If you are looking for PCB design software platforms, your first instinct may be to Google it. That will yield over 2 million search results, which will be just slightly overwhelming. We can help you narrow down your search with a short list of recommended PCB design solutions. Before we share our list, however, here are some guidelines for choosing the best software to fit your needs.
- Strong track record. New design solutions pop up every day—and go away just as quickly. Though new software programs may sound appealing, there’s no way to tell if they will be reliable. Go with a proven entity.
- Ease of use. Check the program’s user interface. Is it simple to learn? You shouldn’t have to bury yourself in a complicated user’s manual or waste a lot of time searching in the interface for the tools you need. Make sure that the program is intuitive.
- Quality—not quantity—of features. More tools aren’t necessarily better. Too many features can bog down loading speed and make you feel overwhelmed. Determine what you need to execute a particular project and ensure that the software you are considering meets your needs.
- Large library. Though you may not need a litany of features, you do want an expansive component library. Developing new components can lead to errors.
Now onto our list of reliable PCB design software:
- Altium Designer 17. This is a staple among universities and circuit companies alike and considered by many to be the “gold standard” of design solutions. It offers effortless design automation and endless engineering reach as well as intuitive team collaboration. A free trial is available.
- DipTrace. DipTrace has a robust component library and options for easily creating any components that aren’t available. It is easy to use with a strong schematic capture module that supports multi-sheet and multi-level hierarchy schematics. However, be aware that it’s not as standard as other programs, which is a problem if you want to collaborate with other engineers.
- Eagle. This program offers 3D design, engineering, and entertainment software. It has an intuitive schematic editor and intuitive PCB layout tools. A free trial is available, and the subscription price is reasonable.
- KiCad EDA. This free, cross-platform and open-source electronics design automation suite offers schematic capture and PCB layout. It also provides a 3D viewer and interactive canvas.
- PCB Artist. This free program is created by PCB manufacturing giant Advanced Circuits. The program is reliable and intuitive with an expansive components library.