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Other EDA review and more about truetypes


This time I put my hands on diproute... first thing, it supports opengl
and direct3d. In GDI mode is *very* sluggy (more than kicad on a busy
board), because it's apparent it double buffers everything.

It's somewhat economical, like eagle. The free version is limited to 150
pads iirc.

I couldn't run in in directx/opengl mode because my panel is 16bit only
and it simply I didn't see a thing:P anyway they suggest to use opengl
only with high-end boards (quadros and firegls), but maybe it only their
drawing code or windows that sucks:P:P

First impression: more or less the exacly same feature of kicad, but
still there is the 'measure' tool because they only have the absolute
origin (spacebar rocks on kicad...). Schematics is separated from pthe
layout and component editor (they are different exes too).

The schematic editor seems fine, sluggyness apart; wire edition is drag
based (thing about coreldraw), and wires 'stick' to components like in
design spark. You have to 'disconnect' them to modify the wiring.
I particularily like the way you can drag a T branch keeping it
connected this way:

---o---  ==> -----o-
   |              |
   |              |

it also works with crosses:

   |            |
   |            |
---o---  ==> ---o-o-
   |              |
   |              |

I have to agree that's fun:D bus connector follows them around (since
they're actually part of the wire, not separate objects.  It also drags
around packages keeping wires orthogonal, like design spark.

They also do 'rollover' net highlight. It could be the reason for
slugginess, but maybe it can be disabled. I can live without it since
there is a better way to follow connections (read below).

The 'design manager' toolbox is interesting: in the upper half there are
properties for the currently selected object (like VB property
sheets:P), in the bottom half there are listboxes with components and
pins to find them quickly. Another view is the netlist with the
connected pins. It seems that current trend is dynamic while-you-edit
netlisting. I have no idea on how it scales (I fear for >2K nets
designs...). Also if you accidentally connects two named nets one of
these 'wins' and the other one lose its name. A confirmation would be
useful here. Deletion is more or less a 'delete until it branches'.

Still no on-page labels... how they handle it? they seems to put
everything in a bus, but I don't like it; also bus entry labelling is...
unconvenient, at least. There seems to be page connectors but only for
buses. Hierarchical sheets seems to be supported but didn't tried them;
it seems to be a strict procedure to define them.

They also handle a 'table' primitive... only for text it seems, could be
useful but I can live without it. And of course the usual 'modern'
graphics primitives (how did we make to this day without putting filled
polygons and pictures on a schematic?).

Font handling is curious: you have the choice between 'vector' (the
embedded vector font) and 'truetype' (which seems to be fixed to arial
or something similar:P). Then about ten text sizes (in points?
probably). For text objects the usual 'font' dialog box applies.

By the way, I checked the gerber export for truetype support. They
stroke the outline with a 3mil aperture, and then raster fill it. Of
course plots are enormous, but at least the result is good. Their vector
font is available (and it's pretty too) so ttf are strictly a user

Components are added from a lateral toolbar, while libraries are
selected from an horizontal toolbar (like maya shelves). There is also
a sizable search dialog for them.

Package assignment is done on the context menu for the component (it's
a somewhat complex box).

Going to the PCB editor opens another program (also there seems to be no
cross probing available). There are about 10 toolbars (the windows
way:D) and the sluggyness remains (but no flicker). Layer setup is
flexible, there is (tunable!) contrast support and the layer sidebar is
almost equal to that in pcbnew.

The sidebar also contains the component/pin locator (same as the

One thing I simply don't get is *why* pcb editors (pcbnew included) keep
allowing component and even pads at the board level... as if someone
these days would be so crazy to route a board without a schematic and
a netlist?? (the only thing I could be useful for is board reverse
engineering, but then you'll need a *very* robust background image
support). Anyway, this editor even has 'mounting holes' as a primitive:P
I have no trouble defining components for mounting holes, but maybe it
could become useful for certain formats like IDF; I think that
electrically active holes (like grounding pads) would need a component
anyway to declare the connection. There is also a 'place static via
command', no idea about what it would be useful for... maybe probe

Track routing is almost the same as in kicad; editing is like 'drag
parallel' while 'free editing' is like the segment drap. It even handles
tees in a reasonable way (I *want* that drag in pcbnew). Too bad it
doesn't handle DRC on the fly... I dragged a track crossing another net
and it complied! (kicad wins on this - a lot).

Ratnest also don't guide you while routing (you have to 'optimize' them
with F12)

There is an autorouter and a SPECCTRA interface. There are 'track
templates' more or less like kicad ones (but I didn't find a net class
support, you have to choose your template).

Grid size is basic, only a regular grid with no x/y pitches or offsets.
At least they keep a list of grid sizes to recall.

There are import/export settings for some formats (orcad and pads
included). Plotting is also doing with an export (and it's complex
& somewhat awful... it *still* ask you to define apertures, but at least
it can do it in auto).

General impression: more or less at a par with kicad. Sluggy to use.
Some interesting features (dragging and the component list)

Lorenzo Marcantonio
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