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Most popular board layout program

  1. Jul 7, 2009 #1
    my boss wants me to start learning how to layout a board. i suggested that i should start learning orcad, but he said that he thinks that orcad is "a little old." he wants to pick a new layout program, one which is popular. what do u guys use?
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  3. Jul 7, 2009 #2


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    Try the free version. Unfortunately it no longer comes with an autorouter. But it is a way to get your feet wet.
  4. Jul 7, 2009 #3


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    Eagle also offers a nonprofit version that includes the autorouter and other enhanced capabilities for $US125.

    If that's overbudget, try the open source http://www.lis.inpg.fr/realise_au_lis/kicad/ [Broken].
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Jul 8, 2009 #4


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    Does your boss think that the OrCAD folks do not come out with periodic updates? What in the world is his background in PCB layout for him to say that?

    Do you need to pick a cheap package? What is the complexity of the boards you will be laying out? How important is a good autorouter to your work?

    If you want something free/cheap/limited, then Eagle may work. If you are going to do professional multi-layer boards, especially complex ones, then OrCAD or PCAD are common packages (but not cheap).
  6. Jul 8, 2009 #5
    our budget is unlimited and our boards are not very complex, theyre about 2 inches x 1.5 inch, we call them daughter boards

    lol i know what ur saying, especially since he currently uses protel
  7. Jul 8, 2009 #6


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    Oh, well, if your budget is unlimited, the EEs where I work use a high-end package called PADS. It is NOT cheap. It's probably overkill for your simple boards.
  8. Jul 8, 2009 #7
    oh yes, we have some people who have done some stuff for us in pads. whats the difference between pads and orcad?
  9. Jul 8, 2009 #8
    ive just heard there is a new version of protel called altium, is there alot of support for that?
  10. Jul 8, 2009 #9
    Use the same program your boss is using.
    Then when you require help with the program, there is someone there that can help you.
  11. Jul 8, 2009 #10
    One place I used to work had Pads. Sometime later we bought Pspice without Orcad. Then when we wanted to transfer a design from Pspice to Pads, we had to do it manually. Yes, Orcad is old. I used it when it was still a DOS program but I'm sure it's updated and it allows transferring designs directly from Pspice if that's what you want to do.
  12. Jul 8, 2009 #11
    I'm currently learning Eagle from CadSoft. So far it seems ok but IMO has rather weak tutorials and help files so there's a bit of a learning curve associated with it. I really wish you could import Pspice models/schematics into it.
  13. Jul 8, 2009 #12
    well, the thing is, is that my boss doesnt know how to layout a board, he does use the schematic drawing tools in protel though. when we have things layed out for us, we hire a contractor and he uses pads. protel is ooooooold and hasnt been updated. theres a new version i heard though, dxp altium or something, but i dont know how much support is out there for that (or out here for that matter:). from what im hearing im leaning towards pads
  14. Jul 8, 2009 #13


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    Always wondered what happened to Protel it was a really nice step up from cadstar 10years ago.
  15. Jul 10, 2009 #14
    I use Pads for everything from simple, 2-layer, ~ DC test boards to complex, high speed, high layer count boards. I'm pretty happy with it and Mentor is making active updates to improve it and add features (recently added 3 D viewer, IPC netlist output, and increased ease of use). You can download a version that is limited to a certain number of parts and nets for free if you want to try before you buy.

    I've never used Altium but when I checked it out at a trade show it looked like a good tool and had some features that Pads didn't at the time. I had looked at OrCad layout a few years back and stayed away because it didn't seem to have the industry support that Pads had although the OrCad shematic tool was often used with Pads layout.

    I know people that use cheap/free layout packages for simple boards and are happy with them but if you have the budget you might as well learn a layout tool that you can grow with and interface to other tools (signal integrity, thermal analysis, etc) if needed. There are part footprints/decals readily available for PADS for most parts including connectors which can save a lot of time and prevent errors from manually making them. Mentor also provides free translators so you can translate from some other formats to theirs. Pads has a pretty good install base so when we're overloaded it is fairly easy to find someone that can do the layout on a contract basis.

    Also consider that learning Pads, Altium or some other commercial tool is a good thing resume wise. If your employer will pay you to learn them you should take advantage of that.

    Bottom line, I don't think you'll be disappointed with Pads but if you have time to do an eval, Altium may be worth a look as well.
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