What is the best free or cheap electronics design software? It is hard to say in this ever changing field. I some time ago mentioned some software examples in Top Free Electronics Design Tools posting and you can find a long comparison list at Wikipedia Comparison of EDA software page.
For the circuit design I would say that this list from Mostly free engineering software article is a good list of free/cheap software I can agree:
- KiCad seems the best known open-source EDA system.
- gEDA looks very similar.
- EAGLE is a commercial package with a free version that will handle small double-sided boards.
- DesignSpark PCB is not open-source, but looks very capable given the cost ($0). It is adware
From has done some playing with KiCad and gEDA (years ago) but I felt that they were lacking something in easy to use (some improvement needed here I think). From those alternatives EAGLE feels the best for me.
Here are also some new on-line focused alternatives:
HackEDA is an interesting looking new on-line electronics design tool introduced last year. The premise is simple: most electronic projects are just electronic Lego: You connect your to a sensor, add in a battery, throw in a few caps and resistors for good measure, and hopefully everything will work.
circuits.io was promising looking free circuit editor in your browser introduced two years ago. I has browser based schematic and board layout. Anyone familiar with Autodesk knows they have a bit of a habit of taking over the world. Autodesk started with 123D modeling tool that is suitable for designing models for 3D printing. Now Autodesk has followed with 123D Circuits: Autodesk’s free design tool. 123D is web-based software, and using it requires account creation on the circuits.io website. Anything you design sits on the cloud: you can collaborate with others and even embed your circuit (with functioning simulation). All your work is public unless you pay. There are many things similar to Fritzing in this.
CircuitMaker from Altium posting that tells that Altium recently announced CircuitMaker, their entry into the free/low-cost PCB design tool market. They’re entering a big industry, with the likes of Eagle, KiCad, gEDA, and a host of other tool suites. CircuitMaker from Altium posting has introductory video on CircuitMaker and discussion on it. CircuitMaker’s website is pushing the collaboration aspect of the software. The software is still in pre-beta phase.
Related links: Check my postings on electronics design software.