Best Free PCB Design Software
There are many PCB design software solutions available. The software you use should have the capability to draw both schematics and printed circuit boards.
Here I will list the three best cross-platform programs that are available for free and works with Linux, Windows and Mac OS.
I have copied their own description of themselves from each of their websites so that you can get an idea of what they are about (or at least how they like to present themselves).
From the Cadsoft Eagle website:
“The name EAGLE is an acronym, which stands for Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor. This award winning software offers user friendly, powerful and affordable solutions for PCB design, including Schematic Capture, Board Layout and Autorouter. User Language Programs enable features such as simulation and 3D-visualization.
Whether you are a team of one, or part of a large engineering department, EAGLE provides quality PCB design software with the features that get the job done. For over 20 years, EAGLE has been satisfying design engineers around the world, by offering the same core functionality as expensive commercial software, at the fraction of the cost.”
From the KiCad website:
“KiCad is an open source software suite for electronic design automation (EDA) made for designing schematics of electronic circuits and printed circuit boards (PCB). KiCad is developed by the KiCad Developers Team, and features an integrated environment with schematic capture, bill of materials list, PCB layout and much more.
Compared to the other free software alternatives, KiCad solves all stages with the same interface: Schematic Capture, PCB layout, Gerber generation/visualization and library editing.
KiCad is cross-platform, written with WxWidgets and runs on FreeBSD, Linux, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. A lot of component libraries are available. Also migrating tools for components are available (from other EDA software tools). File formats are plain text and well documented, which is good for CVS or Subversion and to make automated component generation scripts.”
From the gEDA website:
“The gEDA project has produced and continues working on a full GPL’d suite and toolkit of Electronic Design Automation tools. These tools are used for electrical circuit design, schematic capture, simulation, prototyping, and production. Currently, the gEDA project offers a mature suite of free software applications for electronics design, including schematic capture, attribute management, bill of materials (BOM) generation, netlisting into over 20 netlist formats, analog and digital simulation, and printed circuit board (PCB) layout.
The gEDA project was started because of the lack of free EDA tools for POSIX systems with the primary purpose of advancing the state of free hardware or open source hardware. The suite is mainly being developed on the GNU/Linux platform with some development effort going into making sure the tools run on other platforms as well.”
My preference: Eagle
My preferred PCB design software is Eagle. I use it because they have a free version, but it is also possible to pay if you need a more powerful version with support for professional products.
There is so much information about Eagle on the web, so it is absolutely the easiest software to find answers for if you have any problems. Many open hardware providers offer their Eagle design for download and there are tons of component libraries out there available for free.
I have to admit that Eagle is not perfect. The User Interface is not the best I have seen in a PCB design software, but you’ll get use to it pretty fast.
A few articles on Eagle: