Let's step through a very simple example of creating a new printed circuit board.
When the software starts up, click the New button.
We're going to start by setting the size of the board. However, you can adjust it anytime you want. Click the board outline to select it.
Click on the board outline
There is a ribbon across the top of the window. The Size and Position section of the ribbon includes text fields for various dimensions. For a rectangular board, type the desired values into the Width and Height fields. For this introductory tutorial, I'm making the board 0.8 inch by 0.5 inch.
Type new board dimensions in the Size and Position ribbon section
Or, instead of typing dimensions, you can drag the corners or the sides or the board outline itself.
Click and drag edge or corner
Resizing other shapes works the same way: either enter dimensions or drag the edges. Here's the newly resized board on a 0.1 inch grid.
Let's add an LED and resistor to the board. The left side of the window contains the tools. On the Part tool, click on the menu (small arrow on the right side). This menu shows recently used parts. Since you haven't used the software before, the menu does not display any parts. So, click "Choose Part From Library".
Choosing Part for the first time
After clicking Choose Part From Library, the Parts Library window appears. Similar to the board gallery (and Windows Explorer), you can choose the size of the thumbnails. By default, the Parts Library shows the thumbnails at the smallest size in order to fit as many parts as possible into the window. Click the thumbnail size that you prefer.
Change thumbnail size
If you can't find the part you're looking for, you can search for it with Find. Type "led" in the Find text box and press enter (or click the Find button).
When you spot the T1 3/4 LED, double click on it.
Double-click on LED
The cursor includes a small symbol to indicate the active tool. In this case, the arrow cursor has a little part symbol to indicate that clicking on the board will place the chosen part. Click on the middle of the right side of the board to place the LED.
Place LED part
Hmm. I want the holes vertically, not horizontally. Choose Rotate Right in the Arrange menu. Or, if you have a wide enough window, choose Rotate Right in the Arrange section of the ribbon.
Arrange rotate right
(If Rotate Right is disabled, perhaps you clicked somewhere else on the board and the LED is no longer selected. If so, just click on the LED again to highlight it so the Rotate Right becomes enabled.)
The LED should change orientation. You can now drag it so that it aligns nicely on the grid, if desired.
Drag rotated LED into place
Now let's add a small resistor. Go to the Part tool menu again. (Notice that the previously chosen LED is displayed in the menu for your convenience.) Choose More Parts in Library.
Remembers your favorite parts
The parts library can hide everything but parts in a particular category. For example, to make it easier to find the resistor, click on the Resistor category.
Filtering on Resistor category
Now it is easy to spot the 1/8 W resistor. Double-click on it.
Choose one-eighth watt resistor
Click in the middle of the board to place the resistor. Rotate Right and then drag it into position.
Rotate resistor and move into place
Now we're going to add two holes to supply power. Choose the "Hole or Pad" tool from the Tool ribbon. Alternatively, the tool tip tells you that you can press 'H' (or 'h') on your keyboard to switch to this tool. (See Keys)
Choose the Hole or Pad Tool
The cursor changes to include a little picture of a hole. Click on the left side of the board to place a hole. Move down a bit and click again to place another hole.
Click to add holes
The Hole tool will continue to place holes or pads with every click. To stop this, switch to the Select tool or press the 'Esc' key. The Select tool is your default tool. Remember to simply press 'Esc' if you ever feel like you're stuck in a certain mode.
Let's electrically connect the holes and parts together. Choose the Trace tool.
Choose Trace tool
Starting on the upper-left hole, begin adding the trace by clicking in the center of the hole and holding down on the mouse button.
Start trace by clicking and holding down
Keep holding down and move to the element that you want to connect to. In this case, move to the leftmost resistor hole.
While holding down move to next element
When you reach the hole, notice that it highlights to indicate that's what you'll be connecting to. Highlighting is particularly helpful in guiding you if there are multiple elements in close proximity. Highlighting is present on the other tools, as well. If the element doesn't highlight, it tells you that you can't act on the element with the current tool.
Let go of the mouse button to connect the trace to the resistor hole.
Let go to connect
The trace is now connected from the hole to the left side of the resistor. But, notice that the trace tool has already started drawing from the left side of the resistor to the current cursor location. Well, traces usually go from element to element or are routed around parts. So, most of the time you want traces to continue to be added.
Right click or esc to stop
In this example, we don't want the trace to continue. To end the trace, simply right click or hit 'Esc'.
Add additional traces as illustrated below.
Traces connect resistor and LED
Why are there two tools that both seemingly draw lines?
Normally, you'll use the Trace tool to connect parts and holes together on the copper layers, and you'll use the Line tool to draw part outlines, arrows, or separators on the silkscreen layer. But, you don't have to if you don't want to. Both tools work on copper and silkscreen layers. Frankly, you could draw an entire circuit using the Text tool ('o', '+', '-', '|') if you really wanted to (please don't).
The tools differ in behavior to make editing easier for you.
Traces are connected lines. Traces have a relationship to the holes, pads, and other traces that they touch. Traces are designed to be adjusted and rerouted often.
Traces connect to each other
In the above example:
In contrast, lines made with the line tool are independent. They are not logically connected to holes, pad, or other lines.
Lines are independent
In the above example:
In summary, both the Trace tool and Line tool make the same shapes, they only differ in whether you want to make logically connected or independent lines. The tools exist for your convenience. It doesn't change the final manufactured board either way.
Let's add text to the example board to label the parts and input holes. Choose the Text tool.
Choose Text tool
Click above the LED to make the text box appear. Type "Blue" (for the color of the LED) and click OK.
Adding a text label
We're going to get slightly fancier for the resistor. Click above it to the make the text box appear. Type "100" and then choose the Ohm symbol from the symbol menu. Click OK.
Adding an Ohm symbol to resistor label
Now we're going to get even fancier. Click to the left of the top-left hole to add text. Type "+5V" and then click the second icon of the letter T. Notice the text angle has changed. (Don't click OK yet).
Change text angle
The label fits acceptably in the available space, but let's make the label smaller just in case we want to add more holes later on. Change the font to Tiny. That retains the thickness of other fonts at that size, but crams each character into a smaller area.
Choose the Tiny font
Lastly, let's put the text on the silkscreen layer, not the copper layer. Choose Top Silkscreen. Click OK.
Change text layer to silkscreen
Repeat this technique for the second hole by adding a ground symbol, Tiny font, and top silkscreen.
Add ground symbol
Mass manufacturing a physical object like a circuit board is more difficult than placing ink or toner dots on a piece of paper. Results vary depending on the strength, age, and contact time of chemicals, and depending on the cleanliness, texture, purity, and evenness of the surfaces. From board to board, the copper can under-etch, over-etch, or even flake off. Unlike smooth glossy paper designed to take ink precisely, the uneven copper patterns are designed for electrical functionality. Thus, silkscreened text and part outlines printed on top of the copper are rough compared to modern printouts.
Manufacturers specify a minimum line thickness that can be reproduced reliably and legibly on either copper or silkscreen. The minimum thickness tends to be around 6 thou (aka 6 mil, 0.006 inch, or 0.15 mm). That's only 166 DPI. Modern printers have 3 to 10 times the resolution! So, the difference in resolution capability is the first reason that PCB fonts are specialized.
Secondly, industrial manufacturing equipment is based on file formats that are standardized, but old and limited. Those file formats do not include font capabilities. Each character needs to be drawn as a series of arcs and line segments.
Lastly, it is unacceptable to have the board change (even slightly) depending on the operating system and software version. It usually doesn't matter if the position or size of text moves slightly on a term paper or a website. But, on a circuit board, it can cause assembly workers to put parts in the wrong holes or can cause electrical shorts for text placed on the copper layer. Therefore, rather than foolishly expecting stability from a third-party font, a PCB program needs to have its own fonts with strict control over the exact placement.
Hmm. Now that I look at it, I wish the 100Ω and Blue text labels were on the Top Silkscreen layer, rather than the Top Copper layer. With the Select tool, click 100Ω to select it. Then, hold down the Ctrl key and click the "Blue" text label. The Ctrl key changes the Select tool cursor to show a little plus sign, and allows you to select more than one element.
Selecting more than one element by holding Ctrl key
Alternatively, one or more elements can be selected by drag selecting. Click on an empty board location to start. While holding down the mouse button, move the cursor across the elements you want to select. A selection marquee rectangle appears and the elements within it are selected. Let go of the mouse button when you are finished selecting.
Drag select more than one element
In the Shape section of the ribbon (top of window), click on the layer pulldown menu and choose Top Silkscreen. Not only does this change the layer of the selected elements, but also sets the default layer for the next text or shape you add.
Change layer to silkscreen from Shape ribbon
Alternatively, you can choose a layer by right clicking on the element and choosing from the Layer menu.
Because you'll toggle layers often, there's a shortcut method. Let's move a trace from the top copper layer to the bottom copper layer while trying the shortcut.
Using the Select tool, click on the trace between the ground hole and the LED.
When an element is selected, the current characteristics are updated in the ribbon. For example, the layer menu in the Shape section of the ribbon changes to Top Copper to indicate the current layer of the selected trace. Next, click the red icon to switch the trace layer to bottom copper.
Toggle layers by clicking on icon
While we're at it, let's change the thickness of the trace. In the Shape section, click on the thickness pulldown menu to change the trace from 0.012 in to 0.040. Alternatively, you can type the thickness in the text box rather than using the menu.
This is what the board looks like now.
Trace thicker and on bottom copper layer
Some jerk just told me that this board requires a 1/8th mounting hole at exactly 0.34 inch, 0.1574 inch coordinates. Click the "Hole or Pad" tool. Then, in the "Hole and Pad" section of the ribbon, click on the pull down menu for hole diameters. Choose More...
More hole diameters are available
Lists of hole diameter values are arranged in various categories. It doesn't matter which list you select from -- they are only there for organizational purposes. Select 1/8 in the Fractional list by clicking on it.
Selecting one eighth hole diameter
Matching values (if they exist) are automatically selected in the other lists. In this example, "0.125" is selected in Common. This provides another way of thinking about the diameter value, to help catch errors.
Click OK to set the new hole size and to close the Hole Diameter window. Click in a blank location on the board to place the hole.
A faster way to set the hole diameter or pad diameter is to simply type the value in the text box. For example, you can type "1/8" and press enter.
The text box performs math as well. You can type "34/64 - 1/16 - 11/32" to get 0.125.
In any case, now that the hole exists on the board, enter the bizarre coordinates of 0.34 in, 0.1574 into the X and Y text fields in the Size and Position section of the ribbon. This precisely positions the center of the hole.
Mounting hole position
Oh no! The hole interferes with one of the traces.
Hole interfering with trace
The trace needs to be routed around the hole. Right click on the trace and choose Add Point.
Adding a point to a trace
Drag the point down.
Dragging a point
Add another point and drag it so that the trace no longer touches the mounting hole.
Trace routed around hole
Oh no, again! I just realized the LED has been in backwards this entire time. The flat side is the cathode and should be connected to ground.
Click on the LED to select it. Choose Rotate 180° in the Arrange menu or ribbon section.
Rotate LED 180 degrees
The traces are still connected to the wrong holes. You need to delete them and connect them to the opposite holes.
You can right click on the trace and choose Delete from the menu.
Deleting an element the hard way
However, it is much easier to left-click on the trace to select it, and then press the Delete/Del or Backspace key. You can do this for any element or multiple elements. You can delete trace points the same way -- click to select it and then press delete.
After deleting the crossed traces and adding the correct traces, here is the final board: