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Circuit diagrams are very handy. On this site, they can really help illustrate the problem or solution (see here). They can help you visualize what needs to be changed when doing work on your house, and they keep a record of how your house is wired up.

How can I easily create these diagrams, especially if I want a digital copy of them? What simple (hopefully free) programs do people use?

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This might belong more on meta, or perhaps the faq. –  Steve Armstrong Sep 14 '10 at 15:00
    
Agreed with going to Meta (perhaps info like this should be in the FAQ as well? For both simple electrical/plumbing/structural drawings). –  MarkD Sep 14 '10 at 15:11
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I think this belongs on the main site because circuit diagrams are useful for other things than asking/answering questions on the internet. If someone had bothered to make and maintain one for my house, many headaches could have been avoided. –  Vebjorn Ljosa Sep 14 '10 at 16:40
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I agree that this question deserves a place here. Perhaps Steve could edit it to include both his original intent and the more general utility of this type of software. –  Dennis Williamson Sep 14 '10 at 22:08

7 Answers 7

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I knew a few EE's who used TinyCAD for circuit diagrams. It might be a little bit of overkill for drawing simpler diagrams though.

The best news is, it's FREE!

Screenshot: alt text

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Will it do electrical diagrams or just electronic? –  Dennis Williamson Sep 16 '10 at 2:01
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TinyCad will do electrical, but you will have to make most of the library symbols yourself. (Which is easy.) Here is a quasi-electrical diagram I posted recently: diy.stackexchange.com/questions/25289/… –  Kaz Feb 26 '13 at 10:50

The easiest solution is to draw on paper, then scan or photograph. Even cell phone cameras are usually sufficient. It may not look as professional, but you don't have to install diagramming software and learn to use it.

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I've also been known to use a whiteboard + digital camera when diagraming things (although, it might not be as clear for circuit diagrams which tend to get more detailed) –  Joe Sep 15 '10 at 19:35

So to post a formal answer-

The program I used to create the diagram in the linked post was Adobe Illustrator, which is definitely not free.

That being said, any descent vector drawing program can easily make diagrams like these- one free one that comes to mind is InkScape. That combined with a good library of commonly used symbols in SVG format would make creating these diagrams much easier. I have been able to find plenty of typical electrical circuit symbols but have yet to find home wiring symbols. I have several that I have made, that I'd be happy to release if they would be useful.

Edit- another program I have used in the past that is free is xfig, which is a simple vector drawing program for X11 systems. Works great on Linux or OS X, and it includes a pretty big library of schematic symbols.

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There is a Windows version of Xfig called Winfig which is not open source, but I think it interoperates with Xfig. –  Kaz Feb 26 '13 at 10:41

If you use a Mac, then OmniGraffle might work well. It has some basic symbols for circuit diagrams, and you can easily add new ones (e.g., by pasting in some that you find as images on web pages). It's about $100, but there is a 14-day free trial.

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I use TurboCad. Prior versions are available from software discounters for as little as US$20. A Mac version is slightly less.

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I use TinyCad - its free, open source and is very activily supported by users. http://sourceforge.net/projects/tinycad/

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You can use Kicad - open source and very activily supported by users.

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Kicad is an unusable, unless what you're looking for is a user interface equivalent of whacking yourself on the head with a baseball bat. –  Kaz Feb 26 '13 at 10:44

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