Re: {Collins} Schematic drawing software


I recently went through this exercise and came to the conclusion that while many of the free schematic editors are good, most are lacking in the way of good component libraries. I became very frustrated when attempting to look up simple semiconductor components.

I ended up purchasing two packages. The first is CIRCAD and is available to hams for about $300. It includes a lot more than schematic capture. It will take you all the way through PCB design and even has reverse engineering capabilities. See the W8ZR website for an example of its capability. The component and footprint libraries are very good but the software feels like an old DOS program with limited point and click abilities.

The second software application I purchased is DipTrace. This package was recommended by Jack, K8ZOA. So far, it seems to emulate CIRCAD's power but it handles much more like a true Windows-based program. There's a free version with 500 pin captures and limited to two PCB layers. A non-commercial license with 1000 pins and 4 board layers is only USD $125. I suggest trying the free version, and as your needs increase, then obtain a paid license. Both packages have excellent autorouting capability: you take your schematic symbols and throw them on the screen. Then make virtual connections through what's known as a "net list." The net list is probably the most import piece of any serious schematic/PCB program. Once the schematic is created, the next step is to throw the footprints on another screen - the PCB board layout. DipTrace does this automatically and will then optimize component order and placement for shortest distances, and finally auto-route all board traces. Autorouting is a very powerful tool but it cannot understand all rules relating to good RF and power supply design. So, there's usually some trace tweaking but the lion's share of the work is done for you.

Another popular package is Eagle. I had trouble adjusting to its command structure and didn't pursue it any further.

I highly recommend Pad2Pad software for only PCB layout from your own net lists -- or if you just want to take a simple circuit and quickly get it onto a PCB. Examples of several Pad2Pad board designs can be seen on my page. Most of what is there was created without schematic capture. The software is free and super easy to use but you must then use their PCB manufacturing service. However, I find their board prices to be very competitive with other vendors.

Finally, there's a time-consuming learning curve with any schematic/PCB software. Don't expect to download the program and become immediately proficient without a lot trial and error. Some vendors like DipTrace have good on-line tutorials.

Paul, W9AC

----- Original Message ----- From: "Steve Wender" <tobiebw2@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: "Paul Christensen" <w9ac@xxxxxxxx>
Cc: "Collins@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <collins@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, July 20, 2013 9:30 PM
Subject: {Collins} Schematic drawing software


Does anyone have thoughts and knowledge of any free electronic schematic drawing software that may be available?
I want to document some circuits.




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