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I'm getting back into hobbyist electronics after a very long hiatus and was wondering what the current state of circuit simulation software is. What is the industry standard for macs or PCs? What are the open-source alternatives?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ kinda duplicate? electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/1206/… \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Nov 21 '10 at 2:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @endolith, I think they are similar, but I see this showing up in search, I am going to edit the title, I hope Brian is okay with it? \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 21 '10 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ This also may be a better community wiki that people will continue to update and vote on in the long term, that is your option brian. If you would like to get a specific answer and accept it then the question is correct how it is. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 21 '10 at 19:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Totally ok with the title change, I don't think I have enough rep to mark this community wiki. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Nov 22 '10 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @brian, you cannot mark community wiki. Do you have a specific answer that you are looking for? \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 23 '10 at 4:43

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LTspice is free and works well for switching power supply designs.

I also use Paul Falstad's Circuit Sim for concepts.

When it comes down to designing power supplies (which is pretty much the only thing I use circuit simulators for) I usually rely on application notes and already designed supplies. If they use LT parts, I might try and optimise the design. WEbench by National Semiconductor is quite good, but I wish it gave you more freedom.

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Well some programs I've had chance to work are Multisim and Proteus (form what I've seen, I'd put them in "industry standard" slot (disputed for Multisim), as even the cheapest versions seem to be very expensive).

They are generally nice and come with large libraries of components. They are also point and click, so you just select item from the list of items and place it on the circuit board.

They also come with virtual lab instruments such as multimeter, oscilloscope and so on, so you can see how each part of the circuit behaves. Another interesting thing in Multisim is that you can use for example input form computer's microphone and redirect it to the virtual circuit or connect speaker of the circuit to computer's speaker.

They also come with some microcontrollers, but selection is very limited in Multisim (some PICs only, if I remember correctly, but I never used that feature much). Proteus is supposed to be better, but I haven't used it much.

Both programs were very easy to use.

One limitation I found in Multisim which I couldn't circumvent is that only 4 wires can connect to each joint, so sometimes circuits can look a bit messy.

As for the free software, I haven't had good experiences in that field. I've tried to use gEDA, but it proved to be too complicated for me.

There is also gnucap, but I haven't had any experience with it.

There's also this list form Wikipedia that could be interesting.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Multisim is not industry standard. It is actually targeted at education. NI does not use the software for their on development, they get theirs from mentor graphics. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 21 '10 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk♦ Well, I thought it was since several engineers I talked to told me they use it all the time. Still, it's nice to hear information from other sources too. \$\endgroup\$ – AndrejaKo Nov 21 '10 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am impressed you got the Star, you do not need to do that to reference me, that just says I am a mod. Second, I could understand thinking that. NI does not use it that way, and When I was at NI week they were clearly trying to make it an educational standard, not a professional one. It is not bad, but the ones I am more used to have signal integrity and many other nice features that I actually need regularly. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 21 '10 at 20:13
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The industry standard is PCs with Windows and all the major simulation packages support it. No one that I know or have heard of in industry does any circuit simulation on Macs. Linux is more common than OS X.

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  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Why the down vote? That answers part of the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Carlton Nov 22 '10 at 21:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ people get angry about statements like that, but i have to agree. \$\endgroup\$ – Kortuk Nov 23 '10 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Really need both a Linux and Windows OS nowadays to get the best tools. \$\endgroup\$ – tyblu Dec 17 '10 at 18:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tyblu: What are the "best tools" that only run on Linux? What's wrong with running it in a virtual machine? \$\endgroup\$ – endolith Mar 5 '11 at 23:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @endolith, There is nothing wrong with VM's. In fact, I consider it to be a superior option to dual-booting or having separate PCs, and is what I do (Linux, running Win in VM). I love easy access to scripting libraries (UNIX), machine customizability (incl. security), and possibility for low overhead (satisfies my OCD). For some reason I like ext3/4 more than NTFS, too, though my reasons are likely outdated. \$\endgroup\$ – tyblu Mar 6 '11 at 0:26
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I use the SPICE supplied with the Pulsonix PCB software I use. It's actually SIMetrix SPICE, and a free version is available here. It has a very good reputation.

LTSpice is very popular, and is free.

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If you've got an iPad, iCircuit is pretty neat. Needs a few updates but it's obviously the way forward for this kind of thing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's basically a modification of Falstad's circuit sim: falstad.com/circuit which I use often. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Nov 20 '10 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Seems it's available for the iPhone too - but it's expensive. \$\endgroup\$ – Mr. Hedgehog Nov 21 '10 at 19:38
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I use MacSpice with OSX. It is completely text (netlist) and command line-based, though it produces decent graphical output. I'm not a SPICE expert, but apparently this one is done well, whatever that means.

I like it.

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LT Spice has been mentioned more than once, and I'll add that not only is it free and of high performance, but the user base is unusually active and helpful. Others such as TINA are out there, but you won't find the degree of help if you need to figure out how to stick handle around tricky modelling issues (eg. using tanh as an approximation for functions that are not differentiable).

There are also printed books available, if the dead-tree format appeals to you.

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Not clear if you also want digital circuit simulation, but I've found a free version of the software I used to use when I was in digital ASIC design:

http://bleyer.org/icarus/

Both Verilog and VHDL were competing for the industry standard designation back then, and I suspect that they still are.

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Check out http://www.partsim.com/, it's free and has full SPICE simulation engine, web-based schematic capture tool, and graphical waveform viewer

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I've tried Quite universal circuit simulator QUCS it is open source, multi platform and very easy to use.

Analysis types include S-parameter (including noise), AC (including noise), DC, Transient Analysis, Harmonic Balance (not yet finished), Digital simulation (VHDL and Verilog-HDL) and Parameter sweeps.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why did you include the banner in your answer. What value does it add? \$\endgroup\$ – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 14 '17 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DmitryGrigoryev We remember more when we see things. It's nice and it helps to identify the software. \$\endgroup\$ – G M Mar 15 '17 at 16:58

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