the big money is in IC design and the fastest growing seems to be ESL (Electronic System Level) design.

Of course, kicad is nowhere to be seeing regardless of CERN interest on it.

Edit: Just to note, this is according the market share research of that one site. So there is a possibility that they are full of crap.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2016, 07:04:49 pm by miguelvp »
 

Offline miguelvp

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Re: Does it make sense to learn Altium now that Kicad is so good?
« Reply #24 on: January 16, 2016, 07:19:22 pm »
I will venture to say that Orcad is a good thing to know since that covers the lower mainstream users and prepares you to the power user sphere.

But also look into what Mentor has to offer via Valor since it has a huge chunk of the market share and also what Zuken has to offer as well.

I guess the only way to know is to look at the job ads and search what is more in demand, it might be Altium after all.
The companies that have the largest market share might not hire as much.
 


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