Schematic Capture and PCB Design


Well-known member
I tried searching the forums for Schematic Capture. All I found was a reference to some cloud based stuff. I don't want that.

I am looking for a simple and cheap (less than $500, $500 is still high, but I understand good stuff costs) version of Schematic Capture and PCB Design software. It will be for hobbyist work, but I would like it to be more capable than the free Eagle. I also dislike the licensing policies of Autodesk. I won't use Autocad either. CorelCad is my choice for mechanical drawing.

At work a PCB designer told me about PCB123. I will be trying that, but I don't know anything about that software. Not sure if it is cloud based or not yet. So that is one suggestion.
I have used Fritzing and it seemed nice, but I am not sure about the quality of the output. Have not played with it for a couple years though.

I don't think I need circuit simulation, but it would be a "nice to have".

I see a lot of schematics being shown in the forums. Am curious as to what you people use and why.
I'm using Eagle and since a few years it is really good.
As hobbyist, I never needed more than the free edition and if I ever need - my son is a student and as such can obtain the professional licence for free.

I know, many people dont like its autorouter- but I dont want to miss it. It saves so much time - and I dont need highly professional layouts. Even when: It does not stop you if you want to do it manually.
I typically use DipTrace -

I know that Eagle has improved, but I did not like the User Interface when I started doing stuff... I do have an old license for a Eagle that allows me to experiment and/or load projects or components built for Eagle to load up in Diptrace.

I know others use KiCad... I have it downloaded but have not done much with it yet.
I use KiCad, it's open source and free and has a really solid development team and community. I was frustrated by the limitations of the free versions of Eagle (2 layers, 10cm x 10cm, owned by Autodesk) and KiCad is unlimited.

No schematic/PCB design tool is going to be easy to learn, but there are good tutorials out there.

I can recommend Getting To Blinky by Chris Gammel as a good starting point for KiCad.
I also use KiCad for my designs, it works very well for what I need to do. If you want to use it too take some time to learn the keyboard command shortcuts, it makes the design process a lot easier and faster.
I'm now using EasyEDA for all my projects. I just recently designed a few boards and found the software is fairly easy to use (easier the more I use) but the library (included and user supplied) is outstanding. I only use around 20 different parts, RJ45 connectors, TFT, Displays, Teensy 3.2, USB ports, etc. and there was a library for all components complete with proper hole locations, naming, pins, and silkscreen info. Auto routing I felt was pretty darn good. I went from a schematic to PCB (which I highly recommend that workflow as opposed to brute force PCB design) and had a complete board designed and ordered in an hour or so.

The best part? I hit buy and got 5 boards for $2 which were delivered in about a week ($20 for shipping though). The quality of received boards was outstanding--seriously--and comes from JLBPCP in China. i'm getting ready to order several more boards but waiting for more to spread shipping across more boards.

Definitely need to look into this.
As someone designing my first PCB and kind of bouncing off all the different free PCB CAD systems for a week or two without finishing anything, I'm curious how you know which part definitions are good, and what does "good" mean? For example, when I search for Teensy 3.6 in the EasyEDA parts database, there is a screenful of user-contributed part definitions. The same seems to be true of other popular parts. I am wondering how to pick from them, what sort of errors might matter, and whether there might be errors that I don't notice but will mess things up?

I have hand-wired a couple of projects by cutting FR4 and drilling a lot of holes in a couple of boards with less precision than I'd like. I have a simple model of how an unsophisticated board design should work, where if the holes are in the right places and there is connectivity between the right holes, this is what actually matters? But there seems to be a lot of other stuff like drawing schematics and maybe simulation, design rules and so on, and I don't know how much of it is important.
I use Circuitmaker which is a limited version of the high end Altium system. I say limited but it is quite powerful. The schematic capture and PCB layout are excellent. Just be aware of two features of Circuitmaker. One is that everything is on the cloud. You can reserve two projects to remain hidden but everything else is available for everyone to see. That being said though, you can keep a low profile and your designs will stay pretty much undiscovered. The other thing is that the parts library, while quite extensive, is community supported. I have never found a "wrong" part but some are laid out poorly and not to a standard or convention. (When I find one like that, I make another version. This is how the pool of parts improves.)

I have been very happy with it. Oh, and it's free.
+1 for KiCAD

KiCAD seems to have very tight schematic/layout integration, and you can only go in that direction - change schematic in schematic editor ("Eeschema") and import changes into layout (in "Pcbnew"). If you can't do that for an example if there are missing libraries or differences in KiCAD versions editing netlist manually and importing into layout is possible, but if you add footprints in layout (PCBNew) they are not exported to netlist. Just found a python script which does that (it was written for python 2.x though, haven't tested it, though got it converted to python 3.x and it seems to produce a proper PCBNew netlists). There is also WireIt plugin but it doesn't seem to work with KiCAD 5.x (don't know why).

I've used Eagle but on the schematic editor it was difficult to connect nets to components properly (probably did it wrong way, but there was no visual sign of proper connection so it could only be verified in layout phase). Don't know if it's now better as it used to be.

I've also used a very simple Spring Layout (version 6.0 is the latest one) program by ABACOM which is a bare layout editor and little bit lacks in component libraries but is handy for small designs, see
+1 for KiCad as well.

Might be worth mentioning that Autodesk integrated Eagle (with some adjustments) into Fusion 360 a couple of days ago. Free of charge for hobbyists with no limitations like in Eagle.
It also got some neat/promising features like multiple trace routing, more flexible routing, autorouting, built-in SPICE simulation, heat dissipation simulation etc. compared to KiCad. I've been using Fusion 360 for some years now and both the community and team behind it is very active, and its frequently updated.

That said, and from my personal preferences, I found the UI quite cumbersome and the implementation somewhat buggy and not fully developed. I also like to store my files locally. So all-in-all I would still recommend KiCad, which also has a great community and dev team.

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