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Read This Before You Download PCB Layout Software

Key Takeaways

  • Distinguish what free and paid PCB layout software download offers. 

  • Ensure you’ve got a checklist ready before downloading a PCB software.

  • Learn if you ought to be downloading a new PCB layout software now.

Computer screen with image of folder and monitor saying download

Getting the right PCB software download requires some deliberations.

If you’re living in the age of pre-Netflix internet, you may have your fair share of frustrations when movie downloads are terminated abruptly. More often than not, you’ll only realize that the download failed after hours into the process. Yes, that’s how ‘fast-moving’ the internet speed was back then and downloading wasn’t a trustworthy process.

Thankfully, we’ve got Netflix to the rescue today and more streaming giants are joining the race. PCB design software seems to be leveraging the availability of the internet and you’ll have dozens of such downloadable software available. 

Should you download any of these PCB layout software programs for your project? And if you do, what do you need to consider to pick the right one for your needs. 

Free vs. Paid PCB Layout Software Download

There’s always a stereotype going that free downloads of PCB software are inferior to their paid counterparts. Such a statement may be true a decade ago, but much has changed ever since. Communities that have depended on free PCB design tools have grown significantly, and thus, the innovation that powers the zero-cost solution.

With that being said, not all free PCB software is created equal. Some are meant for hobbyist projects while others may have limitations in various aspects. One popular PCB design layout software that is available for free is provided by a PCB manufacturer. As such, designers are unable to export manufacturing files from the software.

In some cases, you’ll have to deal with annoying ads when using a free PCB layout software program. You could be bombarded by ads by semiconductor manufacturers in their attempt to influence your choice of components. If you’re not a fan of ads, it could be frustrating.

As far as I’m concerned, paid PCB layout software downloads to offer a better design experience. Often, paid tools to go beyond creating circuits, libraries, and PCB layouts. They are generally more comprehensive and allow you to take a holistic approach in your design. 

Checklist for Getting A Reliable PCB Design Software

Learning the ropes of a new PCB layout software takes up precious time. Therefore, you’ll want to have a checklist ready to eliminate those that didn’t make the grade. Here a few things that you’ll need to consider for professional design projects.

circuit in the form of a jigsaw puzzle

Reliability is about not missing out on the crucial pieces in the design process.

Intuitive User Interface

If a PCB software features a UI that looks as though it has not been updated recently, it may not efficiently fit into contemporary workflows. Time is luxury and you’ll need software that’s responsive and intuitive. If you need to place a specific component, it needs to be a couple of clicks away. Moving parts around, setting up grids, and toggling between layers are some of the basics that PCB layout software needs to get it right.

Component Libraries

You can’t fault a designer for complaining when he spent most of the design effort creating component models and footprints, during the early days of his career. Even though most PCB design software has provided their own set of libraries, you’ll need to ensure that they contain a considerably large number of parts from popular manufacturers.

Smart Routing

Routing a PCB can be a fun process or an extremely frustrating experience. You should be getting software that has a mix of interactive and assisted-routing features. This should go along with an equally flexible design rules setup. You’re relying on the PCB software to spot violations and it’s something that can’t be compromised. 


There is very little room for errors when it comes to PCB design. Today’s PCB layout software is capable of simulating the circuit’s response to transient, signal integrity, power network distribution, heat points, and other critical events. Ensure that you’re not missing out on such a useful feature from the PCB layout software download. 

Should You Download a PCB Layout Software Right Now?

If you’ve been stuck with a software that is struggling to keep up with today’s pressing demand, you ought to consider downloading a new PCB layout software. However, the greater concern is picking up the right software program from those that are available. 

Hand about to press a download button in technological hologram

If you’re hitting the wall with existing tools, you’ll need to download a new PCB layout software.

You can’t go wrong by downloading a PCB software like Allegro. Besides delivering as the basic tools for circuit design, it allows you to run crosstalk, return path, coupling, and impedance analysis on the PCB. 

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts