What is your go-to PCB layout/designer? Why?

Experts,

I’m at the point where I’ll be doing PCBs & laying out my circuits, and I’ve of course found deciding on one impossible on my own. I’m quite interested in which you use (if pay, would like <$50), and if possible why.

Eagle. By Cadsoft, now owned by Autodesk. Free to use, for smaller board sizes. Not the easiest app in the world to learn.

Why? It works. Its got a big user base, lots of component libraries.

I started out using Fritzing, when that product was not very mature. It was a little buggy, limited range of component libraries, but most importantly, back then, you could only use Fritzing's PCB fabrication service. Eagle had none of those restrictions.

I think there are still free, downloadable, WinQcad versions available (limited board size).
Been using it for ~13 years, easy to use, powerful features.
No longer being updated.

Eagle is popular here.

Eagle is where it's at IMO.

Forgot to say: both Eagle and Fritzing run on Linux. I don't use Windows these days and don't want to go back.

I'm far from expert, but KiCad should definitely be mentioned here. Unlike Eagle, KiCad is free open source with no limitations. Eagle has long been the most popular program for hobbyists but KiCad has become increasingly popular over the last few years and I think it's safe to say that Eagle and KiCad are now the two most popular options.

I using this for years, easy to use for beginners.
https://www.expresspcb.com/expresspcb/

KiCAD works great for me (haven't tried the others).
Managing component libraries is a b!tch in KiCAD, though once you've got that set up it works just fine.

Libraries are pretty complete, most of the footprints I have been adding myself are for parts on breakout boards, for building perfboard based prototypes (using KiCAD for that as well: through-hole footprints and a grid of 0.1", add "traces" as you connect components to keep track of what's done and what's left unconnected).

eagle is free still? I thought autodesk made it subscription based....

Sparkfun and Adafruit use it for their free and open designs - it wouldn't make sense to use non-free software for that, especially if there are free alternatives out there.

Eagle is still free (at the moment) but Autodesk want you to (force you to?) register and log in each time you use it.

Eagle is commercial software with notable limitations in the free version and in the choking grip of Autodesk with questionable future.

KiCAD is FOSS, already on par with eagke and on a step rising edge with CERN behond it, upcoming version 5, Digikey's libraries...
I recommend to start with the v5 RC.

I would go so far and call Eagle for a beginner bad advice now.

I might give KiCAD a go.
Eagle is ok, after one gets used to it --- which is pretty much the same with everything.
Some good scripts for g-code conversion for circuit board milling are available for eagle .... or works with eagle.

I assume that there will be similar scripts for KiCAD, right? Will try it out anyway.

Since you had to ask, you must not have any experience making PCBs.

Therefore, I would suggest you take a look at ExpressPCB.com. Great for beginners.

Software is free and they give you schematic drawing software with the PCB software.

When you are finished, you just click on a button, enter your credit card and in a few days the boards show up.

They have a fast proto board service that I use all the time. Comes with silk screen and solder mask on three 3.75"X2.5" boards for $85 including CA tax and shipping. (they are in CA)

The only restriction is that the files are not compatible with other systems. Sometimes I regret getting started with them because I think I might want to make 200 boards and use some other company to build the boards. Truth is, I have never needed to and I'vd made over 100 boards with them.

You can get just about any size board you need, but the "mini board" service can save you a bunch of $$ when making small projects. I have made boards 1/2 the size by putting two of them on one mini board then cutting them in half myself. Then I get 6 boards for $85

They are worth a look.

Greg

I use easyeda.com and do it all online. If you're getting small (10cm x 10cm) boards, they're cheap (10 for $5) and also have a bom service. I wouldn't do it for any commercial work, but just for playing around at home, you can do the design and a week later have the PCB's and parts on your door step.

airzone:
I use easyeda.com and do it all online.

Interesting. Can you design with thu-hole components as well as surface mount? How extensive is their parts library? I would hope they would have common components like atmega328 pdip, 3-pin to-92 parts like transistors and regulators etc. But what about more new/rare components like rfm95 modules?

At least as important: is it possible to add custom footprints? Exactly for new/unusual parts.

I've been doing a little research on easyeda and found out that you can use thu-hole and/or surface mount, and the parts library is reasonably large, with users contributing their own libraries of parts. You can create custom parts/footprints, but until I've tried it for myself, it remains to be seen his easy this is.

EAGLE. Originally, because it was one of the few free packages available. And then because it was one of the only packages that would run on linux and display on Mac. And then because it ran on a Mac, and continued to get better on Mac while KiCad wasn’t working. And finally because I’ve been using it for a dozen years, bought myself a copy of a paid version (The “non-profit” version. Actually, you can add “full paid versions were reasonably priced” to the reasoning somewhere), and have over 1000 .brd files that I’m really not interested in converting - I’m starting to “get the hang of it.”

Plus, there are all those OSHW designs (Arduino, Sparkfun, Adafruit) done in EAGLE.

And while I’m not really happy about the new subscription license model (and am still using my older version), I think the “level of fuss” over it is vastly overblown.

I was using OrCad during the University years and later at work.
Its a professional package, very expesnsive and out of reach for a hobbyist

As a hobby I ve been using Eagle -free version for a few years now and I am quite happy with its limitations.

I particularly like the fact that when you add a component in the schematic view, it automatically appears in the PCB view for you to place it. Something which doesnt apply for KiCAD :frowning:

However, since the change of its ownership to Autodesk and the new licensing policy imposed, I want to switch to KiCad which is sure to remain always free. However I seem to always postpone putting the effort to learn another package!

I know I have to make the switch at sometime.
I am still using an older version of Eagle before the new changes took effect.