There are a lot of options in the market to choose from if you are on the hunt for a PCB designing tool, but which one should you go with? It’s not as easy to answer as one may think, because a lot depends on the requirements of the particular designer more than anything else. Nevertheless, there are a few guidelines that might help beginners find a good option, and we are going to discuss a few important ones next.
Jot Your Own Needs Down First
Before you go out into the market looking for the most feature-rich option available, it is an important step to jot down your own requirements first. What kind of boards (single-layer, double-layer, multilayer) will you be designing with the software? Do you have any specific feature in mind that can help you with your work? Jot them all down and then shortlist the options based on which tools meet all of your personal criteria.
Does It Have a Complete Simulation System?
There was a time when simulation wasn’t an option, but that is a time long gone. You must find a PCB software that has a properly designed and well-equipped simulation system, but that is where it can be a bit challenging if you are looking for a bargain PCB software. Most options on the market that offer analog and digital simulation features are not cheap, but there is still hope! For example, not only is Altium CircuitStudio a bargain PCB software, but it is actually equipped with the XSPICE analog and digital simulation feature as well, which gives designers the ability to detect, debug and ensure that the design is not going to run into a major problem in production.
Is the Library Good Enough?
To have access to the datasheets and parametric equations of a vast, well-equipped component library is bliss, and could end up saving you a whole lot of time as you look to create custom components of your own. For example, the aforementioned CircuitStudio Content Library has a huge collection of components that exceeds 350,000, with more parts being added to the library every day. If your software gives you access to such a vast library, it’s definitely a winning feature in any PCB designing tool.
How is the Autorouting Feature?
Autorouting is a necessary and expected feature in any PCB designing software because it basically halves your work by automating the trace-laying process. If the automation system is interactive, you can actually set design rules for the program to follow and it will eventually become an extension of your own work. Complex board designs that require more attention can also be completed faster because the software will lay the traces automatically, while you guide the pin to pin connections as necessary.
The term “good PCB software” is subjective, just as we discussed earlier, but when you are starting out, any product that at least satisfies the needs we just discussed is going to work just fine. Nonetheless, it is probably best if the PCB designing tool came with a trial offer to let you experience everything it has to offer first.