Eagle or ExpressPCB?

Digital tools for electronic work: software for pcb design, schematic drawing, circuit simulation, parts inventory tools, ...
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greenskull
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Post by greenskull »

It's about time I learn to draw presentable schematics and do layouts. Would be cool to hear some opinions on what would be best to start and pros/cons of each.
Also would like to hear suggestions for just a simple schematic drawing program in case I can't hack it with either of those.
Many thanks!!
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Post by rocklander »

Eagle seems to be the weapon of choice for most. I personally prefer expresspcb, but I think I'm in the extreme minority there.
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Post by culturejam »

I prefer Eagle for the simple reason that many existing PCB fabs take Eagle native files directly. And also, you export Gerber files from Eagle, and Gerber is probably the most universal format there is for PCB manufacturing.

Eagle is not the most intuitive software there is. In fact, the learning curve, without a lot of help, is quite steep and can be very frustrating. I have made many successful layouts with Eagle, and yet still I would consider myself a relative "noob". There are certain aspects of the program I do not understand very well, and there are others that I really get.

But I would say that my time spent learning Eagle has been well worth it. :thumbsup

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Post by Scruffie »

rocklander wrote:Eagle seems to be the weapon of choice for most. I personally prefer expresspcb, but I think I'm in the extreme minority there.
I use Express PCB too.

I'd say if you have no intention of Fabbing ever, Express PCB, it's as simple as a vero layout. If you intend to have over 100 boards fabbed, Express PCB aint to pricey. Otherwise Eagle... unless you're not short of time in which case Eagle every time.

I also hear DIPTrace might be alright...

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Post by greenskull »

Thanks for the replies, everyone. I'm installing ExpressPCB as I'm typing this, but have Eagle downloaded also. I won't be doing any fabbing in the near future, just want to be able to whip up a quick schematic to post and hopefully some layouts to share. I'll jump on Eagle when I get my confidence up.... good to know there's plenty of resources/info/help. :thumbsup
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Post by Duckman »

+1 Express PCB... easy and intuitive.
If, hypothetically speaking, one day I came to need Gerber files for a large production, could probably pay someone to do it for me.
Meanwhile, Express PCB meets my needs very well.

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Post by culturejam »

If you know for a fact you will NEVER want production boards done, then I say use whatever is easiest. Maybe even the newest version of DIYLC, which is really nice.

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Post by coldcraft »

+10 on eagle. if you spend time learning it, it can be very valuable. I'm just getting into package/library editing.
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Post by derevaun »

Schematics done in ExpressPCB look a whole lot better than those from Eagle, just in terms of basic visual appeal. They communicate the circuit better.

But from the standpoint of sharing a circuit and especially opening it to contribution from the community, ExpressPCB is a dead end. You can provide an image of the schematic and an etching template, but substantive development from others is limited to either redrawing the schematic in Eagle/Diptrace/etc or working with the closed, proprietary ExpressPCB format, both of which seem to be pretty infrequent in practice. Opening an Eagle file to the forum lets others change the layout, use board mounted pots, add features, change tone stacks. It may also open a circuit to easy profiteering by would-be/established boutiquers, though IMHO their heavy lifting has always been in marketing and branding anyway. The big distinction is that nobody can get an ExpressPCB file fabbed from Gerbers, not you or community members who have something to contribute.

Getting a board fabbed has gotten pretty cheap--like US$5.00 per square inch for a double sided board with plated through holes and solder mask--if you provide Gerbers or Eagle files. You can still produce layout images and etching templates from Eagle, and you get a few more options for shaping traces than with ExpressPCB. That expanded range of options comes at the cost of being much less intuitive and harder to learn, so the choice is between fairly even contenders. As other have said above, it comes down to a convenient learning curve vs more options--I'd submit that opening a circuit to community development is a worthwhile options to consider.

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Post by greenskull »

Well I just whipped up a schematic in ExpressPCB for the first time:
https://www.freestompboxes.org/viewtopic.ph ... 52#p158352
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Post by Nocentelli »

i've dipped a toe in Eagle's murky waters a couple of times for the main reason detailed above, i.e. getting a board fabbed. i've got a few tutorial pdfs if anyone wants me to send them copies, i'd just upload document for anyone, but they were sent by a friend and come from another website, so i'd rather just email to anyone who expresses an interest, e.g. by pm or email
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Post by FiveseveN »

Schematics done in ExpressPCB look a whole lot better than those from Eagle, just in terms of basic visual appeal.
Ignoring the fact that it's an aesthetic judgement...
1. Eagle schematics are colour-coded by default, which provides an extra degree of clarity.
2. They're CAD programs, they use the same tools: lines of different weight. If one were so inclined, he could make one kind of schematic look just like the other (as you can draw your own symbols).

PS: I'm in the "switched from ExpressPCB to Eagle" bandwagon.
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Post by coldcraft »

derevaun wrote:Schematics done in ExpressPCB look a whole lot better than those from Eagle, just in terms of basic visual appeal. They communicate the circuit better.

this is a matter of opinion. I feel the opposite way. If you get advanced in eagle, you can change the component symbols to be however you would like.
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Post by Scruffie »

coldcraft wrote:
derevaun wrote:Schematics done in ExpressPCB look a whole lot better than those from Eagle, just in terms of basic visual appeal. They communicate the circuit better.

this is a matter of opinion. I feel the opposite way. If you get advanced in eagle, you can change the component symbols to be however you would like.
You can create new components in Express PCB & SCH too.

I agree the express schematics do translate well, I have had some issues reading schematics I assume were created with Eagle in the past... the individual drawer also plays a part though.

I think if you're just providing layouts for the community, nout wrong with Express PCB, install a PDF Printer Program on your computer and you can just export the layout that way.

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Post by Duckman »

derevaun wrote:Getting a board fabbed has gotten pretty cheap--like US$5.00 per square inch for a double sided board with plated through holes and solder mask--if you provide Gerbers or Eagle files.
Sorry, but in Express PCB you can fab FOUR 21 square inches boards with the same specs + silk screen @ U$D 166 + shipping (less than 2,5 bucks for square inch at the end and 2-3 bussiness days for production) ... should be better prices out there, but I find it a good deal.

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Post by DeanM »

I used ExpressPCB before. Didn't seem great but thats a while ago now and don't think i used it very much so cant really remember using it. but didn't feel drawn back to it either! I'm used to using OrCad in college but I just got eagle freeware version last week and really liked it! As has been mentioned, eagle is more popular and people have posted eagle files on here recently so that could be beneficial.

As to the comments about there being a learning curve to eagle...I dont agree! I find it fairly easy and straight forward! After less than a week having it installed i was able to produce this...
15VSplitRail.png
So if i could do that in less than a week...normal schematic and board stuff can't be that tough!

PS: thats^ Analogguru's +/- 15V power supply.

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Post by derevaun »

Sorry, but in Express PCB you can fab FOUR 21 square inches boards with the same specs + silk screen @ U$D 166 + shipping (less than 2,5 bucks for square inch at the end and 2-3 bussiness days for production) ... should be better prices out there, but I find it a good deal.
True, and if you need four 21 square inch boards, it's a good deal. If your board is more like 5 square inches, that same deal (protopro) is still $166. Granted, you can combine a few separate boards, if you don't mind cutting the epoxy glass boards apart.

Three 5 square inch boards from Dorkbot costs $25 shipped (in the ConUS). ExpressPCB's miniboard comes closer at $51 for a fixed size (3.8 x 2.5, good for Arduino stuff) but with no solder mask or silkscreen.

IMHO the cost/benefit of fabbing comes down to how many copies you want—for a one-off project, a couple is plenty.
Schematics done in ExpressPCB look a whole lot better than those from Eagle, just in terms of basic visual appeal. They communicate the circuit better.
this is a matter of opinion. I feel the opposite way. If you get advanced in eagle, you can change the component symbols to be however you would like.
I agree; I should have prefaced with IMHO. My main issues with Eagle's schematics is that the lines are so thin that the figure-ground relationship is weak compared to schematics from many other programs. I find it harder to read as a result. FWIW, I prefer Eagle anyway, by a wide margin.

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Post by RnFR »

just learn eagle and be done with it. with gauss markov's site, instructables, and the huge thread here at FSB, you have plenty of resources. it's not that hard, and it's the closest thing to a "standard" that there is.
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Post by Duckman »

derevaun wrote:
Sorry, but in Express PCB you can fab FOUR 21 square inches boards with the same specs + silk screen @ U$D 166 + shipping (less than 2,5 bucks for square inch at the end and 2-3 bussiness days for production) ... should be better prices out there, but I find it a good deal.
True, and if you need four 21 square inch boards, it's a good deal. If your board is more like 5 square inches, that same deal (protopro) is still $166. Granted, you can combine a few separate boards, if you don't mind cutting the epoxy glass boards apart.

Three 5 square inch boards from Dorkbot costs $25 shipped (in the ConUS). ExpressPCB's miniboard comes closer at $51 for a fixed size (3.8 x 2.5, good for Arduino stuff) but with no solder mask or silkscreen.

IMHO the cost/benefit of fabbing comes down to how many copies you want—for a one-off project, a couple is plenty.
Schematics done in ExpressPCB look a whole lot better than those from Eagle, just in terms of basic visual appeal. They communicate the circuit better.
this is a matter of opinion. I feel the opposite way. If you get advanced in eagle, you can change the component symbols to be however you would like.
I agree; I should have prefaced with IMHO. My main issues with Eagle's schematics is that the lines are so thin that the figure-ground relationship is weak compared to schematics from many other programs. I find it harder to read as a result. FWIW, I prefer Eagle anyway, by a wide margin.
I agree in all what you said, but I'm only talking about larger production. For a small batch, I can do it by my self.
Here's why I'm not really interested in Eagle or other software: I'm comfortable with the options that Express PCB has.
Maybe I'm lazy, but I easily made my coustom stuff and everything is clean and fast.
Any way, I'm still learning...

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Post by greenskull »

I agree with both sides, honestly. Valid points on all fronts. I guess it really depends on how deep you want to get into it.
For now if I was just whipping up a quick, simple schematic to share I would probably go to ExpressSCH. For a one off simple layout, DIY Layout Creator and Eagle for designing pro made boards.
The idea to just be done with it and bite the bullet to learn Eagle makes a lot of sense.... wish I had the patience, but will give it a try!!
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