Wikipedia:WikiProject Electronics/Programs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Programs for drawing circuits[edit]

123D Circuits[edit]

123D Circuits In browser circuit design and PCB layout tools.

Circuit Diagram[edit]

Circuit Diagram is a user-friendly program for making electronic circuit diagrams on Windows.

Dia[edit]

Star-triangle transformation drawn with Dia

Dia (Dia) exports in SVG, has a small library of electronic components, and a grid (snap feature located in the bottom left corner of the diagram window). While Dia cannot rotate objects, it can flip them horizontally or vertically. This option is found in the properties for each object (right click->properties). To access the circuit object library, you change the category selector in the main window.

ExpressSCH[edit]

Free to download Windows program. Complements ExpressPCB. Both program from ExpressPCB board manufacturers.

gEDA[edit]

gEDA is a suite of collaborative software used for electronic design automation. The project's name stands for GPL’d suite of Electronic Design Automation tools.

The gEDA project offers a mature suite of free software applications for electronics design, including schematic capture using gschem, attribute management gattrib, bill of materials (BOM) generation, netlisting into over 20 netlist formats (gnetlist), analog and digital simulation (ngspice, gnucap, Icarus Verilog, and GTKWave, and Printed circuit board (PCB) layout (pcb).

gEDA may be run under MS Windows using http://geda.seul.org/wiki/geda:cygwin.

Advantages

  • Snap to grid
  • Component libraries with built-in editor
  • Rotate components
  • Mature Open source and actively maintained
  • Attached traces move with objects

Disadvantages

  • Extra effort to run under MS Windows

GIMP[edit]

GIMP (Gimp) is a programme for raster image processing, so it is not meant to be used for any kind of schematics. It does not support SVG and everything has be drawn from scratch. Anyway it is multi-platform and several people used it on Commons to draw circuits. It could be useful for some post-processing, but the output will not be in SVG.

gnu Electric[edit]

The gnu Electric VLSI Design System (Electric) is an EDA tool written by Steven M. Rubin. Electric is used to draw schematics and to do integrated circuit layout. It can also handle hardware description languages such as VHDL and Verilog.

Electric has been open-source for many years, and is currently available through the Free Software Foundation (Gnu).

Advantages:

  • No install — a single Java .jar contains the program and all help files
  • Exceptionally powerful
  • Very easy to draw schematics
  • Moving objects moves and reroutes wires fairly intelligently

Disadvantages

  • Overly powerful for simply drawing schematics — some will find it too much to learn (or ignore)
  • Limited electronic objects in library
  • Not clear how to add to the library (create your own schematic objects -- it may be there)

Inkscape[edit]

Example of Inkscape's SVG output

Inkscape (Inkscape.org) has a pretty good interface and nice output, but it is specifically meant for artistic drawing and not diagramming. There is a plan to introduce some more diagramming features in the future, but the developers don't want to go too far in that direction for fear of bloating past their primary art focus. They've just added the ability to create program extensions, though, which could be useful for writing some kind of circuit drawing extension. As of January 2006, Inkscape supports drawing connections (wires) between anchors on objects, which makes it much nicer for circuits, but still not a complete solution.

Library of electrical symbols for diagramming with Inkscape

There is a (small but extensible) library of symbols available. Creating diagrams using this template is slightly slower than in specialised programs, but it is very flexible and produces nice vector output.

KiCad[edit]

Unbalanced Splitter drawn with KiCAD

KiCAD (KiCAD) is an open source suite of tools including schematic design.

It has some nice features:

  • Snap to grid
  • Component libraries with built-in editor
  • Rotate components
  • Moving a component moves attached traces when pressing CTRL while clicking the group to move.
  • Outputs in SVG (which works with OOo's SVG import tool)
  • Open source and actively maintained

But isn't perfect:

  • Doesn't route around components
  • SVG output includes page border, title, etc (can be cropped with something like InkScape)
  • Part labels and values in SVG output are rendered as lines (thus the letter "M") is 4 line segments... making them very difficult to change later.
  • Can't use Greek in labels, which means no O on resistor values.

Klunky[edit]

An example op-amp circuit drawn with Klunky and GIMP

Klunky can be used to draw basic circuits, and then a raster editing program like GIMP to modify the screenshots. The Klunky program is public domain, and he has enhanced it with additional components, etc. (See User:Omegatron#Electronics_diagrams. Enhanced version is here.)

Advantages

  • Relatively quick, at least compared to drawing components by hand
  • No install — runs in web-browser
  • Public domain
  • Can be enhanced even further with better-drawn components

Disadvantages

  • Outputs a raster format
  • Everything is restricted to blocks and some compacting to save space is sometimes needed in the image editor afterwards
  • Can't save / transfer drawings (unless you edit browser cookies)
  • Style changes between creators. Even the style has changed for the same creator somewhat, since he switched to GIMP which has different fonts and smoothing.

Beats drawing it by hand, though, and drawing simple circuits is pretty fast.

User:Poccil has been working on an update to Klunky that generates SVGs directly. This would be the ideal solution if not for the limitation of putting everything in square blocks.

LaTeX[edit]

LaTeX, which is popular in typesetting mathematical documents, has several packages for drawing circuit diagrams.

Advantages:

  • Professional looking output (same quality as in commercial textbooks).
  • Free and open source software.
  • Transparent source that is diffable.
  • Mathematical formulas and text are nicely typeset.
  • Vector graphics output (pdf, for example).
  • If you already use LaTeX for preparing documents, drawing circuit diagrams is relatively easy to learn.

Disadvantages:

  • If you are new to LaTeX, the learning curve is pretty steep.
  • No analysis features (i.e., it is just a drawing tool).

CircuiTikZ (a LaTeX package)[edit]

Circuit diagrams drawn with CircuiTikz

CircuiTikz (CircuiTikz) is a TikZ add-on for drawing schematic diagrams.

Advantages:

  • Very professional looking output (same quality as in commercial textbooks).
  • Active user community[1].
  • Tikz can be used to draw almost anything, so it might be worth learning anyway.

Disadvantages:

  • Some learning of Tikz is required.

Circdia (a LaTeX package)[edit]

Circdia (Circdia) uses TikZ for drawing schematic diagrams. Supports various European component styles.

Advantages:

  • Beautiful component templates, most of them in different flavours.
  • Based on Tikz.
  • Very flexible configuration, enables complicated transformer and logic chip setups.

Disadvantages:

  • Well documented, but only in German.

PSTricks (a LaTeX package)[edit]

Sallen–Key filter drawn with PSTricks

PSTricks (pstcirc) is a circuit drawing package implemented with PSTricks [2], which allows TeX users to "code" figures with the aid of PostScript. Packages like pst-eps or preview allow for easy production of images with tight bounding boxes.

Advantages:

  • Full use of PostScript (e.g., colors, bitmaps, vectors, etc.).
  • Many symbols available (e.g., zigzag and chemical dipole symbols, transistors, FETs, analog, digital).
    • Symbols that are not available can easily be drawn with drawing primitives (lines, boxes, etc.).
  • 3D images and effects available.

LaTeX-Circuit-Diagram (a LaTeX macro file)[edit]

LaTeX-Circuit-Diagram LaTeX-circuit-diagram is a macro package for drawing electric circuit diagrams.

A simple circuit with LaTeX-Circuit-Diagram macro package

Advantages

  • No extra packages needed, just include one file.
  • Official IEC symbols (the same package is used in several Finnish university textbooks).
  • Simple command interface, for example \vj{50,50}{J=1\mA} outputs a vertical current source symbol at coordinates 50,50 with label J=1 milliamps.
  • In addition to element symbols, the package contains voltage arrows and current arrows too, which are handy for encyclopedia and textbook use.
  • Easy to extend and contribute to.

OpenModelica[edit]

OpenModelica exports in SVG. It has a compresensive library of electrical, mechanical, and other multi-physics systems. It can also plot simulation results. The symbology is somewhat unique however, and it can only rotate symbols in steps of 90 degrees.

PartSim[edit]

PartsSim is a free, full-featured online circuit simulator. It features a full SPICE simulation engine, web-based schematic capture tool, and graphical waveform viewer.

Qucs[edit]

Practice problem for node equations, drawn with Qucs

Qucs Qucs (Quite Universal Circuit Simulator) is an open source (GPL) circuit simulator. It is very easy to work with for drawing schematics. It is close to being an ideal tool for drawing schematics for use in documentation.

It has some nice features:

  • Export schematics and individual diagrams to SVG, PNG, JPG, JPEG, PDF and PDF+Latex, EPS (Inkscape required).

SIMetrix[edit]

Common emitter amplifier drawn using SIMetrix.

SIMetrix, as of version 5.40b (Jan 2008):

Advantages:

  • Nice looking output.
  • Schematic editor with SPICE simulator.
  • Free version with unlimited schematic drawing and editing.
    • Hierarchical schematics
  • Selection of colours for components, wires, etc. for easy identification.
  • Zooming facility, auto-routing and snap-to-grid.
  • Simple placement of components — select and click-to-place with mouse.
  • Automatic repeat placement of last component.
  • Can save a schematic as an SVG or other graphic file.
  • Can save schematics in an ASCII or binary format — documentation for the ASCII format is provided with the installation.
  • Free version for Windows or Linux may be used indefinitely; program may be freely shared (per SIMetrix 5.40b splash screen)

Disadvantages:

  • Free version has limited simulation capability (not applicable for drawing schematics).
  • Not open source
  • Email registration required to receive download link (no password or user account needed)

Vector Blocks[edit]

An example op-amp circuit drawn with Vector Blocks

Vector Blocks creates SVG output and is based on the Klunky model. But the block size is more fine-grained than in Klunky, and components generally cover multiple small blocks.

Advantages

  • Quick to put together small schematics
  • No install — runs in web-browsers with HTML5 and SVG support, e.g. FF7+, Safari and IE9+
  • A lot of common components

Disadvantages

  • Everything is restricted to blocks, although this limitation is lessened compared to Klunky
  • Can't re-import drawings

Xcircuit[edit]

Negative impedance converter drawn with Xcircuit

Xcircuit (Xcircuit) is meant to be used only for drawing circuits for professional publications. It is very powerful, with a huge standard library and very easy to use. It saves by default in PostScript, and it can be converted to SVG using Pstoedit. It can optionally export with any quality in PNG. It is not natively multi-platform (it is developed mainly for linux), but it is possible to make stand-alone executables for both Windows and Mac OS X adding some libraries in it. Some of the symbols are kind of ugly.

For more info about creating SVG circuits with it see How to draw SVG circuits using Xcircuit.

Feature Comparison[edit]

The Electronics Project has a list of desirable features for a circuit drawing program. This table attempts to summarize which of the features each of the above programs has.

The "Easy circuits" column is specifically answering the question: "Is it easy to use this program to draw circuit layouts?" This is to help clarify that while programs like Inkscape and Dia may pass all the criteria, they are not good choices for drawing circuits. They are easy to use for other tasks, but this chart is specifically geared toward finding a good circuit drawing program.

The "Attach wires" column answers the question: "Once I have a schematic, if I move some component, do the wires that were attached to it move so that they stay attached?"

Program Free Cross Platform SVG Library Grid Attach wires Drawing Bezier curves Easy circuits
123D Circuits
Circuit Diagram
Dia Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
ExpressSCH Yes No No
gEDA gschem Yes with Cygwin with help (PNG) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Gimp Yes Yes No No No Yes No
gnu Electric Yes Yes partial Yes Yes partial Yes
Inkscape Yes Yes Yes partial Yes Yes Yes Yes No
KiCAD Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes(*1) Yes No Yes
Klunky Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No No Yes
LaTeX/Circdia
LaTeX/CircuiTikZ
LaTeX/PSTricks Yes Yes Yes (with help) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
PartSim
Qucs Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes
SIMetrix No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Vector Blocks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes
Xcircuit Yes Yes with help Yes Yes Yes

(*1) Use the "g" key (instead of "m") to "Grab" a component and drag it with all connections.