EAGLE or DipTrace?

Aristides AlvarezAristides Alvarez Posts: 470
edited 2011-01-19 - 11:47:00 in General Discussion
As I mentioned before (http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php?127226-New-Prop-BOE&p=957742&viewfull=1#post957742) a couple of years ago I settled on using EAGLE for all my engineers in Parallax Hong Kong and Parallax US Education Department.

In that post I was not talking about Parallax US Engineering department since they develop more complex and advanced projects and they mostly use more professional software, as Protel, PADs and now Altium. Parallax Field Application Engineers need to communicate with engineers from other companies that are also using similar software platforms. I know that employees in that department also have used EAGLE, DipTrace and PCBExpress in some smaller projects.

In my departments and for many reasons including customer interest, software features and license price, I had to go with EAGLE. It was the most popular program at the time and it met all the requirements we had set for Schematic capture and PCB design. Hobbyists were using EAGLE in their projects as well as teachers and students in their classrooms.

Our Chinese engineers didn’t like EAGLE that much at first and they found it difficult to use and with limited capabilities compared with other professional software they had experience with (Protel or PADs). Since my decision was customer driven, I pushed EAGLE down their throats and got all of them trained in using EAGLE with tutorials, books and simple projects. I always believed that efficient design happens only with all the engineers using the same tool so I couldn’t accommodate personal preferences. There was time and energy spent in developing EAGLE skills to serve the customer needs.

Around June 2010, one of the members of the Parallax Rocklin Engineering team (David Carrier) recommended DipTrace to me, as a better platform than EAGLE. I followed up with internet research and also sat during a class taught by Gadget Gangster (Nick) during the Unofficial Propeller Expo in Rocklin, CA (UPEW).

At the time I checked DipTrace and it didn’t meet all the requirements we had for software. For example, they didn’t have a Mac version. In the past we made some decisions that limited the access of our material to schools with other platforms than Windows OS. Our development was Windows friendly and it was very hard and sometimes impossible to add Mac/Linux support after the material was developed in Windows. Now I’m being more careful and I’m trying to make sure that we develop all educational material for Windows, Mac and Linux up front.

DipTrace conversations in Parallax came back to the table when Education Department generated the PropBOE specs (from the forum link above). David is doing the PropBOE schematic and recommended DipTrace again. I said no up front since our current Education Dept standard requires EAGLE but while following up on this issue one of my Education engineers (Jessica Uelmen) noticed that DipTrace had Linux and Mac versions now. I confirmed with DipTrace and they did add the Mac version later in 2010 (but they’re still a Windows native and not Mac native application).

We just setup a machine to do some DipTrace testing in Mac and Linux in Rocklin, CA and we have the engineers in China testing DipTrace too. Preliminary testing in Education Dept engineers was positive and we believe the tool would be easier to use than EAGLE in a classroom environment.

If DipTrace meets all of our requirements I could open the door for my staff to switch from EAGLE to DipTrace. It won’t be optional to switch platforms though, so I need to be 100% sure that this is the right decision. Older projects would stay and be maintained in EAGLE and new projects, like the whole Propeller Educational Program hardware will be developed 100% in DipTrace.

I cannot take this change lightly though, since any change takes some time, effort and coordination. All of that ends up costing Parallax (both PLX HK and PLX US) money.

Where all that money comes from? Customers like you. It’s included in the cost of our products. From our sales is that we pay our salaries and all operating expenses. I’m trying hard to keep the retail pricing in all products as low as possible, even more in the educational ones.

I contacted DipTrace and they are very nice to work with. They’re proactive and making improvements fast. I’m sure that if we swap software at this point, we will have a partner that will help us resolve any issues we find along the way and that they will support their customers in the same way we do it at Parallax (you probably saw DipTrace support in this forum already from Stanislav).

Now, before I jump in, I need to hear from customers like you that this is the right thing to do. This is what you want and need. This forum post is part of my open request for feedback but some other feedback will be collected by other means. Many educators are not active forum members and I’m trying to contact the EAGLE users to check if they could do the DipTrace transition as well (I think they will be happy to do it since it’s more intuitive than EAGLE).

Also, we if we go with DipTrace I don’t want to have to reevaluate changing software again anytime soon. I’ve been following the posts in the forum and many members are recommending other platforms (gEDA, KiCAD, etc). Even if the Open Source PCB software keeps improving, I don’t think they will meet our requirements in the near future. Even if they do, we cannot keep switching software (or customers pay the cost).

If we switch to DipTrace, I’ll try to form a strong partnership between Parallax and Novarm, where we have an active relationship to continue making improvements to address customer’s needs. You could expect DipTrace to include Parallax hardware examples in some of their tutorials and our Parallax educational program would rely exclusively on DipTrace for schematic + PCB.

Why is important making a decision now? The timing is just right:

1- Because we’re just starting the Propeller Educational program with the PropBOE design and once we get going, it will be harder to make any software change.
2- Also, by the end of January I will have the PLX HK engineers coming to Rocklin, CA for training and we could do some DipTrace training with all the engineers together in the same room at the same time.

I think the migration to DipTrace could be done quickly (which means that it will be low cost) and efficiently if the decision is made soon. If DipTrace is everything you said so far in the forums, I think we could actually speed up some projects and cut costs after doing the migration.

This is a customer driven decision, and I tried to give you as much information and be as open as possible so you can make an informed decision.

So what is it going to be?


  • max72max72 Posts: 1,150
    edited 2011-01-07 - 14:42:56
    I'm a hobbyist, so consider I'm using the software for one-off boards.
    I started with eagle. I tested also kicad, geda, and tinycad+freepcb. At the moment I'm using diprace under linux and windows. I have no Mac, and I had a special way to freeze any Mac in my hand at the university, so don't count on me for a Mac compatibility...
    In my opinion open source software at the moment have not the cutting edge. Moreover from a hobbyist point of view limitations of free versions of diptrace/eagle are a little problem. I haven't the resource for making a multilayer/jumbo board.
    I really like Diptrace for ease of use and customer care.
    Libraries are very easy to make, but not so easy to manage. In any way I voted for Diptrace because in my opinion it is more immediate than Eagle.
    I will never be able to unleash the full power of a CAE, so weight my opinion accordingly.
  • Aristides AlvarezAristides Alvarez Posts: 470
    edited 2011-01-07 - 14:55:04
    max72 wrote: »
    I'm a hobbyist, so consider I'm using the software for one-off boards.



    Thanks for your vote and feedback. You represent exactly the customer I’m talking about.

    Many of our educational projects are also used by hobbyists at home.

    You have an interesting background history on PCB software which makes your opinion more useful than mine (I have very limited PCB + Schematic software experience myself).

    Once we release more and more Open Source projects you will have access to editable project files that you can modify for designing your own one-off boards. We hope that sharing our files will make your projects easier to get started and keep going.
  • schillschill Posts: 741
    edited 2011-01-07 - 15:32:43
    I'm really just starting out using Diptrace but I've found it much easier to work with than Eagle (maybe I never gave Eagle enough of a chance).

    I've done a number of boards using Expresspcb software. I know that no one is going to suggest that you start using that (proprietary files, software limitations, etc.) but it is easy to use. To me, Diptrace seems similar enough that it's pretty straightforward to get started using it. More powerful than Expresspcb software, but not a huge learning curve to get started. I think this is valuable for hobbyists. If it can handle what you need at a professional level, it seems to me to be the best tool (of the two).
  • mctriviamctrivia Posts: 3,772
    edited 2011-01-07 - 15:50:35
    I prefer eagle but that is what I am use to. I would like to use altium but can't afford it.

    Dip trace for me has never been a consideration. But I think everyone needs to find the software they like and provides gerbers.

    For you as a provider you should support both. Though it is more helpful with eagle if you support older versions of eagle since cadsoft tried to make everyone rebuy 5 when 4.1 works just as well
  • RoadsterRoadster Posts: 209
    edited 2011-01-07 - 17:02:29
    When I evaluated PCB programs many years ago Protel was the best for the price and for my needs, this is back in the DOS days, I produced many complex PCB's with Protel for Dos and latter the windows version, but now its out of my price range. Today I think Diptrace is the best PCB program for my needs with a price that's in my budget and it gets better every version.

    PS just for your information I have imported Eagle pcbs with Diptrace without any issues.
  • W9GFOW9GFO Posts: 4,004
    edited 2011-01-07 - 17:22:57
    I use DipTrace and I won't likely ever outgrow it. I was excited to hear that they released a Mac version but no so excited to use it since it is requires wine to run. I'm hoping that they will release an OS X native application, until then I will run it under XP.

    Rich H
  • Aristides AlvarezAristides Alvarez Posts: 470
    edited 2011-01-07 - 17:27:12
    mctrivia wrote: »
    Though it is more helpful with eagle if you support older versions of eagle since cadsoft tried to make everyone rebuy 5 when 4.1 works just as well

    Thanks for the insight. You just brought up an issue that I didn’t mention in my post:
    Software versions.

    I was focused in the software itself and I didn’t cover Parallax policies on software revisions. At a personal level, I just use a piece of software for as long as it works fine for me. I don’t think in upgrading to a newer version unless a “must have” feature is added (or if I move to a newer PC that is no longer compatible with the older software revision).

    Our internal policies in Parallax tend to push the software licenses we use to the latest version available.

    There are many reasons, as support being terminated by the software provider in older versions, or new employees coming to the company and requiring new software license purchases (you're forced to buy the latest version in most cases). Once we have one employee on a newer license, we need to bring all of them to the same one to keep them in sync.

    In your case I can see that even if we use EAGLE we will probably be out of sync with your version of EAGLE. I’m not sure if we could export the EAGLE file in an older version format and even if the possibility is provided, it doesn’t always work as well if the design uses a feature added in the newer license version.

    I remember some issues we experienced when we had one engineer in Protel 98 SE and other in Protel 99. It caused all sorts of problems and the import-export features never worked 100% right even in the same software but different revision.

    The same will happen with DipTrace users. If we go with DipTrace we will keep using the latest version so users of paid licenses will have to upgrade their licenses in some cases.
  • Ken GraceyKen Gracey Posts: 6,887
    edited 2011-01-07 - 19:51:00
    Ari didn't mention that our Engineering Department (Rocklin) uses Altium for schematic and PCB layout. This program seems to export to a DipTrace-compatible format but we don't have readily-obvious ways of producing an Eagle file.

    The PropBOE, for example, will be done in Altium and exported to DipTrace so you can make your own from our files, or to do whatever you want with the native layout. One of the requirements is that the board be fully open-sourced. Releasing Altium files isn't going to help anybody who wants to make their own, and sharing the Gerbers lock people out too. Open-source is only useful if you can actually edit the files in our view - I don't like open-source "back-slapping" from people or companies who claim their open-source files are useful when expensive software licenses or un-editable files keep the hobbyist from truly realizing their goal.

    For our professional designs we will continue to use Altium. And this program can make a DipTrace-compatible file.
  • WBA ConsultingWBA Consulting Posts: 2,918
    edited 2011-01-08 - 04:16:00
    I use DipTrace for my products. Products that I work on with a colleague are done in Altium (my PowerTwig 3D views are courtesy of Altium). I have been really happy with it and dumped Eagle fairly quickly once I demo'd DipTrace. All personal opinion of course, but here are some other thoughts:

    1) Support for DipTrace seems to be more solid and easier to obtain from the developers not just users.
    2) The pricing structure for Eagle is extremely complicated, compared to DipTrace's pricing, which in my opinion is reason enough to avoid purchase of software of this sort. There isn't really much sense from a marketing perspective in making such a complicated matrix for a CAD Software package. This makes me suspect that the development costs of Eagle are factored in every way possible to each purchase of Eagle.
    3) Opportunities to increase DipTrace's marketshare by having an avenue like Parallax for users and libraries should not be ignored. Novarm (DipTrace's maker) may even be interested in working with Parallax closer for this reason.
    4) By settling on a professional standard that is available to hobbyists, Parallax can help increase the expertise of the users and thus increase the number of Parallax based PCBs on the market, which in turn means more sales.
    5) I have been in contract manufacturing for 11 years (PCB manufacturing for almost 20) and I have yet to see any company (other that start-ups) use Eagle and this is why I don't consider it "professional" software.
    6) DipTrace's track record is much smoother and faster than Eagle's. Look at the progression of the features in the past 5 years. DipTrace has made major leaps and bounds, where Eagle has simply maintained steady improvements.
    7) Most engineers that I know of that started with Eagle did so for it's simplicity, but switched away from it for it's ease of use for complicated designs.
  • MicrocontrolledMicrocontrolled Posts: 2,461
    edited 2011-01-08 - 07:09:55
    I used EAGLE first for PCB design, but always found it difficult to work with. I switched to DipTrace after seeing a PCB tutorial by Nick and have been using it ever since. Granted, I've never gotten a PCB made, but I use it for schematics and concept designs.
  • TtailspinTtailspin Posts: 1,326
    edited 2011-01-08 - 07:50:01
    I vote for DipTrace also, I use it for Hobby Circuits and Schematics.

    Was under the impression that Diptrace was allready the default software for Parallax??
    I got Diptrace from Parallax, Open Source Hardware Design link, from the two axis Joystick product page.

    Super easy to learn and use too..
    Just design what I want, and take the files over to the UPS store(printing shop), and they put it on Photo or Transparency paper for Me..
  • Aristides AlvarezAristides Alvarez Posts: 470
    edited 2011-01-08 - 09:20:47
    3) Opportunities to increase DipTrace's marketshare by having an avenue like Parallax for users and libraries should not be ignored. Novarm (DipTrace's maker) may even be interested in working with Parallax closer for this reason.

    Yes, we can certainly work with Novarm establishing a partnership with them.

    Several years ago, when I went with EAGLE I tried to find ways to work with them but CadSoft was not a very receptive or communicative company. They put me in contact with somebody in Florida (US) and we were pretty much on our own.

    I contacted Novarm as part of my research before making this post in the forum. Response time is minutes and they’re very quick to make decisions and they offer help and support. I believe they understand much better the advantages in working together with Parallax than any other PCB software company I worked with before (I also talked with the makers of Target 3001, the German-ish PCB software that has been around for a while).

    It could be a win-win-win situation, where
    - Novarm gets more exposure to Parallax customers,
    - Parallax gets better PCB/Sch software support and exposure to DipTrace users, and
    - Parallax customers will receive more complete design files (Open Source) to use as they see fit (just for reference or to kick start a projects from an existing file) while receiving support from both companies (Novarm on software and PLX on hardware design).
  • max72max72 Posts: 1,150
    edited 2011-01-08 - 14:07:13
    W9GFO wrote: »
    I use DipTrace and I won't likely ever outgrow it. I was excited to hear that they released a Mac version but no so excited to use it since it is requires wine to run. I'm hoping that they will release an OS X native application, until then I will run it under XP.

    Rich H

    I use Diptrace in windows and Linux using Wine. It works rather well (the linux machine is an eeepc). Moreover I have libraries and projects in a dropbox folder, so they are the same on both machines.
  • SeariderSearider Posts: 290
    edited 2011-01-08 - 15:08:51
    I am also a hobbiest and have produce about 3 boards a year. I originally looked at eagle but never got proficient. I tried Diptrace about a year or so ago and felt I could do most anything in very short order. I am also partial to companies that support non-commercial hobbiest. Thumbs up for DipTrace.
  • Aristides AlvarezAristides Alvarez Posts: 470
    edited 2011-01-12 - 11:14:24
    OK. DipTrace it is.

    I just closed the poll and it was about 91% DipTrace and 9% EAGLE.

    All internal testing so far was positive and communication with Novarm is great.

    Parallax Rocklin Engineering is using Altium and they can export/import DipTrace files, so things keep getting better and better.

    Now I have to check out and work out a plan for all PLS US Education and PLX HK Engineering staff and projects to switch to DipTrace.
  • SSteveSSteve Posts: 808
    edited 2011-01-14 - 14:50:55
    I don't use schematic software much. I used EAGLE once to make a schematic for one of the few projects I've actually built. But I just downloaded DIpTrace and the first impression I have of the company is how terrible the text looks in the tutorial. I wouldn't even think it's possible to make text spacing look this bad with modern tools. Since the main focus of their product is supposed to be creating quality output I'm surprised they'd allow something like this to reach the public. Ari, the next time you talk to them you might want to point this out.
    DipTrace Tutorial.png
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  • novarmnovarm Posts: 17
    edited 2011-01-15 - 01:19:45
    To be honest I don't see where is the problem, but I'm not visual designer. Tutorial was created with Help and Manual default PDF output feature, Help and Manual seems to be one of the leading tools for creating tutorials, help files, etc. We focus mainly on the product and customer support, and use Help and Manual and Camtasia Studio features to make tutorials - at my opinion they have acceptable output quality.

    Stanislav Ruev
    DipTrace Team
  • SSteveSSteve Posts: 808
    edited 2011-01-15 - 11:42:37
    Hi, Stanislav. Thanks for the reply. I'm glad Novarm is taking an interest in Parallax and its customers. This is a terrific community and I'm sure there will be many mutual benefits.
    novarm wrote: »
    To be honest I don't see where is the problem, but I'm not visual designer.

    I'm not a visual designer either, but I'm a consumer of visual design and I've done some freelance editing. Look at the screenshot attached to my previous message. In the second word, "document", the "m" collides with the "e". There are many places in the paragraph where the letters collide. The letter spacing in general is jagged. I honestly find it hard to read. Now compare that to this screenshot which I created by pasting that paragraph into Pages and creating a PDF:

    Surely you can see the difference. Perhaps there's a configuration error in the software you're using to create the PDF?
    740 x 239 - 55K
  • novarmnovarm Posts: 17
    edited 2011-01-15 - 12:43:21
    SSteve wrote: »
    Surely you can see the difference. Perhaps there's a configuration error in the software you're using to create the PDF?

    Thanks! I will forward this to the staff who compiled tutorial and probably to H&M company if default settings have such issues.
  • Aristides AlvarezAristides Alvarez Posts: 470
    edited 2011-01-17 - 10:27:52
    SSteve wrote: »
    I don't use schematic software much. I used EAGLE once to make a schematic for one of the few projects I've actually built.
    DipTrace Tutorial.png

    In the case of my engineers, it’s mandatory for them to generate a schematic before doing any PCB layout and keeping that schematic updated as they move along making design changes while working in the layout. They were doing it in EAGLE and will do the same in DipTrace.

    Why? In a personal use you could just make PCB files directly and check manually your designs. You’re the only one working on those files too and you can choose how to document them. Whatever works better for you.

    But in a company setup I’ve seen many times in the past the problems caused due to lack of schematic design (and sometimes I see repercussions of past mistakes in new prototypes).
    • Documentation problems since there’s no valid/current schematic to share with customers
    • You cannot use the software to check the PCB layout against the schematic design to catch PCB layout errors
    • If the project moves to somebody else in the organization, the documentation is missing or broken unless the current schematic is attached to the current PCB

    I’m sure there are more reasons but just with the last one the case was strong enough to require schematics on all designs. To make sure that engineers get used to do schematics before starting the layout design I request schematics in all products. Yes, even a connector PCB adaptor board, which consists of one PCB, the component and a couple of headers, must have a schematic.

    Now, once you’re used to do schematics and it saved you while checking the PCB for errors a couple of times, preventing waste of time in the design cycle for sending defective prototype PCBs out, you get to appreciate this feature.

    Regarding your comment about the documentation, I see that DipTrace is already following up from your report. As I said before, I’m impressed on how responsive Novarm (DipTrace) is on any comment/request coming from any customer. Not sure what the issue is but it could be a font that is not embedded (included) in the end pdf file so it will look perfect in the PC that made the file and different in another PC that doesn’t have loaded the same fonts. That was just a guess but I’d let Novarm’s team follow up on it.
  • SSteveSSteve Posts: 808
    edited 2011-01-17 - 12:00:32
    Regarding your comment about the documentation, I see that DipTrace is already following up from your report. As I said before, I’m impressed on how responsive Novarm (DipTrace) is on any comment/request coming from any customer.

    Yeah, that's great. I hope they can figure out what the issue is. To me, the appearance of documentation says a lot about the company that produced it.
  • Bob Lawrence (VE1RLL)Bob Lawrence (VE1RLL) Posts: 1,706
    edited 2011-01-17 - 12:54:22
    I've been pushing Diptrace on the forums here for several years.

    Here's an old thread: 01-12-2009 04:42 PM


    Their support is excellent.

    Diptrace gets my vote :)
  • hmlittle59hmlittle59 Posts: 404
    edited 2011-01-18 - 18:41:58
    Hello Aristides-Alvarez-(Parallax),
    I posted a reply, but either got bumped off-line or never logged in. When I went to post reply it told me to refresh and everything was lost. Any way I see that it's a close subject now but I did start my current project with ExpressPCB and that was at the right speed for me. I did 2 or 3 prototypes and bounced around trying other free downloads even Diptrace. None seem to click but someone from the Forum suggested that I try Diptrace and I did again and I'm glad I did. I've developed 3 boards(2 controller & 1 switch) for my project and I currently have (100 cntrl & 100 switch) boards arriving from China 2 days from now. I'm by no means close to an expert but I think its a great product. This has taking way to long to do but like I said I'm no expert. NOTE: I did do both Sch/PCB with ExpressPCB(very easy), but when it came to doing the Sch. in Diptrace I was totally/completely lost. Why I don't know, so I jumped into the PCB layout and it went great. Both Thru hole(43 patterns/149 pins) & SMT versions(65 pattern/249 pins). SMT was designed with the BS2e Interpreter. I have gone back and did 2 of the 3 boards Schematics but it was painful. I don't know how to use the Autorouting so every part was manual. I know it's a mute point now but it was a very easy program to learn. They have always seem to answer Forum question very quickly and even raise their pin count from 250 to 300 hundred. I did purchase their $75.00 small business version at the end of last year also(Taxes). I will not out this program for a long time.

    my 2 cents

  • novarmnovarm Posts: 17
    edited 2011-01-18 - 22:50:04
    Hi Howard,

    Did you see our tour (there are both designing schematic and auto-routing there): http://www.diptrace.com/tour

  • hmlittle59hmlittle59 Posts: 404
    edited 2011-01-19 - 11:37:49
    Ok, twice I have responded and twice it has not shown up...what am I doing wrong...Eagle or Diptrace.

    Both time I had to re-log in

  • SSteveSSteve Posts: 808
    edited 2011-01-19 - 11:40:35
    Howard, if you're having trouble with the forum you should test in the test forum (http://forums.parallax.com/forumdisplay.php?45-Test-Forum).
  • hmlittle59hmlittle59 Posts: 404
    edited 2011-01-19 - 11:47:00
    OK, this time my screen did a double refresh(best way I can describe it) and now I see it, plus a response from novarm. I did view the video( 2 or 3 time). I'll just have to find more time to really understand what I'm doing and what's suppose to happen when I'm starting a layout.

    PS: FedEx tried to deliver my boards today but I was out(1 day earlier then scheduled). Can't wait.

    Thanks for the reply

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