I'm looking into writing an application to visualize existing cadence (OrCad) projects when provided with the projects design files. I've had a look through the project directories and it looks like the .dsn and .dbk files are likely to contain the information on positioning, connections and orientations of all the components but the encoding of this data is largely unreadable - to me at least!

Does anyone have any knowledge on how this data can be extracted from the project files - some examples of file segments and implied information would be great too!

Alternately if anybody is able to provide an equivalent answer for the EAGLE platform I can switch the target platform to that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't know about Eagle, but "gschem" from the Geda project, and its associated PCB program, errr, "pcb" use text files with a documented format. Any reason you can't switch to these? \$\endgroup\$
    – user16324
    Jun 27, 2015 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Eagle as of V6.x stores all boards and schematics as XML files in plain text. So these can easily be read and parsed. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 27, 2015 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I remember from a previous training on Cadence Capture/Simulator environment that the design files are encrypted (except netlist and such)... To be confirmed, but that would explain it! In that case, no chance of getting the data back. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28, 2015 at 0:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok thank you for the information so far. Shame they felt the need to encrypt it so I'll look into eagle instead then - the xml files should be pretty self explanatory? Also thanks for the Geda suggestion too, wasn't aware of the platform! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 28, 2015 at 11:56

1 Answer 1


I'm assuming you're talking about Cadence Allegro, or Orcad. Cadence has many other products used in VLSI and ASIC design that use different file conventions.

Back to your question, it might be a proprietary binary file, so it might not be possible to read that information unless you reverse engineer the database structure.

For example, the old Cadence Virtuoso used a proprietary database with extension .cdk, but recently moved to the open source .oa.


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