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Schematic/PCB Design for Linux? 132

VanessaDannenberg asks: "Occasionally, I have been known to design the occasional circuit board. I've been using Eagle, but with the board size limit of 3x4 inches in the free version, and a $400 price tag to exceed this limit, it is time to consider a Free Open Source Software alternative. Not being a Linux programmer myself, I have checked into and ruled out gEDA, KiCAD, Electric, XCircuit, and a host of others as being too incomplete to replace Eagle. My requirements are pretty basic: Draw a schematic, make a board out of it, edit and autoroute it, export to Gerber, and do it all natively within Linux. So, with this in mind, what suggestions do you folks have?"
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Schematic/PCB Design for Linux?

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  • Good luck! (Score:2, Informative)

    by harrkev ( 623093 )
    I do not know of anything like what you ask. AFAIK, gEAD is the best thing out there.

    Unfortunately, this is a bit of a niche application.
    • Its called gEDA and it rocks! [] You can also try Eagle PCB [] The trial version is still very capable!
    • ...gEAD is the best thing out there.

      I second that.

      If Eagle does what the submitter needs then $400 is not that bad.
      Professional packages can run in the $10s of thousands per seat.

      IMHO you need programmers that are also board designers to be able to support an OSS project that can come close to the level of functionality of a commercial package.

      This is a specialized product after all and I don't think much can be borrowed from elsewhere. Are there any fields that overlap with auto-router theory?

      • Re:Good luck! (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by Ramses0 ( 63476 )
        I don't know jack about PCB design, but wouldn't the internet qualify? :^)

      • Are there any fields that overlap with auto-router theory?

        Seems to me it would fall under the general heading of Graph Theory, in which case yes, there are plenty of related fields, and anyone with even an AS in Comp Sci should understand the basic principles.

  • I don't know where it comes from, but I've got something called 'pcb' that I installed on my Linux box that, as far as I am aware, meets those requirements.

    Oh. Here it is: []
    • Scratch that. I don't think you can draw a schematic and PCB would autoroute it. But someone more knowledgeable might check this and make sure.
    • It looks like the poster is looking for a full schematic capture > PCB layout program similar to Orcad or Protel. PCB only does layout editing.

      As far as I know, nothing exists that isn't seriously buggy/lacking features. It's really the one application I use at work that keeps me on Windows (we use Protel SE).
      • As I recall, PCB could try to autoroute, but it never worked well for me.

        The poster's requirements suggest that he/she should just shell out the $400 for a real Eagle license.

        An alternative would be to get the PCP source code and start adding the needed functionality. That effort would reveal Eagle' price to be a real bargain.

  • KiCAD looks good (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    KiCAD Check it out. []

    • The site looks good.. mod parent up informative...

      There are screenshots at the site, for the Schematic screen, Component editor, Board editor, Module/Footprint editor, a 3d viewer (this looks sweet)...

      Preety nice...
    • For christ's sake, did you even read what he wrote?
      I have checked into and ruled out gEDA, KiCAD, Electric, XCircuit, and a host of others as being too incomplete to replace Eagle.

  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @07:01PM (#14797260) Homepage Journal
    about the whole open source movement.

    "$400 price tag to exceed this limit, it is time to consider a Free Open Source Software alternative."

    So in other words, you're not willing to pay the programmers who support their families for this product, and you are not willing to donate anything to an Open Source project.

    You sir, are a leech. You want a product for free, not because of a moral issue, a desire for community support, accessible developers, or any other OS reason. No, you want an OS product because your greedy little heart wants something for free.


    A little over the top? maybe, but I've had a crappy week. I'm going to go home, get drunk, and forget the last 4 Mondays.
    • Yes, bit over the top.

      I wanted few times to design some circuits myself, but every time I would be stopped by available time or funds. If I had tool like that, it does not need to do EM simulations of the traces or any complex stuff, just simply route placed components and be able to match schematic with layout (i.e. LVS), I might actually have some custom hardware.

      I am even ready to help designing it that is why I use gEDA. It is not perfect, but it can be improved. So, there is not reason to attack guy, s
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Don't be so pessimistic. Some people give back to the community in forms other than cash and software. Maybe if he designs something useful, he'll share it with the world. Commercial tools present a high barrier for entry to the hobbyist, which discourages open source hardware.
      • Don't be so pessimistic. Some people give back to the community in forms other than cash and software. Maybe if [she] designs something useful, [she'll] share it with the world. Commercial tools present a high barrier for entry to the hobbyist, which discourages open source hardware.

        And this is precisely why I asked about an open source replacement. It's one thing to pay for a product if you're going to use it to make money. It's a far different thing to expect to pay the same money for a product only t

        • > gEDA attempts to integrate PCB with schematic capture and other tools,
          > but it's buggy on my setup (missing config files in Ubuntu, schematic
          > doesn't get translated over to the board properly, no
          > component-onto-board auto-place function to go with the schematic
          > capture)

          As the primary author of gEDA/gaf, I have some comments:

          1) gEDA does not attempt to integrate PCB with schematic capture.
          PCB is just one possible backend or target of a netlist that
    • by Anonymous Coward
      And I somewhat second that, and am glad you had the guts to say it. The thing is though, he said occasionally. If it's your job or you use it a lot, yes, you should pay prices, even if they are quite high. If it's just as a hobby, $400 is something that most of us don't have to burn on a whim. I do question just how much "occasionally" is though. If a small circuit board isn't enough for the occasional project, I would think it might be a bit more large scale then just a hobby.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        No -- people regularly spend much more than $400 on hobbies, including hobbies that take up far less of their time than designing and fabricating a > 4x3 circuit board. I'd bet that this person has spent a great deal of money on physical equipment and parts -- why doesn't software deserve the investment?
        • For two double-sided panels about 4x5.5 inches in size, I would pay $38 + $12 S&H to have CustomPCB [] make them for me.

          Using my PowerSID project as an example, that's enough PCB real estate to make either two main boards in the current design, or one main board and two secondary boards. Or, I could re-design the PowerSID like I want to, to cram *everything* into one of those 4x5.5 panels.

          Add about $10 in parts to stuff and solder it and we're up to $60. Add the cost of the software, $1260. Even if

    • At first i thought this was a bit of a harsh analysis but after thinking about it for a minute i agree. I use free software for moral reasons and if something is not available then too bad, it gets put in the "you just can't do that" basket.

      the software that is currently being used will let you design a board 3 by 4, that is a fair size in my books for something you are building yourself. If you are making money out of these boards then buy the software you want, it is called a business expense. If it is ju
    • Let's not be hasty.

      You are seeing only one side of the argument - a person not willing to contribute the required amount.

      The other side is that the distributors of the software are not willing to contribute the software to someone who can not justify the high price tag, but would find the software valuable if it was given freely.

      Some of the good reasons to work on free software is to change the world by providing universal availability of tools to access and interact with computers.

      The situation of "sho

    • Well, $400 is rather expensive for a product as shitty as Eagle. That program sucks, big-time. More than anything, it resembles Autotrax for Mac, circa 1986, but with more bugs. Anyone using this program for anything serious is insane; it is at best a hobby-grade product. If you actually have to pay an employee to use that program, you would save money by purchasing a real PCB layout tool.

      Besides, if money is no object, commercial solutions almost always win. Would I rather use Solid Edge or some crapp
      • Eagle might not have the most performant autorouter, but I don't consider it shitty. That's just superharsh. Maybe you're just used to some other big $$$ tool, and when Eagle doesn't act the way you're used to, you call it a bug? In any way, Eagle has never crashed on me, so it's not as buggy as some other (expensive) applications. So your claim is not entierly valid.
        • It has never crashed on me either, which is more than I can say of most other CAD programs. The Orcad stuff is especially prone to crashing. The main thing that pisses me off with Eagle is the interface. They STILL don't have markers on unconnected schematic pins, and it's still really easy to miss connections. The graphics engine loves to leave boogers. I'm not a huge fan of integrating schematics and board layout together. The PCB tool is primitive and has major problems. Just try moving a componen
          • And despite all these problems, it is still the best thing out there for those of us who are working on hobbyist budgets. I'd equate gEDA's failings to the reason why there is no good alternative to Visio in the diagramming world...


            No EDA program is going to have schematic/PCB symbols for every component you'll ever use, but at least Eagle almost has a majority of them. But for the rest, you have to make your own. While the process of doing this is a bit painful and annoying wit
            • Yeah, the process definitely needs work in gEDA. However, it is also easy to automate this stuff in gEDA. It's a lot easier to edit a text file to change pin numbers for a component than it is to deal with Eagle's library editor. Not to mention, try creating a surface mount footprint for a 208-pin chip in Eagle. It is next to impossible. In PCB, all you have to do is write a few lines of code to generate it for you. And this is hobbyist-level stuff. The professionals these days have to deal with mult
      • First of all, a full Eagle [] license costs $1200, but it still is a bargain for a real PCB layout package. Eagle is quite capable, the ULP (user language programs) and "scripts" rocks for advanced users with programming background. Eagle is close to bug free, I can't remember the last time I encountered a bug in Eagle. Eagle have its fair share of weak points, the user interface is quirky, and the router is unusable for serious work. The router issue can be solved by purchasing the Electra Autorouter []. Connect
    • I didn't see where she refused to pay or donate. She merely said that $400 was too much for what she does (occasional user). $400 is a bit much for, say, a student or casual hobbyist, and not everything will fit on teh tiny board the free version handles. For instance, a fairly simple tube amp needs a large board because you need bigger traces for the current, more space for the larger components, and more board space between traces because of higher voltages. But someone who does one or two tube amps a
    • Way over the top. Get off your friggin' high horse. The GPL doesn't say that the users must use said software for 'ethical' reasons. You choose to give your friggin' software away for free, then what nerve do you have complaining that nobody gives you anything back for it? You want money? Here's a thought - *charge* for your software.

      I've written software that I've given away for free. I'm not bitching that nobody has contributed money or code to it.
    • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @11:14PM (#14798395)
      A little over the top? maybe, but I've had a crappy week. I'm going to go home, get drunk, and forget the last 4 Mondays.

      God, I hope you took double shots! Uh, lissen, we can't keep it free(freedom) without keeping it free(price). And we can't give it away and then cuss people out for accepting it.

      We couldn't possibly fit all the users of every product into it's developer base, anyway. You'd spend 90% of the release cycle answering emails.

      • "God, I hope you took double shots!"

        Workin on it.

        "We couldn't possibly fit all the users of every product into it's developer base, anyway. You'd spend 90% of the release cycle answering emails."

        Imagine having 90% of your users donate: Code, Money, Hosting, and/or Bug Reports. Wouldn't that be a dream!

    • You sir, are a leech. You want a product for free, not because of a moral issue, a desire for community support, accessible developers, or any other OS reason. No, you want an OS product because your greedy little heart wants something for free.

      If you don't like the Open Source license, I hear there are other ones where you can require that the users support the (sometimes large, often rather small) community that develops it. [/sarcasm]

      I think you need to re-read the definition on freedom, buddy. It's doi
    • I suggest you go and talk to any GNU/Linux advocates who are busy trying to get companies to use it instead of Windows-based stuff. You'll find that high on the list of positive attributes is "it doesn't cost anything to buy".

      As far as "donate anything" goes, what would you like them to donate? Bug reports? Suggestions? Patches? Cash? Quite possibly they will do any or all of these, but they ain't going to donate them *before* they find something that does what they want, now are they?

    • Did you notice that the "sir" is called Vanessa? The best one I ever used was called PADS for DOS. The freware version was less restricted (I think one sheet of schematic and one two-sided board, both about A4 size); but I had problems with printing on newer computers. I had most success with it under DOS no later than 6.2. But I would normally expect to pay something for anything better than the freeware version of Eagle (which I have used.)
  • It's not clear from your writeup whether you are making the boards yourself or farming them out once you have the design. I've had to do a couple of boards recently and I use the ExpressPCB online service; there is no board size limit, and while it doesn't autoroute the free CAD tools they provide are clean and easy to learn. They have an extremely cheap miniboard service for small projects and can also do 4-layer boards with silkscreening for a pretty reasonable price even in low quantities. There are a
    • Bad idea, unless you don't mind redesigning the board if you want to use a different manufacturer. ExpressPCB locks up your data in their proprietary format. Be aware of that before you design your boards in their software.
    • ExpressPCB provides a locked-in PCB-only tool that did not appear to have any import/export capabilities the last time I checked. I just checked again, and it seems like they now have a schematic capture program to go along with it, albeit probably a basic one.

      Frankly, I think the ExpressPCB model is handicapped by the fact that you have to use their software, and are locked into it. Meanwhile, standard data formats do exist for sending PCB designs to board shops.

      Oh, and its Windows-only.
  • If you can't afford $400 for the CAD software how on earth do you expect afford production?
  • PCB123 (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by grexin ( 174912 )
    The only program I have found that satisfies your requirements (except the linux part) is PCB123 (

    It looks like someone is trying to get it to work under Wine: 0125.html []

    Since this bug is so old maybe it has been fixed by now.

    Of course the downside of PCB123 is that you don't get a Gerber file, you are required to use the PCB123 board fabrication services. I personally think they are pretty good so don't mind being tied to one vendor.
  • by ecloud ( 3022 )
    It's full-featured and affordable. Yes if it was open source, you could try to make it better, but it's good enough already.

    PCB does not do routing but is sortof passable for laying out by hand. Even for that though, I like Eagle much better.

    Or you can use one of those board houses that provide the software for free (PCB Express and another I can't remember) but those are Windows programs. With Eagle, you have more choices where to get the boards made. I've heard good things about Olimex if you need to
  • by rco3 ( 198978 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @07:28PM (#14797456) Homepage
    I'd try to feel sorry for you, but having just spent $775 to get the full-on Professional version of Eagle (with Linux and OS X licenses), I just can't muster any pity. I earn money by using Eagle. You can get a 100mm x 160mm, 4 layer version of Eagle for $125, as long as you aren't making a profit using it. If you are making a profit with it, either you can afford to upgrade to a for-profit version, or else you aren't charging enough for your work. You can also upgrade at any time with full credit for previous versions.

    Now, I'm sure that all the gEDA people will tell you that you can help make their project do all you need it to... but I'm not really a programmer, nor do I have the time to become one - I'm busy earning money to feed my baby. I've contributed (a very small amount of) code to the kernel, I've contributed financially to open-source projects... but there isn't always a viable open-source solution to your software needs. That's when you need to pay someone for software that already works.

    You want to design boards using Linux, you probably need to be using Eagle. Sorry. Consider either a) using the non-profit version or b) getting the for-profit version but not the autorouter - Eagle's is very good indeed (FAR better than Protel's, IMHO), but you'll almost always get better results hand-routing anyway.

    Frankly, even at $400 Eagle is a bargain.
    • Note that the OS X version of Eagle really isn't professional grade. It is downloaded as a "tgz" file instead of a disk image and requires X11 to operate. It's basically a half-hearthed conversion of a Linux version.
      • As a user of the OS X version of Eagle, the fact that it runs under X11 instead of in aqua does not diminish the program's usefulness. Sure, nice things such as Mac OS X print drivers, inline spell checkers, common dialog boxes, and pretty widows are nice, but they are not necessary in the least. Installation is a breeze if you follow the steps in the readme. It is still the same "professional grade" as used in Linux and Windows!
        • Mac OS X print drivers That's seems pretty important, especially for schematics. Installation is a breeze if you follow the steps in the readme I did. It complained about something missing when I tried to run it. Typical Linux based program. If they expect me to pay $400 to replace my old Tango that I already paid for, they have to do better. But I doubt they care.
          • Mac OS X print drivers That's seems pretty important, especially for schematics.

            Actually, it's more important for the board layout as everything must be perfectly 1:1 to see that everything fits appropriately (particularly if you're working with a new part and have just designed a new footprint). Mac OS X's X11 handles printing just fine (perhaps without the standard windows, however). If you're still not satisfied, print to PostScript and open in Preview.

            Was it by chance looking for the license file? Ju

    • You can get a 100mm x 160mm, 4 layer version of Eagle for $125, as long as you aren't making a profit using it.

      Er, I'm not sure you're right about that. The $125 version of Eagle is a non-profit version, which means that you can't attempt to make money off it. It's not like you can use the non-profit license to sell stuff as long as you don't actually go into the black.

      From the non-profit license []:
      With this declaration I assure that the non-profit license of EAGLE I bought under my name will be used exclus
  • by stevesliva ( 648202 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @07:34PM (#14797488) Journal
    When I find myself using some crappy free version of software that I know I can just buy, I often just wish I'd spent the money and saved the time.

    If you're designing PCBs, $400 should be chump change-- right? I'm used to EDA packages that cost well over six figures per seat.

    • I'm a hobbyist. I don't have a lot of spare dollars to spend on software to do this. For what I do the free version of Eagle works a treat. I don't really like its interface, but for the price it can't be beat.

      I managed to get a trial version of protel99 working reasonably under Wine at one stage. It wasn't perfect, but it did enough for the simple things I do. You could try that and "upgrade" your license. Not entirely legal though.

      The beauty of the trial version of protel (and modern Wine versions)
  • by Eil ( 82413 )
    So, if you evaluated all of the free PCB design software out there and none of the ones worth mentioning fit your needs, then why are you even asking?

    Use some logic here. If there was some up-to-date, well-maintained, and open source PCB design program that trumped all the ones you mentioned, wouldn't you have run across it already?

    There sure have been a lot of these questions on Ask Slashdot recently.
  • Personally,I see no problem with paying for software if it helps you out, especially if you're working in a commercial environment. The fact that there is a lot of OpenSource/Free software out there is a -bonus-.

    To date, despite running with OpenSource, I've purchased Win4Lin, VMware, QCAD, numerous other small ( $50) packages and recently MainActor (though MA was a bit harder to justify), it's part of business, while the upfront costs can bite, if you've thought it out and you _really_ need it, then it pay
  • And I'll say it again. But no one listens. The fact that there are so many incomplete projects says alot. With Sourceforge, it should be easy for people who want the same software to collaborate on a SINGLE project. Does every one want the privilege of being the head honcho like Linus? The main problem with this kind of software is the drudge work of keeping up the library of devices,not doing the interface. That is why there are lots of started projects and not to many that really get finished. Let'
  • Are you kidding me? I do this stuff for a living on the expensive tools ( Allegro, PADS, etc) and if I was caught whining about 3x4 inches, I would be ridiculed :)

    With that said, what exactly it is that you are wanting to do that takes up more than 3x4 inches. Is the fab shop you are using so low tech that you can't do a 4(mil trace) & 4(mil space) board and therefore are unable to properly place/route the board? Also, how many nets are we talking about here that you would need an autorouter? Are you us
    • I bill time around $85/hr. If I can make a board 5x4 and do it in 8h, or make it 2x1 and do it in a week, which do you think the client is going to prefer?

      If there's no reason for a board to be crammed together, why make it crammed together? I'd say over 65% of the boards I do end up on a rack. There's oodles of space. It cools better and is easier to fix, you don't end up with massive grounding headaches, and it can be hand routed in a FRACTION of the time.

      For the ~10% of stuff I do that is horribly size c
    • Well wait a second, not every design is trivial, plus in some cases there are standardized form factors that you have to fit, especially if you're interfacing to old hardware (which seems like a reasonable thing for penniless hobbyists to want to do, rather than making mice or whatever). The smallest DEC Unibus board has to be 8.5"x10" just to fit the box and four edge connectors properly. And those old Data General boards are really gigantic.

      Anyway I agree with the other posters, expecting high-quality

    • With that said, what exactly it is that you are wanting to do that takes up more than 3x4 inches

      I should have been a little more specific, but I wanted to keep the summary fairly short. Take a look at this page:

      My Projects Page []

      See the boards at the top named "PowerSID"? Notice how I had to divide it into two? I want to re-release it as a one-board design, and clearly there's no way to cram all of those parts into a 3x4 inch board.

      Similarly, notice the "Front Panel" design. Routed with 10 mil tra

  • VMWare Player + Windows 2000 (or XP) + Visio

    I need it for a few college classes, but they gave out copies of XP and Visio for free so that didn't cost me anything. Thank's to VMWare Player I don't have to dualboot anymore.
  • bittorrent is your friend
  • by goodie3shoes ( 573521 ) on Friday February 24, 2006 @11:12PM (#14798390)
    I think the simple answer is that there is no package available that meets the poster's needs. Those that are available at no cost (FOSS) don't have the ease of use and power that's requested. Eagle seems to be the only thing close to the price range. I haven't used it; I have used "pcb" with success. Its interface is a little funky, but not counter-intuitive. And it is under active development, with a user group list that sends me 20+ emails a day. In particular the requirement for autorouting presents a high barrier. It's a high-end feature, but not really necessary for simple boards. A human being will almost always come up with a better layout than a machine, and for analog boards, autorouting is useless, because the design rules cannot be taught to the machine. If, as some have surmised, the person who originated the inquiry is a woman, the sometimes harsh and dismissive tone of some posts on this topic leaves me no doubt as to why there seem to be so few women involved with Linux. My thanks to those who have posted helpful suggestions.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    MUCS-PCB mucs-pcb/ []
    - multi-layer auto-router with Gerber Output
    - input is a netlist... like the kind KiCAD's eeschema can create

    problems: not for complex/high-speed designs (if u need BGA devices, matched-length traces/impedences, etc. you NEED high end tools like Altium's Protel DXP/Designer or OrCAD)

    What problems did u have with KiCAD? I've done several hobbyist designs in KiCAD and it has met all my needs. It takes a while to get used to its quirky UI,
    • Mod parent up! It took an AC to write one of the only constructive posts in this thread. Although I also actually paid for the full version of Eagle and consider it the best money I've ever spent, at least the above thread tried to give the guy a FOSS solution.

      For what it's worth, though, Eagle rocks! Another poster commented about the difficulty of cad software makers to maintaining parts libraries - I think the better question is the ease of making your own parts libraries in your chosen CAD softwar
  • I do a lot of EDA, mostly under Mentor Graphics PADS. It's quirky, it's buggy, but I find I'm used to it and I actually almost like it.

    But for whatever reason, our department seems to be unable to purchase a seat (license) for it that doesn't expire. Which means that my designs become uneditable unless our department mails Mentor a check every 12 months. It makes me sick.

    I really want there to be a good FOSS solution, and like the initial poster, I've found the existing products to be really inadequate. Som
    • > I think one of the most awful aspects is that gEDA keeps promising and
      > promising. They have very nice screenshots and feature lists. But they
      > seem to be vapor. I think they're inhibiting others from starting a
      > good FOSS EDA package. Maybe.


      1) I don't recall the gEDA project promising anything. Please point
      out a specific instance of this? It has enabled many people to
      use EDA software that would otherwise be completely unobtainable.

      2) vapor? Wh
  • See: []
    I've used it for some fairly complex multi-layer boards. I prefer to do the schematic on paper and manually route it, but autorouting is supported. One warning: some of the symbols are wrong. In particular, the (default) holes in the pads are too small for most resistors.

  • Express PCB is a decent program, and it auto routes for you. Freeware.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!