13 free electronics design tools & PCB design software

January 09, 2017 // By Dunstan Power
Electronics design engineers from award winning consultancy ByteSnap looked at some of the most useful free electronic design software tools available today. If you are looking to predict PCB characteristics or manipulate screens and icons, here is our useful list.

Findchips and Octopart - component search and price checker

Both allow you to get pricing from a number of suppliers quickly and to see stock levels.

They are equally great for quickly seeing the rough cost of a component and the general availability. However, the prices need to be taken with some caution though, as do the stock levels reported, which often aren’t reflected in reality when you go to the supplier.

Octopart also has a really nice BOM load tool that allows an entire BOM to be costed. It isn’t perfect, there are sure to be gaps, but again in terms of speed and convenience, it’s great.


Microstrip Impedance - predicting PCB characteristics

For predicting PCB characteristics to work out stack-ups and track thicknesses, we rate Microstrip Impedance which has a good set of PCB track models - more so than some of the other similar tools.

The graphics also make it clear what it is talking about in terms of things such as “embedded microstrip” and “asymmetric stripline” (this latter one is one that some other tools don’t support).”


Notepad++ - source code editor

This free source code editor and Notepad replacement is packed full of features that will mean you’ll never want to use Notepad again.

For example, you can make comparisons between two or more files. The macro editing allows you to perform repetitive operations on a file. It can also perform ASCII to HEX and HEX to ASCII conversions.

If you’ve got a file in HEX characters you can convert to ASCII to decipher any letters or messages that may be in there. It has tabbed file browsing and probably most important of all, syntax colouring for many languages. Running in the MS Windows environment, its use is governed by GPL License.

Paint.NET – image/photo editing

It’s straightforward UI, pacey performance and powerful tools make Paint.NET a staple in our software development toolkit.

It’s packed with features – special effects, recolour and gradient tools to name a few. Some even say the layers function on Paint.NET allows it to square up to more expensive programs such as Photoshop. And the generous keyboard shortcuts and endless undo and redo function make it a popular option in our office for manipulating screens and icons.