These days, designers have an overwhelming number of PCB software tools to choose from. None are without their merits, but there are certain software applications that stand out from the rest. At the same time, some tools are better suited towards specific tasks, which is why designers usually work with numerous software suites for each project.
We’ve compiled some recommendations below based on price, features, and ease of use. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which software is best suited to your requirements. We’ve included the key features of each tool to make your decision easier, saving you some much needed time and money.
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 a variety of solutions, including a cloud-based platform that makes for seamless teamwork and device integration. From CircuitStudio’s entry-level tools to Altium Designer’s complete schematic and layout environment, there’s something for everyone here.
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 modernise 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 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++ modelling and simulation, and HW/SW co-simulation. A free version of the software is available for you to try out.
Each of these options is excellent choices and are 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.
PCB design software is highly complex and takes years of work to create, which makes 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!