Engineers make a schematic to explain their circuits.
One time I was looking for a non-tourist pub in Japan. I asked someone for help. She said, “I’m sorry, but I do not speak good English. I will bring my friend and she will draw you a map.” (Exact quote!) The map her friend drew, gave directions to a bar with a “Neon Yellow Sing.” She meant sign…
The map was the method we used to communicate with each other, even though we didn’t both speak English. With this crude but effective map, I could find my next
drinking place destination.
Schematics are the same as this map. Even if you don’t speak the same language, you can communicate how a circuit works when you make a schematic.
Use one of these five tools, when you need to a document a circuit or when you need to ask for help.
1. EAGLE from CadSoft
For years, EAGLE has been the go-to standard for creating open source hardware schematics. The free noncommercial version has many powerful features enabled. The licensing compared to other commercial options is inexpensive. There are native versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
The software has a steep learning curve. The biggest mistake I see new users make is trying to treat it as a vector editing program like Illustrator or Inkscape. Instead, you need to remember it is a command-based CAD system.
The software is also cross-platform, but my experience has shown that the Mac support is somewhat lacking. However, if you are a die-hard “open source is ALWAYS better!!1!!!” type of person, this is definitely your best option.
Even though the real reason to use iCircuit is to simulate a circuit, I find it a great option to make a schematic quickly. For one, you won’t get lost in a sea of part numbers. Instead of a million transistors, just select “NPN BJT” or “N-Channel MOSFET”.
The controls, which were designed for touch, are simple to use. So there is a almost no learning curve when you draw a schematic. This has the added benefit of being ready to share / publish in a nice clean PDF, PNG or SVG.
The downside, you need to be on iOS, Android, OS X or Windows 8.
How about a schematic editor that is easy to use, free, and doesn’t require any software installation? That’s upverter.com.
Think of it as GitHub for Schematics. You can make a schematic quickly, invite others to collaborate, and there is a project browser like GitHub.
You need to be careful when signing up because there are steeply priced monthly versions. Those are great for professional users or commercial projects.
If you are a student or don’t mind your non-commercial projects being public, checkout upverter community edition. Which is free.
5. Paper and Pencil
When a 100% perfect schematic is only your head, it is 100% useless to anyone trying to help you. In other words, making a schematic that is scribbled out on paper is better than not providing one at all.
This is a good option when you aren’t sure what schematic symbols to use or you need to get an answer before you can learn a new tool.
Just make sure you take care to properly scan in your masterpiece before posting it to a forum. For example, limit the width of your scan to 1000px or 72dpi. If your PNG is 1MB, it is way(!) too big.
Question: What other tools are good for capturing a proper schematic? You can leave a comment by clicking here.