Electronics Design Software

A wide range of software is available to design and simulate electrical and electronic circuits, ranging from free Java-based circuit simulation applets, to complex Electronic Computer Aided Design (ECAD) programs. Some applications also offer the ability to develop and test software for microprocessor / microcontroller based systems, either as their main focus, or as an additional feature.

Programs tend to focus on one more key areas, including:

  • Schematic capture - rapid creation of electronic circuit diagrams using standard circuit symbols.
  • Simulation - simulation of electronic circuits containing analogue, digital or mixed components. Circuit operation may be tested and observed using a combination of signal generators, probes, graphs and virtual instruments.
  • Software development - Microcontroller / microprocessor based software development, simulation and debugging using either assembly language or high level language programming, typically using an Integrated Development Environment (IDE).
  • Printed Circuit Boad (PCB) manufacture - designing circuits based on through-hole and surface mount techniques, using manual or automated routing of traces.

The applications listed here are in some cases available free of charge, or at least offer a limited trial version which may be used to evaluate the product prior to purchase. Some of the paid-for products offer reduced cost student / hobbyist pricing, and final pricing tends to be feature based, in order to further reduce the purchase cost.

The following table shows just a small selection of the electronics design applications available, together with their major features. (For a fuller list, see Wikipedia Category: Electronic design automation software.)

ApplicationFree / Trial
Circuit Wizardyesyesyesyes yes
DesignSpark PCByes yes  yes
Eagle PCByesyesyes  yes
Fritzingyes yes  yes
Logisimyes yesyes  
LTspiceyes yesyes  
Proteus Design Suiteyesyesyesyesyesyes
Workarounds may exist where a feature, such as simulation or PCB design, is not available by default. For example, if two applications support the same netlist format, then it may be possible to transfer designs between applications with minimal rework.

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