Why EAGLE?EAGLE is one of many PCB CAD softwares out there. So you might ask: “What makes EAGLE so special?” We’re fond of EAGLE for a few reasons in particular -
- Community Support
Download, Install, Run
EAGLE is available on Cadsoft’s (the developer company) download page. Grab the most recent version that matches your operating system (the software is available for Windows, Mac and Linux). It’s a relatively light download – about 45MB.
EAGLE installs just like any old program, it’ll self extract and then present you with a series of dialogs to configure the installation.
On the last screen of the installation process, you should be presented with a window like this -
One of our favorite things about EAGLE is that it can be used for free! There are a few limitations to be aware of when using the free version:
- Your PCB design is limited to a maximum size of 100 x 80mm (3.94 x 3.15in). 12.4 in2 of PCB real estate, which is still pretty darn big. Even if you’re designing a big ‘ol Arduino shield, you’ll still be well under the maximum size.
- Only a two signal layers allowed. If you need more layers check into the Hobbyist or Standard licenses.
- Can’t make multiple sheets in your schematic editor.
- Limited to email or forum support.
- For non-profit use only. If you’re going to go out and sell your design, maybe check into the “Light” version of the software.
Exploring the Control Panel
The first time you open up EAGLE, you should be presented with the Control Panel view. The Control Panel is the “homebase” for Eagle, it links together all of the other modules in the software.
You can explore the six separate trees in the control panel, which highlight separate functions of the software:
- Libraries – Libraries store parts, which are a combination of schematic symbol and PCB footprint. Libraries usually contain a group of related parts, e.g. the atmel.lbr stores a good amount of Atmel AVR devices, while the 74xx-us.lbr library has just about every TTL 74xx series IC there is.
- Design Rules – Design rules are a set of rules your board design must meet before you can send it off to the fab house. In this tree you’ll find DRU files, which are a a pre-defined set of rules.
- User Language Programs (ULPs) – ULPs are scripts written in EAGLE’s User Language. They can be used to automate processes like generating bill of materials (bom.ulp), or importing a graphic (import-bmp.ulp).
- Scripts – Script files can be used to customize the EAGLE user interface. In one click you can set the color scheme and assign key bindings.
- CAM Jobs – CAM jobs can be opened up by the CAM processor to aid in the creation of gerber files.
- Projects – This is where each of your projects are organized into a single project folder. Projects will include schematic, board design, and possibly gerber files.
If you select a file in a tree, information about it will appear in the right-hand portion of the window. This is a great way to explore libraries, project designs (EAGLE comes with some fun examples), or to get a good overview of what a script’s purpose is.