Top 5 PCB Design Software For Your Next Project

Are you drawing up a schematic? Prototyping a design? Or perhaps looking to take an idea from concept through to final product? No matter the specifics of where and how you're planning on placing the many components of a PCB, the number of design packages available for your next project is pretty vast.

In fact, it's almost too vast.

Once the playground of a select few, nowadays PCB design software is a dime a dozen. That’s why today we’re highlighting 13 of the best PCB circuit board and design software for your next project. From free to paid, basic to broad, there’s an option here to suit almost any budget, operating system or project you have in mind.

1. Altium
Feature rich, well-supported and ubiquitous within the electronic design community, Altium's undeniable strength comes at a cost. Literally. It's one of - if not the most - expensive options on this list. At times, prohibitively so.

At the very least, you get what you pay for. Its modern, easy-to-use UI is highly customisable - with shortcut keys galore - and Its widespread adoption within the industry makes it easy to jump into and even easier to create with. Which will come as no surprise given the wealth of tutorials, guides and technical documents available across the web.

The feature list doesn't end there. Altium boasts the ability to import and export 3D Step files, as well as view your boards and designs in 3D so you can check them against other hardware components well before you go ahead and bring your project to life.

Bonus! Altium's Supplier Link makes it easy to drag-and-drop vital information such as manufacturer name, part numbers and other identifiers onto your components.


2. EagleCAD
A favourite among the open source hardware community, EagleCAD is an affordable option which boasts an extensive component and footprint library. Though that’s not to say it isn’t without its critics: EagleCAD isn’t for beginners.

How so? It’s widely regarded as both difficult to pick up and learn, hampered by a dated UI and usability issues reminiscent of 90’s PC software. The result? A steep learning curve, even for those willing to put in the time to learn its archaic ways.

You do get something in return for the hassle. Namely, better support for pre-built components than its competitor - Altium - and a much more enticing price tag of ‘Free!’. If, that is, you can live with its 2 layer, 80mm x 100mm limitations. Anything more than that, and you’ll need to hand over some cash.

Note! EagleCAD features an auto-router which takes the hassle out of manually routing signals.


3. DipTrace
With a short learning curve and a modern interface, DipTrace is one of the easiest applications to get started with. It’s so easy, in fact, that you can go from install to designing and creating circuits on your first day.

A Windows based application, it boasts a decent library of components - not to mention the ability to add your own - and makes a great option for beginners and mid-level designers alike. Better still, its freeware version is surprisingly generous.


4. KiCAD
Free, Open Source (GPL) and easy to use, KiCAD has wide-ranging support within the open source hardware community. While it’s far from perfect - there are numerous issues surrounding the converting of schematics to PCB - KiCAD is constantly updated, and regularly receives more prominent features usually reserved for its pricier, well-known competitors.


5. UpVerter
Free for open source and non-commercial use, UpVerter is the only browser-based option on the list. The benefits of which are hard to deny. First? It’s platform agnostic, as with nothing to download or install it’ll work across all operating systems. While its cloud-based design means your data is available wherever you’re logging in from.

While it may skip some of the advanced features of other packages, its ‘multiplayer’ functionality means multiple users can work on the same project at the one time. Nice!



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