PCB Design Software: Choosing A Unified Platform for PCB Design Priority

Created: July 20, 2018
Updated: May 8, 2020

Intelligent PCB design environments show necessary details

Having the right tool for complicated and intricate tasks facilitates success. Having the wrong tool invites frustration. Rummaging through my tool chest the other day found me selecting the only tool available. Hours into the job with each step a struggle, I considered my hasty choice. It would have been better to spend a little money and order the superior tool.

Spending the money for a superior EDA tool facilitates progressive and intelligent PCB design. With outdated tools, floorplanning and routing become a frustrating exercise in mundane details. User interfaces and help menus point to commands that include slogging through pages of meta-tasks. Getting back to the start for completion of the task is nearly impossible.

Having intuitive and unified instantiations removes the need for simplistic activity paving the way for actual design work. Focus is kept on PCB design with intuitive tools at your fingertips. 

Thoughtless User Interface is Illogical for PCB Design

Moving through the archaic tool while designing the floorplan quickly leads to investigations for commands. Each command performs illogically and leads to help menus. Arriving at the help menu finds a blank screen. Meticulously reading through each pulldown and its associated path teaches unwanted patience until finally searching the tutorials. 

The tutorials come up blank and more time is sunk into searching the web for chat rooms. Slogging through the links and into several chat rooms results in varying levels of help. Jumping back and forth from the links to the tool builds more patience while inadequate solutions are discovered. 

The solutions for text showing up underneath pins finds painstaking manual replacement required. Moving into routing the nets fail to identify themselves and more time is sunk looking for menus displaying net names. More navigation is required to get to the precise place where the radio button exists to enable visualization on the layout. Patience is built while time slips away.

Pads display net names for ease of routing

Altium  displays net names on pads while you route

Inordinate Amounts of Time Spent Doing Routine Tasks

Accepting increased time needed to navigate an archaic tool leaves the project at risk. Time is required to study each command and its resultant action to determine its use in realizing the design. Reading through EDA vendor help pages and trying menus slows design work leading focus away from specific nets. Forgetting critical nets and the properties required for the design is worrisome so careful notes are taken alongside readings. Designing takes a back seat to learning on the fly.

Components built in the schematic library fail to port with their footprints. Once footprints are recreated, text identifying the pin names is located in the wrong place. Each action to move the text requires several clicks. More time is sunk identifying nets and eyes become strained while text remains in the wrong location.

Altium names pads and vias with net names for elegant routing

Use a tool that names your pads

Looking for shortcuts and hotkeys to move footprints and text results in more frustrating command structures. None are expected leaving autonomous notetaking the only solution. Files are strewn everywhere and making a project directory becomes complicated.

Intelligent Environment Supports PCB Design

A better EDA tool would anticipate and provide intuitive commands along with integrated environments. Menus and commands would be available where you look while you are designing. Your focus would remain on the PCB design activity rather than menu and command structure.  Shortcuts and hotkeys would be easily found and learned easing design process.

Libraries would be integrated across the schematic and PCB layout so component symbols are consistent. Trust in your component library would keep the design process moving. Pin names would place correctly into the layout and be visible for interaction while routing. During routing net names would move with the mouse to meet at the component pin name.

The project directory would be elegant and easily accessed while designing. Schematic and output documents in addition to integrated libraries would all be visible and available with one click from the directory tree. Tutorials would be accessible from the command with one hit to F1.

Hit F1 to automatically navigate to command tutorials

Altium sends the user to clear instructional steps for using commands and hotkeys

Altium’s PCB Design Interface Performs With Intuitive Menus

Altium Designer 18 is an evolved intuitive tool built into a unified environment. The developers have anticipated every move you want to make while designing your PCB. It’s user-friendly. 

Open a free trial of Altium Designer 18 and take a look at the project tree. It holds your schematic, your layout, and your output documents in one unified environment. Having easy access to the schematic is paramount to getting your PCB designed correctly every time.

The libraries are integrated making the same component model accessible for important PCB design layout. And you can see them in your project tree available to open with one click. All the windows open into the same project allowing cross-probe within the same environment. Imagine designing with tools that set up your environment for you, giving you easy tools to customize while you design.

The layout displays pin names on the pads that map to net names for easy routing while in the midst of designing. Searching for a hotkey happens by hitting F1 while in the command. Every little thing you need is at your fingertips.

Put your dollars to work removing the frustration from using an archaic tool and spend time talking to an Altium expert today.

Start the journey to switch over to Altium Designer today.

“We used Mentor Graphics PADS as our main EDA tool. I personally used it for over 10 years. I don't know why I had not switched to Altium sooner. It has everything we need and want in one package/version. All the tools built right into Altium for part sourcing and management where much needed. We are looking forward to using Altium throughout our enterprise.”

Alex Monge, Manager,
Electrical Engineering at Gibson Brands

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