Which Altium PCB Design Software is Right For You?

April 6, 2017 Lawrence Romine

PCB design software products by Altium

 

Confused as to which Altium professional PCB design product is right for you? Are you a maker just looking to dip a toe with CircuitMaker? Are you a professional PCB designer just starting out or are you a full blown PCB design maestro who needs all the flexible horsepower that Altium Designer offers? Find out what Altium software is right for you.

Our CMO, Ted Pawela, recently did a live interview with the folks over at Adafruit. One of the questions that came from the live-via-internet audience was:

 

“It’s no secret that Autodesk Eagle® recently moved to a subscription-only model and that Altium has been running replacement discount promotions. Why do you think Eagle users should take a look at Altium products?”

 

It got me thinking that perhaps we haven’t done a good job in clearly stating what our motivations are for our professional PCB design offerings here at Altium.

 

 

Firstly, let me say that the license model change from Autodesk has had no real impact on our strategy for CircuitStudio. Although we did see a spike in interest following that announcement and felt we’d make it easy for people looking to make the move. After all, it’s just good business sense. So, despite all the activity in the blogosphere, there’s really nothing to see here. However, I will say that this spike in interest does somewhat validate our aspirations with CircuitStudio, and that is what I’ll try and explain here for everyone.

 

Lack of Options
 

If you look at the landscape of PCB design tools prior to the release of CircuitStudio, what you’ll find are some very glaring holes from the entry point of the market to the pinnacle of the market. For many years, Eagle, now from Autodesk, easily dominated the entry-level segment of the market. Moreover, once beefed up with ULPs (Scripts, effectively), Eagle was/is extremely capable and certainly affordable with free options topping out near ~$1600, although, my understanding is that most were spending ~$900.

 

So, keeping that price point of $900 in mind, there really weren’t any truly professional PCB design tools with a professional workflow, a wide adoption, and a knowledgeable pool of users until you were prepared to spend >$6,000 on something from Cadence, Mentor Graphics, or Altium.

 

So, let’s say you started your emerging Service Bureau or product design company on Eagle, which was a great choice given its value, and all of your hopes and dreams came true. You’ve added some employees, taken on some name brand clients and achieved adoption of your products in the market space and you’re ready to move to the next rung on the growth ladder. In order to effectively do that, you are now required to make a new investment, but worse, completely revamp your workflow, learn a new user environment, port over all of your library information, etc.

 

This jump proved to be too great for many users and they just stayed where they were with Eagle. They had their collection of ULPs, they knew the warts and had developed workarounds, and they had people that knew how to work within its limitations.

 

We saw a real opportunity here to fill this void with products like CircuitMaker and CircuitStudio. With CircuitMaker, we offer people the opportunity to access a free product. Yes, cloud storage only, but the premise is and always was to offer a professional level design tool focused on the open hardware market with collaboration and sharing in mind.

 

Professional PCB Design software that Altium offers, logos

Today, we have over 130K users collaborating within the CircuitMaker community.

 

One excellent example of this sharing philosophy is the library system. When you create a library component, that component becomes part of the community instantaneously. We are now at the point where most users don’t need to make too many components because someone else has already done it! Of course, this is likely not conducive to a designer making a living doing design work. For that, we offer CircuitStudio.

 

An Entry Point Into Professional Design Tools

Priced at only $995 - with a current $495 promotion based on the Autodesk announcement - you can enter the world of professional PCB design with a product based on the now famous Altium Designer workflow and Unified Design Paradigm. CircuitStudio also offers its users a more streamlined user interface based on the standard ribbon principle.

 

What I like to say is that it allows you to design with a new narrative that does not require you to struggle with making it work using ULP scripts and such. Instead, you can focus on your design with access to all the same professional interactive routing, unified libraries, and batch documentation outputs that have made Altium Designer the fastest growing PCB design tool on the market. There’s a reason why a new Altium Designer license is activated every hour, every day.

 

Designers now have a truly professional option at a very affordable price point.

 

The fact that it’s a perpetual asset that doesn’t require an internet connection are just bonuses for us in light of the Autodesk announcement. Finally, once you reach that proverbial fork in the road of your growth, moving up into Altium Designer - and ultimately into our soon to be announced product (which is targeted at the agile enterprise) - is a completely seamless, natural, and pain-free transition.

 

I certainly hope that this sheds a bit of light on the subject and answers some questions that were likely long overdue for an explanation. Here's some additional Licensing information for PCB designers. 
 

Want to See the Full Interview?

If you’d like to see the full interview, you can access that here on Adafruit.

About the Author

Lawrence Romine

EDA industry thought-leader and veteran expert at Altium, Lawrence is a firm believer that unified solutions are not just nice, but essential.

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