Before implementing a circuit, a graphical representation brings benefit but also disadvantages for developers. As a positive aspect, graphical representation of electronic circuits creates an overview of the components used and how they are connected. Such representation is also a great way to draw attention on details that require changes which would increase the cost of production and the time required to create a physical circuit prototype.
The negative side, circuit sensitivity can influence the outcome of the work, for example external noise cannot be fully known or taken into account when creating wiring schematics and this can lead to errors or results not fully predictable in the physical implementation of the circuit however there are several software tools that do offer pretty accurate simulation features. In this article you can find an overview of CAD software tools designed for creating and modifying electrical schematics, circuit diagrams as well as designing production-ready PCB modules.
Fritzing is an open source hardware initiative that and can be used for educational, industrial or research purposes which was started at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, Germany. The software allows you to document your existing Arduino wiring diagram or montage in a virtual environment and edit it or even create a new one from scratch, thanks to libraries of already made elements. The software can be downloaded for free and is available for PC, Windows and Mac.
Fritzing is a very user-friendly community driven platform where collaborative design is encouraged. You can also order custom PCBs fabricated based on your very own electronic designs.
EasyEDA is a free web based circuit design and simulation tool developed by a team of engineers from Shenzen, China. There are certain unique features not usually found in web apps such as the SPICE simulator, a pretty refined work environment, the ability to import Kicad or Eagle files and to export the Gerber and drill fabrication files. Extensive component and model libraries are available, and users can also access models from Adafruit, Seeedstudio or Sparkfun to name just a few.
Upverter is a web based EDA tool for designing circuits and PCBs online, created by three graduates of the University of Waterloo, Canada. Subscription fees start at US $99 per month for a basic membership for one editor, while a full featured package including simulation, API and scripting capabilities will cost about US $999 per month. Enterprise packages and free trials are available.
4. EAGLE PCB Software
Created by CadSoft, EAGLE (Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor) is a CAD platform with several modules including an editor for circuit drawing. It is compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac. The features of the tool include a list with 999 sheets per schematic, components are added by drag&drop method or automatic board generation. It is an user-friendly software and has a simple interface that provides everything you need to draw the most complex circuit diagram. Pricing starts at 140 EUR, about US $155 for a single-user hobby license.
EDWinXP Is an EDA software which includes modules for drawing, simulation and testing of electronic circuits and sports a friendly interface that creates a 3D visual environment for your project. It has a 14 day free trial period and prices starting at US $440 for a basic non-commercial license.
6. NI Multisim
National Instruments’ Multisim is a professional product developed by National Instruments suited for educational or industrial purposes and offers support for a detailed analysis of the design and its performance.
7. Circuit Diagram
Circuit Diagram is a free software for Windows which allows you to exactly what its name implies — drawing circuit diagrams. Some of the components available are microcontroller, demultiplexer and inductor, however custom components can be added. Designs can be easily shared and edited with the community.
8. KiCad EDA
KiCad EDA is an open source CAD software suite for drawing electrical circuits, well suited for educational and industrial purposes. It’s compatible with Windows, Linux and Apple OS X.
9. PowerVue Circuit Analyzer
Created by Megasys Software, PowerVue is a tool that allows you not only to draw wiring diagrams but also calculate current flows and voltage drops across them. The specifications list is huge, the software can be used to evaluate the circuit during connection or disconnection of certain components, effectively allowing you to perform debugging only on several sections or on the circuit as a whole.
It is a powerful electrical engineering software geared towards professional use which is available either as free software with limited functionality — although sufficient for most small to medium sized projects, or as a full paid version with a price tag of US $49.
DipTrace is a very powerful tool used for drawing, simulation and test verification of circuits. It can also provide accurate 3D renderings of the project. Files can be imported and exported to other EDA tools. The software is free for non-profit use for Windows, Linux and Mac, with professional licenses priced between US $75 and US $895 depending on features.
The ExpressPCB is a free CAD software suite for Windows comprised of ExpressSCH – the circuit design module, and ExpressPCB – for designing the actual PCB. It comes with a familiar interface that can be used to develop prototypes in a short time and with minimal effort. The components can be chosen from a long list and if the sketch has large dimensions, it can be divided into various sheets. Next step, after the sketch is finished, is to send to the ExpressPCB tool which allows you to create a PCB design based on your schematic, which can also be exported for fabrication. Manufacturing services are also available, starting with US $51.
5Spice is a tool designed to be used in projects with moderate complexity and does not require a long list of components. An interesting part of the software is the simulation module that can respond to problems such as noise on components or AC and DC sensitivity analysis. The software is available for Windows and may be freely used for non commercial purposes or licensed for US $319 for a single copy.
gEDA is a mature CAD tool and offers a suite of components used for electrical circuit design, schematic capture, simulation, prototyping and production. It can be used for free and is available for Linux and Mac OS X. An experimental version is also available for Windows.
14. B2.Spice A/D
With a redesigned interface to place resources at a click away, B2.Spice A/D can simulate function and display the results of the electronic circuit. Can also be used for testing and over 25 000 digital and analog parts are included in its library. The software is available for Windows and can be bought for US $595 for a single user license. A monthly subscription plan is also available for students from US $10 per month.
With SimOne you can develop, simulate and test printable circuits in a short time and with high precision. Component libraries are available as well as a graph viewer for displaying simulation results. Simulation speed is claimed to be 10 times faster than other similar products, thanks to advanced numeric algorithms employed in calculations.
16. AmpereSoft ProPlan
Available in German and English, ProPlan is a professional product that provides a range of features to create complex circuit diagrams. It allows exporting or importing files to various PLC software and will only work with Windows OS versions and trials can be requested.
FreePCB is an open-source software which can be used by beginners and experienced users alike, who are trying to develop complex projects.
8 Comments Add New Comment
Hey Dan — Would you mind editing the blog to include Upverter?
Upverter is a browser based PCB Design tool that helps HW engineers build products from any OS.
It’s entirely free for Open Source projects, and there’s a pricing plan for private, large scale, commercial designs. You could find out more at http://www.upverter.com
Thanks a bunch!
Hey Dan, another potential inclusion is MeowCAD (https://meowcad.com). MeowCAD is a free and open source online electronics design tool that runs in your browser.
Disclaimer: I developed MeowCAD.
Also, why does Upverter show up as #4 in position #2 and when there’s already a #4 slot?
Thanks for pointing that out to me, I will correct the mistake soon.
Also consider easyeda.com. Full circuit drawing, spice sim and board manufacturing chain. Highly recommended.
It would be good to see EasyEDA.com added to this list. It ‘s one such a tool based on the cloud platform which facilitates schematic drawing, spice simulation and PCB layout.
There is also this one http://www.circuito.io
Only a crazy person would call Eagle “easy”. It’s got one of the most insane user interfaces I have ever encountered (and as a UX professional, I’ve seen lots).
there was also one i’m forgetting the link to, but you could draw the circuits in ms paint save them and run them in the software