Looking Forward What to Expect After Switching from OrCAD

Created: January 28, 2019
Updated: September 25, 2020
Looking Forward What to Expect After Switching from OrCAD


In my collection of tools out in the garage, I have a pair of tin snips far older than I am. I inherited this defective tool from my father, and it may be 80 years old for all I know. These tin snips are difficult to use because they’ve become dull and loose due to their age, but it was hard for me to make a change because they belonged to my dad. The tin snips frustrated me, so I would find ways to work around them. Finally, after being fed up with my complaining, my wife bought me a new pair of tin snips. I was a little embarrassed when I realized that by leaving my older broken hand tools behind, I could efficiently cut metal again, exactly as you should be able to do.

It’s easy to become a creature of habit and hang onto things like the tools we use because of familiarity or even sentimentality, even if the tool is no longer able to accomplish what we need it to. I found myself doing the same thing with the PCB design CAD tools I also use. For a long time, I held on to an older set of design tools because it was what I was used to, but it no longer was helping me the way that I needed it to. Has this happened to you?


Yesterday’s Tools are Not Always the Best Answers for Today’s Challenges

Older design tools had a lot of limitations. These tools were usually updated, but it isn’t at all unusual to find older seats of these tools still scattered about. Sometimes people don’t want to update to something newer and better out of fear that their current processes may get broken. Sometimes they don’t have the finances to update, or perhaps it just isn’t important enough for them to make the switch. Whatever the reason, it’s always a painful experience to work with a design file from someone like this only to find out that it is very outdated.

Older versions of these design files may not have all of the current technology in them that you are used to. You may find that you want to do a certain function, but the older version of the file doesn’t support it. It usually isn’t a problem to update the file to the version you are using, but if you have to send it back to the originator you may end up with a lot of translation problems.

Screenshot of AD18 3D layout in Switching from OrCAD

PCB design shouldn’t be restricted by older tools that are difficult to work with


Too Many Pieces

Dealing with different versions of software is certainly a pain, but the real problem comes from how these older design systems are set up. A lot of these tools were acquired from various vendors and thrown together into the parent company’s mix of tools. This blend of different tools requires intricate translators under the surface in order to communicate with each other. Moving from version to version in these tools can sometimes have an effect on how the layout and the schematic simply talk to each other. In some cases, older systems have even dropped one tool, such as their schematic editor, in favor of a completely different one. If you are trying to work on design files from an older version of that software, you may not even have the right tools to work with.

The best scenario is to use a design software package where all of the tools communicate natively together. In order for this to happen the tools have to all be designed from the ground up to work seamlessly together in a data environment. Most of the older design systems, however, are a blend of different tools and require a lot of hand-holding just to get them to work together.

Screenshot of AD18 import wizard in Switching from OrCAD

The Import Wizard in Altium  makes converting your older design files easy


The Benefits of Altium after Switching from OrCAD

Fortunately, we made the decision to break with the tradition of using our older OrCAD design tools and moved up to Altium. We were able to transfer our older databases into our new system without trouble, and now we no longer have to worry about dealing with the various versions and pieces of our older design files. Altium’s suite of tools is built on its core unified design environment, which means that these tools easily talk to each other within the design session. And when it is time to update, that isn’t a problem either. The connection to Altium informs us when a new update is available and it is handled quickly and efficiently without any impact on our work.

PCB design software, like Altium Designer®, has a unified design environment that our older PCB design tools didn’t. With it, we no longer worry about synchronizing old and new data, and we always have the latest design technology from Altium ready to go. Like the tin snips, it can be hard sometimes to let go of something that we believe we can’t live without. But once we moved up to Altium, it was easy to see how much more we benefited from making the switch.

Would you like to find out more about how Altium can help you to move up to the latest in design technology? Talk to an expert at Altium.

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