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Old 14th December 2001, 07:26 PM   #1
paulb is offline paulb  Canada
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Default Cheap or Free PCB Layout software?

I've been thinking of starting a thread on this topic for a while. I'm looking for something cheap, easy to use, cheap, simple, (did I mention cheap), and reasonably versatile.
Here's excerpts from another thread. I thought I should start a new one to give it more visibility:
I once suggested that we all standardize on software (just not this program) so that we'd all be able to share files, but it turned out that there were about a dozen programs out there, with no more than two or three people using each one. Besides, I want this set up so that people who don't have any software at all can print this and use it--say JPG or something of that nature.
Is there a board program out there that will export a clean JPG or GIF file? At this point, it looks as though it would be more efficient time-wise to just key the art in by hand rather than go through this mind-numbing download/read the documentation/cut & try/find out it doesn't work/sulk cycle that I'm in.
I use CIRCAD trial version from It does integrated schematic capture and PCB layout. I don't remember if it exports GIF or JPG, but I have used it to export BMP, which is easily convertible to anything else. I will offer to convert the BMP for you if you go this route.
I beleive the trial version of CIRCAD doesn't output gerber, but does pretty much everything else. Generally, this is OK for me because I make some of my boards myself. To me, the earning curve is smaller than other CAD programs.
And Weeghel on the headwize site uses ExpressPCB, which is free, but doesn't use their service to make boards:

Any other ideas?
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Old 15th December 2001, 12:06 AM   #2
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Thanks, Paul,
Just to clarify, the software I was referring to in the quote above is Ivex Winboard. I've had nothing but trouble with it. The one and only thing in its favor is that they don't have an expiration date on their demo version.
Nasty stuff. Buggy code. Avoid it like the plague. Above all, don't be caught dead paying money for it. If we can come to a consensus on where to go from here, I'll leave it behind without a single regret (except, perhaps, all the time I've wasted on it).

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Old 15th December 2001, 12:34 AM   #3
paulb is offline paulb  Canada
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Let it out, Grey. Let it out. Venting is good.
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Old 15th December 2001, 12:43 AM   #4
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Grey, mopping sweat from brow with handkerchief:
I feel better now, Doctor Paul. I assume that I should schedule with the receptionist for our usual time next Friday?

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Old 15th December 2001, 12:50 AM   #5
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Default Cheap PCB layout software

Try Welborne Labs for a $50.00 program called ASSIST. It is very easy to use, and works great. I have done many preamp, crossovers, and other circuits using it with no problems.
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Old 15th December 2001, 01:02 AM   #6
lohk is offline lohk  Europe
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Try another medicine:

The EAGLE Light Edition can be used for free!


The following limitations apply to the EAGLE Light Edition in general:
The useable board area is limited to 100*x*80*mm (4*x*3.2*inches).
Only two signal layers can be used (Top and Bottom).
The schematic editor can only create one sheet.
Apart from these three limitiations the EAGLE Light Edition can do anything the Professional Edition can do.
You can even load, view and print drawings that exceed these limits!
The Freeware version of EAGLE Light adds these limitations:
Support is only available via email or through our forum (no fax or phone support).
Use is limited to non-profit applications or evaluation purposes.

Good health !


EAGLE Light Edition
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Old 15th December 2001, 03:28 AM   #7
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Another suggestion for pcb software with a demo version available:
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Old 15th December 2001, 05:27 AM   #8
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Of the 3 or 4 capture/layout packages I've tried, my favorite is Easy-PC for Windows. It's nearly as easy to use as PCB Express, but lets you define your own components, schematic symbols, and footprints. The 500-pin version currently costs about US $150.

You can learn more at the Number One Systems web site.
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Old 15th December 2001, 02:24 PM   #9
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There are several packages out there for Linux (by definition, free). I was running Linux for a time, and had just downloaded two or three when I lost a hard drive, and ended up putting Windows (ugh) on my PC. (Almost as bad a decision as going with Ivex.)
Has anyone tried any programs from the Linux side of the world?
The 4 x 3.2" limitation hurts. My Aleph board is 4.2 x 3.6" for instance, and I have several larger boards.
mg16, Joe,
I'm reluctant to spend any money at all for two reasons. One being that it doesn't mean the program is bug free or that it will do what I want. (I could have spent money for the Ivex code, but it would not have gotten me anything in return except more frustration.) The other is that, being near Christmas, money is limited for me, as I'm sure it is for others.
One more point:
Speak up loud & clear about export abilities, fellas. I've got several boards I'd like to post here (SOZ w/current source, the Aleph boards, and some other stuff I ain't even mentioned yet). Let's try for one of the common image formats if we can get it.
Bonus points if we can get a significant number of the people here on this site using the same program. We're too disorganized at present.

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Old 15th December 2001, 02:56 PM   #10
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While we're at it ..... might as well add the need to be able to define custom components to the list.
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