Opinions on Eagle and DesignSpark PCB : by Roger Lascelles. Tell me if I am wrong..
In September 2009, Farnell bought CadSoft, the makers of the Eagle Schematic-PCB program. Farnell sells electronic components, and has been expanding worldwide. Farnell plans to build a parts procurement tool into Eagle. Farnell gives away a limited version of Eagle, but continues to sell the more capable versions. Farnell now call themselves “element14”, and present themselves as an engineering resource, rather than just a component supplier.
In July 2010, RS Components opened DesignSpark, a design portal and community for engineers, and offered “DesignSpark PCB”, a free, non-crippled and modified version of Easy-PC; a low end CAD tool from Number One Systems. RS also plan to build in a procurement tool.
Farnell and RS Components are the two big UK based players, and hope to make their engineering portals a haven for engineers who need inspiration, social contact and easy parts procurement.
DesignSparkPCB has three library types: Schematic, PCB and Component. A component links a schematic symbol and a PCB symbol. Because they are linked, you must keep the three types of library file correctly located and coordinated. Thus it is harder to share libraries with other people.
I have not succeeded in a netlist import using the offered “Orcad Schematic Netlist” format, probably because I've got the wrong file format. Netlist export correctly provides the PCB symbol name as the footprint value, but the file format is not popular. I don't see DesignSparkPCB as a general purpose schematic capture tool because it is tightly bound to the 3-library component system.
Other aspects of DesignSparkPCB are reasonable. The editors are OK to use. Remember to check your Gerber outputs with a viewer! At least RS will provide bug fixes.
DesignSparkPCB uses internet licence management, so if RS ever turns off the licence server, you can lose your investment in libraries and projects.