I just thought I'd throw you guys my 2c worth and another option.

Around 6 months ago I found myself in a position where I needed to do some 
design work at home - we use Protel98 at work - so I downloaded the demo for 
99SE and started to use it. Disapointingly, I came across the some of the 
same "issues" that I see at work and started to look around before stumping up. 
I contacted several companies including a UK company called "Tsien" (spelt like 
that) and when I mentioned that I was looking at Protel, they quite literally 
gave me a full copy of their system "on trial" for 6 months, no questions 
asked. It has some features missing, in particular, there's no autorouter, but 
it's got some features that leave others standing:

Very impressive plane and split plane control with an automatic thermal break 
generation tool and a built-in plane viewing facility. Trace ploughing is 
dynamic!! no repouring polygons at all.

True rotation of SMD parts by any angle - even polygon and rectangular pads get 
plotted correctly in the gerber (this has been a great bugbear for me in the 
past because I often design irregularly shaped boards).

Pin swapping from the PCB editor with automatic back annotation of the 
schematic.

Bill of Materials export to CSV format and reverse field stuffing in parts from 
excel

Via tenting control on an individual basis - really useful for those BGAs

In the (integrated) schematic tool, they've got a mechanism for getting power 
connetions displayed on a part by part basis. No more hidden connections and no 
more explicit power pins to be connected (Hooray). The text with the power 
("global" as they call it) connections changes automatically if you the 
connections.

Annotation of parts is completely under user control although the mechansim for 
creating the parts in the first takes some getting your head round.


There are loads of tools that I haven't played with. In particular, I've just 
had a realease from them which has a star earth return feature to allow nets to 
be connected without erroneous DRC errors. Not played with it yet.


It's coming to the crunch time when my free trial license runs out and Craig 
Elison's comments exactly matched what I thought at the beginning - "I could 
fall in love with it and then find I can't afford it.  I also would have wasted 
my time evaluating the demo." I asked the Tsien people again and again about 
the pricing. It is leased at  250 a year which includes all the new versions, 
no capital outlay - it's pin money.

For the record, I have no personal connections with Tsien.



Kiernan Fitzpatrick




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