Lochmaster 4.0 is it the best stripboard layout software?

lochmaster 4.0 article

I have tried a few of the other available stripboard layout designer software packages. There is some very good free software around and that may be all you need but I found Lochmaster 4.0 to be the complete solution for me. It isn't free but it doesn't cost a lot either. It's currently priced at 49.90 Euros which is around £38 at current exchange rates. You can download a free demo version here if you want to try it out first. It will give you a good idea of what the full program is about.

What do I like about Lochmaster 4.0?

It works in the way I would like it to, by that I mean sometimes you learn how to use software and you have to learn a way of doing something while all the time thinking why didn’t they do it like this? With Lochmaster 4.0 the person who wrote the software seems to have done it how I would.

Logically you start off with the board. You can use any size that you want and there are templates in the library to choose from. For me though the most useful part was being able to design your own boards and save them as templates. Reading about this feature wouldn’t have blown my mind bit in practice it has proven to be a life saver.

I got hold of the narrow stripboard that has a break down the middle. I don’t know what it’s called, it’s a bit like a breadboard layout, and it’s very useful for building circuits with lots of IC's on it. With the software I was able to quickly knock out the board in the board layout editor. You can make the size correct and where the copper strips go. The results are shown below.

lochmaster 4.0 stripboard template

A stripboard design that I added as a  Lochmaster 4.0 template.

I got hold of some prototype boards off the internet with power rails running between tracks designed for mounting IC's and I was able to create boards for those so I could then use Lochmaster 4.0 with those as well. These have proved to be really useful for more complex circuits. Again I’ve shown it below.This is something that I’ve found no other packages could do.

lochmaster 4.0 prototype board

The board layout I created for a stripboard I found on Amazon.

I like the way its easy to zoom in and out with the mouse wheel. The amount you can zoom in or out is amazing. You can make a large board of 100 holes by 200 strips appear small in the middle of the screen or zoom right in so an 8 pin IC fills the screen. You’re not limited by the software at all for viewing.

You can pull components from the massive library of parts and drop or move them where you need. You can also fully rotate them how you want. Apparently you can edit components but so far because of what’s available I haven’t had to do that yet.

Components can be numbered and values associated with them. Resistors and diodes can be mounted vertically just like a practical build when a resistor has to go between pin 1 and 2 of an IC. You can copy and paste a component and it will automatically be assign the next available component number e.g. if you copy C2 but have used up to C8 the pasted version will become C9.

Wire links are also easy to place with a special tool and a couple of mouse click and soldering points and pins can be added with tools.

Track breaks are easily added with a special tool but what I particularly like is that they can be shrunk or expanded and don’t have to be the normal one hole wide. I quite often cut a track between two holes to save space and so far this is the only stripboard design tool that will let me show that.

lochmaster 4.0 cut track

Showing how you can insert a track cut between holes.

You can draw circles, squares, lines and add text to a board layout. Adding text is a particularly useful feature as it can also be printed onto the overlay.

Another feature that I have found to be really useful is the test mode tool. Click on the tool and click on a track and it will highlight everything that it is electrically connected to via tracks or links. This is invaluable when it comes to checking if everything you expect is connected to a power line or earth.

lochmaster 4.0 test mode tool

The test mode tool highlights all connections via links.

In general I work from the top view of the board but you can view everything from the bottom of you want. This is useful for when you do your track cuts. You don’t have to do any counting backwards and then notice you've cut in the wrong place. Not that I have ever done that of course!

There are various views selectable if you need them but I make do with the two I’ve mentioned when designing. When it comes to printing though the one I use is the black and white display it makes everything much easier to see on a laser printout for using as a component overlay.

This is exactly what I do now with every board design. Print out a component overlay and stick it on the veroboard. Lochmaster have obviously thought of this too because there is a very sophisticated print out page that includes  calibration settings so you can get your printer to output exactly the right size. There are also options to include or exclude things such as drilling, tracks, split points and other stuff.

You can also output your designs as graphic files as .jpg or.bmp and HPGL machine files .plt can also be created.

Lockmasters software can be described as being completely thorough in just about every aspect and it’s this overall integration that makes it completely usable. It’s no use being good to use if the printouts are no good and it’s no use having a great component library if it’s difficult to position parts. You need everything to be good and work together and that’s happily what I can report with Lochmaster. As a tool it doesn’t get in the way but helps you in what you want to achieve and I consider it to be the best and I also use it, which I think is the best endorsement.