Cheap or Free PCB Layout software?

paulb

Member
2001-06-01 4:53 pm
Calgary
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:
GRollins:
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.
mlloyd1:
I use CIRCAD trial version from www.holophase.com. 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:
http://headwize.powerpill.org/ubb/showpage5.php?fnum=3&tid=1917&fdays=20&stime=0

Any other ideas?
 
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).

Grey
 
Try another medicine:


http://www.cadsoft.de/freeware.htm

The EAGLE Light Edition can be used for free!

Limitations

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 !

Klaus

EAGLE Light Edition
 
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?
Klaus,
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.

Grey
 
Grey,

I understand your reluctance to spend money (esp. at this time) in view of all the freeware available in this category -- all the more so because many of these programs seem to over-promise and under-deliver anyway. Why buy trouble when you can get all you want for free? :)

OTOH, I've wasted lots of time and effort in the past trying to get "free" programs to do what I need. Eventually I would run out of patience and spend the money. At least in the case of Easy-PC, I've had no regrets. There may be other comparable Windows-based products, but Easy-PC was the first I found that was stable, intuitive, reasonably full-featured, and could handle custom components.

It was also "affordable," which for me means that it quickly paid for itself in time saved (I'm self-employed, so this matters to me in ways it may not to others), and did not cost much more than I might spend on a Digi-Key or Mouser parts order.

Having said that, if I could live with its limitations, I'd be very happy using the free download of ExpressPCB. It's the very model of a user-friendly program, IMO.

(BTW, I have no commercial interest in either product.)
 
My criteria for work and hobby are quite different. $150 US (>$225 CDN) is way above what I intended as 'cheap'.
I think what has come closest so far would be ExpressPCB, but don't know about export capabilities (probably minimal, given its raison d'etre).
The link that mlloyd1 gave is a great list, but doesn't seem to give indication of subjective ease of use. Noticed Edwin is on there, I don't recommend it.