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I would like to learn more about CPLD circuits (because they are cheaper than FPGA), but I am facing a major problem. I cannot find any simple and userfriendly software for programing and debugging CPLD.

The CPLD I have is XC9500XL from Xilinx. But I hate Xilinx's ISE WebPack. We work with this application in school and it is too complex, huge and not user friendly.

Is there any alternative I can use? Ideally some open-source, which can run under Mac OS.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ ISE isn't hard for learning, you just need to follow a script. Mariss Freimann (sp?), a notable person in the stepper-control field, recommends not using the graphical interfaces anyway, and instead that people code directly in Verilog. It isn't hard. \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Ennis Sep 11 '12 at 0:35
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There is software from design monsters: Mentor Graphics, Synopsis and Cadence, but their price is 6-figure. Haven't used them for FPGA, and cannot confirm if they support synthesis specifically for this chip.

Anyway, if you know VHDL, you can get any VHDL editor (even simple text editor) & simulator, and after you finish your design - just run synthesis in 'terrible software', so that you'll spend very little time in it.

But none of these is going to be simple, small and user friendly.

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When you pick a programmable logic vendor, you're effectively choosing the vendor's software. These things are too complex and proprietary for there to be open source versions (so far). I've mostly used Xilinx, but I've played around with Altera and Lattice software, and the workflow is pretty much the same. You have to resign yourself to the initial learning curve, whatever you choose.

I suggest going back to ISE 9.x, which has less bloat than later versions and will still work with your CPLD. You might also consider a command-line based workflow, which I have not tried myself, allowing you to dispense with the GUI.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I hope, this will change in the future. But now I think you are right, I have to learn how to use ISE. It's just uncomfortable for me, because my computer is Mac, and ISE is AFAIK Windows/Linux only. \$\endgroup\$ – vasco Sep 29 '11 at 8:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Day late and a dollar short, but I stood up an old XP box to support ISE. The software doesn't run on the Mac. Also, I hear that Digilent's software to load the CPLD 'starter kit' doesn't work on Win7. \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Ennis Sep 11 '12 at 0:34
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You need ISE for place and route; that part of the flow is always vendor-specific even if you use another synthesis tool (as @BarsMonster suggested).

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Consider switching to Altera CPLDs. The Altera Quartus II software is much easier to use than Xilinx WebPack, and the CPLDs are better.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I look at Quartus and maybe I switch to Altera :) \$\endgroup\$ – vasco Sep 29 '11 at 8:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ What makes Altera CPLDs better? I'm enjoying this CoolRunner II. \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Ennis Sep 11 '12 at 0:36

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