Do you remember drawing your first schematic? Presumably you used a pen or a pencil and some kind of paper. Schematic capture software, though, makes it so much easier to draw schematics. There are many to choose from, but we spent some time checking out FidoCadJ and found it capable. Of course, there are many other options, but we did like that FidoCadJ runs locally and since it uses Java will run on just about any computer. Since it is open-source, you can modify it and you don’t have to worry about licensing it for your many computers or your team.

The program is a JAR file, and our first attempt to run it ran afoul of our older Java version that was the default Java Runtime Environment. But that was easy to fix, especially since a newer version was there, just not the default.

Java and PCs have come a long way, so the program is fast and responsive on a modern computer. There is a very nice library of components and PCB footprints plus other libraries available, so you could actually layout a PC board using the tool, although we wouldn’t suggest that.

The program can export to a number of formats, although we wish there was a bit more interoperability with other programs. It does create Eagle scripts and gEDA .pcb format files. We didn’t see an easy way to get those into KiCAD, for example, or even produce files for common autorouters However, that’s not really the project’s goals, either. According to their FAQ:

I already use Kicad, LTSpice, Cadence, Mentor, Altium or Visio, why is FidoCadJ interesting?

Because it is a different program pursuing different purposes. It is complementary with the big EDA electronic tools. Ever tried to include your schematics in a document or in a presentation? Were you happy of the result?

If you want to publish and share your drawings and you are not interested in the netlist features and simulation, FidoCadJ may be the tool for you. It is LaTeX-friendly: you can export drawings in a PGF/TikZ script to be included in your document.

Of course, both this program and KiCAD use ASCII files and the code is visible, so if you write a converter, let us know.

There are many ways to create schematics, of course. Even more so if you don’t mind the cloud.