Here at Quantum CAD we use just about every type of PCB design software there is on the market, such as Cadence Allegro/Orcad layout, Mentor Expedition/Pads, Zuken CR5000/Cadstar, Visula and Altium Designer/Protel.
However, my personal experience and expertise lay with Cadence Allegro and to a slightly lesser extent Mentor Pads, I also have considerable experience with OrCAD Layout. I find each of the mentioned packages has their pros and cons, and are best suited for different design tasks, back a few years when I used to work at OrCAD (1997-1999) as a technical support Engineer, in the run-up to being taken over by Cadence, OrCAD Layout was marketed as a “shrink wrap solution” to PCB designs. i.e. you get it out of the box and install it immediately and in theory start designing PCBs albeit not very complex ones ones, as the tool didn’t really lend itself to complex designs or High speed constraint driven types of design. So the types of design you would get from OrCAD Layout would be fairly basic, I also found the tool a bit cumbersome to use.
After the Cadence take-over (1999), We were all shipped from Basingstoke to Bracknell, and I was given the title of Applications Engineer, here I was introduced to Allegro PCB editor, which was a much better piece of PCB design software, this was a high end piece of kit and was aimed at larger organisations, generally it needed to be installed by the local IT guru and was available in both Windows and Unix platforms, with Allegro PCB Editor anything seemed possible, although the software had a far steeper learning curve, but once learnt it was a delight to use, and since the introduction of the constraint manager, this software is one of the best high end tools available on the Market today, and since leaving Cadence as a senior Applications engineer in 2001 is still my choice of PCB design software to date.
Mentor Pads is software which I have only been using for the past year, its aimed primarily at the medium to small sized companies, but even “fred in his shed” can afford this it, as its reasonably priced and is a scalable solution. On the top of the scale or “high end” has features in it which you would perhaps only expect to find in Cadence or Mentor software. Pads is fairly easy to pick up, but once you have got over the initial learning curve, I found the software very labour intensive compared to say Allegro. Just doing simple things takes much longer to accomplish. But saying that you get what you pay for as the old adage goes and, it does a very good job on all sorts of designs from the simplest to the most complex.
As a PCB designer I am interested to know what other designers experience are with using different PCB design software, and what types of designs they regularly do with it, and the pitfalls if any of using that software.