Modern PCB Designer


A modern user interface

Modern PCB Designer uses a nice modern user interface, with a dark theme.

It uses monochrome icons that all modern applications do.

It also does in such a way that it will maximize the canvas space on your monitor so that you have plenty of space to work on.

An integrated development environment (IDE) with dockable windows

Modern PCB Designer is an integrated environment, meaning that all documents that you will open are in a single window.

All these documents can be docked: you can view a schematic and a board side-by-side, for example.

Any of the open documents (for example, a board) have contextual tool windows that will be visible for that particular document type. For example, for a board, the following tool windows will be visible:

  • Overview - it will show all primitives, components, nets, etc that are present in that particular board. All items can be selected from here.
  • Layers - it will show a list of layers, allows to select the current layer with some options like hiding or dimming the other not selected layers.
  • Properties - if you select an item in the board, its properties will be shown here. You can also select multiple items and change common properties of these selected items.

Board Editor in an IDE (Integrated Development Environment)

You can create an architectural design

Here is what I mean: Let's say you have a library where you decide to keep only components and the library is called MyMicrocontrollers, and you want to keep separate things in separate libraries; for example, you have yet another library for symbols (MySymbols), and another for footprints (MyFootprints).

In the MyMicrocontrollers library, you can add a reference to the MySymbols and MyFootprints, and use the symbols and footprints from there.

Now, in your board project, you reference the MyMicrocontrollers library to use the components from there.

This is maybe a complex scenario, but for this particular example, you have a dependency tree like this:

Board project

- MyMicrocontrollers

- MySymbols

- MyFootprints

Schematic editor with multiple sheets

In a board project you can have multiple schematic documents. These represent separate circuits.

In a schematic document, you can have multiple sheets. An unlimited number. You can separate your logic in this way.

In any schematic document, you can define net classes and assign nets to these net classes. There is more: net claases can be grouped and you can define a logical bus and create rules in the board based on these groups. For example, in your board, you will be able to create a rule that has some given electrical clearance between two buses.

Board editor

The board editor allows you to select a layer that you will work on and mask or hide any other layer for easy routing.

It allows to highlight a net and dimm the rest of the board to follow a net or for easy placement.

It supports multiple routing modes.

You can create complex rules. They work in a such a way that you define some generic rules, then you come with specific rules that will override the previous rules defined that applies for the same item.

Here is an example: let's say you have a net called RESET that goes to your microcontroller to the reset pin. Noise, coming from crosstalk, can reset your board.

For this, you need to define some electrical clearance rules; in this example, you will define an Electrical Clearance as a generic rule that your manufacturer allows (say 10 mil); then you define another Electrical Clearance rule between this net (RESET) and another net adjacent to this (say DATA from an I2C bus) that will generate crosstalk to put some space (say 20 mil); you can also define another clearance of the same net with another net next to it (maybe GND at 15mil).

So, in our scenario, we will have a clearance of 20 mil between RESET and DATA and a clearance of 15 mil between RESET and GND. Between RESET and any other net we'll have the default of 10 mil. This is very powerfull!

You preview your board in 3D.

You can setup what layers will generate the gerber files for that particular board. A default number of layers will be already setup. You then choose to Build all the boards in your project with one single click.

A PCB board in 3D preview

Cross-select and cross-highlight between schematic and board

If you have open both schematic and the board, and in either one of these documents (say in schematic) you select a part, then this part will also be selected in the board.

If you highlight a net in schematic it will be also be highlighted in the board. This is very awesome because it helps with the placement: you select the parts in the schematic that you intent to place on board, and you also highlight the net, at the same time, you will be able to see what parts are in what relation with what pins in the board; this will be easy for you to place the parts next to each other and rotate them accordingly.

Again, it works both ways; you can select a part in the board and will be selected in schematic; you can highlight a net in the board and will be highlighted in the schematic.

3D Model Editor

Currently, there is a simple 3D model editor where you can create a complex geometry from multiple other simple geometry (boxes, cylinders, spheres, polys, etc) by joining them together.

It is rather limited, because you cannot have boolean operations (union, intersect), or extrusions, or complex features.

However, this limitation is overcomed by the fact that you can import 3D models from other 3D CAD programs.

We can import multiple file types.

3D Model Editor

Component Editor

The component editor allows to define the actual parts, components, by matching the pins from a symbol with pads from a footprint.

Here you can set a prefix and custom properties regarding this component.

Footprint editor

The footprint editor allows to define the footprints that you will use in your components.

It comes with a wizard to quickly define some common footprint types (SOIC, QFP, Resistors).

You can preview the footprint in 3D, and also asociate the 3D model (that you defined with the 3D model editor).

Here's another cool feature: the model will try to align by itself.

SOT23-3 Footprint - 3D Preview

You can have multiple boards in the same board project

Modern PCB Designer Studio allows you to define more than one board in your project.

You may choose to have a reference to the same schematic or to a different one.

Why would you have another board for the same schematic? Well, same schematic means same circuit. You may choose to have one board that will route on a single layer, for example, to build your own board at home. Or, you may choose for 2 layers if you intend to use a PCB manufacturer near you. You may try a different routing approach and test the difference, or you might try a 4 layers board, and so on.