Some EDA firms offer flexible purchasing schemes. The customer can buy licence for only certain modules of the suite instead of buying the entire package. More tools from the package can be purchased later, when required. There is also a feature called floating licence which allows the use of the same licence on multiple machines so that the user does not have to buy separate licences for multiple systems. Almost all vendors provide the evaluation version of their software for usually one month.
Support from the vendors
Many EDA tool vendors work closely with the customers and help them throughout the designing process, and provide online and on-site technical support. The support available from some of the vendors is better in certain regions than in the others. So it is better to go for a vendor that has good reputation and history, introduces occasional updates and bug fixes, provides training courses and offers support in your region.
Flexibility or integration with other tools is an important factor to be considered. Make sure the software you select has functions to import and export files from and to formats supported by your target customers.
OrCAD, Eagle PCB and most open source software have easy-to-understand graphical user interface (GUI), which makes it easier for beginners and intermediates in the designing field. Some tools like XPedition use command-line interface, which can be a bit difficult for first-timers.
Free and open source tools
There are several free tools available online, individual software as well as design suites, that serve the purpose of circuit and embedded designing at different stages. Though these are quite popular among academia and hobbyists in electronics, the industry penetration of these software is very less; perhaps less that 5%.
One of the main reasons for the lesser popularity of free tools among professional designers is the limitation they provide in the number of pins, components, layers, multiple boards and so on. Hence these can be used only for low-end and mid-range schematic and PCB designing.
According to Rizwan Hirani of eInfoChips, compatibility with other layout tools is lesser for the free open source tools. The time taken for designing is usually more for such free tools. Performance, precision, training, support and documentation offered by licensed tools are also generally better than that available with the free tools. But in case of open source tools the users usually form a community to support and learn from each other.
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