PCB editor

I have to share: We switched from ORCAD Layout (discontinued) to Cadence PCB Editor. Let me tell you: stay the (*&^%$#@!!! from this thing if you can. If this tool is not ABSOLUTELY counterintuitive, then I do not know what is... I did layouts woth ORCAD Layout, PADS, PCAD, I forgot what else. It has never been painful...

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Cadence PCB, AKA Allegro, is one of the most powerful, but beastly, PCB editors out there. It has second-to-none netlisting and very powerful editing features.

You have to realize that it predates many of the modern PC computer conventions and forces you into an old-school workstation frame of mind. Allegro is OLD.

Back then there was no uniform guideline for how programs should work, and really, these old programs expose way too much of the boring comp- sci aspects to the user.

That being said, once you understand what these differences are, it's quite fun to work with. It offers the right balance of GUI and text input.

Want to create a batch file that checks the database integrity, generates all the gerbers and drill files and manufacturing drawings and files and zips them up? No problem, many of Allegro's functions are separate executables.

Create that script and add it as a "tool" in the "program manager". The program manager itself is a very basic HTML browser and you can change the graphics it displays and what happens when you click on it.

What version of Allegro? Things changed a lot from 15 to 16. What license do you have? Allegro is different in the low-end "studio" and the high end "performance" licenses.

What, specifically, is the problem?

Setup? Colors? Footprints? Shapes? Planes? Basic vias? Blind vias? Buried vias? Diff pairs? Constraint manager? Basic editing? What's all that junk on the screen?

Do you need to start from 0? Are you doing an ECO on an existing design? Do you need to export gerbers? Are you running in Win 7? Linux?

Are you working alone or in a group? Will you create a library of standard padstacks and footprints to be reused? You should. It takes a lot of time but it takes even longer if you're in the middle of a layout. And no, no one's made a universal standard library of parts. You're on your own. Fun, eh?

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Well, well, I really understand your frustration, because I was exactly in the same situation a couple of years ago. However, once you figure how it works, I'm sure you will really like it.

The main problem is in my opinion that it in fact is counterintuitive (one of the reasons is the single click mouse operation and different mode selection on the right mouse button - probably inherited from its unix origins). In principle being counterintuitive is not a big problem if there were a reasonable tutorial or useful documentation. There is of course tons of documentation, but that is written in the style "if you click on this icon, that will happen", no way to figure "how do I do ...?"

My solution to the problem was actual attending a short course offered by our local distributor. That helped and was really worth the money!

After that the first board was hard, but then I really started to like PCB Editor. It is a great software package. It's fun working with it and compared to Layout I do my layouts about twice as fast. Furthermore, I always considered making PCBs in Layout a burden, one had to go through

- now with PCB Editor I actually like the process - sometimes I even think it's fun!

Remember to convert all your Layout footprints into PCB Editor format if you want to avoid to make all new footprints. You need Layout's catalog function to do so, thus do it before you loose access to Layout. Never understood that PCB Editor comes with only a ridiculous amount of footprint. Cadence could have done the conversion and saved us an awful lot of time converting all those Layout libraries.

Regards, Klaus

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Klaus Bahner


You said: "compared to Layout I do my layouts about twice as fast". I do hope it's true, ... Quite a few years ago I needed to make a small adapter between two connectors, I did in Allegro (I was told that PCB Editor is very simplified version of it). I do not remember much of that "project"... I doubt I will forget how annoyed I am now... Maybe I am older by... "quite a few years" ;o) All (almost) libraries have been converted by other (younger and more patient) engineers...

Well, there was an opportunity to attend the course but no PCB design work at that time. I do not know if I can find/attend a course right now. It's normal: you have what you don't need and need what you don't have. I've spent whole week on this simple board and have nothing to show for it...

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This is true of many "engineering tools" -- often designed around the implementation instead of implemented around the *design*.

Try DASH-PCB. ;-)

[For the sarcasm-impaired: do NOT try DASH-PCB!]

WIth most of these tools, you have to look at them as "investments". Not just $$$ but *time*, as well. Rarely appropriate for a "one time use" but often a boon over the long haul...

Good luck!

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Don Y

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