Sunday, December 4, 2011

DipTrace Survival Guide

DipTrace Survival Guide

Compilied From My Use and Observations

By: Eldon R. Brown
Dec 2, 2011
Update: Aug 2, 2012 - DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta
Updated: Aug 12, 2015 - DipTrace 2.9 Beta

Update - Aug 2, 2012: Note I have not explored all of the Changes provided with DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta, I will make further correction/additions as I experiment. So far I am pleased with the progress - Hats off to the DipTrace Devs.

I have been using DipTrace for several years and have recommended it to many new users. Most of the projects, Schematics and PCB's documented within my blog have be created with DipTrace. This Survival Guide it a collections of my Opinions, Use Tips and Techniques.

I will try to Expand and Update this Guide, as new software revisions are released, and when I have time. Occasionally I will repost this, when signification changes are made.

The main reasons that I use DipTrace are:
  • Ralative Easy to Learn
  • High Resolution Cross Hatch Copper Pour
  • Consistent High Quality Exported Gerbers
  • DipTrace Runs on MS, and Linux via Wine (Linux is a must for me)
  • Low Entry-Level Price
  • Easy to Edit Traces - Added via DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta

The few things that I DO NOT LIKE about DipTrace:
  • Library Management and It’s Use is Miserable!
  • Automatic Edit Modes Always Picks the Wrong Defaults - Fixed DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta
  • Lack of User Defined Softkeys and Macros - Partly fixed in DipTrace 2.9 Beta
  • Lack of Project Management Tools, and the Hard Coded Internal PATH to Related Schematics contained within the PCB file makes it difficult to; move or archive related design files.
  • Auto Route does not use the same grid that Manual Route user has access.

The following are my Survival Suggestions and Observations learned while using DipTrace.

  • There are only four magic spots to select and move a VIA, they are at the 3,6,9, and 12 O’clock positions. The magic points are slightly off of the pad, experimentation is necessary to find them. - Fixed DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta
  • To select the Ground Pour, you must select it only at the edge, even though it appears on large areas of your PCB.
  • To update a part Pattern on the PCB layout,
    • Clone (or obtain) a new pattern into you private Active Library
    • Edit and save the Pattern as necessary
    • Edit and save the offending part within your Private Active Parts Library
      • Attache the modified Pattern to the part
    • Delete Connections from offending Part within you Schematic
    • Insert a the new part into the Schematic
    • Connect wires as necessary
    • Save the modified Schematic
    • Edit the PCB
    • File -> Update From Schematic ->
    • Reposition (new) modified part as necessary
    • Reroute Part Connected Traces as necessary
  • With very small traces and parts it is sometime necessary to move the part to access underlying traces. - Fixed DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta, The Trace Edit mode does not change when clicking on a trace under a part.
  • It is best to do hand routing, as the auto router does not use the same grid as you have access, therefore it will be difficult to make small change and make your circuit consistent.
  • When doing route modification, Rat Line additions has highest priority. There constantly watch and reset “trace modify” mode as necessary. The mode does not stick. - Fixed DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta
  • You may find it difficult to consistently move a board point, the priority mode is “point addition”, press “CTL-Z” as necessary to remove the unwanted point.
  • Due to the lack of custom softkey, many tasks such as “un-Route Trace” and “Auto Route Trace” can be found in the right click menu, but the two menu items are not next to each other, and therefore you will need to learn the menus.
  • To avoid trying to fix a difficult routed “Trace” it is sometime easier to create a second (and simpler ) manageable trace before deleting the original. - Fixed DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta - Edit mode stays set
  • When moving parts on the PCB, remember that the mode often switch to “Rat Line Add” mode, “Escape” will return you to part select mode. This happens often, therefore for speed you should place your left hand (hover) near the Escape key. - Fixed DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta
  • Lock Net mode does not avoid the “Net Add” process, it only increases the clicks and dialog to escape from - i.e, a net productivity loss. - Fixed DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta - No longer a problem
  • The supplied Pattern and Part Libraries as difficult to “Brows” and therefore if you do not know the nomenclature use in the library of a spacial part, it is sometime much easier to create your own part. Simple standard parts are sometimes very difficult to find, for example try to find a 3-pin FAN header. - Many more parts in DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta, more investigation need.
  • The default mode for both PCB and Schematic is to add parts from the active Library, be careful not to to add unexpected hidden parts. Here again, pressing the Escape key often generally avoid the problem.
  • Because DipTrace does not maintain a Schematics and PCB’s as a project, and because it has Hard-coded Links from the PCB back to the Schematic, It is best to plan you project directory structure before starting.
  • If you move a Project (Schematic and PCB files) remember the Hard-coded links will still point to the original directory space. Modification of the links in the PCB files can be corrected by “re-associating” (updating from Schematic by Reference”. Or if you are clever, and do not mind “text” editing the PCB source file, the Hard-coded link to the Schematic can be change.
  • For easy access to your private Library of Parts and Patterns, move your library to the top (and which is left) of the LIB list. Note there is not an easy way to move the appended (bottom of the list) Library except one click at a time for each library in the list (actually it takes two clicks, one to select and one to exchange adjacent Libraries). It may take several minutes to move a library from the bottom to the top. Avoid the problem, put your Library at the END of the list, as default for an added library, just remember where to look.
  • Component placement rules do not appear to observe a shortest trace placement strategy. Many times two schematic parallel parts will be place with crossed nets. Also, Power and ground nets can not be ignored for auto placement.
  • A useful strategy for manual placement, is to hide the Power and Ground nets, place adjacent schematic parts together, move them into position as a group. 
  • Do not modify PADs on the PCB, an update from the Schematic will remove your changes. Modify the Schematic Parts with the Correct PAD information for the Project.
  • There are about 2500 3D parts within one single (file system) directory, take a hour (or two) to sort like parts into sub-directories for easy and quicker access (accessing or just listing the directory repeatedly takes a lot of CPU time).
  • The Schematic and PCB Title Options only includes two automatic fields; “file name”, “sheet name”. Other useful information must be manually included, for example: “Date last updated”, “Project Directory Name”, “Revision Number”, “Creator or Editor Name”, default “Company Name”, “Related Schematic file Name”, Pins Used, Layers Used, etc, etc.
  • For Documentation, each time Print Review is used the options must be re-setup, options are not saved from previous use.
  • Before having a PCB created, it is best to verify each of the Schematic part’s Attached Pattern. Because the Pattern is not one of the “optional” labels that can be printed on the Schematic, it is necessary to inspect each part’s Properties, or right click on each and then click on “Attached Pattern” and change it as necessary.
  • DipTrace does not support "Targets" for assistance in Top and Bottom layer alignment. A useful Technique is to use circuit "Edit -> Panelizing" to print extra copies of the same circuit for alignment images, a 3 by 3 panel provide corner images for the single center image alignment.
  • As Time Permits, I will update this with more DipTrace Survival Tips.

A very nice tutorial has been created by a user on the EEVBlog Forum, See:

DipTrace 2.2.9 Beta is available at


1 comment:

  1. I'm a big DipTrace fan and I agree with you about it's strengths and weaknesses. Great set of tips too, I learned some stuff just now :)