Free PCB Design Software Packages

Create circuit board layouts with open source software

Several free PCB design and Electronic Design Automation (EDA) packages are available for creating printed circuit board layouts. Most of these packages have relatively few design limitations and include schematic capture as well as output to Gerber or extended Gerber formats.

Some of these PCB and EDA packages are only available for specific operating systems. Make sure you choose the right one for your OS.

Best Overall Free PCB Design Package: DesignSpark PCB

DesignSpark PCB download page
What We Like
  • Very few limitations.

  • Lots of online tutorials and forums.

What We Don't Like
  • Consumes a ton of system resources.

  • No simulation.

DesignSpark PCB is a free EDA package offered by RS Components. It has a board size limit of 1 sq meter (1550 sq inches) and no limits on pin counts, layers, or output types. DesignSpark PCB includes schematic capture, PCB layout, autorouting, circuit simulation, design calculators, BOM (bill of materials) tracking, a component creation wizard, and 3D viewing. Eagle component libraries, design files, and circuit diagrams can be imported. DesignSpark PCB outputs all of the required files by PCB manufacturers.

Best PCB Design Package for Windows: FreePCB

FreePCB download page
What We Like
  • Helpful footprint editor and libraries.

  • Works as a virtual machine on Mac and Linux.

What We Don't Like
  • Uses metric units.

  • Relies on external applications.

  • Limited board size.

FreePCB is an open-source PCB design package for Windows. It was designed to support professional PCB designs, but it's easy to learn and use. It does not have a built-in autorouter, but FreeRoute can be used in its place. The only limitation to FreePCB is a maximum board size of 60x60 inches and 16 layers. Designs can be exported in the extended Gerber format used by all PCB manufacturers.

Best PCB Design Package for Mac: Osmond PCB

Osmond PCB download page
What We Like
  • Frequently updated.

  • Handy shortcuts and tracing tools.

What We Don't Like
  • Minimal documentation.

  • A few bugs.

Osmond PCB is a free, full-featured EDA package for Mac. Osmond PCB has no limitations and can even work with both imperial and metric units in the same design seamlessly. Osmond PCB can import a PDF file to serve as a background image, and it supports direct printing of a layout to transparency for DIY homemade PCB fabrication. Extended gerber outputs are also supported, allowing freedom of choice in manufacturing.

Best PCB Design Package for Beginners: ExpressPCB

ExpressPCB download page
What We Like
  • User-friendly.

  • Manufacturer-ready designs.

What We Don't Like
  • No autorouting.

  • Must pay for standard gerber outputs.

ExpressPCB is aimed at novice designers. It offers a schematic capture program that integrates with the ExpressPCB layout software. The schematic and layout files can be linked to automatically carry changes forward. ExpressPCB is meant to be used with the ExpressPCB manufacturing service, and it does not support outputting to standard formats directly. ExpressPCB offers a file conversion service for a fee if standard outputs are required.

Best Multi-platform PCB Design Package: KiCad

Kicad EDA download page
What We Like
  • Completely free and cross-platform

  • More features than some paid options.

What We Don't Like
  • Autorouting tool could be better.

  • Add-ons required for 3D modeling.

The best open source cross-platform EDA package is KiCad, which is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows. The KiCad suite of programs includes schematic capture, PCB layout with a 3D viewer and up to 16 layers, a footprint creator, a project manager, and a Gerber viewer. Tools are also available to import components from other packages. KiCad has a built-in autorouter and supports outputting to extended Gerber formats.

Best PCB Desgin Package for Unix: gEDA

gEDA download page
What We Like
  • Convenient keyboard shortcuts

  • Easy automation.

What We Don't Like
  • Scant documentation.

  • Infrequent updates.

gEDA is an open source package that runs on Linux, Unix, and Mac. It also offers very limited Windows functionality. gEDA includes schematic capture, attribute management, BOM generation, net listing into over 20 formats, analog and digital simulation, a Gerber file viewer, Verilog simulation, transmission line analysis, and printed circuit board (PCB) design layouts. Gerber outputs are also supported.

Best PCB Design Package for Hobbyist: ZenitPCB

ZenitPCB download page
What We Like
  • Simple user interface.

  • Frequently improved with new features.

What We Don't Like
  • Too limited for some professional uses.

  • Most of the documentation is in Italian.

ZenitPCB is an easy-to-use PCB layout program that also includes schematic capture and a Gerber file viewer. Older versions limited designs to a maximum of 800 pins, but thanks to a recent update, the limit has been increased to 1,000 pins. ZenitPCB is able to export extended Gerber files, allowing PCBs to be made by any PCB manufacturer.

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