Recent information from a company pitched a new net-list editor at a cost of $5000, and that was a special introductory price. I have seen prices in the multi-thousand-dollar range for a variety of software-development, circuit-simulation, and circuit-design tools. That made me wonder where engineers can find low-cost yet capable tools for design work.
Of course companies offer free software as a way to sell products. Or at least they offer free versions of software that comes with time limits or code-size limits. Companies also offer simulation and design software that relates specifically to their products–SPICE simulators, PLL design software, filter-design tools, and so on.
Several companies that offer quick turnaround times for prototype printed circuits let developers download free software for board layout and routing. I have tried the PCB123 program from Sunstone Circuits, but found it limited in some ways. It lacks some components I like to use and I haven’t yet figured out how to autoroute a layout after I readjust component placements. Maybe the software can’t do it.
CadSoft Computer sells a Light edition ($US 49) of its Eagle schematic capture and autorouting tool that has a 2-layer and a PCB size restriction. (Noncommercial users can download a free version of the Light software.) But, going from the layout to PCB-production files has seemed painful.
Engineers routinely use free versions of SPICE to simulate circuit behavior and programmers use the free open-source GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) to write code. So, what other free or inexpensive (< $US 200) exist out there to help engineers? Add your suggestions, recommendations, and links in a comment below. If you sell such software, feel free to add it, but please don’t give a long-winded sales pitch.
Please don’t include hobby-level tools, calculators or unit converters, add-ons for CAD tools, “cripple-ware” versions of costly full-featured tools, or tools specific to a company’s products. –Jon Titus
p.s. Someone will say, “You get what you pay for,” which is true. And, large sophisticated design tools require time, talent, and loot to develop and support. But let’s face it, not everyone has a big budget to buy design software.