Layout Design Software

By | February 21, 2015

I spend quite a bit of time designing, viewing and reviewing 2d layout designs for lithographic masks. When I first started I found it difficult to navigate the many different layout design software packages available, so I’ve put together this list of some of the electronic circuit and mask layout design software I’m familiar with.


L-edit is probably my favourite layout design software package. It feels well thought through and put together, although there are still one or two occaisional issues.

L-edit’s biggest downside is its cost, which is likely to be prohibitively expensive unless you have a site license.

L-edit part of the TannerTools suite from Tanner Eda.


Until discovering L-edit, Wavemaker was my layout design software of choice. Made by Barnard Microsystems, it looks very much like development on this software stopped in about 1995. Despite it’s retro-feel and appearance, and lack of many modern features it is still a nice piece of software.

One of its main advantages over other layout design software is likely to be its price. It is available for free as a viewer only, and a significant price reduction is available for academic use.


KLayout is pretty much the only free layout design software package I have any experience with. I tend to only use it as a viewer of gds files, but it seems solid enough, and can be useful to help diagnose problems with gds files generated by other software.


AutoCAD is a beast of software package. No doubt to an experienced user it does everything you could want and more. In my experience of trying to design layouts with it, however, it’s alway seemed bloated and difficult to use.

As with L-edit, the high price is likely to be barrier to use for many people.


OwlVision is just a gds viewer rather than full-blown editor. I’ve included it here as I find it very useful to recommend if I need to send a gds file to someone without any gds viewing/editing software of their own.

It’s a pretty basic Java program, but it does conform to more modern usage standards than Wavemaker, which is why I prefer to suggest it to the inexperienced.