CAD software

Hello there,

Could anybody please advise me on appropriate CAD software to design a PCB. Bare in mind that I use a Mac and would preferably like the software package to be as cheap as possible.

I am constructing a robot for my third year University project and at the moment I am using a prototyping board. Later on in the project I wish to get a PCB made so the final 'product' is more compact. Any advise would be a great help


Do a search in the forum - there at least 2 discussions going on now about free PCB design software. Unless you need to use surface mount parts, DIP & thruhole components can be mounted compactly using wirewrap and/or point to point soldering on perfboard on a similar size as a PCB. I regularly use expressPCB to layout my thru hole designs prior to assembly to see what will fit nicely on 0.1" hole space perfboards. You can get a bunch of parts to fit on a velleman ecs1/2 (60x80mm) perfboard, and even more on ecs1-h "island of holes' perfboard:

I can post some layouts I have done with expressPCB for wirewrap builds, I need to do it from home tho. I have also used the miniboard service to create PCBs that held 48 5mm LEDs, 8 transistors, Rs, Cs, two 10-pin connectors, and two 7805s for an arduino to drive (two identical designs, I cut the boards in half to spread the displays apart).

If you need to go surface mount, then many here find eagle nice to use after you get past its learning curve. Search for "1284 eval" and scroll thru the first hit that comes back to see some current boards that use a 1284 processor in both TQFP and DIP variation to see what you can do with eagle. The free eagle-light limits you to 80x100mm and a single 11x17" schematic. Another free option that comes up a lot is Kicad, I have not used it personally.

Thanks a lot. Ill give Eagle a go, that 80x100mm limitation is all I need anyway.

There is a great eagle tutorial on youtube by a guy named rcpelectronics that i used to learn eagle. I use dip trace, you might want to give that a shot as well since its also free. Their free version only limits the number of pins to three hundred and 2-layers, not the size of the board. They also have a mac version. Eagle has some odd eccentricities that annoyed me, not so annoying that it made me stop using it tho. I only switched to diptrace because i needed bigger boards, but i'm glad i did. diptrace isnt without faults though. the libraries aren't nearly as extensive and the autorouter is either tougher to use properly or its not as good. I'm still new to this stuff so I'm not sure which one it is. XD

Autodesk offers a lot of free software to students. Go to and on the left side there is a link labeled "free software for students". You can get a lot of really cool software there including AutoCad Electrical.

This is a good page for many things PCB related:-

You might have a look and National Instruments Circuit Design Suite. I’ve tinkered with it, but don’t have a Mac, so I don’t know if it will run on your system.


Thanks guys. I have had a go with Eagle and just cannot get my head around it. I'm sure it is a very good piece of software but it is very unintuitive (it's free I suppose) so I am now having a look into the AutoCad Electrical and something called DesignSpark PCB. I will have to BootCamp my Mac for both of these pieces of software (nevermind LOL).

Thanks again

I have had a go with Eagle and just cannot get my head around it.

I have often heard that said. I have used many different packages in my time and even written one. I had to use Eagle for the first time a few weeks ago and it wasn't too different from all the others. You have all the basic functions of any other PCB layout. The thing that foxed me at first was the having to hold down certain keys and click in order to do certain things. Work through the tutorial.

Embedded system tutorials 8-11

Yes, Eagle is peculiar with key and mouse functions. So is PSPICE and other software. They probably all came out of command-based software and each mouse click or key press is simply translated to a command. What I like about EAGLE is gerber output, free version, and linked board and schematic view. I don't know if all PCB cad software have components in schematic linked to board view since I didn't try enough yet :)

Even the much maligned expressPCB can link components to the schematic, it's just done manually.