ExpressPCB classic is going away; more users for KiCad?

Hi, everyone: Today I learned from my employer that ExpressPCB will be pulling the plug on their “classic” version. I am not authorized to speak for my employer so I will not name them.

But, anyway there is now a discussion as to what software to use for our early-stage “breadboards”, and KiCad has been brought up as an option. If my employer is considering this, it seems very likely that other companies will do similar. I wonder whether this might cause a significant increase in KiCad’s user base; particularly among corporate users. I would think that this might be good news somehow…

Looking at the “New” features, ExpressPCB is a pretty basic package.

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I guess Raptor closed this to avoid non-KiCad discussion. I would allow commenting to see if someone has something relevant to say. There was a wish for importing ExpressPCB designs, and here’s some old bacgkround: Support for importing ExpressSCH schematics (lp:#1851713) (#2535) · Issues · KiCad / KiCad Source Code / kicad · GitLab.

As far as I can see, there should be “ExpressSCH Plus” now, too. As David said, the EDA package is pretty basic, and and importer shouldn’t be too difficult compared to e.g. Altium or Eagle. Even a simple importer script could be feasible.


Yes it certainly is. It does not even provide built in error checking. But it was the first kid on the block with a nearly bulletproof proof basic (free but captive) tool for designing pcbs. Very short easy learning curve. As an applications engineer I made MANY boards with it.

By “bulletproof” I mean “apparently bug free.” It seemed that I could go for years without encountering bugs, but these days that stellar record seems to have dropped slightly for some reason.

I suppose the key question is are the schematic and pcb files human readable or some undocumented binary.

Being a 99% non-programmer, I would not be able to make a lot of sense out of them even if they were human readable. But on occasion I have tried to view the files with a text editor and I see a collection of illegible symbols. I am pretty sure they are encrypted somehow, because the business model is to sell boards. Here is one of my own schematic files…

Datlogger Pulser ADM6713 05-12-2009.sch (13.1 KB)

It is binary and not a renamed zip file, so I don’t hold up much hope of anybody reverse engineering the format

It was raised as a feature request to make the importer quite a few years back, the biggest issue was no one wanted to step up to port and maintain the importer from its current form

Schematic, also the “Plus” version which comes with the PCB Plus download, can’t be read in any simple way which I could find. PCB is human readable plain text inside a rebranded zip file. As I said in the feature request issue, it’s very simple.

Downloading the package requires opting in with email address. The license agreement prohibits reverse engineering and exporting the file format, explicitly talking about translating to “open formats”. Even though such clause may not be legally binding, it shows their attitude and at least lessens the possibility of having it supported directly in KiCad. A 3rd party script is a possibility for PCB files if anyone is willing to use their time on that kind of task. The designs made with this programs are most likely so simple that redrawing schematics probably isn’t too much work.

Of course I would recommend moving away from that EDA package to an Open Source package, and especially KiCad. I can’t say if KiCad would be actually better for those who have used only ExpressPCB, at least it’s more complicated and requires learning. Workflows, features and possibilities may feel intimidating at first, but in exchange they would get a real, full, flexible, powerful EDA software suitable for many professional tasks.


Yes thanks. IMO if KiCad’s learning curve were very steep I would not be any sort of user, let alone an enthusiastic user. The learning curve for KiCad is more than that for ExpressPCB “classic” but that does not say much.

With the big advantage that all the files are text and documented, so there is no risk of a repeat rug pull by the vendor

in fact, the learning curve is almost the same for everyone… another thing is that the functionality and capabilities are not comparable… whether you need these capabilities or not is a personal matter… if you put work with graphics and drawings plus a bunch of simulators into the CAD system, then by definition it will require a lot more effort to learn…

I made the move from the ExpressPCB family to Kicad with Kicad 6.0’s release.
The main drivers for this transition was the incompatibality between “ExpressPCB” and “ExpressPCB plus” though that may have been fixed in the last 2 years it was pretty bad at the time and the lack of any sort of error checking in “ExpressPCB plus” at that time, all the inner layers were a nightmare to use for anything other then just power plains.
I had actually though about makeing the change to Kicad much earlier but could never get my head around how “Kicad 4” worked.
I have been extremly happy with KICAD and am continuing to use it and have been donating to the project.