Recently I came across the programs Eplan, Elcad and Autodesk Electrical. As far as I can tell, they are used to draw schematics. Is it possible to do the same thing with a PCB design software like Altium, Eagle or KiCAD? With the latter three it's also possible to draw schematics and do an ERC check. Am I missing an important feature of the former three programs?

Many thanks in advance!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't autodesk electrical aimed mostly at building/machine level electrical wireing diagrams etc? \$\endgroup\$
    – Joren Vaes
    May 8, 2020 at 16:21
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The information what each software package can do should be listed on their website, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – Justme
    May 8, 2020 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JorenVaes yes, but what I don't understand is: I can also draw such a diagram with KiCAD. What am I missing? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ken Grimes
    May 8, 2020 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KenGrimes I can also draw such a diagram in Adobe Illustrator, but that does not make it the right tool for the job. But in all honesty, I don't know for sure. I suspect those tools have better options for structuring those diagrams? \$\endgroup\$
    – Joren Vaes
    May 8, 2020 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


Altium Designer, Eagle, and KiCAD EDA are full PCB design packages. Drawing a schematic is only a portion of the workflow.

  • Managing component libraries and footprints;
  • Managing connected nets, buses, and pins;
  • Simulating and testing circuits;
  • Connecting to vendors and/or managing component selection alternatives;
  • (Perhaps most importantly) Full CAD support for designing multi-layer circuit boards;
  • Much more...

By the looks of it, from cursory searching: Autodesk Electrical; EPLAN (eView, Electric P8, Cogineer, Pro Panel, and a myriad of other offerings); and ELCAD Aucoplan are aimed more at manufacturing and automation industry professionals who need to wire and document complex equipment and/or entire buildings, PLCs, robots, industrial processes, and the like.

The three packages you list are more about documentation and wiring diagrams than about multi-layer printed circuit board design.

You might want to review this question about different types of diagrams, though it is more specific to electrical PCB and device engineering than the much broader scope of electrical data and energy in various industries.


All of the above fall within the E-CAE category of software tools, which differentiate from CAD because they achieve more than just drawing schematics and include engineering features, hence the "E".

The segmentation between the two types you mention and specifically ePLan, ACAD Electric and such is that they are not focused on PCB based electronics "products" as much as these others, but they are rather focused on engineering for factory / building systems integration. These can span from a single panel with a few cables to hundreds of panels and miles of cabling.

If you ask me this is a completely different category of E-CAE that should have a different designation from electronics PCB production. I suggest E-CAE-S and E-CAE-P (systems vs products). Maybe somebody else already knows how to separate one from the other.

Another big difference is mostly those have tools for field electrical installation and maintenance documentation versus the type focused on product development and manufacturing that usually don't render any installation or maintenance documents.

ISA article about E-CAE for factory automation



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