BotE : Battle of the EDA's!

Covering :

gEDA, KiCad, Eagle, Pads, XCircuit

BotE : Designing circuits

In the 80's it was simple. Circuits were drawn on the back of an envelope or on graphical paper. Later, the designs were wire wrapped or a circuit was created using adhesive etch resist tapes on copper clad epoxy.
This all changed in the early 90's. Affordable PCB layout software hit the market. The most affordable of them was PADS Demo (1992). This was a pin limited CAD tool, that could do an awful lot, for the money (it was free)! I did a lot of circuits with this DOS software:

I used PADSdemo until 2005 or something like that. Then I switched to Eagle Light (trial version, for Linux). This was a major improvement. Not that Eagle was better than PADS, but the limitations of Eagle were completely different from the PADSdemo limits:
PADSdemo	: limited pins, nets, via's etc
Eagle Light	: limited board size (80 x 100 mm), max 2 copperlayers
Now, double sided boards with full silk and other screening came in reach. If you design carefully, you can do an awful lot with Eagle Light. But then I needed more. So it was time to look around for extension. There are several options:
  1. Buy the Non-Commercial Eagle Standard edition for €125. That's not extremely expensive. And it will give you so that is all you will ever need, for small companies and hobbyists.
  2. Explore the EDA software for Windows and see if this runs with WinE
  3. Evaluate the open source EDA tools for Linux
€125 for a rich version of Eagle was tempting. I know Eagle and I like to use it a lot. It is very intuitive in using. Only one program is required to do all. Operations are very standardized between circuit design and copper layouting. So, for a reasonable amount, you have a very good piece of software.

I explored the free PCB design tools for Windows. In general these are supplied by board houses, for free, but the software is rather simple. It cannot even be compared to the 1992 PADSdemo version. And a lot of these programs refused to run in WinE.

And then I went for the difficult section: see which EDA tools for Linux were available. Doing so, I found:
Eagle Eagle standard version is my fallback option. If I cannot find a decent EDA tool for Linux, I will buy the €125 version of Eagle. Eagle is proven good.
XCircuit Xcircuit is an EDA package that is very well designed. It is designed by a very bright person and it's main disadvantage is, that this is also the target audience. Xcircuit can do anything: drawing, colourbook, musical compositions, even circuit drawing. Yet you need be a PhD to understand it.
KiCad KiCad started as a kind of hobby project from a bright french mathematician. It's a nice package that can do a lot. But the documentation is below zero so the learning curve is very shallow. The forum on Yahoogroups is populated by experts, some of whom prefer to remain experts: they are very reluctant to spill some beans. At critical points, all kinds of french words appear. And it is a bit bloated software. KiCad leans towards a religion.
gEDA gEDA is a suite (a collection) of programs for doing EDA related tasks. In features it resembles KiCad but with one major difference: excellent and available documentation! On the web, but also on localhost: /usr/local/share/doc/geda-gaf/wiki/ gEDA is my choice. And it's not french... :o)
Below are some additional remarks for each program.

BotE : KiCAD

The Eagle is fine. I am very familiar with it and I like the way in which things are done. Yet there are a few problems with the trial version:

and for a current project I need a bit more. It -can- be done with the limitations but I will be working on the edges of what's possible. So I went looking for alternatives. The most obvious alternatives were: And, after a lot of reading, I brought down the choice to either gEDA or KiCad. Both are similar in features and both work completely different from Eagle (or eachother). So after a long night's sleep I decided to bet on the KiCad horse. And a week later I was cured again. KiCad is inferior to Eagle. So paying €125 for a decent Eagle is money well spent.

BotE : Eagle

Since a few years I have not been using DOS anymore. It's all Linux what the bell tolls. DOS is just too old fashioned. I have been looking for a new Linux based CAD/CAM system for circuits and PCB making. Doing so I looked at gEDA, Eagle and some more. Due to pressure from a few close friends, I concluded that Eagle might be the best solution for me. If only for the reason that it is cross platform.
So now it has been Eagle for close to a year. And I must admit: it ain't bad! It has a rather shallow learning curve, but its features are enormous. And if you know your way around the world, even the free version is good enough to get magnificent PCB jobs done!

Topics covered:

  1. Getting started
  2. demonstration project : POES
  3. Several boards, mentioned on fruttenboel, such as


BotE : PADS Demo (the 1992 shareware version).

(Not so) long time ago, electronic drawings were made on notepads and next a print was made by glueing black lines to a transparant film. With this you could make a printed circuit board (PCB) and solder the components on top of it. If something went wrong, you had to start all over.
The arrival of CAD/CAM packages for schematic capture and PCB routing made life a lot easier for the electric engineer. With a mouse and a CAD program you just make a scheme which you can print and process at will.
Later, you make a netlist which is input into the PCB router. Now you can lay tracks of copper and bend, shift, reverse them or whatever you seem fit for the job. There are virtually no limits.

There is a big market for this kind of software. Many nice programs, but also terrible ones. I use a program which was issued in 1992 and it runs under DOS, so it is real fast on a modern PC. It is the 1992 shareware version of PADS, a very big and fast program, which aims at high end users. Just visit their website to find out what I mean. That's why a commercial package is too expensive for non-professionals.
Compared to other packages like the dutch UltiBoard, PADS performs a lot better. It has a very flexible library structure and you can easily extend the user library, but also adapt the standard libraries.
This shareware version of PADS seemed to be a little accident of the company. They wanted to put out a limited version to convince people to migrate to their platform. But they underestimated the importance of severe restrictions in pincount and such. The restrictions were much too wide. If you apply some tricks it is perfectly well possible to produce double sided Eurocard (4" x 6") PCB's with it, filled to the outer edges with circuits and such.
The PADS people learned from their mistake, so from 1993 they published versions which were much more restricted. With these, you have a hard time filling only half a Eurocard.... :o(


BotE : Achtung! This used to be DOS software.

This used to be DOS software!

It wil NOT run properly in Windows 98, ME, NT, 2000 or XP unless you read topic 6 of this webpage. My friend from Down Under found a reliable way to get PADS running on his Windows XP system!
Also the DOS emulator of Linux is out of the question. So please install it on a dedicated DOS computer. The system demands are low. Any 386 DX40 with a 1 Mb VGA card is good enough. So if you go to a fleemarket or garage sale, for EUR 30 you have a dedicated machine! Sometimes problems are reported by E-mail and in all cases it's about people that dare not let loose of Windows.
M$ have been carrying out a real policy of making DOS ridiculous and with success. People don't trust it anymore if they are not flooded by screaming colours and laughing paperclips.

My advice is to do one of the following things: Option four is too expensive. But it's a possibillity if you have some old disks lying around.


BotE : Installing PADS Demo 1992.

I put "my" PADS in the download section of this site. I made three files for it. You first have to restore the three original floppy disks. Next you use these floppy disks to install the software on your computer. You commence with this as folows:

  1. Download the file Aflop.Zip
  2. Download the file Bflop.Zip
  3. Download the file Cflop.Zip
  4. Format three floppies of 3.5", 1.44 Mb and assign them the numbers "1", "2" en "3".
  5. Put the contents of Aflop.Zip on the first floppy disk with Pkunzip -d Aflop a:\
  6. Put the contents of Bflop.Zip on the second floppy disk with Pkunzip -d Bflop a:\
  7. Put the contents of Cflop.Zip on the third floppy disk with Pkunzip -d Cflop a:\
  8. Insert floppy disk #2 in the diskdrive and enter: PINSTALL
  9. Configure PADSdemo to fit in with your system.
In case you run into trouble, reboot without Windows active (choose 'Command prompt only', or something similar) and repeat the procedure. This is also THE solution in case of trouble with printing LPR files to the printer in a DOS box or in pure Windows. Windows insists on helping you, whether you need it or not. And even in 'unfiltered mode" it filters through your printingdata and helps you by removing some unnecessary tokens. I don't make this up here and now. It's based on user feedback.


BotE : Running PADS.

If you're done, you can start the software by going to the appropriate directory and entering:

for drawing and printing circuits LogShare /s
for making copper tracks on a PCB PcbShare /s

As is, PADS is equipped with a very extensive library of parts. You can easily extend these libraries with new or obscure components. As an example I have added my own libraries to the Cflop.Zip file. These contain examples of recent chips of MicroChip, Zilog, Texas, Dallas, etc.

PADS is a very nice piece of software, be it rather complex. Take into account that you will need several weeks (if not months) to get to know how to use it to the max. But, to compensate for that, the price was right.


BotE : Some work, done with PADS.

If you want to get some experience with shema's please check out the following samples:

Now, this ought to be enough to get you started. If you want to return to the main page, just click in the navigator bar on the Fruttenboel link.


BotE : I was wrong: PADS run in Windows XP as well!.

The picture above, was sent by my friend from New Zealand to prove me MS isn't that bad after all. Kevin runs his version of the 1992 PADS demo software in a DOS box with Windows XP. Read more in his letter to me, printed below.

Kevin uses a DOSbox as supplied by http://dosbox.sourceforge.net and some patched binaries from http://ykhwong.x-y.net. Unfortunately, that website is out of reach for some time now. So Kevin offered me his full set of files and we decided to publish this set on an FTP server that is free of charge, yet can be accessed by just about everyone. Just check out http://members.home.nl/jmr272/images/DosBox63_PADS.zip and download the file after having chosen 'Free download' and have waited 30 seconds.

As you see, feedback is appreciated and usefull. As soon as I get usable feedback, it will be included in the content within 24 hours.


BotE : I was even wronger: PADS runs in Linux!.

The picture above, was also sent by my friend from New Zealand to prove me PADS even runs with Linux! Kevin runs his version of the 1992 PADS demo software in an X-based DOS box. Read more in his letter to me, printed below.

The link he mentions is: http://rpm.pbone.net/index.php3/stat/4/idpl/3239224/com/dosbox-0.65-0.pm.1.i586.rpm.html . And the Linux DOSbox can be found here: http://dosbox.sourceforge.net.


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