Electronic – What are the best free schematic tools out there?


I'm sure there are plenty of schematic tools available. Which ones do you use/prefer?

Feel free to also list tools which aren't completely free but very popular.

Best Answer

I use gEDA/PCB. The file formats are open and ASCII. The open file formats make a wide variety of EDA automation tasks possible. The ASCII format makes them easy.

I have switched from Eagle to gEDA/PCB. I have found gEDA to be a more productive tool. The schematic capture is better but the PCB layout seems more difficult. The scriptability is what has made the difference. There are also tools for simulation.

Be careful of choosing a free version of an EDA tool that is crippled or a tool that locks you in to a specific PCB vendor. There is a learning curve associated with any EDA tool or other complex piece of software. It will be very time consuming to switch tools.

The footprint library that I use is available at http://www.luciani.org Also I have a variety of EDA automation scripts on my site.

As an example of gEDA/PCB I did a remix of the Drawdio circuit design that ladyada did (CC 3.0 BY-SA). The remix includes the EDA files and documentation. All of the files are at http://wiblocks.luciani.org/remix/index.html

A couple of additions --

XCircuit http://opencircuitdesign.com/xcircuit is an open source package that produces some very nice looking schematics. The most extensive example would be the open textbook at http://www.ibiblio.org/kuphaldt/electricCircuits

If you use La/TeX you can create inline schematics using macros. This could be useful for very simple schematics but I can see this getting very cumbersome very quickly.