As higher end electronic CAD tools become more complicated with steeper learning curves, due to their increased sophistication and integration, more engineers are investing time to pick up easy-to-use, yet powerful, EDA packages ike EAGLE. EAGLE’s code is low-bloat, focused and high quality. It comes with documentation: a Manual and Tutorial are in separate PDF files and there is an extensive online Help system. The PDF files are meant to be read, whereas the online Help is for quick online reference. This simplicity makes it easy to be up and running in less than a day, and working instead of trying to figure out all the intricacies of the CAD package. EAGLE’s code is high quality because it’s been developed by the same software development team for decades, who have had the time to perfect the code and develop a process for making changes to maintain the high quality. No code is released without extensive beta testing.
Those who design very specialized boards such as those requiring extensive differential signal routing or impedance- controlled routing may need more expensive CAD tools. These tools require payment for features that may never be used, and for many licenses to keep all designs compatible. EAGLE is intended for mainstream PCB developers and is priced at levels a start-up or an individual can afford.
EAGLE has 3 functional modules: Schematic Editor, Layout Editor and Autorouter. These modules are combined in different licensing options to give choices to fit any budget. The licenses also determine operating parameters within the modules. For example, the Standard license allows 99 schematic sheets, 6 PCB layers, and a maximum board size of 160mm × 100mm (single size Eurocard), whereas the Professional version allows 999 schematic sheets, 16 PCB layers and a maximum board size of 1.6m × 1.6m. All versions support a resolution of 1/10,000mm.
In addition to complete board autorouting, EAGLE’s Autorouter can be put into a semiautomatic mode that works in the background, as the board is manually routed. There are 2 semiautomatic modes: one will show you a trace from the mouse to the nearer connection and the other will show a trace from the mouse to both connections. As the mouse is moved, new traces are calculated and shown. The actual trace is chosen by a simple mouse click. This eliminates much of the tedium of board routing and keeps control of trace paths. In addition, EAGLE has a C-like user language to allow customization and run scripts.
EAGLE is offered in different flavours that give the users the opportunity and flexibility to first learn the software using the evaluation versions, and as the complexity of design increases, the more fully featured versions can be used to keep up with changing priorities and projects. The direct upgrade path also allows designers to seamlessly migrate to the higher end software, saving any training time and cost that have been otherwise required.
Since the acquisition of CadSoft by Premier Farnell, it has introduced a more powerful “free” version – a so-called Freemium, which enables designers to evaluate EAGLE for a broader depth of applications. This is a time-limited license of what is very close to the Standard edition. Four layer boards are supported with 4 schematic sheets on a half-Eurocard form factor. The Freemium license is valid for 60 days and the activation code is available exclusively on element14 portal at www.element-14.com eagle-freemium. You are welcome to register there for your own complimentary license. Note that the license is restricted to one PC and one email address.