Top 10 printed circuit design software programs


There are numerous software packages available, both free and paid, for designing printed circuit boards, from prototyping to manufacturing. How to pick between freeware for do-it-yourself enthusiasts and complicated software suites that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

We have compiled a list of the top ten finest electronics CAD software products based on Proto-Electronics client preferences.

1. Eagle

EAGLE is a PCB design software designed in 1988 by Rudolf Hofer and Klaus-Peter Schmidiger of the German CadSoft Computer GmbH. Farnell purchased the company in 2009, and Autodesk, a world-class software heavyweight with over 2 billion euros in revenue, acquired it in 2016. EAGLE is an acronym that stands for Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor.

Autodesk EAGLE:

The software is available in 3 versions:

  • EAGLE Free is a limited trial edition for DIY enthusiasts.
  • EAGLE requirement: 99 diagram sheets, 4 signal layers, and a printed circuit area of 160 cm2
  • EAGLE Premium is a professional edition that includes 999 schematic pages, 16 signal layers, and an unlimited printed circuit space.

Specifications and features

  • Editor of diagrams (connected to the library, electric rules, generation of an interconnection list)
  • Changes between the diagram and the PCB are annotated.
  • Hierarchy diagram
  • Diagram of layout with advanced features
  • EAGLE has the advantage of being a PCB design software powerhouse. It has a large community that posts tutorials online at an affordable price of $500 per year. It also includes a large component library and can operate on either Mac OS X or Linux.

However, John Teel, an electronics design specialist on the blog, believes that the EAGLE graphic interface is both sophisticated and difficult to use.

  1. Altium

Altium was founded in Australia in 1985 as Protel Systems and changed its name to Altium in 2001. It is currently the top in PCB modelling creation software in the United States. The company adds 6000 new customers each year and plans to generate over $200 million by 2020.

Altium Designer

For 15 days, you can download a full free trial version of Altium, including virtual workshops, from the Altium website.

Features and specifications

  • Diagrams, layout routing, documentation, and simulation are all part of the design environment.
  • Design for Manufacturing (DFM) ensures that your PCB designs are practical, dependable, and simple to manufacture.
  • Data movement made simple by strong conversion tools
  • Flex-rigid 3D design
  • Printed circuit board design
  • Design of a diagram
  • Output of the production file
  • The Altium software suite, with a licence starting at $7000, is ideal for electronics experts working for large industrial organisations or in the Internet of Things. It is also widely used by universities and prestigious schools. On the downside, it necessitates a lengthy learning period, which will turn off DIY PCB enthusiasts.
  • According to the specifications on their website, Altium Design only operates on Windows.

3. Proteus

The Proteus electronic CAD system was created by Labcenter Electronics Ltd., a firm founded in the United Kingdom in 1988 by John Jameson. Proteus is widely used and sold in over 50 countries.

Features and specifications

There are two primary software programmes in this suite:

  • ISI Proteus: diagram generation and electric simulation
  • Proteus ARES is a printed circuit routing solution with automatic component placement.

Other available Proteus modules

Proteus VSM

  • Full built-in workflow
  • Diagram design
  • Simulation
  • Measurement and analysis
  • Bug correction
  • Troubleshooting

Proteus PCB design software

  • PCB design with up to 16 layers of copper
  • 14 million components in the library
  • Interactive manual routing

Proteus Visual Designer

It provides a full solution for editing flow diagrams and a hardware gallery for a built-in Arduino and Raspberry Pi development environment when combined with Proteus VSM.

4. KiCad

KiCad is a free and open source printed circuit board design software suite. Jean-Pierre Charras of the Grenoble IUT in France invented it in 1992. For electronics engineers, this design programme provides diagram management, PCB routing, and 3D modelling capabilities.

Features and specifications

  • Kicad: project manager
  • Eeschema: electric diagram editor
  • Pcbnew: printed circuit editor
  • Cvpcb: utility to select the physical imprints of components used on the diagram
  • Gerbview: Gerber file viewer
  • Pcbcalculator: design aid tool to calculate resistance values, track widths, etc.

5. Cadence OrCAD PCB Designer

Cadence Design Systems, formed in 1988 by the combination of SDA Systems and ECAD, is the market leader in electronics CAD software. It is a NASDAQ-listed firm based in San José, California, with a revenue of over $2 billion.

Cadence’s products include Allegro PCB Designer and OrCAD.

Features and specifications 

Diagrams, layout and routing

  • Interactive, real time routing with built-in constraints
  • Automatic shape creation and update
  • Automatic BGA assistance

PSpice simulation and analysis

  • Performance and reliability improvement while optimising costs
  • Automatic circuit validation
  • Electronic circuit mechanical and electric simulation

OrCAD diagrams

  • Symbol editor
  • Built-in electronic component search
  • Built-in design constraints

6. DesignSpark

DesignSpark is an electronic CAD software application created by the collaboration of the world’s top component reseller RS Components and the software company Number One Systems.

Features and specifications

  • Diagram entry
  • Routing and automatic component positioning
  • Project interface to organise design files
  • 3D viewer
  • Gerber and Excellon drilling file generation

7. Protel

Some users continue to utilise Protel, the previous version of Altium Designer. The reasons differ from one user to the next, and as previously said, software evaluations can be highly subjective:

  • Latest version too expensive?
  • Not enough new features to justify the upgrade?
  • Not user-friendly and not easy enough to use?
  • Difficulties encountered by some users to adapt to the new graphic interface?

8. Cadstar

Cadstar is another another design tool for simple to complicated multi-layer PCBs. Originally developed by Rascal-Redac, this programme was acquired by Zuken, a Japanese multinational that pioneered electronics CAD software and was formed in Yokohama in 1976.

Cadstar is a complete printed circuit board design environment that includes everything from initial design to final manufacture.

Features and specifications

  • Printed circuit topology and routing
  • Diagram capture
  • Mechanical integration for data transmission using STEP or ACIS
  • Analysis, measurement and checks (reliability, signal integrity)
  • Library management
  • Design review for project managers

9. Sprint-Layout

Abacom’s Sprint-Layout is an electronic prototype design programme. Sprint-Layout has become inevitable for electronics engineers due to its superb ergonomics and professional software-like capabilities, combined with a very affordable pricing.

Features and specifications

  • Automatic PCB routing on two sides
  • Extensive traditional and CMS component library
  • New component creation
  • Gerber and Excellon file generation
  • Anti-aliasing
  • Design-Rule-Check


PADS is yet another drawing software tool created by CADLOG, the European market leader in industrial electronics software. Filippo d’Agata, the chairman, is based in Italy, and the French offices are in Cannes.

Features and specifications

  • Diagram entry
  • Component libraries (ParQuest integration, Digikey integration)
  • Project rules
  • PCB topology (powerful, interactive routing, DFM and DFT checks, RF module)
  • Archive management






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