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 didnt 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 couldnt 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 didnt meet all the requirements we had for software. For example, they didnt 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 Im being more careful and Im 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 theyre 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 wont 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. Its included in the cost of our products. From our sales is that we pay our salaries and all operating expenses. Im 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. Theyre proactive and making improvements fast. Im 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 Im 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 its more intuitive than EAGLE).
Also, we if we go with DipTrace I dont want to have to reevaluate changing software again anytime soon. Ive 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 dont 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, Ill try to form a strong partnership between Parallax and Novarm, where we have an active relationship to continue making improvements to address customers 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 were 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?