Best PCB degign for beginner.

Hi everyone. I'm new to designing PCB's and want to know what is best free design software for a beginner to use. Looking at designing some arduino based boards. I haven't had much experience in designing boards before.
What would be the software that you would recommend a noob like me to get?

Thanks David.

I believe most would suggest "Eagle"
Search these forums, as others have ask this same question.

I found DipTrace -much- easier to learn than Eagle. Eagle is not simple to learn.

There is also the open source KiCAD, and ExpressPCB which is free but intended to be tied to one manufacturer of PCBs.

polymorph:
I found DipTrace -much- easier to learn than Eagle. Eagle is not simple to learn.

+1

Download the free version, watch their videos. You can send a design straight to PCB manufacturing from it too.

I used Eagle in the past ... but moved now to KiCad. It's real freeware without the limitations of the free version from Eagle. Aproach is a little bit different but not really more complicate then Eagle.

"Best" meaning what exactly? Easy to use? Capable? Free? Rock-solid reliable?
Portable to multiple OS's? Recognised by many PCB fabs? Has many parts libraries
available?

Many people support Eagle by providing libraries, for instance Sparkfun, but the free
version is limited to 8x10cm 2-layer.

You can cram a lot of stuff into 8cm x 10cm. Keeping board sizes under 10cm x 10cm also keeps board costs down. I try to design to fit into 10x10cm whenever I can. With SMD, you can get a ton! of stuff on a board.
Thruhole, 15 to 18 DIPs, varies with # of pins (14 to 20).
I enjoyed designing for 8x10cm because that was the size of Velleman ESC 1/2 Island of Hole protoboard. I figured if I could build it with wire wrap on that I could fit it on a PCB of the same size.

http://www.crossroadsfencing.com/BobuinoRev17/
15 DIPs, 9 transistors, 10 screw terminals:


13 with other parts:

Large DIP and SMD parts:

4 DIPS, 32 high current transistors and screw terminals with space for wires and wide power traces:

You can cram even more into an 8x10cm board if you use modern parts... :zipper_mouth_face: :slight_smile:

I did mention that as well.

Thanks for the great replys

I should have said this eairley, it didnt occur to me I'm building a project where I'm going to incorporate the chassis of the robot into a pcb design. The board that I would need to build is about 16x6cm. I could make it smaller, but this makes it alot easier and lightweight. So I'm happy using eagle for projects that do not need a large board, but what about when I need to do larger boards like this for example?

I guess I could add chassis rails and then have separate modules, but it would add cost and be more difficult to build. As well as not looking as neat.

Or you could work with someone who has a license for larger boards, like me.

Eagle is horrible to use, and not really free, it's free in the sense of "free advertising" for CadSoft :slight_smile:

Clearly the best free software for a beginner is Kicad. It still has some rough edges, but is capable of professional quality production. With support from CERN, it can only get better.

I've played with Eagle (with a book) and with DipTrace (no book), and Eagle has a horrible learning curve.

Eagle free limitation is on size, DipTrace free limitation is on number of leads. Both free licenses are for noncommercial use.

Kicad is 100% free. But then there is the commercial, but free for any use, Designspark PCB CAD.

Their concept is that they hope you'll come to them to have boards made and order parts, but they don't prevent you from going elsewhere.

Eagle is very good.I’ve been using it since early 2011, have designed quite a few cards with.
Lots of libraries, can get many parts at newark or from sparkfun or adafruit. And if all else fails, make your own.
Can do quite a lot with 80x100mm pcbs.
I’ve not used kicad, but I’m not gonna bash it just because 3 other succesful companies decided not to use it.

as a start out, you can't beat the ease of fritzing if your developing basic boards, and you don't want to worry too much about custom parts. the custom parts are a bit of a nightmare.

i played with eagle, and found it horrendous. not intuitive, almost like the development stopped at windows 98...

...but i stuck with it, and once you get used to its niggles and follow the instructables / guides to the letter it all kinda pieces together.

i have been using eagle light for about a week now, about 3-4 hours a day, and I have managed to piece my pcb together.

i would like some better cad related stuff, like an easier way to place parts in very specific locations, but it can be done.

i think the industry uses eagle, so if you can get your head around it to a proficient amount, its CV worthy!

Parts placement - can be very specific. View:Grid, change to "mil"
Right click a part, select properties, change the position to wherever you want it.
You want to snap it to a grid, then set the grid to whatever you want.
In the schematics, 0.05" works great as most symbols use that.
In the board, 0.05" also for getting headers on 0.1" spacing to be breadboard friendly.
Much finer when trying to scooch parts around a little when things are tight for spacing.

yeah, i was more thinking to the "outside world"

eg, 2 motors are exactly 60mm apart, you can get real fine with the grid, but its a bit annoying when larger... although, i was to change the grid to 60mm it would instantly solve it...

think I've solved my own issues. :slight_smile:

bobcousins:
Eagle is horrible to use, and not really free, it's free in the sense of "free advertising" for CadSoft :slight_smile:

Clearly the best free software for a beginner is Kicad. It still has some rough edges, but is capable of professional quality production. With support from CERN, it can only get better.

this is one place this forum would benefit from thumbs up.

the OP asked 'best for a beginner' and then went on to add something about incorporating chassis.

Eagle has been around for a long-long time. DOS era ?

HUGE base of users. That means two things. first is there is a source for answers, second, there is a lot of shared files for people. the outline and pinout for the Arduino UNO footprint allows one a starting point. Also, Eagle is used professionally. so, if you are going to be a design engineer, knowing Eagle is a huge plus on the resumé.

the learning curve is often called a sheer cliff or a block wall. This thread has a fellow who said weeks at 3-4 hours a day and I can assume that at that rate, he is only becoming proficient.

I think I have only seen one other person say they use WinQCad.
good start, but it is unfinished and the writer abandoned it. I had an unlimited license, but a computer crash has left me with the free version. based on support and users, it is NOT recommended. Has come VERY klunky parts. And is really multiple individual programs. Seems to have been started in DOS and truly has not become a windows program.

as you probably know, almost all the free stuff has limitations. either number of pins allowed, board size or some other arbitrary wall. you can buy your way into a larger version, but that commitment locks you into a path that may not be the best in the long term.

try each of the versions out there. some are free to try, others have limitations.
if you are a hobbyist, find the one you like best and using my experience, burn a copy to CD for posterity

I love the autoroute feature. not sure if all the freeware has autoroute. as a note WinQCad autoroute is klunky. you lay out locations, then autoroute and then move your traces as you want, but cannot autoroute a second time.

I see fritzrig as an upstart that has a lot of followers of the students. this means a growing users base that will be a force in the future. In my mind that makes it more mainstream.

google results

Eagle PCB over 3 million hits
kicad 520,000
friting over 300,000
winQCad 27,600

dave-in-nj:
google results

Eagle PCB over 3 million hits
kicad 520,000
fritzing over 300,000
winQCad 27,600

And the often forgotten but obviously superior :wink: DipTrace:

About 425,000 results (0.16 seconds)

Altium, which Dave Jones likes: About 929,000 results (0.26 seconds)

Numbers don’t say it all.