As an engineer who enjoys tinkering on various hobbyist projects, I have occasion to draw schematics and (when the bank account allows it) order PC boards. I've tried several different schematic capture packages. Some were supplied as part of PC layout software (Express, Eagle). Some were part of circuit simulation software (LTSpice, TINA-TI). I am not entirely satisfied with the versions I've tried so far.
Part of the problem is that I'm spoiled — I used Viewdraw (now part of Mentor Graphics) at a previous job. With Viewdraw, I could create extremely professional schematics. I have high standards when it comes to drafting. I dislike drawings with excessive jogs in the “wires.” I can't tolerate drawings where a number of connections are so close together (rather like a bus structure, but this is analog, so get off the bus ) that you can't trace from one end to the other.
I like to line up components with one another to the extent possible. I like to be able to move and copy sections of the schematic easily. Finally, I like a schematic capture program that makes it quick and easy to create new components. The component symbol must have all the attributes to make it work properly in the schematic and in the PC layout — for the occasions in which I follow through and get PC boards made.
Just to put my design work in perspective, I am typically drawing a one- or two-page schematic. There are perhaps 100 components. If I follow through with a PC board, it will be several square inches in size. So, typical hobbyist project. Still, it's nice to have a large library of components from which I can draw. Adding text to the components and being able to edit the text (size and placement) is good. Adding text labels in general is pretty handy. Geometric shapes are useful.
I could do everything I've just described (and much more) with Viewdraw. Now, obviously, you would expect this from a schematic capture program designed for professional use and priced accordingly. I'm willing to lower my standards a bit for a home-use product. Much of what I've seen does not produce the crisp schematics I'd like. Most don't seem very user friendly.
I would like to hear from you on schematic capture programs you've used. What do you like about them? What don't you like? Was it free or did you have to buy it? Cost? Would you buy it again? And do you have any special drafting tricks to make the task easier?
Share your thoughts with us below. We'd especially like to hear from engineers who are doing their own board designs (professionally) after they've done the circuit design.