Why Altium Designer Will Give You Better Results Over OrCAD

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: November 9, 2020  |  Updated: November 14, 2020
Why Altium Designer Will Give You Better Results Over OrCAD

A free download of software and a fancy demo can make PCB design tools seem very attractive. You owe it to yourself to do your research before you purchase so that you get the design features you need for success. Altium Designer delivers on its promise of an easy-to-learn, professional set of PCB design tools. When you switch to Altium Designer, you’ll have the same set of design features you’ll find in OrCAD and much more. You can also translate your older OrCAD design files and libraries into Altium Designer’s format. Get the most powerful set of design and layout tools in Altium Designer.


Professional printed circuit design software that includes capture, layout, and manufacturing tools in a single program.

Today’s printed circuit boards are much more advanced than in the past. High-speed, RF, flex, and complex multi-layer high-density interconnect designs are an ever-growing challenge for the new or experienced PCB designer. The days of tossing the job “over-the-wall” to a PCB designer are rapidly falling behind us. Meanwhile, designers need printed circuit board design CAD applications that can handle all aspects of a design.

At one time, you may have used a combination of Mentor Graphics, Cadsoft Eagle PCB, PADS layout, or OrCAD layout tools for schematic design and PCB layout. Instead of mixing and matching design tools, you need design tools that support all advanced technologies in a single program. Altium Designer is built on over 30 years of research and development and contains a comprehensive set of printed circuit design and manufacturing tools. The engineers at Altium have perfected the art of creating software with you in mind so that you have the most advanced tools at your fingertips.

From Schematic Capture to PCB Layout

Your PCB editor needs to help you stay productive, and the best PCB design software will ensure you can access all the features you need in a single program. This means your PCB design software needs to include schematic capture, layout, and much more in a single application. You should look for a powerful system that is both easy to use as well as one that will handle your most complex designs.

Use a Single Program for Schematics and Layout

Altium Designer contains a complete set of PCB design tools, including schematic capture and PCB layout features. Each of these tools are designed to work in unison and are integrated into a single environment. Compared to other design platforms like OrCAD PCB design software, you’ll have access to a broader range of more powerful features when you use Altium Designer.

Screenshot of schematic design and 3D PCB layout in Altium Designer vs. PCB OrCAD

Access schematic design and layout tools in a single program

Build Advanced Products in Unified Design Software

Unified printed circuit design software does much more than include multiple design features in a single program. A single data model is used to represent all parts of your design and components, giving you advanced design tools that function from a single set of schematics and layout data. An OrCAD free download doesn’t give you the features you need for advanced designs. Altium Designer is the professional-quality design toolset for advanced PCB designs.

Advanced PCB Design Tasks are Easy in Altium Designer

Altium Designer goes well beyond the standard tools you’ll find in an OrCAD download. The common data structure used for all design data creates a modern user interface with multiple design tools in a single program. The advanced layout features in Altium Designer can be used to create high-speed designs, rigid-flex PCBs, and other advanced products for your new board. In addition, Altium Designer is loaded with simulators, supply chain management tools, a drawing generator, and many other features to ensure your productivity.

Screenshot of an xSignals signal path in Altium Designer

Working with high-speed design signal paths in Altium Designer

Why Altium Designer is the Best Choice for PCB Design

Altium Designer was built to provide a comprehensive toolset for circuit board design. An OrCAD download will cause you to get stuck behind a paywall, and you’ll be left with unfinished designs and tools that are confined in separate programs. Altium Designer was created to provide you with a natural, intuitive, and productive workflow guided by comprehensive design rules to give you the best results.

When you use Altium Designer, you’ll have access to circuit design features, schematic capture, and PCB layout tools in a single program. You won’t have to switch between multiple programs with different interfaces and workflows to complete a new design. An OrCAD free download can’t provide this level of integration or unification for your design features. Instead, try using Altium Designer’s complete set of printed circuit design and manufacturing tools.

Keep Your Old Designs When You Migrate to Altium Designer

Altium Designer has all the professional CAD tools you need for your designs. When you make the switch to Altium Designer, you don’t need to leave behind your old projects. The advanced import wizard in Altium Designer will easily bring in your old schematic library and PCB files. Simply open up the Import Wizard, select your files, and translate your design quickly so that you can use the powerful printed circuit design features in Altium Designer.

Schematic editor and PCB layout in 3D in Altium Designer

Altium Designer unifies powerful PCB design tools in a single platform.

Whether you’re looking at CAD tools for the first time or you need a better system than what you already have, Altium Designer is the best choice you can make. Altium Designer includes all the best features in OrCAD and many more, including built-in simulation and manufacturing features. You’ll also have access to data management tools for your design data and PCB libraries. You won’t have to rely on an OrCAD free download and OrCAD capture in different programs to start laying out your new circuit board.

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 1000+ technical blogs 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), and he previously served on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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