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Electrical schematic software

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I design equipment for work, and I build the panels. I need to draw the schematics to get the safeties done.
I only make maybe 3 or 4 panels per YEAR on average, so spending a thousand dollars per month on a software subscription doesn't appeal to me.

I used DesignSpark Electrical for years. Not too long ago it was bought by Dassault - the SolidWorks people - and now you can't create drawings that have more than 3 pages of schematics in them, which sucks.
If I could pay $500 to have DesignSpark Electrical work properly then I would, but the upgrade path from the current brain-damaged version is SolidWorks Electrical which is heathenishly expensive.
I'm looking for options.

I don't mind spending money ONCE to get the software. I really don't want a subscription.
I would like to be able to draw straightforward schematics. I don't need to be able to do the panel layout - I do that in my head.
It would be a bonus if the same software can do pneumatic and hydraulic (and single-line) drawings.
It would be a bonus if the software is multi-platform and can run natively on Linux as well as Windows.
I definitely need to be able to create and edit symbols. I need to be able to create symbols for the safety relays, PLCs, etc.

Right now I am looking at QElectrotech. It's definitely the front-runner, and as a bonus it's free, though I will send them money if I choose it.

Does anyone else have a suggestion of where I should look? I don't need or want a lot of the extras like equipotential markings and that kind of thing. I do my schematics very manually, and I'm good with that.
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Hackenschmidt
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You sound like me and a lot of other people on here. I just need something simple, functional, and reasonably priced.

If that's the case, EZ Schematics Pro is just about made to order for you, free trial and a great value at $149.00

Electrical, Hydraulic and Pneumatic Diagram Software (wadeinstruments.com)

I found it very easy to learn, quick to get productive with it. There's more discussion here

Best Free electrical design software?

I think it does hydraulics and one-line drawings, but I am not sure if there's pneumatics built in.

I design equipment for work, and I build the panels. I need to draw the schematics to get the safeties done.
...
Does anyone else have a suggestion of where I should look? I don't need or want a lot of the extras like equipotential markings and that kind of thing. I do my schematics very manually, and I'm good with that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I downloaded that software at work. I gave it a quick look (I looked at about a dozen on Friday) and I can't remember precisely what the problem was with it.
I remember the website was very 1995, and even the icons on the software look like they were re-sized versions from a much lower resolution... What was it...

Ah! I think I remember. I think this was the one that doesn't have any 3 phase symbols. Like, you could put three fuses in a row, and put three contacts in a row, and put three heaters in a row, but no three-pole fuse holders or three-pole contactors or anything like that. It just seemed really clunky for my needs. Maybe I need to look harder at it... perhaps there is more there than I saw in five minutes of playing with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow. That thread mentions "SkyCAD". I'm watching the video and it and it looks VERY NICE. Like, super nice. I need to find out what the pricing is like (subscription... grrrrr....) and how brain-damaged the free version is, but so far it looks fantastic for 3 phase panel design. The copy and multiple paste.... oh, man..... so, so terribly nice... I am almost speechless over here. Watch it be $500 per month, and I will cry. I'm still checking it out.
 

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I took a quick look and it really just looks like flow-chart and organisational chart software to me. I couldn't find electrical symbols. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place?
Yea it looks different than it used to . There was an electrical symbols page .




I miss MacDraw.
 

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Isn’t EZ the one that a developer was giving away here a number of years ago?
I still have that version.
Yes, its the guy name Wade. @wdestar was his alias on this forum. He gave me a free version some years ago and probably 2-3 computers ago. He helped me on two occasions to get the software back. But he has not been around here since 2015. I messaged him to see if he was okay. He was a very nice guy.
Do you remember Dorian? He made a Youtube video on how to use the software.
I have a recovery drive and it may still reside there? But I bet I would need him to re-activate my account?
 

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Hackenschmidt
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I think this was the one that doesn't have any 3 phase symbols. Like, you could put three fuses in a row, and put three contacts in a row, and put three heaters in a row, but no three-pole fuse holders or three-pole contactors or anything like that. It just seemed really clunky for my needs. Maybe I need to look harder at it... perhaps there is more there than I saw in five minutes of playing with it.
You definitely have to look past the style to the function, the look and feel may be a bit dated but functionally, it's just right. It's similar to some of the hand tools I carry daily, there may be more modern style alternatives and they may be fine but I still find some of the simplest things the most bang for the buck. There are three phase symbols, see the link below, along with hydraulic / pneumatic. For me, something I can use proficiently without having to use it regularly to be fast with it is important. A lot of CAD, if I am in practice I am quick, but if I am rusty everything takes forever. I looked at SkyCAD and EZ Scehmatic Pro was more useful for me. I think SkyCAD also forced a registration to install and run, which is something I'd rather not screw around with.

EZ Schematics Pro Free Symbol Libraries (wadeinstruments.com)
 

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Hackenschmidt
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I took a quick look and it really just looks like flow-chart and organisational chart software to me. I couldn't find electrical symbols. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place?
There is an electrical symbol library under "More Shapes" with some basic electrical stuff and a fair variety of electronics. Draw.io is extremely handy and great for quick sketches etc.
 

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I've found Inkscape (which is an open-source vector drawing software) has become my go-to for pretty much anything I need to draw. Not for 'schematics' specifically, but once you build a library of shapes you use often, it can become very capable. Also helps that, since it's vector drawing, exports perfectly to pdf as vector, so printing on anything from letter-sized to Arch-D are all very easy to do.
 

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I played around with the free skycad a bit. It seemed pretty nice and really quick as long as you follow the work flow process it's designed around. I honestly didn't find much that was limited in the free version that I thought was much of a detriment, stuff like panel layouts that I don't need.
 

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I used Visio for drawings back when I was teaching an electrical apprenticeship program.

Visio has ready made symbols or you can make your own.
 

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I played around with the free skycad a bit. It seemed pretty nice and really quick as long as you follow the work flow process it's designed around. I honestly didn't find much that was limited in the free version that I thought was much of a detriment, stuff like panel layouts that I don't need.
This is true if ANY CAD system.

In the past I’ve tried the rest and ended up at Autocad Electrical. But to be honest Skycad blows it out of the water Here is why.

Autocad itself seems “quirky” by todays standards but that’s because it predates virtually all GUIs in use today. Once you get over that it’s a great system for technical drawings. Autocad Electrical takes basic Autocad and runs a ton of macros that manipulate a hidden object which is the database. When you use the macro tools it updates the database. This is identical to how most other electrical CAD systems wirk but there is a catch. If I import a drawing without the database, it breaks the system. If I use ANY standard editing tool except moving around, it breaks the system. I mean if you so much as select a wire and without even thinking about it hit the delete key, you just corrupted the drawing!! It is that fragile and that troublesome to work with.

Second when it comas to wire numbers is another gotcha. Wire numbers must be the Autocad way or everything breaks and has to be manually fixed.

A third issue…could we please land wires ON the terminals not tied to some bizarre top/bottom edge and straighten up lines correctly (like Visio)???

Now the truth is also that most panel shops rarely make NEW drawings. I mean you draw an inout card and slap a bunch of symbols for push buttons or sensors on it and renumber/relabel everything. So that brings me back to my point that importing and wire numbering is mostly broken. Most of the Skycad examples are just showing how they fixed ACE.

So in truth ACE is barely a step up from taking almost any CAD and just using electrical symbols, and you pay a lot for it.

In contrast Skycad basically makes good on Autocad Electrical promises. Sure if you don’t do it “their way” it turns into regular Cad or isn’t as useful but at least you have the option. ACE just becomes vanilla Autocad with no way to fix the database if you don’t follow their workflow. Skycad still works just maybe more manually.

I’m convinced. Just need a panel job. We’re in install season now.
 

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I played with SkyCAD and I really liked it and think that once a person got used to the work flow it could be really powerful. If a person came from years of autocad experience it might be frustrating, but if your starting fresh I think you could be up and running a lot faster with SkyCAD than autocad. Or if your like me and come from the 3d modeling world of solidworks and inventor, then SkyCAD seemed very natural.
 

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I played with SkyCAD and I really liked it and think that once a person got used to the work flow it could be really powerful. If a person came from years of autocad experience it might be frustrating, but if your starting fresh I think you could be up and running a lot faster with SkyCAD than autocad. Or if your like me and come from the 3d modeling world of solidworks and inventor, then SkyCAD seemed very natural.
Here is my problem. I learned Acad the way power users work it. That means your left hand is on the keyboard and your right is on the digitizer pad, or these days a mouse. You CAN use the menus but it’s a pain and distracts from the work flow. Sure you can hunt through them if you don’t remember an obscure command but basically pro Acad users just type a couple keys to do everything, enter dimensions, you name it. The mouse is for pointing and selecting, not commands. This is very 1970s but very intuitive once you get used to the command line.

Zip, zero, zilch of any of this translates to ACE. You can enter the commands but they are long names to avoid conflicting with Acad so nothing is intuitive.

The learning curve on ACE is over the top. In ACE if you see the Autocad tools, don’t use them!! Modify ANYTHING using those tools and you instantly corrupt it. There is no “recover” button. Only undo at best. The issue is that if you copy/move/delete or do anything in ACAD you aren’t calling the macros so it has no idea what you did. And there is no way to “fix” it. You have to just click on the stupid ACE ribbon for everything and only the ACE ribbon. Plus it is just bad. In Acad I can select erase then click on everything I want to delete including both lines (wires) and blocks (components) then hit enter. In ACE you delete components then trim/delete wires and then the wire database is corrupted so expect to use that wire number again except manual, and even then it complains.

So you can get great results in Acad but everything is a pain in the rear. All that beautiful Acad that is right there and still accessible may as well be on the moon…you can easily see it but you can’t use it.

You can be more productive in ACE IF you do things the ACE way. It is painful but worth it enough that I don’t just drop it and use say Draftsight. I still have an old perpetual license ACE too. They want about what I paid for it PER YEAR now. That’s crazy talk.

So here is where I stand. Free Skycad beats ACE and it’s free. Paid version? Well that’s another matter. Paid adds up to 7 features. This is my evaluation.

1. Panel layouts. On the fence here. I do them manually now. ACE is actually worse than hand estimates. Every technician skips the first two pages. So I’m interested but it’s not a requirement.
2. DWG/DXF. If you send out either one you will be asked for PDF. Drawing “vaults” accept PDF I see no advantage at all except maybe importing physical components. If the panel layouts work this is almost a must have feature.
3 Automatic PLC drawings from IO lists. This one feature is worth $95 per month in my opinion if it works anywhere close to the tutorial.
4. Cable schedules…ACE is stupid. You basically just manually mark which cables are in which conduit. It’s just an extra wire list thing. Maybe Skycad is better. On the fence on this one.
5. Harness design. Nice but I don’t see much use compared to when we used to do all kinds of crazy serial cables.
6. Configuration management. All my stuff is one offs
7. Design by system. Does this mean you can’t copy/paste an entire motor starter? That’s what it sounds like. This is a big gotcha. Even ACE does this decently.

There are two hidden ones:
8. Stacked terminals only in the basic paid license. I see this as an issue with many PLC cards.
9. BOM to excel. Another almost must have. Excel is where I do all my BOMs and estimates. If I can copy/paste though or save to PDF then import it’s fine.

Of those, item 1, 2, and 8 go together. If the panel stuff is better than ACE a paid license is almost mandatory if not, free is good enough. Item 3 is almost worth the price if it’s as good as advertised on its own.
 
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