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Schematics and Circuit Simulation In the Browser 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the making-things-easy dept.
compumike writes "CircuitLab today released a browser-based schematic editor and circuit simulator for the online electronics community. SPICE-like device models and mixed-mode simulation support allows engineers and hobbyists to tackle a wide range of board-level design problems. While most EDA software is Windows-only, CircuitLab is 100% web-based, Windows/Mac/Linux cross-platform, and requires no installation or plug-ins. Instead of today's typical forum posts with static screenshots from different desktop tools, the online electronics community can now use CircuitLab to share useful URLs (as well as PNGs and PDFs) which link directly to interactive, editable, runnable schematics. In just a few clicks, another designer can open that circuit, make a change, simulate it, and post the new version back to the community."
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Schematics and Circuit Simulation In the Browser

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  • ... good memories, back in '94 when I used that software... now everything seems (is?) easier.

    I used the command-based spice. When Workbench arrived, with GUI, was something really impressive.

    • Re:SPICE/Workbench (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mitchell314 (1576581) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:25PM (#39190449)
      I remember multisim, it's a great educational tool for learning patience. And for learning why one shouldn't release software with showstopper bugs.
      • When did you use it? Just curious. The company that wrote it was bought out several years back, and I'm wondering if your bad experience was with the older or newer versions.

        • by rev0lt (1950662)
          Before it was called multisim, it was called EWB (Electronics Workbench). It was good as and educational tool, and for simulation of simple "almost-perfect" circuits, but for real-life prototyping it was quite limited. Not that today's choices are much better - a couple of days ago I designed an embedded system in ISIS with a microcontroller, connected the TTL-level serial port of the microcontroller to a full blown RS232 connector and it worked without frying the cpu...
        • It was roughly 4-6 years ago, and given the school's small size we could have had a really old version. Of course, really good software probably cost many multiples of my tuition. Complaints aside, the class (intro to digital circuits) was one of my all time favorites. I just used falstad's simulator when I wanted to really test something fun. :P
    • Re:SPICE/Workbench (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:32PM (#39190553)
      http://www.falstad.com/circuit/ [falstad.com] is nicer; it simulates in real time and isn't as clunky because it runs as an applet instead of javascript hackery.
      • Beat me to it! This program (although it has a slightly chunky editor), has been the standard for web-based circuit simulation for years. I have used it in a professional environment, and my peers went from "Web-based-what?" to "Omg, this is so useful!" in a heartbeat. Strongly recommend it.
      • by BlueStrat (756137)

        http://www.falstad.com/circuit/ [falstad.com] is nicer; it simulates in real time and isn't as clunky because it runs as an applet instead of javascript hackery.

        Well, the falstad java app doesn't run under PC-BSD 8.1/FF 8.0 with Java JRE 1.6.0.07.02_6, but the CircuitLab javascript app works perfectly.

        Seeing as most of the people I would intend to share circuits with run non-MS operating systems, many using FreeBSD, I'll have to go with CircuitLab.

        Strat

      • by spongman (182339)

        mod parent up. the falstad applet is excellent. i have used it many times to simulate circuits i have been working on.

        the editor interface is a little clunky and takes some getting used to, but the 'real-time' aspect is amazing.

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        I was just modeling a project that I was working on THIS MORNING using it.

        My only issue, and I think this may be because of how i ran it, was I couldn't export my circuit. I hit export, and it gave me a netlist, but I couldn't copy/paste it. Maybe if I download the whole package and run it outside of my browser?

        I have played with ngspice and easy_spice a bit. The learning curve is steep. I wanted to model some current sources and mirrors. Nothing too fancy but, getting the right models, then looking at outp

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      I hacked SPICE in FORTRAN and added some Pascal code for macros and realtime graphics display on a Tektronix tube on a VAX circa '82.
      Good times. Long nights in the CS lab with coffee, cookies and pizza.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I hope somebody does a model of the mainboard of the Raspberry PI. I really would like to be able to build / modify my own version.
    • Re:Raspberry PI (Score:4, Informative)

      by mirix (1649853) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @07:44PM (#39191385)

      Good luck getting the chip out of broadcom without an order for a billion units. (assuming you are equipped to deal with BGA packages in the first place).

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Good Christ, WHY? What's to modify? It's impossible to assemble at home anyways. Why can't you just leave the thing as is?
  • This sounds pretty useful. I went to the web page using Safari: "Incompatible web browser detected! CircuitLab may not work as expected in your web browser. Please see our System Requirements."

    "While we strive to support all modern standards-compliant web browsers, CircuitLab officially supports Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox."

    Isn't Chrome based on the same code as Safari? You know, that browser that is the most standards-compatible out there? That said, on a brief test of some of the example circu
    • by Sharkus (677553)
      What OS and Safari version? I tried OS X 10.6.8 and Safari Version 5.1.2 (6534.52.7) and it worked quite happily.
    • by X0563511 (793323)

      So? They warn you that they don't test with it, but let you continue with the warning that things might not work properly.

      Sounds reasonable to me!

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Good morrow, sir. Might I recommend that you attempt loading the page in question with somewhat of a more heterosexual browser? I am not stating that Safari's orientation affects its abilities, but one never knows, does one?

    • Chromium Browser (basis for Google Chrome) and Safari use the same WebKit HTML renderer but very different JavaScript virtual machines (V8 and Nitro respectively). All they're telling you is that the simulator has been extensively tested with Gecko+JaegerMonkey and WebKit+V8, not WebKit+Nitro.
  • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @05:57PM (#39190059)

    I had to check the page source to see how they had managed to launch a Flash application without being caught by my FlashBlock plugin. Applications like this are another nail in Adobe's coffin.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yea +1 very impressive. Just sent it over to my old man the retired electrical engineer, maybe he'll have some fun with it. As a web developer, I'm very impressed with it. Also very impressed its free and ad-free.

    • by mrmeval (662166)

      It doesn't get past noscript. Did it have a paid whitelist in AdBlock+?

      I have amazing tools that are GNU and free without the clowdy clown of sad clowdness.

      Has anyone started an fork of AdBlock? I have a name AllAdBlock.

  • No thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:02PM (#39190135) Homepage Journal

    Great idea, but if i cant have it local, then no thanks. I don't want to rely on something that is being hosted by another party.

    They lose interest, poof there goes my work.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Great idea, but if i cant have it local, then no thanks. I don't want to rely on something that is being hosted by another party.

      They lose interest, poof there goes my work.

      I checked the FAQ. Ouch.

      Can I export my CircuitLab schematics out to another tool?

      Not at this time.

      Especially big bummer as I'd like to import ckts into a PCB autorouter. So its just a toy, at least right now, as opposed to a "real" EDA tool, which is too bad.

    • Re:No thanks (Score:4, Informative)

      by X0563511 (793323) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:22PM (#39190399) Homepage Journal

      I just created a test schematic, and if I then go in my workbench and select it, I can export it to PDF. Sure, it's not perfect (eg it's not something parsable like an XML), but it also means that your work doesn't go "poof" either.

    • by fermion (181285)
      I have been utilizing web based utilities like this for a number of years. My favorite in this category has been logic.ly, but I will be looking at this now. These are clearly not professional tools. I have the professional tools and they are expensive and require yearly reinstalls. If you spend your life doing these things, then professional tools are necessary. if not, web based solutions are becoming increasingly adequate. They can run from any computer, they can be used to teach at little or no co
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Linear Technology gives away its professional grade circuit sim tools as a way of promoting its hardware sales (full part library comes with it). google LTSPICE. free for noncommercial use. runs on windows. for non-windows there are a number of other good options, but this is the best win32 simulator I've found for teaching students, using on grad school projects, etc.

    • by Trogre (513942)

      No worries, just view the page source and download the .swf file it links to and... oh

  • by senor_meow (990740) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:10PM (#39190229)
    I think it is important to mention Paul Falstad's Java circuit simulator that has been around for years and has probably influenced this project. http://www.falstad.com/circuit/ [falstad.com]
  • I have been waiting for this for some time. I want to be able to use any machine I am at to teach basic electronics and this makes the circuit simulator portable.
  • I do not see a way to make the voltage source AC. This looks pretty good for quickie proof of concept stuff. Still a way to go before it is ready for a serious project.

    For now, I use LTSpice. Fabulous, free spice package from Linear.

    • by vlm (69642)

      I do not see a way to make the voltage source AC.

      Try the demo differential amp circuit, that shows you how. Seems to work.

  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:14PM (#39190275)

    Its pretty cool, although limited.

    I checked it out and there's a pretty limited selection of BJTs, etc. Well I poked around and it turns out you can do something pretty cool with just a couple parts, with any luck here's a differential amp, assuming this link works:

    https://www.circuitlab.com/circuit/fby849/bjt-cascoded-active-load-differential-amplifier-with-cmfb/ [circuitlab.com]

    My guess is they'll soon be releasing a "paid" version where I can use thousands of (official?) transistor models not just 10 or so. That would be pretty awesome.

    Also if they know what they're doing they'll partner with a short run PCB house. Some PCB houses give away PCB CAD software, these guys have a jump ahead of them... Maybe they already have, I have not explored the entire site. Imagine doing the schematic, the spice run, the pcb layout, and order some boards (and parts?) from the same browser window... that would be cool. Heck partner with those "virtual front panel" guys too.

    If you double click on a component you can change the parameters, I think I could design a nifty little MMIC active constant current biasing circuit by hacking a rectifier model into a psuedo-mmic model (basically crank the forward V drop to 3 volts or so, depending on device, and a couple other things especially device capacitance). I wonder if I can push it into oscillation? (Note, you try to design ckts that don't do that... at least if they're theoretically amplifiers) Or get it to ring into a negative voltage at the amp input by doing stupid inductor tricks (this is why you don't use MMICs at HF freqs, aside from oscillation and usually intentional device gain rolloff)

    I'd like to see the ability to handle temperature swings. My parts are milspec individually, but does my overall design work over a whole milspec temp range?

    I suppose if I'm asking for the moon, could I have something like Ansoft for waveguide foolishness in my browser window?

    • Your post reminded me the difference between an hobbyist and a professional electronic designer : you play with HF*1; an hobbyist usually don't.

      1-Microwaves circuits design seems like a special kind of black magic to me ;)

  • by Leif_Bloomquist (311286) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:15PM (#39190301) Homepage

    This capability has been around for a while with Upverter. Good to see some competition, though.

    http://upverter.com/ [upverter.com]

  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:19PM (#39190365) Journal

    From FAQ:
    "Can I export my CircuitLab schematics out to another tool?
    Not at this time."
    This could be an awesome tool if it were easy to create (and share!) new parts, and get a netlist out, so we could import it into layout in Eagle, Kicad, gEDA PCB, Altium, whatever floats your boat. But since all the circuits I create go into layout and get turned into boards, this doesn't provide me much that existing tools don't already provide.

    • To expand: National Semiconductor [national.com] has Webench (which I've worked on to some extent) and it allows you to set up a schematic, runs simulations, produces a bill of materials for you, produces a layout, produces gerbers, shows you which parts are in stock and how much they cost, and will even fab the boards and send you a bag of parts to put on your boards. That's really amazingly useful... as long as you want to use a National Semiconductor part. Not so great if you want to do something new or build a compl

  • by BetterSense (1398915) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:20PM (#39190377)
    This doesn't have to be a serious design tool. The real benefit is going to be to the DIY and hobby community, because tools like this are going to reduce the amount of shitty hand-drawn schematics uploaded to web forums, typically done in Paint or scrawled on notebook paper and then imaged with a cell phone. I've been looking for a quick way to bang out a schematic for a while now.

    My thoughts:

    The drawing is great and the interface does a good job of being easy enough to start without having to read directions.

    They only have a selection of 8 NPN transistors, and you HAVE to choose one...there is no way to place a generic transistor and label it yourself. Even if you modify the parameters, you still have to have it labeled with one of the parts choices they provide. WTF? There is also no darlington transistor symbol.

    Also, if you choose coil, you have to have it labeled with the inductance value in H, and you can't have it show a resistance value. This is stupid for motor coils, where you care about resistance at least as much as inductance.

    So, force less shit down my throat, assume less about what I want to tell my audience, and it will be perfect.
    • Re:This is great (Score:4, Informative)

      by GrahamCox (741991) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:28PM (#39190485) Homepage
      This is stupid for motor coils, where you care about resistance at least as much as inductance

      So just put the resistance in series. That's fine for simulation, where layout, parasitics, etc, are ignored unless you add them as elements specifically.
      • But you didn't get my earlier point, that the tool assumes that the end user wants to simulate, but hobbyists and robotics people are not going to be making diagrams for simulating; they just want to communicate a schematic visually. Classic blunder...not knowing your audience. Yes, a resistance in series with a coil would be equivalent, but you know what would be easier for both me and the web designer? Just let me plop down the coil symbol and then decide for my own goddam self how I want to label it, ins
        • by GrahamCox (741991)
          Well, maybe they do know their audience, and you are trying to use the tool for something it wasn't designed for. Yes, it could be used to share "standardised" schematics, but perhaps that's not what they intended it to be used for.

          However, I agree with your point - it would be nice (and more versatile) if they allowed you to specify a component yourself instead of only giving you potted solutions.
    • This doesn't have to be a serious design tool. The real benefit is going to be to the DIY and hobby community, because tools like this are going to reduce the amount of shitty hand-drawn schematics uploaded to web forums, typically done in Paint or scrawled on notebook paper and then imaged with a cell phone. I've been looking for a quick way to bang out a schematic for a while now.

      Where are you seeing this? In my experience, most hobbyists just use the free version of Eagle.

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Tuesday February 28, 2012 @06:23PM (#39190419) Homepage Journal

    The browser is the new GUI. This is a good thing.

    Instead of the dozen-or-so windows/widgets/mechanism systems we have now, we have one canvas with one interface managed by a standards community and improved over time.

    To take a simple example, pick any of the windows systems (Tk, Gnome, Microsoft API) and consider how difficult it is to display text on the screen, including placement, size, font, color, and so on.

    Now consider that same operation using the DOM model in Javascript: it's a simple English-like interface where you describe in a couple of words what you want to happen. Easy.

    Add to this the fact that browsers work the same across all systems, the markup works largely the same across all browsers, and the interface documentation is available to anyone for free, and you've got a winning combination.

    Wikipedia lists 14 free/OSS schematic capture programs. Almost universally, they are good in some aspects and fall short in others. For example: "Good graphics but lousy component library interface, but the library support will have to wait 'cause there's a ton of things we need which are more important". (Makes it 'kind of hard to use.)

    With a universal canvas, people can get on board with ONE system so that everyone can pull the rope in the same direction. The fractured landscape of programs can be replaced by a single interface where people use their expertise to improve the system in the area in which they have expertise.

    This should happen more often. There's a ton of competing GUI applications out there which could be consolidated into a single browser-implemented version, taking the best parts of each.

    I hope to see many more of these in the future.

    • by GrahamCox (741991)
      The fractured landscape of programs can be replaced by the fractured landscape of sites where every single page has a different, unrelated, non-standard interface.

      This is progress?
    • Wikipedia lists 14 free/OSS schematic capture programs. Almost universally, they are good in some aspects and fall short in others. For example: "Good graphics but lousy component library interface, but the library support will have to wait 'cause there's a ton of things we need which are more important". (Makes it 'kind of hard to use.)

      And what makes this immune from the problems you described? Convince me this is not just pulling the rope in a 15th direction.

  • Does CircuitLab run simulations on my computer, or on CircuitLab's servers?

    All circuit simulations run in your web browser, on your computer. Your simulations will run faster if you have a faster computer, or if you use a web browser with a faster JavaScript engine.

    Does CircuitLab require an internet connection to function?

    Yes. At this time, an internet connection is required to use the CircuitLab editor.

    Perhaps in the light of the first answer, the second answer should - in the age of HTML5 - be "No" rather than "Yes".

    • Perhaps in the light of the first answer, the second answer should - in the age of HTML5 - be "No" rather than "Yes".

      For one thing, some well-known implementations of HTML5 limit web applications to a maximum of 5 MB application cache and 5 MB local storage. For another, some well-known completely native single-user applications still require an Internet connection to verify the user's license. Perhaps the publisher plans to use this business model.

  • I used to have an electronics kit as a kid. Simple stuff, but fascinating. Though I didn't go into an electrical engineering field (comp sci instead), I am still interested in tinkering around.

    On a side note, does anyone know how a switch placed into a circuit can be tested and used in CircuitLab?
  • there's also falstad.com/circuit, which provides the downloadable Java source to their web app.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    all done in 20k lines of coffeescript to boot. Coffeescript will soon dominate the web!

  • No ? then GTFO

    Is CircuitLab free to use?
    At this time, CircuitLab is entirely free-of-charge.

    In the future, as the tool continues to grow and evolve, we may decide to charge for certain premium features so we may fund further development. However, it has always been our intention to keep the core functionality free, for the benefit of the greater online electronics community.

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