PCB Layout Software

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I am looking at purchasing a PCB layout package. I really want something that will be fully functional for less than $750 if possible...

I believe that I've narrowed to two packages:



CircuitMaker 2000


Does anyone have experience with either of these two? Which of the two would you recommend? Is there some other reasonably priced package that's fully functional that I've missed?

I've used ExpressPCB but the problem is the cost of boards larger than their "deal" size. Also the lack of Gerber output makes it a problem to send stuff to other vendors...(not an accident I'm sure)...

I'd really like something that does Spice as well as layout and Gerber exports and is well integrated... I'd love a copy of Protel but the price is just too far beyond my means at this point...

Any help/thoughts would be much appreciated!!!


A few comments:

I have Circuitmaker 2000, and do not really like much about it. Traxmaker, which is the included PCB layout program works relatively well, although the autorouting lacks something to be desired. Circuitmaker itself is only good for drawing schematics and simulating digital circuits.(although I am not sure how accurately it simulates race conditions, etc) The analog simulation is so unaccurate that I don't even use it anymore.

I am in my last year of Electronics Engineering, so I talked to literally hundreds of instructors and students, and I would say 95% of them like Protel better than CircuitMaker.

That being said, Traxmaker is decent, but not worth having to pay for Circuitmaker too. If you want a simulator, Electronics Workbench would definately be something to look at.

Anyway, if you are spending that much money on software, YOU MUST TRY IT OUT FIRST!!! My teacher loves a PCB layout program called Ares Proteus (from the UK, I think) but I find the interface very cumbersome to use. So try out as many programs as you can, and don't rush the decision. I hope this helps you more than it confuses you.

So good luck!!!

Well, I paid for it, own it so I am stuck with it. That being said, you can take a schematic from Multisim and go directly to Ultiboard. It does nice autorouting. You can pick the "net" and assign a trace thickness and it does the rest, groundplanes etc. There is a 700 pin limit with the amateur version of Ultiboard which I own, and surprisingly I have exceeded this on a couple occasions (never mind, I wrote a software patch which merges two design files together.) At some point I will take the Ultiboard library of device outlines and post them to my website, www.tech-diy.com. The device outline complement is pretty thorough, and the device editor is not difficult to use in creating components (the LM18200 and LM3875 with their 67 mil pin spacing come to mind.) Sometimes the folks from ElectronicsWorkbench in Canada can be good to deal with, at other times they will take a week to get back to you.
Retired diyAudio Moderator
Joined 2002
I made my layout with Protel99. It worked great. It is much easier to use then Orcad Layout, which I spent several hours reading the manuals and trying to learn. I was able to pick up Protel99 in about one hour, and I am happy with the results. You can see the pictures of the layout and the finished boards in the Pass Labs forum. I am not sure how much it costs though. I just used the free trial.

EDIT: nevermind.. I did not realize the great cost of this program ~$8000 is insane! I guess I will be looking for a new program, once the trial is over.

I have a colleague at work who does some board layout for me a few times a year. FWIW, he has grown to hate Circuitmaker with a passion.

I have used the free version of Eagle (Cadsoft) for some G-jobs and was quite pleased. I would suggest doing a few small layouts in Eagle to get a feel for it. I think the free version does up to 100mm x 80mm. It's not perfect, but what is? I had some work to do to get the stuff out to an LPKF board mill, but we got it there.

I liked it enough that we are now beginning to use the Professional version ($800 without autorouter). No complaints so far, but have not finished a board with it yet.

If you want combined Spice capability, I can't help. We have Orcad at work, but frankly, I think the interface sucks. It's powerful, and I know people who like it, but I don't. You will spend a LOT of time with the manuals (and there are a lot of them) if you use Orcad.

Retired diyAudio Moderator
Joined 2002

I know that you can simply search on astalavista.box.sk and find a crack for the trial of Protel, but that is not the point of this discussion. There are people who actually like having legit software.


I spent a long time with the Orcad manuals, and I was still very confused about using Layout. I know how to use pspice (the text version and graphical.. I personally prefer the old text based entry method better). I was able to make a circuit and generate a netlist and proceed to layout using the netlist, but from that point, I was lost with the interface of layout. It seems powerful, but at the same time overcomplex. Of the packages that I have looked at, Protel seems the easiest and best suited for making simple amplifier boards and generating gerber files.

I know what you mean

I do know what you mean but not all of us are ritch and cant afford 8000 software but i doo buy all my o,s ( Linux).. all i am trying to say is that protel witch is a good company and all they should atleast make a version that people can have to use for free and parts like extentions should be packs that they can buy to add on eg PCB soft to build pcb's boards. and ect ect the basic part that just alowes you to do schematics should be the free part..

Hi Paul,

Thanks for the link... I had actually searched and read that thread prior to starting this one...

I started this thread anyway because my criteria was not focused on free (or very cheap) software but rather a package that I can stick with over the long haul through upgrades. I'm willing to spend the $$$ to buy a copy that I know works and is well supported... I simply wanted other's opinions about their firsthand experiences...

Thanks to all who have answered so far... Please keep the info coming, it's very useful!!!

Thanks again,

DIY ECAD (AutoCAD plug-in)

jackinnj and all,

me too owns Ultiboard, me too paid for it.
But do you believe this forces me to stick with it? No. It drove me crazy, artwork hardly came out as i liked it, interface between schematic and PCB was weird and way from being directionally associative/annotating, so i aboandoned to use it. I would sell it for few $$ anytime.

Eagle was fine and mostly copperative, the only thing that drove me crazy as with other ECADS i tried out was that they changed their library format from version to version and partially incompatible to the preceding version. I put incredibe work in having libraries with consistent naming for GND, Vcc, etc. and when i upgraded, this work was mostly lost.

At the time i made that decision, my programming abilities had reached a certain level and i had grown to prefer p2p wiring if possible. I needed an ECAD not limited to PCBs and so i started to to program my own ECAD plug-in for AutoCAD which has a mighty built-in LISP. Schematic module is running fine already and has preparation for all the annotation features i wanted to have. It even can store component order codes, supplier, whatever, in the component.
And library modules also work fine, they generate the logic content for a new component with a few keystrokes. I only have to place this content where i want to read it. No problem to just create a new component when i need it, no point in careating libraries in advance.

Before you all start to call me insane :) i did not plan to have any rubber bands or routing progress fancies, autorouter fancies or interfaces to stuff like SPICE (latter would not be a big problem however, i can generate netlists and partlist in any format provided i know how the format works; i even could fake Eagle SCH and BRD files)

Basic idea was to get the logical info independent of the graphics so that it does not matter if a schematic corresponds with a p2p wiring or a PCB or a micture of both or another schematic.
Even a pneumatic schematic :) or a water hose noding plan for lawn-watering :D.
And a tube symbol in the schematic is logically equivalent to the socket pattern or 3d model of that very corresonding tube in the artwork. Schematic symbol and artwork component can update each other to new status, no matter which one is the newer.

Currently I am not sending SCH files to PCB board makers, i am happy with a proper scale 1 inkjet print-out and i etch the board myself. Or i send a postscript file to the PCB maker.

But the printout looks like i want it to look and i have all the freedom a mechanical CAD provides, i am not limited to 45°chamfered routes, i can have varying route widths and teardrops in my routes where i wish. On my more insane days i can have it in 3D just to check if the caps fit into the housing and do not crash thru another part.

Processing speed is slow due to LISP being an interpreter and i would not dare to handle a bunch of 256-pin components. But i don't need such complexity in my circuits, i am basically a tube person. I get exactly what i need, what i wish. All wish i would have more time to get it ready and running :)

Oops, before i forget it, the housing drawing is the same file format, most probably the same file as the schematic and the artwork.
Please visit www.ibfriedrich.com.

The program are Target 3001!, and have a version 'Light' that allow a maximun of 400 pin, but maintain all the funcionallyty:
contour autorouter, shape autorouter, autoplace, etc.

The price are around 50$.

If you suffix with 250 pin, please, visit www.csieda.com.

The free version allow up 250 pin, and include Spice simulator.

About Spice simulator, please, visit www.anasoft.co.uk.

The trial version allow big size circuits.

Happy days,

Raúl Couto
Try this:

This is a very nice and intuitive package. People I know have
used it and been very happy. It isn't part of a fully integrated
system, though it will import netlists. No autorouters or
other unnecessary foo foo. Just plain intuitive layout.
Price is right at only $55.

This is about the cheapest program that I know of which will
create Gerbers.

This is probably not the PCB CAD package to use for laying
out a PC motheroard, but probably just right for audio
applications with not really that many parts/pins and where
hand placing and routing is necessary to obtain best results.

It's a 16-bit application, but considering that they just
released a schematic drawing program that's a "modern"
application, I would think a revamped PCB program wouldn't
be far behind. But, as long as you don't want to run on an
"NT" style O/S, this should work fine.

BTW, are there any decent (/free) PCB CAD programs that run
under Linux?
Here are some candidates that fit your price range.

I have heard good things about eagle, but never used it.

Don't know anything about it. The price point is in your neighborhood.

Have tried to use the previous version. They have an NC (non-comercial use) product. Price point is to your liking. Warning the documantaion supplied is very poor. For another $120.00 you can get a set of books. They are not much help. They are running a sale, 80% off!?!? (last I looked) Others have called it an amaturish product. Can be bought direct.
US distributor: www.jameco.com

Currently only $1,000 product available. They are notorious for lousy (as in absolutely none) tech support. Their web site will lie to you and say they do - they don't. Comes with a good SPICE integration.

There is a budget version of IVEX (I think it is IVEX) that is a schematic capture (about $29.00) and PCB layout (about $29.00) that is distributed by NTE, (I beleiveit is NTE) the cross reference transistors in a little bag people. Has some pin limitaions. I have seen it on the check out counters, in 3.5 floppy sized blister packs.

Try as a resource:


They have a download section.

If SPICE simulation is in your feild of interst:
They make a SPICE simulator that will export to several PCB layout packages.
I believe they have a relationship/conection to Eagle so it isn't as kludgey as it might sound.

Always check to limitations, usually number of pins and/or board size. Electronics Workbench burned many hobbiests a few years ago by putting the limitations in fine print. Made it look like it was a SALE.

Good Luck,

Ultiboard - another nit

Older versions of Ultiboard won't work properly with Win2K or WinME. Last I checked the copy wasn't offering a "patch". The advice from ELECTRONICSWORKBENCH was to contact their sales department. Now that's some tech-support. In NJ, we call it BOHICA. (Before posting this rant, I went to their site -- as typical - it's down. I don't like to throw bricks in anyone's window if they aren't warranted.) As far as Multisim is concerned, I use it for looking at how component tolerances affect active filters, etc. The proof is in the breadboarding, however. It's nice to have a virtual instrument like a bode plotter.
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