Commercial Circuit Simulator Goes Free – Hackaday

If you are looking for simulation software, you are probably thinking LTSpice or one of the open-source simulators like Ngspice (which drives Oregano and QUCs-S), or GNUCap. However, there is a new free option after the closing of Spectrum Software last year: Micro-Cap 12. You may be thinking: why use another closed-source simulator? Well, all the simulators have particular strengths, but Micro-Cap does have very nice features and used to retail for about $4,500.
The simulator boasts a multipage schematic editor, native robust digital simulation, Monte Carlo analysis, 33,000 parts in its library, worst-case and smoke analysis, Smith charts, and it can even incorporate spreadsheets. There’s a built-in designer for active and passive filters. Have a look at the brochure and you will see this is a pretty serious piece of software. And now it’s at least free as in beer.

The number of models supported for active devices is impressive and includes some very recent MOSFET models, not just the old standard models. It can also read just about any regular Spice or IBIS model. It can also export Spice files if you want to use another engine or share designs with other Spice users. There are also quite a few examples provided. There are also over 2,000 standard digital parts including all the usual 7400 families, CD4000 CMOS, and even ECL.
As a bonus, we tried it under Wine and it worked well — at least the 32-bit version. The 64-bit one would probably work with a little effort. On a big monitor, you might want to use Winecfg to set a higher DPI setting, although the toolbar icons are fixed in size which is a little inconvenient. You can, however, select “large toolbar” on the Options | Preference menu, which will help.
One nice touch is that you can view a simulation and interactively change component values and watch the results update right away.
We frequently use Spice when we are too lazy to do the math required to pick an optimal set of values. With this software, you can set ranges for various circuit components, tell the program what you want to optimize, and it will compute the best values for you.
The smoke analysis is somewhat unique. The idea is to run a transient analysis and the program determines if any circuit values exceed the maximum value for a component. You get a nice colored graph that tells you how close you are to smoke or, if you have some red bars, what parts will smoke.

Another neat feature is that you can create very cool 3D plots. This is especially useful if you are stepping parameters or measuring the effect on parameter variation like temperature.
One other feature we liked is that the program can output a netlist for printed circuit board programs including Protel, Accel, Orcad, and PADS. Over 18,000 components in the library have packages available and there is a package editor. We wish it would work with KiCAD, although we are pretty sure you could figure out some conversion path from one of the formats available.
The software was under development since 1982. We don’t know the circumstances of Spectrum’s closing but we hope it was to move on to something great. However, we appreciate the free release of this powerful simulator that can give LTSpice a run for its money. True, we expect there won’t be future development, but the package seems very complete and with the ability to import models, it will be very useful for a long time to come.
If you are trying to learn the program, there are some starting instructions for an older version that should get you the basics. You can also find the user’s manual and a reference manual on the site.
We went looking for tutorials and found that [Kiss Analog] just started a set of video tutorials. There’s only one complete, so far (see below), but we are sure there will be more on the way.

If you’d rather do LTSpice, we have a tutorial. Then again, for just playing around, the Falstad simulator is pretty nice and requires no installation.
The “Blender” of circuit-simulation.
Except Blender provides source code… 🙂
I hope it has better UI than Blender had before 2.8…
I don’t use Blender, so I don’t quite understand the analogy. Does it mean it’s good or bad?
It means “very good”
Blender is for 3d animation and modeling, is open source and free, and is in the top of the class for that type of software, rivaling some pretty expensive commercial software. Used by professionals too.
If you go to youtube and search “blender”, just look at the thumbnails, and perhaps read the snippit of description, you’ll get an idea. (If you aren’t into 3d animation there’s no real need to watch any of the videos)
Blender is a great, industry standard 3D modeling and animation software. And video editor. And 2D graphics and animation tool. And much more than that. It can’t replace LibreOffice or GIMP, yet. But it will probably be added in one of future releases…
Why would Blender have to replace LibreOffice or GIMP? You don’t use pliers to hammer in nails neither, do you?
Super Pliers 3000 Extended Edition comes with a built in atomic powered nail insertion feature.
So yes 😛
I might if I don’t have a hammer or the pliers are closer.
I used piers to hammer nails since I was young. It was the right size feel and weight. I don’t do a lot of hammering. I finally bought one a few years ago at a dollar store for flattening home made PCB vias and the price was right.
I don’t use any of the 3 packages either, but I do use spice,
Typically it would mean really good and powerful, professional quality, and free. ..along with a UI thats completely borked and has a massive learning curve to get used to doing things with different inputs than any other software. Not sure if that applies here, but thats what blender is.
Not exactly. Blender came to the masses because a guy who worked at the company that developed it took over the source code so that development could continue after the commercial effort ended. That is not yet the case here.
Not quite. Blender was closed source and one of the developers offered to buy it from the company. The company gave him a number, and he raised the money to pay for it, with donations, in order to make it open source. In this case it’s basically abandonware. If you invest your time into learning it, then you will be stuck without any new features etc.
source of that statement please? https://www.blender.org/
and https://developer.blender.org/diffusion/ disagrees with your statement.
Yeah well that’s an example of a winner writing it’s own history. Some of us where around when it happened, plus it’s recorded elsewhere on the web what happened as well.
So what did happen ?
Just my memory.
Yes, it was originally a closed-source, in-house tool, but free for anyone to use if you had the hardware/OS to run it. (https://web.archive.org/web/19981111190239/http://blender.nl/) Your last two sentences, though, sharply veer off into left field and abandon reality where Blender is not just constantly being worked on, but major companies are heavily investing in it. (https://www.blender.org/press/epic-games-supports-blender-foundation-with-1-2-million-epic-megagrant/) Please make a practice of doing fact-checking before posting to avoid looking foolish in the future.
Seems to me that wasa comment regarding the software referred to in this article. I could be mistaken though.
Chris Bruner was talking specifically about Blender and made a statement that was UTTERLY untrue about its current state; to say that is it ‘abandonware’ indicates that he didn’t even TRY to check the facts.
He didn’t say Blender is abandonware. First he describes what happened to Blender, then says “In this case”, and switches to what’s happened with Microcap.
Can anyone please suggest application to draw basic electrical circuits like in textbooks.
For papers it seems like the two most common options are Microsoft Visio and LaTeX using the circuitikz package. I am personally not a fan of Visio but it does get the job done with minimal learning curve. LaTeX gives excellent results but the learning curve is pretty steep.
If you just want nice looking schematics (not necessarily for publication) I would suggest getting comfortable with your EDA software of preference (I like Kicad)
I used Visio at one place I worked because it was closest thing to a CAD that I can use without the hassle of getting approval for req. as it was classified as general office software.
I wrote a converter program to convert our CAD footprint and component models into it and used that a lot for placement plannng. Being able to export Auto CAD DXF for our mech people, window metafile for word was very handy.
Visio is pretty expensive.
Draw.io is free, even for commercial use, and is pretty comparable.
KiCad can export schematic drawings to .svg files, which should be importable in any decent word processor or desktop publishnig program.
I agree. TinyCAD is quick, easy, reasonable library. Easiest way to bang out a schematic. Just wish it was ported to ‘nix.
Apparently Linux TinyCad is completely unrelated. And not updated for two years.
Dia might be a suitable replacement, kind of like Visio.
qelectrotech is nice (https://qelectrotech.org/gallery/)
Dia (like visio)
some links: https://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/hih0j/circuit_diagram_software/
I draw circuits with LTSpice.
draw.io under electrical tab is some all that you should need
Why wouldn’t they have also release source code ? This could be great.
Did anyone ask?
Companies don’t like to give away things they work hard for free. Just n case someone else want to buy that right perhaps.
But also, releasing source code may have a cost. I seem to recall reading that when Netscape went open source, the company spent time and money preparing the code. I can’t remember details, but the code couodn’t be released as is. Maybe it needed to be cleaned up.
When the mail/newsreader PINE was let go from the University of Washington, the license was changed and some work was needed. Maybe it was one last update, but I vaguely recall more work was required.
They’re not allowed to open source software components that they bought from someone else. The program code very likely includes packages that they don’t own the rights to.
Spice software quite often contain trade secrets. i.e. encryption that protect chip vendors IP, so that they would release a more accurate representation of what’s inside. Spice models are serious business for simulation as it is only as good as the models.
Also there are some serious legal consequences if the software vendor rectroactively open sourced the code.
When LucasArts closed, Raven released the source code from the Jedi Knight games they’d worked on.
They quickly took it back down, because the code contained a lot of proprietary stuff from Microsoft and Bink that they didn’t have the rights to publish. It was a couple days before the source was sanitized enough for publishing again.
Releasing the source for a product can be a lot more complicated than uploading the code.
Thanks for sharing! This might come in handy and I have no issues with free as in beer software.
If I could get this to run on Linux Mint it would actually be useful. But between Wine, PlayonLinux, Mono, and Microcap, no such luck.
I am running Microcap just fine with Wine. Make sure you have the right Wine installed (32bit vs 64bit for the version of the executable you are trying to run).
I can confirm the 32 bit CD version works with the playonlinux 4.3.4 package
open playonlinux
click install a program
click install a nonlisted-program
install a program in a new virtual drive
name it microcap12
select use another version of wine
choose wine 4.21
choose 32 bit Windows installation
browse the microcap12 extracted CDROM files path
choose “setup.exe”
do not run microcap program on install completion
Click playonlinux Configure
select microcap12 virtual drive
Click make a new shortcut from this virtual drive
select mc12.exe
exit wizard
exit Configure
click mc12 on playonlinux list menu
I was running the windows 7 OS signature with playonlinux’s 32bit wine 4.21 during this process
Note, installing wine 4.21 can be done though playonlinux Configure menus
Thanks… turns out my problem was Ubuntu, who screwed up a library needed to install Wine; sorting it out now on Mint forum…..
Aaaaand it works! Just like olden days, but back then there weren’t memristors in the library.
Had to disable mscoree in winecfg and it played nice.
The executable only will fail because it doesn’t have the support files which the cd package does.
The company behind MicroCap has closed after its founder has retired. It was pretty much a one-man shop. So there won’t be any more updates but they are still fixing bugs (the last release was in November or December last year).
There is another simulator has been freewared recently: SuperSPICE (http://www.anasoft.co.uk/) Same thing – one man shop moving on.
Well, the chap was/is one hell of a software engineer, because this looks great. Another string in my bow of simulation tools.
humor too, http://www.kevinaylward.co.uk/professional.htm
Wow he uhh…sure has strong opinions on Islam.
He is an “ardent atheist”, so of course he is going to have strong opposition to Islam.
The only nice things I can say about his stance on religion is that it was hard to dig through the website to find. Let’s leave it alone?
Unfortunately, he isn’t wrong. :sigh:
Hackaday guys – you should track him down and interview him!
Yeah yeah, Nah, FOSS or GTFO.
What a greedy attitude.
Possibly more like not wanting to get stuck learning software that relies on a small set of other people that have the sources to update/fix/… (that perhaps aren’t even available, as possibly in this case)
I don’t want to waste time on software with poorly designed UI or one that was an after thought. Poor and out of date documentations and almost vegan type of politics are a turn off.
You assume he is being greedy, but FOSS means he can contribute to development. Maybe he wants to add new features?
C’mon now, how many people who talk like that actually contribute a damn thing back? Well, except for complaining on Github I guess…
The logical falacies abound, confirmation bias, ancedotal evidence, false equalvilances…
The fact is that there is no way to say how many people who talk like that actually contribute to the projects as there is no statistical analysis of people who talk like that.
That being said, it is very presumptious to think that your personal experiences of people who talk like that stand for a representation of the general public of FOSS projects.
Then it is also illogical to chalk people who talk like that specifically to be greedy but that person could just be anti authoritarian.
I dont often contribute specifically to FOSS projects, I write detailed bug reports when i run into them but i dont contribute code except for one or two projects. Does this mean i am greedy because i run several different packages but i only contribute to one or two? Does that mean that i am only allowed to run the packages that i contribute to?
In my opinion, closed source software is greedy and open source is cheap. the original retort of greedy is wrong, they should have said cheap ass. Im neither of those posters but yes i am a cheap ass and i use FOSS because i dont have to pay some large conglomerate for their shitty software that is just as buggy as any other piece of software. The fact is that the more people who use FOSS encourage even more people to use FOSS creating a network effect that benifits the group more than the individual, so championing for FOSS even without code contribution is still a contribution and thus not really greedy.
I can’t reply to Mike for some reason, so I’ll reply here.
“The logical falacies abound, confirmation bias, ancedotal evidence, false equalvilances… ” You just throw it out there, as if you had any hard data that contradicts the views.
Open source projects can be successful, but only if they reach a large size and financial support. To claim otherwise shows a lack of experience.
Other projects rely heavily on the code originator, or someone who took over. Most of the contributions end up being fixes.
For anything larger you need a lot of organization to integrate the submissions and ensure a certain quality. Almost nobody can do that on the side, unpayed.
“The fact is that there is no way to say how many people who talk like that actually contribute to the projects as there is no statistical analysis of people who talk like that. ”
Oh please! Attitude says a lot about what to expect from people. Asking kindly or saying code or GTFO is not the same.
Asking for statistical data for everything is just a cheap way to disagree. Let alone you can’t evaluate everything statistically, because categorizing it is yet again a subjective faulty process.
Maybe you should try Bayesian statistics to understand how people are able to act with incomplete information.
“In my opinion, closed source software is greedy and open source is cheap.”
The rest of your post is just based on your wishes, and shows that the prediction was right. You think network effects just make it happen magically. You added no statistics of your own, either.
You simply hate against individual software developers who make a living from software, and compare them to big conglomerates. You are really brave, I admire you.
A little tip: the most successful open source software is actually financed by big congolmerates, such as Google, Oracle, MS, IBM etc. Yes, especially Linux, who would have thought…
“Then it is also illogical to chalk people who talk like that specifically to be greedy but that person could just be anti authoritarian. ”
“GTFO” is not anti authoritarian, it’s plain rude and respectless for the work someone has done.
People have to understand that you can’t treat single developers and big corporations the same way. Yes, those are also single people you insult, actually the lifetime of their work.
Ever thought of that?
To that I have to relate this story. I volunteer at a small rural county museum, where the coordinator relies on her son. as her computer tech advisor. He is someone who is big on FOSS concept. My response was I like the concept, but it has a butt loade of hard core rigid unmoving attitude. Problem being one can never know if the whiners are the doers, or the freeloaders, who never donate financial support to the projects they use on a daily basis. e My opinion is that the whiners are the free loaders, not doers, because that how it is in the real world
Agreed. I have made freeware and open source software.
After open sourcing what I see most of the time is the same type of whiny comments. If the project isn’t huge, most of the work is done by one person or a handful.
The more rude in demanding they were, the less they contribute.
I’ll bet $100 you wouldn’t know what to do with the source code if you had it.
Opening former closed source products is much harder than it seems, as their source code may contain 3rd parties closed parts that they have no rights to release. Sorting out and ditching these parts would cost money, and swapping them with FOSS code to make a product that works again would cost a fortune. Releasing the source code as-is would expose them to nasty lawsuits. It’s not always about greed.
I’ve noticed that after installing the CD version, that there were updates that could be downloaded.
I imagine the website will not be maintained indefinitely, so ideally some way needs to be found to update the CD installer files with the latest files that can be downloaded in the update.
And of course ideally, the whole thing needs to be be made open source and put somewhere the community can continue the development.
Good day. I am looking for a simulator for electronic circuits.. Do you think this one will help?
As mentioned in the article a fun and workable place to start is just https://www.falstad.com/circuit/circuitjs.html
Wow, this gave me a huge flashback. My final year college project in Electronic Engineering in University College Dublin in 1990 involved a comparison of Microcap vs PSpice!
At the time, IIRC, Microcap won hands-down for usability but PSpice won on accuracy, compared to the real (albeit very simple) circuits we built as references.
I just had to download the latest version to have a look. Yup, it’s come on a long way in 30 years 😀
There goes the morning…
I don’t mean to be negative. It’s very generous that the developer will let us use it for free.
Eventually we all die.
I don’t think I want to spend to many of my living moments learning a tool that will never again see an update. If the source were released so that it could be forked and live on then that would be different.
Excuses, excuses.
> Released in June 1980, this product was the first integrated circuit editor and logic simulation system available for personal computers. Its primary goal was to provide a “circuit creation and simulation” environment for digital simulation.
You are looking at code that had been maintained for almost 40 years! It is older than some people here. The code should be more than mature that it should be relatively bug free for general use anyways.
There’s no code that’s so bug-free that it can’t have new features added to remedy that.
Yes totally agree, I want long term corporate support like I get for my symbian phone, err, my microsoft Windows Phone that replaced it, err my Google+ account, sorry I meant my Sonos……
No one-man-band 40 year fly-by-nighters for me!
This was not a product endorsement/ recommendation, simply news. Thank you Al for making many of us aware of, an option we otherwise wouldn’t be aware of. The only downside could be, in time, the only user support will be available from a user community, if that’s a downside.
This is some top notch software and you’d be a fool not to get it and learn it because it’s very powerful …. I’ve been using it since the days it ran on DOS 6.x and to get the full features you needed a 486 DX computer that had the math co-processor …. The Windows 95 version pretty much set the tone and standard for everything that came after it including LT Spice
This program’s father was SPICE, the FIRST circuit analysis program written in Fortran in the 60’s. Then came PSPICE and then bought or cloned by MicroSim, and I assume improved by Spectrum. My guess/opinion is that it is the BEST. I used and taught it for many years. Bo W4GHV since ’54
Nice! thanks for the heads up!!
has been buggy on win 8.1
It’s Win8.1 that is buggy!
What was said above.
Can it calculate EDS or missing resistance values?
In general, simulators model finished circuits. I don’t know if µCap has any solver functions, but I’d be surprised if it did. You can probably use it to brute-force a solution by having it iterate on values, but unless you really don’t know how to solve something, this is not the way to do things.
Not true. Teaching a college lab for a complex amplifier design I tinkered with PSPICE while the students sweated. I did a rough design myself, swept component values, etc. I finished before the students and used it as a great learning tool. BTW I caught bitching by the older professors for teaching calculator use. They remained in the stone age.
How to download
I run this on my MacBook Pro with Parallels installed so that I can run Windows based programs. Works great – and fast! I personally think the GUI is as intuitive and pleasing to the eye as any I’ve used. Cheers!
Thank you so much for the link to my YouTube channel! My little channel had a Huge boost! So great of you – and I love this site!!
Getting an error No such file or directory ‘C:Usersusernamedownloadsmc12standard.cmp’ Anyone have a solution? Doing this with both the x86 and 64 bit executable.
Ah, never mind, apparently the ‘executable only’ download doesn’t work. Have to download the CD version.
Just rename standard0.cmp to standard.cmp
The Spectrum software website is now gone 🙁
CD Eng version available https://groups.io/g/FreeEDA-Tools/files/MicroCap12cd.zip
It is actually still up – or just the download page is. Search for that and don’t go to the home page. Cheers
Is there a kind of MicroCap Forum where you could ask your questions in case of problems? I dont see much like this on the web… If there is no support at all or kind of forum i dont see much future for MicroCap.
I do not know whether the Spectrum site was gone at the end of March, but today it was there and accessible. I just downloaded Micro-Cap 12 directly (and checked the files in Virus Total and they were all green).
Full disclosure: I haven’t attempted to install it.
I don’t know if the Spectrum software website was gone at the end of March, but it was up and accessible today. A few minutes ago I downloaded Micro-Cap 12. I checked all the .zip and .pdf fles with VirusTotal and they were all green.
Full disclosure: I have not attempted to install yet.
FWIW, the FOSS PCB layout tool pcb-rnd can import MicroCap netlists, so that’s a complete toolchain if you want to use MicroCap
It seems there is no forum for keeping this tool going. If you know of one please replay.
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