Altium Protel?

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Hello All,

My company currently uses Altium's PCAD 2004 and are considering
switching to Altium Protel 2004.

For the people using Protel, how do you like it?

Are there any "quirks" that I should know about using Protel?

In general I've heard good things about Protel. There will be some
growing pains, but switching to any other CAD would have similar



Re: Altium Protel?

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Most of the complaints you will hear from Protel users will be directed at
Altium's business policies - focusing on attracting new users with feature
bloat rather than fixing long standing bugs, indifference to existing
customers' needs etc. - but since you are already an Altium customer this
shouldn't shock you.

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Re: Altium Protel?

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And how is that different than PCAD 2004?


Re: Altium Protel?
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We use the Altium DXP (which is the latest version of the Protel
software) schematic package at work. It is the worst schematic package
I have ever used. It is buggy and has a lousy user interface. I have
used many schematic packages over that past years and I am constantly
amazed at how Altium can make the simplest things so complicated.

 - Simple features like dragging sections of schematic never works
properly. It insists on adding connections between wires that weren't
there before.

- Clicking on Undo after a drag and drop causes the program to crash

- The Help files are useless. It has never had any help information on
anything I have tried to look up.

- There is no easy way to specify that you want to have seperate ground
planes that connect a single point.

- The print function is hopelessly complicated (There are 3 different
Print Menu fuctions and settings from one conflict with settings from

The list of problems goes on and on....

I think that DXP is an overpriced, underperforming piece of software. I
think that the programmers who wrote it should be sentenced to a year
of doing 'real' designs with it for an electrical engineer and then see
how they like it.

Other than that, I think it sucks.

Re: Altium Protel?

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Well don't sugarcoat it. Tell us how you *really* feel ;)

I agree with all of the points you raise, but what is the alternative?


Re: Altium Protel?

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I also agree with what you say. The programmers at Altium seem to play
with different programming paradigms. It is extremely clear that the
people who write the software has never used the program to do
a real world design. They seem to have spent an amazing amount of
time adding all sort of functionality that nobody uses. Who uses
Protel DXP for EPLD/FPGA design ? I think the first company that
comes up with a viable alternative, and goes back to the core business
of writing usable software for designing of schematics and laying out
of PCBs, will have many takers.

  Anton Erasmus

Re: Altium Protel?
Have a look at Pulsonix:

Features like those you mention that Protel has problems with work
properly in Pulsonix, and bugs get fixed very quickly. It imports
Protel designs. It's also cheaper than Protel.


Re: Altium Protel?
On 30 Aug 2005 07:52:25 -0700, in comp.arch.embedded "Eric"

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I'm still with 9 year old Accel Tango, which is still adequate for me.
Altium used to send the occasional demo CD last being  2004, which
wouldnt run on one computer.

Don't they do a demo CD of Protel?

The thing I would worry about is changing all my libraries,
footprints and the facility to import designs from the previous CAD


Re: Altium Protel?
On Thu, 01 Sep 2005 20:32:21 +0200, martin griffith

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The older Protel Packages could import files from Tango. This
functionality has been thrown out since Protel 98. The router
of Protel DXP is still not on par with an old version of Specctra
Router, that I am still using. There was a period about 10 years
ago, where the new versions of the PCB cad packages made
greate improvements on the previous versions. The last 5 years,
they seem to have been going backwards. The packages need
much faster machines, but in actual functionality nothing has been

  Anton Erasmus

Re: Altium Protel?
Thanks all for your comments and opinions.

So nobody has anything good to say about Protel?

We have a corporate mandate to have all engineering divisions on the
same CAD package and Protel is the prefered choice at the moment.

The FPGA editor looks interesting, but I'm not sure if I want to trade
my good old ISE GUI.

Thanks again,

Re: Altium Protel?
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  That made some sense in the past, but these days moving between
CAD systems is getting easier.

  You could show them the info at


Re: Altium Protel?
Been using Tango/PCAD for over a dozen years.

Tried Protel, but, it's more of an engineering package. I need a Sch/PCB
design package that does just that... and does it well.

I've ported Tango to PCAD-2002 with absolutely no issues. PCAD is a solid
package and I like the capability of generating multi-page official mfg
doc's is possible.

The only update I'd like is a better autorouter.

I wonder if the new 2004 'topological' router is any better than the 2002
'shape based' router.

I'm sure there's better CAD out there, but, not at the $2K -to- $3K
upgrade prices I paid I believe twice in my life.

Re: Altium Protel?
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I am very interested in this topic as well. We have been using Tango
PCB (for DOS) for the last 10 to 15 years in conjunction with Orcad
Capture (Schematic) 9.1, and we want to move to something more modern
but everything I have tried sucks in comparison. We cant get tango to
run properly on our new PCs (even when win98 is installed the fonts are
all garbage). I am going to try the virtual PC software from VMware and
Microsoft to see if I can squeeze another few years out of our old
tango keys.

I am planning on sticking with Orcad since I don't have too many
complaints with it and I know how to keep it from crashing now (save
your work when you do a lot of cut and paste).

I have been leaning towards PCAD since it seems to be very popular.  I
would like to hear other people's input on PCAD since I have not seen
it in action yet.

I have been wanting to write my own PCB program for the last 10 years,
but there are too many other activities that seem to be more profitable
and less boring.


Re: Altium Protel?
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I went from Tango to PCAD many years ago and I'm
reasonably happy.  The good things about PCAD
are that it is as solid as any cad program I've
run and it does not "eat" your work.  There are
tons of documentation options and the user interface
is pretty good.

My major gripe is the shape-based autorouter.
We started using it in PCAD2000.  It had promise
but the interface between it and the layout program
was crufty.  Promises of a Spectra-class router
never happened.  PCAD seemed not to have any motivation
to fix the router and we dropped off support a
couple of years ago, tiring of their promises.

Another place where I felt burned was following
the dotcom bust.  Best I can remember, PCAD
about doubled their support costs, presumably
to make up revenue from fewer seats sold.

Re: Altium Protel?
Hi, says...

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I have used Protel starting with 98 up through DXP2004 SP2.  I am not a
huge fan of it, but I can get simple things done since I know my way
around it.  I agree with all the other comments about DXP being bloated,
overblown and buggy.  If they would have just fixed the bugs in 99SE,
then I would have been happy.

I also recently used PCAD2002 to complete a reasonably sized project and
I was *NOT* impressed.  4-layer board, 4x5 inches, solid power and GND

I think the schematic package is decent, but the layout, in my opinion
is terrible.

Among other issues:

- PCB library from PCAD is *wrong* sometimes.  QFP64s, for example, were
not labeled in the right order.

(Protel's library of footprints is actually quite decent).

- Creating schematic and layout symbols ia royal pain.  There is no
"wizard" (that I found) that lets you create a footprint off a common
type (i.e. can't create a new QFP128 using a QFP template).

(Protel does have such a wizard and it's very fast to create footprints
if they're based off anything standard, like a DIP or QFP).

- PCAD's layout tool lets you violate the Design-Rules you set (i.e.
trace to trace width) as you are doing layout, and it will only real-
time show if you go out of you way to set some options.  Even when the
real-time DRC is enabled, it shows a violation AFTER you make the
mistake.  Effectively, PCAD makes you keep track of your rules, all the

- PCAD's final DRC check will often mistake one problem for another, so
you get a crytpic error message which is invalid.  A lot like what a
compiler might do if you leave of a semicolon on line 5, it complains
about some syntax error on line 7.

- Integrating mechanical information (i.e. cut-outs in the PCB I needed
to make given an Autocad file from the MechE) was a royal pain.  I ended
up doing things very manually (printing pages and measuring things with
calipers) because it was tough to specify exact positioning.

+ I was impressed with the way PCAD lets you create a "selection mask",
so you can select components by various attributes (both in schematic
capture and layout).

I think the selection mask is needed however, given how PCAD works.

There were more minuses (and probably plusses), but I've tried to forget

For the record, I don't think that DXP does things "well", but those
core features that made their way from 99SE to DXP are still useful
(like the footprint wizard).  I think Jim was right in that PCAD IS
relatively solid, I didn't find it locking up on me very frequently.

But I couldn't honestly reccomend either package.  Maybe I'm spoiled by
much higher end tools...


Re: Altium Protel?
We were told by Altium that PCAD is still supported, but all future
development work has been on the Protel package.

So I'm not sure you want to switch from Tango to PCAD.


Re: Altium Protel?

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Try DOSbox on You can also try the
VESA 3 driver for nVidia cards from nVidia if you have a nVidia card.
AFAICR I got Tango for DOS going under Win98 by using this driver.

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I have looked into using PCAD, but it suffers from the same malady as
most of the old favourates. Companies buying each other up, and then
after getting rid of most of the old programmers, try and merge
multiple applications into one "CAD suite". My impression of the
current incarnation of PCAD is that it will be fine if you work with
it often . If you use it for a week or so every other month, it will
be a pain.

  Anton Erasmus

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