How to Choose the Right Electronic Design Software

These days, designers have an overwhelming number of PCB software tools to choose from. None are without their merits, but certain software applications stand out from the rest. Simultaneously, some tools are better suited towards specific tasks, which is why designers usually work with numerous software suites for each project.

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We’ve compiled some recommendations below based on price, features, and ease of use. It’s up to you to decide which software is best suited to your requirements at the end of the day. We’ve included each tool’s key features to make your decision easier, saving you some much needed time and money.

Altium

Dubbed the easy, modern, and powerful PCB design tool, Altium is a reliable and comprehensive piece of electronics design software. Used by large corporations, including NASA, Dell, and Microsoft, putting this PCB design software at the top of our list needn’t be justified.

Affordable pricing options come as standard, along with free trials for each of the tools. Altium offers various solutions, including a cloud-based platform that makes for seamless teamwork and device integration. There’s something for everyone here, from CircuitStudio’s entry-level tools to Altium Designer’s complete schematic and layout environment.

Eagle

Eagle has been in the PCB design software game for a while now and is still considered a solid option. AUTODESK recently acquired the company and has made some significant improvements to modernize the software. The intuitive interface comes loaded with all the necessary electrical components and functions.

Eagle is available on Mac, PC, and Linux, making integration to any work environment a breeze. Noteworthy features include a routing engine, alignment tools, electronic rule checking, design synchronization, and much more. The paid version is fairly affordable and offers 24/7 support and early access to new versions.

OrCAD

OrCAD offers a set of three different versions for your PCB design needs. This includes Standard, Professional, and Allegro. Depending on your budget and level of expertise, each version offers a certain set of tools and functions. The industry-standard simulation technology found here offers a complete set of 33,000 electronic parts in its library.

Some noteworthy features found in the Allegro version include design optimization, reliability, cost and yield analysis, C/C++ modeling and simulation, and HW/SW co-simulation. A free version of the software is available for you to try out.

Making The Decision

Each of these options is an excellent choice and is more than likely to include everything you need in terms of features and functionality. This essentially comes down to your budget and which user interface you’ll find to be the most suitable.

If your projects are complex and you aren’t constrained by budget, go for Altium. Beginners will find Eagle more suitable, while OrCAD is an all-around solid option if you don’t require the complexity of Altium.

Conclusion

PCB design software is highly complex and takes years of work to create, making the sticker prices more reasonable than the uninitiated may think. Whichever software you go for, it’s bound to serve you well through your graphic design career. Just be sure to make the most of it!

Amanda R. Dubose

Spent high school summers getting to know dogmas in Minneapolis, MN. Spent several years merchandising walnuts worldwide. My current pet project is researching Slinkies in Jacksonville, FL. Spoke at an international conference about testing the market for action figures in Hanford, CA. Spent the better part of the 90's lecturing about cellos in Orlando, FL. Spent 2001-2007 building sausage in Naples, FL. Tv fanatic. Internetaholic. Travel expert. Incurable zombie nerd. Coffee advocate. Hardcore web trailblazer. Gamer.