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Recomended Alternative to full Altium Designer?

RobCrittenden , 09-18-2015, 01:22 AM
Hi All,

I have agreed to help some friends who are operating a start-up business, with some PCBs they wish to get designed and manufactured. Nothing too complex.

My friends can't afford Altium at this stage (perhaps later) but they would like to do things legally and over a time longer than a 30 day trial.
They have asked my to recommend what alternative software they should get that I could best use to lay out their boards.

So far I think I have a short list:
Altium Circuit Maker
Altium Circuit Studio?
Design Spark PCB
DIP trace

There are many others but that's the short list we are down to at the moment.

I was wondering if anyone had any experience or thoughts on which of these it might be easier for me to use (coming from altium) to produce professional grade work that can be simply re-ordered in the future.
The guys want to use it commercially so the licence needs to allow that but the boards are unlikley to be larger than 100x80mm (I think), and I would happily give circuit maker a go but I think they are a bit nervous about the forced open source.

I am leaning towards Eagle as it seems to have the largest community support but I'm not sure about things like licencing etc ( I will be looking into that over the next few days)
From my perspective I want to be able to produce boards that are of professional quality but not very large and not involving fast CPUs or memory access and I would like to do it with as little change over as possible from traditional altium designer.

Anyway, thanks for any ideas,

robertferanec , 09-18-2015, 02:01 AM
Hi @RobCrittenden, depends on how complex the board is, what their budget is and what their future plans are:
- If they are planning to design simple boards only, maybe consider Eagle (it's not expensive and has big community) or use a free software (if it allows commercial use)
- In case they may be considering to move to Altium Designer later or they are planning to design more complex boards in future, I would probably go for Altium CS. The transition could be less painful.

However, I need to be honest, from the list I have only tried Altium CS / CM and Eagle. I heard about the others, but I am not sure how good they are - for example I heard a lot about KiCAD getting better and also I read some positive feedbacks about DIP trace.

BTW: Cadence is also getting better. It is on my plan to try it again (looks like, you can get the professional version for 7000 USD, the basic / standard one for 3000 USD): http://www.parallel-systems.co.uk/products/pcb-editor

I am curious what other people will say.
RobCrittenden , 09-18-2015, 07:41 AM
Thanks @robertferanec, I'm going to be doing some research over the next few days into the licence and other restrictions of each of the main ones listed above. I'll let you know what turns up and any experiences I have (positive or negative) in trying to create a simple test layout in each program as I go.
There are plenty of reviews out there for each one, but most come from the point of view of someone who knows and likes a particular solution already. Perhaps we as a community/forum could come up with a chart that could show which software is best under which circumstances. I can't find a resource like that online currently.
robertferanec , 09-18-2015, 11:09 PM
Thank you @RobCrittenden !
paulo.lopes , 10-22-2015, 05:31 AM
What about MentorGraphics?
robertferanec , 10-22-2015, 07:34 AM
I used to work in PADS, but I didn't find anything special about the software. Maybe they improved now.
paulo.lopes , 10-22-2015, 09:11 AM
compared with altium?
robertferanec , 10-22-2015, 09:12 AM
Compared to Altium and Cadence Allegro
paulo.lopes , 10-22-2015, 09:14 AM
Sorry, my question was misunderstood: What i mean to ask was:Compared with ALTIUM, what are the pros and cons ?
robertferanec , 10-22-2015, 09:23 AM
I don't know. I only used the Layout part of PADS and I didn't find it exceptionally outstanding - it was just an average PCB tool like Altium (for Layout). Comparing to PADS & Altium, the Cadence Allegro was much better - Cadence is not so intuitive, but doing layout in it is somehow more intelligent - I don't know exactly how to explain it.
RobCrittenden , 02-16-2016, 04:46 AM
To anyone still following this thread, I can provide the information below.

We tested quite a number of packages and compared them on cost and ease of use and functionality (commercial terms of use).
Our situation is a small company with a number of engineers who have experience in PCB design but are not fixed to one particular package. We wanted to find the best package that would give us commercial control, and the fastest possible design times while still being cost effective and easy for new starters to pick up.


Lowest cost for all uses = KiCad - free (commercial and private all free) ease of use not great and time saving features not great.
Community integration = Eagle but costly for use for commercial applications and still quite a clunky interface for new starters.
Best starter for completely new PCB designers (no professional eng training etc) Eagle - due to community integration but interface still plays into it a bit
Best starter for those with engineering training Altium Circuit Maker - nice modern interface and few restrictions, component vault saves alot of time and works well. Great for hobby work and practice PCBs. Little integration with common sites online yet but that's why it's good for those with an engineering background.
Best Commercial Starter - Altium Circuit Studio, nearly all the features you need minus the shortcuts in some places, can go forward and backward to Altium designer as required with a minimum of fuss and costs much less to get started, also top marks for it being a perpetual licence.

That's a wrap here, we opted for Altium CS as it give's us good commercial control and the greatest flexibility going forward at an acceptable price.

Happy to answer questions if people have them!

Cheers for now

RobCrittenden, 02-16-2016, 05:36 AM
(sorry it took so long to get this done)
robertferanec , 02-16-2016, 07:36 AM
@RobCrittenden Thank you so much!
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