The Best PCB Layout & Design Software for Your Needs

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: November 9, 2020
The Best PCB Layout & Design Software for Your Needs

When designing circuit boards, there are some functions that your PCB (printed circuit board) design tools must excel at without exception. These include the basic functions of schematic design, schematic capture, placing parts, and routing traces. There are other important functions you won’t find in free PCB design software. These include bill of materials compilation, generation of Gerbers and other deliverables, and data management functions.

When you have a set of design tools to create a circuit board and prepare it for manufacturing, you need a complete set of tools that aren’t found in a free PCB design software download. Instead of stringing together multiple programs, use the only PCB design platform with everything you need for circuit design, layout, and manufacturing. Try Altium Designer for your next circuit board design.


The most powerful, modern, and easy-to-use printed circuit board design program for professional use. Use Altium Designer if you need the best PCB design & layout software.

For years PCB designers have been content to work with free PCB design tools. They were able to get their designs done and easily move on to the next project. The level of technology that Circuit Board designers are required to use in their circuit board designs, often demands more functionality beyond what a free software version is able to handle. This often includes rigid-flex materials, power distribution for small, high-power boards, and all this while ensuring your design keeps manufacturing in mind. What should you be looking for when you move from a free software platform to a fully functional computer-aided PCB design system?

Get Started with the Best Schematic Editor

Your schematic editor is where you start your new circuit board design. With a set of schematic design and organization tools, you can quickly create circuit designs and select components for your new system. The component libraries in Altium Designer are integrated into the schematic editor, so selecting and placing components are easy tasks. In addition, you can run circuit simulations from within the schematic editor before you use schematic capture to start your PCB layout. There’s no need to use a free PCB design software download or external simulator to evaluate your board.

High Performance Schematic Editor and Schematic Capture in Altium Designer

Altium Designer’s schematic capture utility is easy to learn and use, and it is accessible in the same program as your PCB layout editor. The schematic editor in Altium Designer can handle the most complex schematics, including multi-channel and hierarchical designs. When you’re ready to create your layout, the schematic capture tool instantly places PCB footprints into a blank layout, allowing you to quickly create your board without design errors.

Altium Designer Unified Design Environment Screenshot

The Altium unified design environment makes adapting your design tasks easy.

Powerful Routing Tools for Your PCB Layout

The core of a circuit board design system is the layout features, and the CAD features in Altium Designer make component placement and routing easy. Components can be placed with extreme accuracy in 2D and 3D, and traces can be routed in any topology. In addition, the routing features in Altium Designer help you save time by allowing you to route groups of nets across your circuit board. Traces can be routed manually or using automated tools to help save you time.

Intuitive and Powerful Layout Software that Gets the Job Done

Altium Designer’s printed circuit layout is based on an online design rules engine, which automatically checks your layout for design and manufacturing errors. The software provides all the power of a high performance PCB design program with an easy-to-use interface. No other circuit board design and layout program keep you as productive as Altium Designer.

Screenshot of the Unified Design Environment in Altium Designer

Altium Designer gives you multiple windows to help you keep track of your schematics and PCB layout

Prepare for Success by Using the Best PCB CAD Software

Starting at the beginning with your schematics and components, Altium Designer connects you to libraries and a symbol wizard to help you populate your design. In addition, Altium Designer includes a bill of materials management tool to quickly organize your components and import sourcing information. When you’re creating your layout, Altium Designer has even more tools at your disposal. You can place parts in 3D and simulate high-speed interfaces in your circuit board. Finally, Altium Designer takes your design data and creates circuit board manufacturing and assembly drawings. Free PCB design software can’t provide this level of productivity.

Comprehensive Features for Your Entire Design

Altium Designer’s full suite of data-sharing tools will give you the ability to complete all aspects of your design without the need to go out to third-party circuit board design tools. The rules-driven design engine checks your schematics and PCB layout against important design standards, helping you catch errors before you go to manufacturing. You can design better boards and manufacture them easily when you use the complete set of design features in Altium Designer.

Schematic capture and PCB layout in free PCB layout & design software free download

Altium Designer gives you everything you need to create a powerful circuit board.

If you’re dissatisfied with your current PCB design software, or you’re looking to make a move from a smaller platform to a more advanced system, Altium Designer is the printed circuit board design software to make your engineering life easy. Keep your designs running smoothly from thought to production with the complete set of circuit board design tools in Altium Designer.

Altium Designer on Altium 365 delivers an unprecedented amount of integration to the electronics industry until now relegated to the world of software development, allowing designers to work from home and reach unprecedented levels of efficiency.

We have only scratched the surface of what is possible to do with Altium Designer on Altium 365. You can check the product page for a more in-depth feature description or one of the On-Demand Webinars.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 2500+ technical articles on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He previously served as a voting member on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee working on technical standards for quantum electronics, and he currently serves on the IEEE P3186 Working Group focused on Port Interface Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.

Related Resources

Related Technical Documentation

Back to Home
Thank you, you are now subscribed to updates.