Custom programming for FPGA boards is a similar and helpful question for any with the same as this, but they are different. In that thread they discuss custom options and building their own. This question is about what exists already (i.e. nothing need be custom.)

Another newbie here. Very limited EE education but experienced in software development trying to get started with CPLDs and FPGAs.

Any help with my terminology would also be appreciated.

From what I can tell there are two major manufacturers, Altera(Intel) and Xilinx. They both provide full IDEs for working with their chips. From drivers to design to testing and deployment (Is this Synthesis or is that another thing entirely?)

I've also noticed there are open source simulators around such as GHDL and Icarus Verilog. However, to get the designs you simulate with these onto the chip, it seems you still need the Altera/Xilinx solutions above. Is this correct?

Ultimately it would be nice to be able to develop the Verilog / VHDL in a text editor. Launch it in a simulator. Then if it seems good, deploy it to the chip via terminal (i.e. using a usb blaster.) Even better using all open source and free tools. Is this possible?

I do realize the IDEs provide a lot of good things and pro projects and the like will need all that, but for someone coming from a software background wanting to play around as a hobby, a short simple workflow would be very nice.

All pointers appreciated. Thanks for reading.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "but for someone coming from a software background wanting to play around as a hobby, a short simple workflow would be very nice.": Last I knew Xilinx supplied free tools. Use the vendor tools and save yourself a large headache. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Knudsen Dec 12 '18 at 22:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the quick comment. I realize the vendor tools are free and standard. But that isn't my question. I don't mind headaches. I want to know what is out there and if I've missed anything that may be in line with my typical open source and free mindset with software development. \$\endgroup\$ – Mimerr Dec 12 '18 at 22:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ For Xilinx, see the ISE WebPACK. There are usually limitations with the free versions (like which FPGAs it'll talk to) \$\endgroup\$ – mike65535 Dec 12 '18 at 22:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ My suggestion still stands. Learn the free vendor tools first. It's complicated enough from the beginning. Once you understand the process, feel free to make it more-complicated, and potentially less stable, by using unofficial tools. Other's software will always be behind development when compared to the vendor's. I've been there, albeit some number of years ago. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Knudsen Dec 12 '18 at 22:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I had the Xilinx build (and custom) flash flow running from a Makefile at one point. Of course they changed the tools several times since... \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Stratton Dec 12 '18 at 22:31

I know of this only from doing web searches on "Open source FPGA tool chain": http://www.clifford.at/icestorm/.

I have not tried it. You're on your own...

  • \$\begingroup\$ I had seen this and it is very interesting. It saddens me a little that this is the only real attempt. But I guess hardware is a lot more proprietary than software. Thanks for an actual answer to the question. I always appreciate others suggestions but on sites like these I feel like people are always too quick to tell you not to do something than actually answer the question. So... Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Mimerr Dec 12 '18 at 22:49

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