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PCB layout - current least frustrating tool?
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Author PCB layout - current least frustrating tool?
Ive not done any pcb layout for years, and, even then, i only did very very basic stuff, with Eagle.

...which was pretty horrible, and probably the reason i went no further.

What do people currently fine the least frustrating path to a tangible object?
All PCB software sucks to some extent. I use Kicad. It's hard to say what others will find frustrating, but for myself, I'm unwilling to use crippled demos (which lets out the "free" versions of most of the commercial products) or pay excessive recurring subscription fees (which lets out, for instance, Eagle). I don't like Fritzing's nonstandard interface, and gEDA's reversing diodes by default followed by some experiences with noxious people on the support mailing list soured me on gEDA. Kicad still has its problems, including its ties to Github for library retrieval (which fortunately can be turned off) but it's still the one that frustrates me least.
Hah. Eagle. Even after autocad bought them out it's the go to layout software for me. I've tried diptrace, designspark, fritzing and orcad. Diptrace is OK but a little more clunky than eagle. Designspark looked promising but I had a few gerbers that came out really weird and I can't figure out what the problem is so it's shelved. Fritzing is fritzing. I like it for when I just need to draw some traces. OrCAD is...expensive. If I were starting out and just wanting something to use I'd choose diptrace. It's cheaper and the interface makes sense. If I had the cash I'd give altium a shot. Since I learned on eagle I've stuck with it and now most other pieces of software are relatively easy to pick up and use.
Diptrace works for me.
I'm with @mskala: Kicad for me.

I also like the fact that it is cross-platform, so I can use it on both Windows & Linux - I cannot completely let go of Windows just yet, but I am making a conscious effort to only invest learning time in cross-platform apps.

There are some excellent tutorials on the web (Check out Ashley Mills' 12-Part tutorial on Youtube), and I recommend adopting the keyboard shortcuts from day 1 - makes it much more efficient in the future.
In my opinion, Altium is the quickest to get learn and quickest to use once you know it.
Diptrace is my current favorite, up from using Kicad for a year or so. Spent time with proteus and eagle and didn't stick. Would like Altium but can't justify the 5k plus yearly fees yet.
Currently using Eagle, but I'm still using V7 and I won't go to the subscription model so I really need to start learning Kikad.

The frustrating thing with PCB layout programs (and DAW's etc...) is that in order to really get comfortable on one you have to spend a lot of time figuring out your own workflow before any of them begin to feel comfortable, and thats a pretty big time and energy investment.
I use KiCad for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it's free, is used by enough people where it doesn't show any signs of going suddenly obsolete, and doesn't have any artificial restrictions built into it. There's nothing I need to do that KiCad can't, it just does it differently than Eagle/DipTrace/Altium/etc.

The free versions of many programs are great, until one day you need something more elaborate and realize the program limits your layers, pins, or board size. That's the entire purpose of the free version though - attract people dipping their toes in and looking for something free, then corral them into payment once they've put considerable effort into learning the software and don't want to spend hours getting to that point with something else.

Every design package has its quirks and annoyances, paid or free. Because of that I take the hassles of one particular package in exchange for avoiding the thousands of dollars and hours of headaches associated with the distribution models of many other programs.
I use FreePCB

used it for a few years now and am happy with it
very easy and simple to pick up
You have to try a few and settle with the one that suits your way of working.
auxren wrote:
In my opinion, Altium is the quickest to get learn and quickest to use once you know it.

I don't think many of us are willing to fork out USD7000+ for Altium (yes you could get a cracked copy), also it is way more difficult to learn to use than pretty much everything else simply as it is so incredibly bloated with menus, sub-menus, sub-sub....

I used it for 5 years when studying EE on a student deal, it is probably the best (as in feature-rich) PCB layout software on the market but I absolutely hated the rules based way of working, which would suit other people perfectly.
The amazing thing is that it was actually easier than protel hihi

Hey Julian, what didn't you like about Eagle? It took me some time to get the shortcuts down, but I haven't found any of the processes too convoluted or lacking a function.
Don T
andrewF wrote:
You have to try a few and settle with the one that suits your way of working.

^This. I'm a visual/auditory learner and thinker. For me, Osmond PCB (Mac OSX only) and Diptrace (which I'm starting to get used to) are the best solutions. If I had to do things by entering coordinates and such, I'd be drawing circuit boards by hand with a resist pen! Both Osmond and Diptrace allow you to click and push/pull and reshape traces rather intuitively for a visual-oriented person. On the other hand, that type of environment may drive some people crazy....
LoFi Junglist wrote:
The amazing thing is that it was actually easier than protel hihi

Hey Julian, what didn't you like about Eagle? It took me some time to get the shortcuts down, but I haven't found any of the processes too convoluted or lacking a function.

Its been a long time, so maybe its different now, but i remember ongoing frustration with the copy and past for starters.

It seems like such a minor thing, but, when every single program operates in one way, as standard, and then you have to use one that, for some unknown reason, does it a different way...

...and it all went down hill from there.

I did put in some time. I got to the point where i was laying out footprints for custom components and adding them to the library, so i did not give up instantly. I recall also using 3rd party scripts for exporting g-code for isolation milling and drilling, but it all just seemed like 3x as much effort as it should be.

It seemed similar to using a mac when used to a pc, but worse - everything was just in the wrong place, and did not work as expected.

Its entirely different, but i had a go on sketchup a few weeks back. I had never used it before, although i have a fair bit of time with 2d cad. After really not very long at all, i had a 3d scale model of what i was trying to do.

Ive invested so many multiple of that amount of time in eagle, but dont feel even 1/10th as 'fluid' in it.

The thing is, i know some people use eagle all the time, so it cant be terrible, but i did not jell with it at all.
I used Fritzing for a bit, fine for simple things but quickly I found it frustratingly simple, especially for wanting precise layouts. Probably best left for quick things or where you are just making some sort of shield with adafruit components or something like that. I switched to Diptrace and have been quite happy. I tried Eagle early on and found it confusing and frustrating. Don't know if I would find it that different from Diptrace now that I have more experience, but I have no reason to switch working methods.

If you start with a fresh installation of Diptrace you won't have this problem, but I had to upgrade last night and did find I broke everything because of finally upgrading my mac to Sierra. 3d renders didn't work anymore so had to reinstall everything including all the 3d models, which of course overwrote all my user libraries for specific projects. Also storing your own 3d library elsewhere on your drive also breaks the render, so you have to move everything to the local folder. Everything works fine now except I have to totally repopulate my project libraries and wasted several hours last night goofing around with all this. Dead Banana
I'm a noob at this, and while I am not here to mount a stalwart defense, free Eagle worked fine for my most recent project, the TTSH Shaper. It did not take me long to delve into the component library and start modifying and building parts. The gerbers generated resulted in boards manufactured without error. I even used (gasp!) the autorouter.

It does some things weirdly, I think there are a few bugs in recent distributions, but it worked. If your project is a small board, the software is free.
I used Eagle since the DOS version, but switched to KiCad some months ago because I didn't like the new subscription model and my last version didn't have some of the new features, like hierarchical schematic. And I don't miss Eagle. It is different, but I think I'm faster now that I'm used to it, especially creating your own components and footprints is easier. And I like the integrated interactive 3D viewer. One of my KiCad projects:

The auto-router of KiCad is usable as well (an external Java program, FreeRouting).
+1 for Kicad. Best feature for me ( beside many others) is the pin to pin push & shove router. In the moment (Vers 4.x) you have to switch to openGL mode to use this and other goodies, but Vers.5 will soon come. This will be the time when 1000s of other CAD users will convert their faith ;-)
Whilst it's annoying that EAGLE's moved to the subs model, some of the stuff slowly coming in v8 is proving really good; it's getting more regular updates and the fact the routing tool now automatically dodges other traces according to your DRC settings is magic. (Other tools have done this for a while, but it saves so much time!)

There's still a horrible learning curve, but I've gone full Stockholm Syndrome with it and now am invested enough to not want to leave...
All CAD seems to be painful to me in one way or another. I previously used Eagle a little, but in the past year I've done a little bit with KiCAD and my experience with it has been at least as good as Eagle, and it's actually free instead of Eagle's licensing model (whatever that is now...)
i've had good luck with upverter -- surprisingly good in-browser tool.
Osmond PCB on Apple Mac.
Eagle. Using version 8 with a subscription plan now, which has made some of my ideas suddenly possible, as I can work with a larger board area. Some time spent on sensible keyboard shortcuts has really smoothed out my Eagle workflow. Also one of the releases in the last year or so added trace labeling in the board editor, very helpful
I did use a Eagle for a few painful frustrating years , actually still have an older version on my machine but I wont use it for anything new . (I swear it was written by a committee) there are simply better programs out there
As Andrew said try a bunch of different free programs and find one you can live with
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