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SmartDraw seems nice but is not free.
Circuit Lab was way easier to use, but I could not even rotate the "current source" arrow to point in the upward direction
Circuitikz involves typing in coordinates, which is more inconvenient than dragging and dropping icons.

Is there a free software (preferably an online editor but ok if it is not) that is good for making circuit diagrams?

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    \$\begingroup\$ PDF documents do not use circuitry .... please clarify your title \$\endgroup\$ – jsotola Jun 29 '18 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ KiCad is free. Runs on Windows, Linux, and OSX. \$\endgroup\$ – JRE Jun 29 '18 at 23:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Circuit Lab ... click on symbol .... press r(rotate), v(vertical flip), h(horizontal flip) \$\endgroup\$ – jsotola Jun 29 '18 at 23:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd have merely inserted \usepackage{circuitikz} into my document. Latex generates PDF, no problem. Add 3D rotations of molecular structures, adjacent to the schematic, too. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – jonk Jun 30 '18 at 0:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've used XCircuit over the years even though it has a small learning curve I recommend it. \$\endgroup\$ – StaticBeagle Jun 30 '18 at 0:58
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I use Irfanview to copy an image or screen save then paste crop ... edit. It supports every media format. F10 has a toolbar, It also supports all Adobe addons. Very fast and easy after learning it.

Then paste to Open Office Writer then file> Export to PDF

But you may want scaleable vector graphics for zoom quality. However you can compress in Irfanview a 4k image down to 1%

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that if you do a screen grab you will get a bitmap image. Even if you copy into OOW and then export as PDF the image will not be a scalable graphic...it's just a bitmap in a PDF container. \$\endgroup\$ – Elliot Alderson Jun 30 '18 at 19:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ OP was looking for a schematic capture tool not image conversion to PDF. You should check in to a free Windows PDF printer driver such as PDFill. It may save you the copy and paste into Writer. Irfanview is not free, not everyone is retired or wants to be a pirate. FastStone's Image Viewer is feature rich and true freeware. \$\endgroup\$ – Misunderstood Jul 1 '18 at 2:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wrong again. read the title. It implies needs schematic capture and needs to convert to save to PDF. Irfanview has always been free and the fastest thumbnail generator for a folder with 1000 images does macro edits on a folder and better for me than FS. Quit being wrong and inflammatory . Pirate? which planet ? \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Jul 1 '18 at 2:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ But then some better schematic capture tools do PDF so disregard if that applies to your tool of choice. But I agree KiKad is better than some examples suggest so far openhardwarehub.com/assets/projects/steps/364/original/… \$\endgroup\$ – Tony Stewart Sunnyskyguy EE75 Jul 1 '18 at 2:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ for pdf you really want something that produces vector images, not millions of blurry pixels like you get from a screen-grab. \$\endgroup\$ – Jasen Jul 1 '18 at 10:05
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Use Dia!

It's free and available on Linux and Windows. It's like MS-Visio, but as mentioned free. You can search google for additional libraries - there are a plenty of it to find. Here is the link: Dia homepage.

On this page you can download shapes:

Here are some screenshots:

enter image description here

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ Really, use a proper schematic editor like KiCad. They all have export/printing to PDF \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Jun 30 '18 at 8:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a general purpose diagram tool. I've worked with dia; it's really not something you want to use even with modestly complex schematics. And the way your first picture looks pretty much is proof of that: symbols of inconsistent scaling, wildly different line widths, non-proper connectors, the fact that you'd need to set junction dots manually … Microsoft word can export PDF all the same, and it's not a schematic tool, either. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Jun 30 '18 at 10:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ then Dia is still not the tool of choice. It's a slow AND bad way of drawing schematics. (guess what: schematic editors are made for people who want to be fast at drawing schematics) \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Jun 30 '18 at 10:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ If anything, the two schematics you've shown above would be declined. I assure you, you can make high-quality schematics with tools like KiCad faster. If writing a paper, you're not aiming "for a quick schematic", anyway. I've done publication-quality schematics in both kicad and circuitikz. Dia wouldn't be the software of choice – I mean, look at your own examples. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Jun 30 '18 at 11:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ and, no, it's not a matter of taste, by the way. Schematics are standardized. The sizes of your inverter circles in your second example, the gray color, the relative sizes of components and junction dots are all subject to unambiguous international standards (and you really don't want to know how your example fares against these!). \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Jun 30 '18 at 11:46

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