so what's the excuse for pcb not matching schematic?
The history was two different DOS programs... Then there are differences in what is natural with schematics and what is natural with PCB design. In schematic, symbol representation is important but not electrically functional, in PCB, most everything creates a physical structure with important characteristics. It is clear that the programs were not originally designed to have a common way of doing things; sometimes this is appropriate, sometimes it is merely irritating.
I hope they work on the productivity, it is obvious the system was designed more from the EE designers perspective, and that's great, but for the person that only does pcb design it is very slow, I hope I never have to do a large board with this, I'll use something else if it is up to me
As a printed circuit designer, I found Protel quite easy to use, I started with Protel 98. (I had used the Autotrax demo years before to write a Tango - Protel bidirectional translator, but the real key to my Protel experience was Tango itself, since it was pretty much an Autotrax killer, written by Accel to grab the U.S. market of Protel, for whom they had been the U.S. rep.)
I'm not sure I agree that Protel is designed "more from the EE designers perspective," partly because I'm not sure exactly what Mr. Protel Hell means. Protel definitely appeals more to engineers than to in-house printed circuit design specialists, but the reasons for that are complex, having a lot to do with the kinds of characters who are attracted to -- or qualified for -- the two fields. I'm a printed circuit designer, a specialist to be sure, but my training and inclinations are more like an engineer and, when I worked at large companies, tended to get along very well with the engineers and not always so well with other designers..
Protel is a highly flexible design system, there are usually many ways to accomplish a task, and it has an open database, which gives even more flexibility. I might be called a "printed circuit design engineer," rather than a CAD specialist per se. I was never shy to dig into the inner workings of the programs I worked with, to write my own utilities to manipulate databases when the command set of the program didn't do what I needed, or didn't do it with sufficient power and speed.
I find it interesting that I almost completely stopped writing utilities when I started using Protel, because the program already did most of what I needed to do; what remained could usually be handled simply by opening up the ASCII database with Word or Excel.
Productivity is a double-edged sword. Sometimes what makes a program difficult to learn can increase productivity for one who has learned it; the reverse can be true as well, i.e., what makes a program more productive can make it harder to learn. A good program is both intuitive *and* efficient, that is, it may have, for example, plenty of menus with logical names, but it may also have lots of keystroke shortcuts, since the keyboard is faster than the mouse for a skilled user.
Protel is quite satisfactory for large boards *if you know how to use it.* I don't think there is an easier PCB CAD system. I once had a customer who required that I use OrCAD Layout, which was, at the time -- I don't know if it has changed -- a very rigid and very non-intuitive design system, which cost about triple the price of Protel at the time. The customer wanted me to use OrCAD even though he hated it himself, because he had spent $13,000 on it and Capture and he couldn't get his money back.... It was a disaster. I've talked to a lot of designers about the experience, and apparently I was not uniquely stupid. I'd spend a day figuring out how to do something that would take a few seconds in Tango or Protel; next day, when I needed to do it again, I had forgotten, it was that complex.
Yet there are designers who swear by OrCAD. My conclusions are various: (1) They don't know any better, and/or (2) more importantly, they are accustomed to OrCAD, and when you've been doing something a certain way for ten years, it definitely becomes the "intuitive way" to do the thing.
If you really want to compare two CAD systems, ask designers who have become expert with both systems, anything short of that is pretty arbitrary, depending on the history of the evaluator.
like it or not, for beter or worse, MicroSoft rules the world, if you expect to suceed software must conform to Windows, it must be easy to learn in any case, DXP is the most unintuitive CAD I have ever seen, and I've been in CAD over 20 years
Windows conventions were largely designed for use with documents; once you get outside of text documents, the "conventions" see a lot of variation. In PCB design, placement position is critical. Simple cut-and-paste doesn't cut it, so to speak.
But where it is reasonably appropriate to use known conventions, certainly they should be used. My point, however, is that this may sacrifice the productivity of an expert user for ease-of-use for a novice. Protel, I think, has a good set of compromises, but certainly it can be improved; in fact, it *has* been improved quite a bit since I started to use it.
I originally commented on Protel Hell's complaint about inconsistency between CAMtastic and PCB, which, indeed, are far more inconsistent than, say, Schematic and PCB. It is irritating and frustrating that, for example, zooming around the board requires drastically different procedures in the two programs. That's a productivity killer. But both programs have users accustomed to the existing interfaces, which makes changing one or the other tricky. I'd suggest having alternate interfaces; that is, the existing interface for one of the programs would be retained as an option; but the standard, default interface, if it differed, would be designed to form a common standard interface for all the programs in the set.
For example, in PCB, I'm accustomed to zooming in with Z-W, draw box with mouse. The window can be panned by grabbing the view box in the Browse PCB mini-display and moving it, or it can be panned even more quickly by hold-right-mouse, which grabs the screen, which can then be panned directly, which works great for short pans. Or I can simply zoom out (perhaps Z-B, which will show me the entire board) and then zoom in again to the area of interest. Lots of ways to do the task, not to mention the pull-down menus, the rt-click popup menu, and PageUp and PageDown.
Now, in Schematic, hit the Z key and you get the zoom menu. W works just like in PCB, so that the Z-W method of zooming in works the same as in PCB, and since it is my default way of looking about, I experience PCB and Schematic as being quite similar in this respect. Some of the options on the Z menu are the same in PCB and in Schematic, some are different. Some of the differences are appropriate, some represent ways in which Schematic -- or maybe PCB -- could be improved. For example, why is there a Zoom Select command in PCB and not in Schematic?
But there is no Panel display of the whole schematic and there is no grabbing the screen with the right-mouse and panning that way. How much of a loss is this? A little, not a lot.... The range of scales used on a schematic is not as great as on a PCB; the panel display is thus less important. But I don't use it a lot in PCB, simply because I'm quite accustomed to doing without such a thing, I just zoom in and out a lot.
And I'm very grateful that my Protel/hardware combination draws the screen quickly. I remember CADstar running on early PCs.... I've still got the original boxes for CADstar and Redlog in the closet.... Installed, used once, replaced with a $250 program called EasyPCB, and put away.... (That was about $14K worth of software at the time, the loan or gift -- it was never clear -- of a customer who was acquired and disappeared; they used to sell CADstar/Redlog. And it was way too cumbersome to use.)
It's easy to look at a program and find something wrong with it. In the end, however, it seems that there are a lot of engineers and designers who use Protel because they like it, they find it better than the options, it works for them. It's not better than it could theoretically be, but better than the other programs that are actually available and affordable. (Protel has gotten more expensive, but the competition is generally even more expensive. If I were in marketing at Altium, I'd be very conscious of the entry market. At a startup, cash might be short. How can I encourage small companies to get started with Protel, how can I make it easy for them? There are some other programs out there that might be appealing to a startup; for example Tsien Boardmaker, and it costs very little to get into Boardmaker; and it does, in fact, do printed circuit design.... but Protel it is not, I would not recommend Boardmaker to someone who can afford Protel and who needs to do serious work, but if you *can't* afford Protel -- even a resold license, which might be 25-50% off -- then you do what you can.)
When I bought Protel 98, I paid for it out of my own pocket. It was truly a bargain. (I was fortunate enough to have a friend with an un-upgraded Autotrax license, so I only paid about $1995; full price then was, as I recall, $3995.) Many of those who write for this list are similarly working for themselves, they have chosen to use Protel, no one is standing over them making them use it. If you are accustomed to something else, it can seem like cruel fate to be forced to use a new tool. But don't let yourself imagine that the tool is useless!
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