CadSoft introduced a new major release of their Layout Software EAGLE in December 2011. This version 6 starts with all the functionality an Electronic Design Engineer needs for drawing schematics and creating a printed circuit board. New is that EAGLE”s internal data structure is in XML format, which currently is unique in the professional ECAD software world and allows us to import a *.brd file directly into our Visualizer to test your PCB data for manufacturability. The whole concept is continued with current Version 7.XX.
The first article of this series will explain the basics of the EAGLE Control Panel. This is the EAGLE starting window. The user can get an overview about the Libraries and the User Language Programs EAGLE comes with and it”s the place where you manage existing and new projects. It”s also the place where you can decide about a number of program settings.
On the left hand side of the Control Panel you can find the so-called tree view. Opening one of the branches, for example “Libraries”, shows all the library files that come with EAGLE. Expand one of the entries and you will see the Devices and Packages that are contained in the library file. Click onto one of the entries and the preview of the component will be shown.
The same can be done for “User Language Programs (ULPs)” or, for example, for the “Projects” branch. User Language Programs (ULPs) are more or less simple, C-like programs that can be used for a variety of tasks. It is possible to export data from your schematic or layout into any format. There is, for example, “dxf.ulp” which creates DXF data or “bom.ulp” for creating a bill of materials. Importing data is possible as well. Provided you have a good description of the data format you could write such a program by yourself in order to import data into EAGLE.
The whole User Language is described in the EAGLE help file. ULPs can be used to modify your project and automate certain tasks. All in all it”s a very flexible tool with countless options. Look into the ULPs that come with EAGLE or check for additional files in the Download area of CadSoft”s web site. http://www.cadsoft.de
On top of the Control Panel there is located the menu bar. The “Options” entry leads you to some interesting configuration possibilities. Click onto the first entry “Directories”. Here you can decide where EAGLE has to look for its files. Libraries, User Language Programs, the Projects, Design Rule files and CAM jobs can be located in any folder, either on your local computer or on a network server. You are allowed to specify several folders, if you like. For example you may prefer to have the default libraries available on a server and your personal ones located in your private folders.
The second entry in the “Options” menu is about “Backup”. EAGLE creates a number of backup files each time you save your project. There is a maximum of 9 possible backups. They are named with the file extension .b#1 to .b#9 for the board file (*.brd). The same for schematics (*.sch) and library files (*.lbr). They get the extensions .s#1 to s#9 and .l#1 to .l#9 respectively. The automatic backup which is created automatically at the defined intervals has the extension .b/s/l##. If you have to recover one of the backups you rename it to a valid EAGLE extension.
The “Options/User Interface” menu allows you to change the background colors of the Editor windows or the appearance of the mouse cursor. You can also decide whether the toolbars are to be displayed or hidden.
One further interesting setting can be found in the “Help/Check for Update” menu. Here you can control whether EAGLE is allowed to check for newer versions available on the CadSoft webserver. As soon as a new release is available EAGLE will tell you. You can let EAGLE check for beta versions as well. So you can be sure you are always up to date.
As stated in the beginning, all the basic settings can be made in the EAGLE Control Panel. EAGLE will save all these in your “home” folder in a user-specific configuration file which is named .eaglerc for Linux and Mac OS-X and eaglerc.usr for Windows.
There are some more options in the menus. Look into them and find out what you can do with the Control Panel. The EAGLE manual, which comes with EAGLE as a PDF file, contains a specific chapter about the Control Panel.