Which Altium PCB Design 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 tool 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 , and that is what I’ll try and explain here for everyone.
Lack of Options
If you look at the landscape of rigid-flex PCB design tools prior to the release of , 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 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 and . With , 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.
Today, we have over 130K users collaborating within the community.
One excellent example of this sharing philosophy is the system. When you create a 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 making a living doing design work. For that, we offer .
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 workflow and Unified Design Paradigm. 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 the fastest growing PCB design tool on the market. There’s a reason why a new Altium 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.