How to Choose Your Best PCB Design Software?
Narrowing the search for the best PCB design software is relatively simple, once it’s determined what features truly apply for the designs to be generated. Factors for the decision:
a. How complex the PCBs designs will be – starting with very basic software when HDI/multilayer designs will be forthcoming is not in the designer’s best interest.
b. Learning curve required for the software – designers need to get up and running with software quickly and without a high level of frustration.
c. How often the software is updated – as methods and technology change, regular updates are essential.
d. Architecture – some software is designed specifically for Windows environments, while others are limited to MAC or Linux computers. Be sure to select one that applies to the existing infrastructure.
e. Experience – how long has the software been available? Newer may not be better.
f. What is the software vendor’s background? Those with knowledge of PCB manufacturing capabilities and constraints may provide the best solution.
g. Licensing – does it require annual or other periodic renewal, at additional expense?
h. Sharing – can multiple engineers share the software and designs created?
i. Support available – if help is not responsive, look elsewhere.
PCB designers can make the best choice in design software when armed with a list of features that are most applicable to the work at hand – and for the future:
a. Component library – with periodic updates – this is a must-have feature, allowing the designer to pick and place components as needed.
b. Custom components – there may be specific components unique to the designer’s environment and industry. This will allow creation, saving, and reuse of custom items.
c. Reporting – need to create a parts usage list, and save for reference.
d. Creation of Gerber files when ready for manufacturing.
e. Design rules – create ad hoc design rules for validation of finished or in-process designs.
f. Help text that guides designers through questions in real time.
g. Automatic repositioning of connections when components are moved.
h. Simple drag-and-drop positioning of components and traces.
i. Standard templates available for quick-start use of the program.