Let's Make Robots!

Schematic design software

I'm not positive this is the right place to post this.  Admins please move it if I'm asking in the wrong place.

As I'm learning more and more about electronics I've found it useful to draw schematics to "test" things out and visualize them without having to actually put anything physically together.  Often when I'm curious about how to do something I'll come up with a design in my head and I won't realize the flaws in my design until I put it on paper (oooh .... I need a diode here and a resistor there ...).  I'd probably be ruining more components if I went straight to the breadboard with all the things I want to try out (I blew up a transistor and burned out multiple LED's within my first few days of playing with electronics ... safety first, kids).

Anyway, doing this on paper isn't so bad, but I'm sure there's software out there that would make it a ton easier.  They probably even have software that allows you to simulate circuits.  A quick Google search didn't turn up much useful info, though, so I'm hoping that someone here can help.  I primarily run Mac OSX, but I have the ability to run Windows and Linux on my work computer as well (I work from home ... my Mac Pro has all the OS's installed -- to some degree -- via boot camp).  So I'd prefer a Mac application, but any other would work as well.

Also ... and I'm sure this goes without saying ... anything FREE is preferred.  :) 

Furthermore, I'm curious how you guys lay out your circuits before prototyping.  Do you go straight to the breadboard?  Strait to soldering??  If you design the schematic first, do you do it on paper or in an application?

Thanks all.

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I've used VisSim for general electronics. You do have to pay for it though.

I use coreldraw for both my schematics and pcb layouts.  It's not meant to be used for that purpose so it can't simulate circuits or anything.

It definitely pays to draw thing out first, even then there's usually some trial and error (e.g. smoke) involved.

The best way to prevent smoke is to wire a small circuit breaker in series with your power supply.  Hopefully it will trip before any damage occurs.

I've use eagle on both osx and linux, oddly enough for a long time windows guy I never insatlled it on that machine.

 Prototyping for me is just drawing it out on a piece of paper when I'm at work, cause thats when I'm thinking about it most...when I should be doing work.  :) next is verifying then breadbording. If Im happy, I do a final schematic in eagle, then start working on the actual circuit board.

 I'd never go strait to soldering unless I had more exp and knew what I was doing.

I assumed that was the general workflow for figuring out circuits.  I agree ... I always seem to come up with my best ideas when I'm bored out of my mind at school or work.  :P

Thanks for the help, voodoo!  I'm downloading Eagle right now.

yeah, I'm most creative when doing what I shouldn't be doing at work....

hey you should check for the updated library files as well...they have some for the picaxe  :) I use them so I thought it was cool to have