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mtripoli 2nd March 2010 04:13 PM

Like the thread for best PCB layout I pose the question of what is the best editor/viewer for Gerber files? I "own" Wise Gerbtool, however it is part of Orcad Layout (ver 9.1) that I bought years ago. The "problem" with this is that you can't use it without a full install of Orcad (including the now defunct Rainbow dongle that plugs into a parallel port - which are becoming increasingly rarer these days). I don't use Orcad's Windows Layout tools so installing all of this for just using the Gerber editor is a drag (it won't run outside of Layout).

I use the free version of Viewmate from Pentalogix. It is very good and I wouldn't mind paying the $100 or so for the "save" feature except for one thing; it "locks" to the network card in the PC. The problem I have with this (as so many of us do) is that I work on things at work and home. I make my living from IP and don't fault anyone for protecting their means of income, but even my Solidworks Premium ($6500.00) allows install on a home and work PC.

The most important question is editing. I don't need to edit tracks; I'll do that in the actual board file. What I usually want to do is add some kind of graphic (company logo for instance) or add text. Again, Gerbtool (old version, not the new one) does this but in a very "clunky" way. I don't do a hundred boards a year so buying a full out editor like Wise Gerbtool doesn't make sense.


Mike Tripoli

marce 2nd March 2010 08:05 PM

EverythingPCB : Software: Gerber Editors / Viewers, Data Conversion & Translation Software
Plenty of free viewers, I havn't found a free editing one except 'gerbv' an open source beta version!
I have looked in the past and never had any joy, I have Gerbtool at work, but due to licence restrictions I cant use it outside of work.
Dont know what PCB software you use, I tend to import Logo's etc as dxf and make into a figure, but my Gerber output is WYSWYG so I can control whats plotted. It saves me having to play with the Gerber files, but it can be pain, especially if you cant scale the graphic when placing it. Another method would be to send a 1:1 dxf or other format of the graphic and get you PCB manufacturer to add it to the artwork, I have done this with complex copany logo's etc.

EverythingPCB 5th March 2010 12:27 AM

There are no free Gerber editors out there. But many of the major software manufacturers have demo/trail software that will function for a short time. If you only need to add a graphic, check to see if your fab house can help you out. If not, there are quite a number of data conversion / front-end engineering / Gerber editing services out there.

nigelwright7557 28th March 2010 02:09 AM

Try GCprevue.

I would never use a gerber editor.
I would always edit the shcematic and pcb instead.
That way I know everything obeys the design rules.

wakibaki 28th March 2010 02:24 AM

GraphiCode - Software Innovations for Electronics Manufacturing - Home

Imports/exports gerbers and drill files including .zip packaged ones.

Schematic/layout tools are not perfect and errors can and do occur. There's no substitute for scrutinising the gerbers, and gcprevue verifies that your output is correctly scaled and formatted in other respects. If it reads your files, then the PCB fabricator will have no problem.


nigelwright7557 28th March 2010 02:28 AM


Originally Posted by wakibaki (Post 2133838)

Schematic/layout tools are not perfect and errors can and do occur.


This is true for some packages.
I got fed up with bug ridden and poor pcb layout software so wrote my own.

It has clearance checking, continuity checking, number of layers out of range checking and via minimum size check.
The software also has an integrity check to make sure the schematic netlist matches the pcb netlist.

I would be surprised if a layout error got through all that lot.

wakibaki 28th March 2010 03:39 AM

You may be...

All of the numerous packages I have used have all of those and more. In some commercial environments a free sanity check (excluding labour) is what most of us who have written (and tested) software call a no-brainer.

Complex programs written for commerce have their release date determined by the rate of bug discovery. Software when first written is alleged* to contain a bug in every ten lines. Bugs are recorded as they are discovered by manual and automated testing. Obviously the rate of bug discovery depends on the rate of testing, but when plotted against effort, the rate of discovery rises, plateaus and then starts to fall. At this point the software is released, but bug discovery does not cease.

Regardless of the quality of your program the environment in which it runs is such a complex program, with bugs as yet undiscovered. Else why would we be receiving downloaded updates?

You are obviously in the fortunate position where you do not regard the possible errors arising as having sufficient commercial impact on you or you regard them as sufficiently unlikely that you can afford to ignore them, but that is not the case for everybody. ...or perhaps this is an aspect of the situation which has not occurred to you?

Anyway you better touch wood, 'cause you may find a bug tomorrow...


*Design and Strategy for Software Test (Lucent).

marce 28th March 2010 12:16 PM

I us gerber editing software for panelising my design, adding milling information etc, but I would never alter any tracks etc in Gerber land.
The main benefit though is doing a final sanity check on a design as all the PCB packages I use and have used have bugs in them, this goes for all CAD packages I use not just the ECAD ones, but the MCAD ones as well. The trouble today is you have to trust you DRC/DFM checking as manual checking is generaly not an option on some dense boards.
Of course the biggest cause of errors are us humans, I've got to admit I've designed some very expensive beer mats over the years.

richie00boy 28th March 2010 12:36 PM

I used GerbMagic after trying a few free and demo/trial ones. The viewer part is free and the extra features you have an evaluation period then have to pay if you want them.

nigelwright7557 28th March 2010 02:06 PM


Originally Posted by wakibaki (Post 2133878)
You may be...

Complex programs written for commerce have their release date determined by the rate of bug discovery. Software when first written is alleged* to contain a bug in every ten lines.
Anyway you better touch wood, 'cause you may find a bug tomorrow...


*Design and Strategy for Software Test (Lucent).

I write my programs and test them incrementally for bugs.
This means the number of bugs left in is minute.

The main mistake most software engineers make is testing the software for what it shoud do. I test it for what it shouldnt do like pressing teh wrong buttons or throwing something at the software it might not cope with.
This results in much less bugs left in the software.

However I do have 33 years of software design under my belt so maybe dont get caught out as easy as others. Also my software is put out on my time scale and not a forced timescale by companies under pressure to just get it out ASAP and fix the bugs later.

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