Missed Protel and P-CAD, sorry.
Protel [16-bit v2.8; v3; 98; 99; 99SE SP6] The multiple lives of Protel. The old 16-bit Advanced Schematic and PCB in their later 2.x existence were solid programs you could get a lot done with. It's a shame they're not available now, they were that good. They're still available on some Chinese EDA warez distrubution sites so if you Google hard enough, you can still ferret out a copy to compare to the modern packages. At v3 Protel switched to the integrated client/server scheme and things started to get buggy. v3, crap. 98, crap. 99, not crap but buggy. Protel 99 SE with SP6, very good with few bugs. This is a program that can handle most any everyday board. Highly recommended. The autorouter is capable and the tight coupling between schematic and layout should be a model for other vendors. The 30-day unlimited demo and the all-important Service Pack 6 are still widely available around the net (wink, hint, nudge, see below). When Protel moved to DXP (2002 release), the product fell on it's face. SP1 helped and SP2 makes it usable. The Situs autorouter was a disappointment. DXP
2004 introduced more problems. The current product is still DXP 2004 but it was renamed Altium Designer 6. The one thing to know about Altium is that they are *always*
adding more features before previous problems have been fixed. This is their big, big problem. Altium Designer 6 lets you flip the board and work on it from behind. Great, but how about they get the Situs autorouter to follow its rules correctly, *first*
! The hardware requirements of Designer 6 are absolutely ridiculous as is the multiple monitor recommendation. DXP/Designer 6 looks like a hot product but dig deep and you'll see that it comes up short, quickly. Explore the Protel Knowledge Base and see for yourself. The last time I was following their open support forum it sounded like many of the users wanted to sue. Leon, you've commented on the user revolts at the Altium forum more than once, haven't you? I'd really like DXP if it worked right. About Altium: I've personally handled contacts with Altium sales to purchase tens of thousands of dollars worth of licenses for their embedded compiler tool chains and can tell you they really didn't seem to care if they sold a license or not. I'd ask for a quote and it would take *days*
to get a response. Inevitably there would be an error on the quote, like if the license was to be node-locked or floating. It would take days and phone call reminders to get an ammended quote. People applying for welfare get treated better than that. I just didn't understand it. Then it would take another 7-10 days for the lady with the fricking license generator to send me the license files after they confirmed payment had cleared! This was in '02.
P-CAD I don't have much experience with this other than evaluation so I can't say anything other than it is a serious tool targeted toward layout people. I'd like to hear from P-CAD users.
Comments have been made comparing the Electra autorouter to Specctra. Electra is a decent router for the money but please, it can't compare to Specctra at any level. It's like comparing a Cessna 170 to a flying saucer. If Electra did better then Specctra on "moderately complex" designs, then someone does not know how to control Specctra. Pushing the "Go" button is not autorouting. It takes a considerable amount of time and knowledge to set a design up for effective autorouting with Specctra but it always pays off. This company sells Specctra training videos. They want $995 USD for the beginner course and another $995 USD for the advanced course. Probably worth every penny.
As a reply to the comments about Proteus, come on, it's
. In the layout (ARES) manual, instructions are given for individuals how to output CAM data to a printer with drill-holes shown so they can be used as manual drilling targets for people who etch their own boards at home. ARES and ISIS were started well but appear to be several years behind other products *except*
for their terrific microcontroller simulation. It's not simply an instruction set simulator, the full microcontroller is modeled along with the A/D SPICE in real time. If you're building a microcontroller widget, this is the platform to develop the firmware on before real hardware exists. I know I'm really bad for saying this but the default color scheme for the schematic capture section of the product has that "circus came to town" look. I load a color template carefully prepared to match Protel 99SE colors (used a color-picker utility) so it looks presentable.
OrCAD Capture is simply the best in it's class. It looks great and works great. OrCAD Layout is not the best but OK and is tightly integrated with Specctra, king of autorouters. There is also a very good public support forum at the Cadence website with some very helpful Elmers. Compare that to the Cadence website where everything related to support is under lock and key with a password unless you have a support contract. I'm I right there or will just a license do to get an access password? Yes, development has slowed and now should be called maintenance. v9.2.3 was where it came of age as long as all the updates are applied. I don't see anything to write home about in v10 and I haven't tried v10.5 yet.
Sorry Leon, I shouldn't have stepped on your tail like that. While researching Pulsonix last year I read just about every word you've written on the net and know you're on the up and up.
I rated Electronics Workbench v9, the Frankenstein of EDA packages, above Proteus and Eagle because EW is solidly in the professional class. MultiSim has been bloated until it functions as a Capture package and UltiBoard & UltiRoute have been bolted on and made to integrate with MultiSim. It's crappy but it works and the feature set puts it above hobbyist-grade. I don't like it there but it has to be. I'd pick Proteus over EW to use for normal PTH designs if I had my choice but overall, EW ranks higher on my scale. Sorry.
Mentor Graphics Expedition I've never seen or studied this but a buddy has been promising for 6 months to give me a copy. It is supposedly the Holy Grail of PCB systems. Exceedingly difficult to learn but all powerful and all knowing. I'd love to hear comments from current users.
Another product I haven't used is Zuken Cadstar. I trialed it at v6 for a couple of hours and wasn't impressed but I hear it is in the PADS class or higher, now.
No-Brainers If a teen hobbyist came to me and wanted to learn PCB design, I'd steer them toward Eagle (free version.) If an Engineering intern wanted the same thing I'd start them with Protel 99 SE SP6 (free, unlimited 30-day trial). Anyone else has to decide for themselves.
Protel 99 SE SP6