DipTrace vs. KiCad — Your Complete PCB Design & Layout Comparison Guide
If you’re in the market for a PCB design and layout program, you’ve likely come across a variety of programs and tools — including DipTrace and KiCad. This guide will compare the two in terms of cost, customer service, component libraries, and more — plus provide tips on how to select the right software for your next PCB project.
Importance of Choosing the Right PCB Software
There are dozens and dozens of both free and paid PCB design software programs on the market, so which one is “the best” and how do you choose? There is no one correct answer, but here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Free programs typically provide fewer capabilities and are often scaled-down versions of paid software.
- Free programs may not be compatible with other programs and services, but can be a good choice for hobbyists, students, or those new to PCB layout and design.
- A good software program can cost around $3,000, but many offer discounts and promotions.
- Some programs charge subscription fees for annual maintenance and service.
- The right program will provide you with the features and capabilities you need to complete your project on time and on budget.
DipTrace vs. KiCad Comparison Table
Now let’s see how DipTrace and KiCad stack up.
|Pricing||Pricing varies depending on the edition; DipTrace Full (unlimited pins, unlimited signal layers) is $995; DipTrace Starter (300 pins, 2 signal layers) is $75. Other options include DipTrace Extended, DipTrace Standard, and DipTrace Lite. Special offers and discounts for nonprofits and students and educational institutions are also available.||Free
|Customer Service||DipTrace community forums are available. Users can also request support via phone, email, or submitting an online question. Other resources include the DipTrace YouTube channel and FAQs webpage.||Options include the official KiCad user forum, KiCad Discord and IRC (Internet Relay Chat), and a variety of learning resources.|
|Ease of Use||DipTrace claims to have the “shortest learning curve on the market.”||Users report relatively ease of use and many label KiCad one of the best open-source electronic design automation tools, especially for those starting out in PCB design.|
Libraries and 3D Models
|Setup||DipTrace has an entire page dedicated to its Installation Guide, including recommended system requirements.||KiCad setup instructions can be found here. The company notes that “stable releases occur periodically” and that new features are always being added.|
|User Interface||Intuitive user interface||User-friendly interface|
|Part Creation||Select “Verification / Design Rules” from the main menu to alter design rules.||Design rules are configured in the “Constraints” section of the board setup dialog.|
|Configuring Design Rules||You can look through each individual change and decide which ones to apply to the file. Will generate a report at the end detailing all changes.||You point the schematic toward a layout file and add the parts and connections. Will generate a report at the end detailing all changes.|
|Error Checking||Supports the electrical rule check and design rule check.||Supports the design rule check and the electrical rule check with automatically verified schematic connections.|
|Compatibility With Other Software||Schematic capture model allows exchanging schematics and drawings with other CAD packages such as Altium, Eagle, P-CAD, PADS, OrCAD, and KiCAD.||KiCad supports PCB designs from EAGLE, P-CAD 200x ASCII, Altium Circuit Maker, Altium Circuit Studio, Altium Designer, CADSTAR, and Fabmaster.
KiCad is also compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux.
This software is compatible with EAGLE, Altium, PADS, and other tools. Capabilities include schematic capture, PCB layout, smart component libraries, and 3D modeling. The cost for a perpetual license ranges, depending on the maximum pins and signal layers. The DipTrace Starter offers 300 pins and two signal layers for $75. The highest-priced package, the DipTrace Full, offers unlimited pins and signal rays for $995. There are three other options ranging from $145 to $695.
DipTrace software include schematic capture, PCB layout, libraries, and 3D modeling. All DipTrace modules share similar interface conceptions and design basics.
Other features include:
- Multi-sheet and hierarchical schematics
- High-speed signaling
- Advanced verifications and real-time DRC
Pros & Cons of DipTrace
Users find DipTrace is easy to use and suitable for both experienced professionals and those new to PCB design and layout. They also report a fast learning curve, exceptional Gerber export, and a good library of components and footprints. DipTrace also comes at an affordable price point compared to other paid softwares on the market.
In terms of cons, some users note that you cannot export direct G-code from DipTrace and that the pad properties can be a bit confusing for new users. The software may lag at times when loading 3D models, and occasionally it may take some time before a new version upgrade is released.
Who Is DipTrace Best Suited For?
DipTrace is well suited for both experienced professionals, hobbyists, and anyone new to PCB design and layout.
KiCad boasts a 3D viewer so that you can review your design from multiple perspectives. The schematic editor doesn’t have any paywalls and the company explains that “every effort is made to hide the complexity of advanced design features so that KiCad remains approachable by new and inexperienced users.”
Version 7.0.0 released in February 2023, which is a “significant upgrade from KiCAD 6” that comes with new features and improvements. The software’s specifications include:
- Schematic Capture in Eeschema
- PCB Layout Editor
- 3D Viewer
- Gerber Viewer
- SPICE Simulation
Pros & Cons of KiCad
One of the main benefits of KiCad is that this popular software is free. Users report a clean interface, customizable hotkeys, and excellent toolkits. It’s a tool that both new users and experienced professionals can use, and since it’s free, there are many helpful plug-ins and extensions available.
There are limits to the library and 3D models and some users note that KiCad is ideal for smaller projects. Others have commented on the lack of an autorouter and the fact that some libraries may be difficult to import.
Who Is KiCad Best Suited For?
Since the software is free, KiCad is a good option for hobbyists, students, and anyone who is interested in PCB design and layout and doesn’t wish to invest in a paid version.
Questions About PCB Layout & Design?
If you’re looking for more information, or you have general questions about the PCB layout process, please contact us. Our principal engineers have extensive experience developing layouts with numerous software platforms and will provide you with the answers you need. We look forward to hearing about your next project.