|What is Autotrax?|
is a DOS program dating from the late 1980's that was developed by an
Australian company called Protel International Pty. Ltd. Originally, it shipped with
a dongle that lived on the printer port. Later the dongle was
ditched and finally the program became freeware when Protel became
Altium and Altium thought that nobody would be daft enough to keep
using the DOS stuff. Also in the stable was a kid brother called
Easytrax that didn't have the autorouter and had limited track sizes.
The files for the two programs were nearly compatible. The
first line of the file had a different number. Change that and
"Autorouter?" did I hear you gasp? Well, if you had
a board with maybe three tracks on it, it might be able to have a go at
it but generally it makes such a mess of things that you are better off
doing it by hand.
One nice thing about Autotrax is that the
library editor is so convenient. You draw the component on the
screen, draw a box round it and save it to your current library.
It really is the work of an instant. Also, you can
'explode' a component, tweak it and then save it as a variant.
the not-so-hot side, it can only zoom to a limit. It's a bit of a
nuisance when placing SMD chips with a zillion miniscule pads but I can
use it OK and I'm old, short-sighted and pretty dumb. So you can
Arcs can only span a minimum quarter-circle.
i.e. 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock, 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12 and
combinations. You cannot place a 30 degree arc. Les
Hildenbrandt has written an arc creator that makes an arc from segments. I've not tried it yet.
Autotrax file format is ASCII-based and easy to decode. This is
why it is a breeze to write applications to manipulate the file
directly. You can use, say, Programmer's Notepad http://www.pnotepad.org/
to edit the file. Say you want to delete a pad or two from a
chip. Save the file, open it in PN, search for the reference,
identify the unwanted pads, delete the lines, save and re-load in
Autotrax. Voila, pads gone.
There are six 'primitives'.
These are the basic building blocks which can be combined to make
components or used to connect them together. They are: tracks,
fills, arcs, pads, vias and strings. Strings are length-limited
and these are truncated further if the string is used in a library
component. There is only one font as the strings are composed of
tracks following a simple outline.