Good free PCB CAD software for schools?

I've recently explored the free KiCad, for Windows and Linux, and would commend it to schools.

PCB CAD will never be completely "intuitive", but I think KiCad may be a real bargain, if you want to do "real" PCB CAD.

Anyone already used/ using it? If you stopped, why?

More info at....

Been using it for 2 1/2 years now. I's getting better all the time ;-)

Back then I had a look at eagle as well, but decided against it for several reasons: a) size limitation of the "free" version, b) using a closes source software with a proprietary file format doesn't go well with open source I think. I really wonder that the "all new" open source hardware initiative tolerates using eagle at all. Maybe "free" and "open" should be amended with "if you can fork out enough money".

I was in a similar position to madworm wrt to eagle.

In the end I chose DesignSpark PCB, which is free but a closed source program. I had basically outgrown the free version of EagleCAD and DesignSpark PCB had none of the size or commercial restricts so DesignSpark suited me better.

Oh! My!

You are SOOOOO right!!! (DesignSpark)

DesignSpark is a free version of my much beloved, very expensive, "Rolls Royce" PCB CAD package.

Every (Windows) one should try it, just to enjoy the QUALITY.

The only downsides: No Linux. Not OpenSource. But backed by a very large, very reputable UK components distributor...

Don't overlook the "educational discount" category. Many vendors of commercial products offer discounts to schools. My employer (university) gets software that would retail for hundreds of thousands of US$ for about $500 a year, for educational use. Eagle also offers an educational discount.


Yes, get them early!

And if they want to use their IP later, make them pay for their childhood foolishness.

Not foolishness if they're going to be doing real engineering. KiCAD may be great for hobby level stuff, but it doesn't have capabilities for finite element analysis, thermal analysis, e-mag analysis, etc.

This isn't microsoft word - sometimes there is a reason software is expensive.


It is a big difference if you use commercial tools at your job/uni for earning money/learning the trade. That’s perfectly fine. I did that as well. There are some tools that I used that are so expensive that I will never be able to afford them, even if I took a lifetime’s earning. Private IP created with these would be lost, recreation necessary. And that’s not always possible.

Where it gets quite complicated is if people start to do some ‘private’ projects in their free time/lunch break using those tools. Once they don’t have access to them anymore (new job, expired license, finished with school …), they’re in deep shit. Not all vendors offer free licenses for students that are still valid, once they’ve got their degree. There must be awareness of this fact.

I’d be quite annoyed if some school (not uni) used proprietary PCB software for teaching purposes that I couldn’t afford personally. No chance to keep going at home. It’s bad enough that the majority of schools still wear the microsoft blinders. Yes there are ‘free’ and or ‘castrated’ versions available for hobbyists as well, sometimes.

Should schools/ universities use commercial software?

If only the commercial product has the features the course NEEDs, then yes, of course. (But one vain professor's "need" is another's ego trip. It is amazing more Washington politicians don't emerge from Academe... there's plenty of politics played in the ivory towers.)

But I've seen a teacher struggling in a physics class for 15 year olds because the fairly trivial thing the teacher wanted the kids to put into their spreadsheets had to be explained three separate ways to accommodate the three different spreadsheets in use in the classroom... is this sensible use of teaching time? Mandate OpenOffice across the school. If the kids (or Dell, etc) can persuade the parents to pay for Excel, too, well at least the school isn't to blame.

As for the "discounts for education", surely everyone sees what's going on there?

One reason little of the money I give to charities goes to schools is that I see how they waste what they have.

Rant ends.

Hi guys;

Here a free schematics & CAD sofware. Check it out.

The software itself may be good and easy to use, but what you also get is vendor lock-in. You can't create gerber files, which can be uses with any pcb manufacturer and not only expresspcb.

ExpressPCB sucks. You get vendor lock-in AND software that is missing the most rudimentary PCB design features.

Learning eagle is less painful than dealing with expressPCB shortcomings.


ExpressPCB sucks. You get vendor lock-in AND software that is missing the most rudimentary PCB design features. Learning eagle is less painful than dealing with expressPCB shortcomings.

@kg4wsv & madworm

Vendor lock-in... Mmm.. That part I did not know.. heh you know what it free.

I have Eagle I don't know the shorts comming unless I pay for upgrade...

When it free... I expect less... When I pay for... I expect a LOTS...

I have Eagle. I don't know what the short-comings are. Anyway, I could always pay for upgrade...

It is very nice of Eagle to let us use their good product for free, at all....


Mastering any PCB CAD package is not a minor undertaking. Consider...

Do all that work for the Eagle product, and then reach the point where you want to make something more than a quite small board, OR want to sell something, and then face PAY (or start again with KiCad or other)

... or...

Start with KiCad. If the two of you get along okay: No limits to board size. No restriction against selling what you make. No starting again if you move to Linux. (If you find that you DON'T like KiCad, Eagle is still there to try. At the risk of hitting the "now you have to pay" bit eventually.)