Which PCB Layout Software is Easiest to Use?

That’s not an easy question to answer. Too much depends on the kind of design, what other tools you’ll be using and what level of design expertise the user has with other tools. But asking the question is a good way to find out about some of the products we don’t often hear about.

Traditionally tools such as PADs, OrCAD and Tango were the the choice for those looking for inexpensive layout tools. Today it’s not such an easy choice. All of these tools were acquired by other EDA companies and have evolved over the years to the point that they are not necessarily entry level tools they once were.

So I decided it is time to do an updated list of the PCB layout tools on the market today. I’m collecting data on as many layout tools as I can find and will post some basic information on the website next week sometime. In the mean time, here is a list of the layout tools I know about.

Let me know if I’m missing anyone and I’ll add them to the list.

Allegro – Cadence Design Systems
Altium – (formerly Tango, Protel, PCAD)
AutoTraxKovac Software
Board Station – Mentor Graphics
CR-5000 – Zuken
Electronics Workbench – National Instruments
Easy PCB – Pulsonix?
Expedition – Mentor*
– Mac based OS
Osmond PCB – Mac OS
OrCAD – Cadence/EMA
PADs – Mentor Graphics
Pantheon – Intercept
PCB123 – (Proprietary to Sunstone Circuits)
ProCAD – Interactive CAD Systems
Ultiboard – National Instruments

(Good catch, TraceRouter)

18 thoughts on “Which PCB Layout Software is Easiest to Use?

  1. Eagle – MacOS, Linux, Windows – Cadsoft/Newark
    Kicad – Open Source, Linux, Windows – from France
    Pad2Pad – Proprietary free package
    Express PCB – Proprietary free package
    PCB – open source for Linux and unix systema including MacOS, Solaris, HP-UX, etc.
    Free PCB – Open source free package for Windows
    DipTrace – Windows
    …and many others

  2. You’ve included a single line for Easy-PC and Pulsonix. They are two different packages though from the same development team. They do have differences. Easy PC is the ligher package aimed at hobbyists and the cheaper end of the market whilst Pulsonix is the main package and aimed at the Cadstar/Pads/Altium Designer market.
    I’ve been using Pulsonix since Oct 2004, having previously used other more well known packages including Mentor Graphics SFX-RE and Cadstar, and in my opinion Pulsonix is a very easy to pick up and use package and very good.
    One package you didn’t list was SFX-RE from Mentor Graphics which I’d say can be easy to use for basic operations however to do more advanced stuff can be difficult and extreamly buggy.

  3. oops. Mr Herrick beat me to the punch on ExpressPCB. Concerning EAGLE, which Mr Herrick also mentioned, the originators, CadSoft Computer GmbH, were acquired in 2009 by Premier Farnell plc (dba Newark in the US).

  4. Hey Pete,

    Good luck with the Blog. You’ve picked a good topic with this “ease of use” theme.

    As someone who gets asked about this point virtually every day of my working life. I think it’s important to put some context around the issue here.

    Back in the day, there were no user interface standards and PCB tool vendors had literally a blank canvas to work with. Nowadays we all know that the landscape has changed. User expectations often extend beyond the operation of PCB software into a wider “desktop computing” environment. So consistency with other tools is also an important factor. As you know PCB design is no longer an island upon which designers can play alone.

    Further, ease of use also depends on how familiar you are with the tool. So at first glance, one tool may seem intuitive and easy. Once you’re familiar with that tool however, the user interface could get in the way and slow you down. So scalability and customisation are also important factors.

    I look forward to some lively debate on this issue.

  5. With regards Easy PC.

    As previously stated this is really a hobbyists tool. I unfortunately have the displeaseure of using it professionally.

    Although the basics in terms of manual routing are there, with few automated tool like fanout (which never works for me) and track hugging.

    It does miss out on what the professional really needs in the area’s of library management and outputting data to user friendly formats. It’s all manual (like the routing really) and required probably double time to perform the task that a professional package would need. Often more.

    But then – it’s a hobbyits package. What do you expect?

    P.S. PCB Artist seems to be a slightly stripped out version of Easy PC.

    I also look forward to some interesting discussions on this.

  6. Pete,

    I did not see CAD Design Software mentioned. EPD is the actual product. I have used most all of the big boys and we use this for MCM-L’s, MCM-C’s and PCBs. It sits on top of Autocad and is easy with tremendous capability.

    Barbara Reed

  7. There are a number of PCB layout software available in the internet. EAGLE is the one we are currently using. Since, the pcb design layout is completely tied to your schematic designs, this is also very convenient. You can even download its free evaluation version. For beginners, I do suggest that they inquire with long production run PCB manufacturers, for comprehensive design layout or research on manual lay outing tips.

  8. PCB layout software is a printed circuit board software that is used to help support all of the mechanical and electrical components used in a computer system. They will offer users a schematic that will allow them to design the circuit board of their dreams right there in the comforts of their home or office. Thanks a lot.

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