Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Electronic schematic editior reviews

All I wanted to do was draw a couple of simple circuit diagrams.
I quickly came across the following list:
I was surprised how many applications there were to help draw them.

Unfortunately, the first few I have tried were not quite right. They were not bad but I felt that they could do better. I was particularly looking for something that I could just pick-up and run with. If the interface was not obvious I moved on to the next.

I've written the following mini-reviews to remind myself of my thoughts. I've given them a rough rating. 1 out of 5 (x----) through to 5 out of 5 (xxxxx).

My favourite for ease of use creating traditional diagrams, so far, is an online app called SchemeIT closely followed by another online app called EasyEDA.
For features I would use the installed app called KiCAD.

However for mixed diagrams with component images I'm tending towards Inkscape. It's not a schematic drawing app but it allows more flexibility to get clear readable drawings.

I tried these on Windows 10.

Inkscape (xxxx-)
Inkscape is not an electrical schematic tool but it is a drawing program. There are libraries of electrical symbols available for it and plenty of downloadable symbols.
I found this more versatile but it does have a steeper learning curve than the dedicated apps.

KiCAD EDA (xxxx-)
Available on Linux, Mac and Windows.
This is a suite of products. The circuit and PCB editors felt solid, I didn't try any of the others.

It took a few minutes to get my head round the extensive menus and tool bars but it became fairly easy to use very quickly.
KiCAD has a very comprehensive component library and the ability to easily add to it.
I could not find a way to export to SVG, which was disappointing but it would copy a graphic to the clipboard for use in other applications.

TinyCAD (xx---)
I struggled to find how to group objects to make a single component. This may have something to do with using different terminology. I believe I should have looked at schematics or libraries but the very fact it was not obvious was why I moved on.
The sets of existing components did not include some of the basic elements I would have expected. For example, there were lots of specific connectors but I could not find a standard logical connector symbol.

QElectroTech (xxx--)
Nice enough to use and had some good logical symbols but only a small number of specific components.

I could not find out how to create a component. The instructions called them Elements and said they should be saved as xml but how to do that was not obvious.
I also managed to crash the app.

I was using Opera as my web browser while using most of the following but did check that a couple also worked with Chrome.

Circuit Diagram (xxx--)
I liked the idea of this one because it is an open source web based app.
I had some trouble selecting parts and I could not work out how to group them. I hit a bug or two. At one stage, all I could do was move the view, despite clicking the 'select' option.
Component search was frustrating and browse was in such a tiny window, it was useless.
Shame, it felt like a good idea. If I had more time I would have made some modifications to the code.

CircuitLab (xxx--)
This looked tidy and was easy to use but as it was designed to simulate circuit operation, rather than just draw the diagrams, I found it was a bit limited for my needs.

EasyEDA (xxxx-)
This is very easy to jump right in.
I found it easy to use. I did not go so far as to create a component using the Symbol Lib function but I was able to custom configure a simple IC like component very quickly.

This is probably worth spending a bit more time on.

SchemeIT (xxxx-)
This had lots of pre-built symbols and components and a fairly easy way to make custom components.
The important bits were that the component moved as one, I could easily add pins and I was able to label those pins.
I could not work out a way to save the component, despite what the instructions said, however, it worked within the drawing I was in.

Creating a diagram was obvious and easy.

The reviews are my own personal opinion based, in most cases, on very minimal use of the application.

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