There are a number of global settings within Easy-PC that control how output files are generated.
The plot settings can be found by going to [Output], [Plotting and Printing], and clicking on the [Options] button. This is located close to the top right hand corner, under the [Run] and [Close] buttons. At the top of the Options window are four setup buttons (considered below). Next is the directory where job files are saved, with a browser to change this easily, then some controls for the output plot files, and on the right some global defaults in an options area.
Considering these areas in reverse order, the 'Options' area has tick boxes for:
- Show Tooltips - Controls whether a prompt is shown if the cursor is hovered over a button.
- View Report On Completion - Controls whether the report file is displayed. This file is generated whenever the [Run] button is pressed, and saved with the design files as design name.rpt.
- Close Main Plot Dialog After Producing Plots - When [Run] has been pressed, and output generated, the plotting and printing dialogue will automatically close if this has been ticked. If you have made changes to the way the plots are output, you will be prompted to save any changes to a job file.
- Auto-Generate Plots When Opening Main Dialog With No Plots Defined - If you have adjusted the plot list on the main screen, Easy-PC will normally remember the changes until it is closed. However, initially, either a full set of plots (with the exception of the board outline - this is a special case discussed later) is produced, or none. This controls which. If none are produced, the required plots must either be added manually, or a job file listing them must be loaded.
The 'Where Plot Files Are Written' area has a list of options. Plot files default to being saved with the design file, but it is also possible to opt that they be saved in a designated subdirectory, or always in the same place. The designated sub-directory has a default name of 'Plots', but this can be changed as required, and will be created automatically if it does not already exist. Saving the files in the same place is a useful option for those on a network, as it ensures that they can be written where they will be included in backup procedures. Under here is another tick box to choose whether the design filename will be included as part of each plot's title. This is ticked by default as it avoids inadvertently over-writing previous plots from other designs.
The 'Job Files Directory' is self explanatory. It's worth noting that easy-PC records the last used path as the default, so if you browse for a job file elsewhere, you'll need to reset the path.
The four device setup buttons in the options dialogue have some common functions, and some which are device specific. All but the [Windows] setup have a set of 'from' and 'To' co-ordinates for plot area. It is necessary to provide two sets as some devices do not set their origin in the lower left hand corner. It is normal for large format pen plotters to use the centre of the plot bed, for instance. These co-ordinates are not needed for the [Windows] option, as the driver provides the necessary information. For pen plotters, the figures for useable plot area may be quoted in HPGL units, so it helps to know that there are 1016 HPGL units to the inch, or 40 to the mm. Note that the HP 7475 plotter uses 1025 units to the inch, so plots will come out smaller. Compensation factors of 1.00886 for both axes will correct this (see next paragraph).
All but the [NC Drill] options also have provision for a compensation figure to be added for each axis. Not every device is scaled perfectly, especially printers. Where there is a scaling error, ed by your manufacturer.it is very common for it to be different for the 'X' and 'Y' axes, so independent adjustment is provided. There is a file 'Compensation.sch' which assists in setting these figures correctly. The details of its use are in the user manual.
The Gerber specific commands are these:
- 'Warn About Small Apertures' - If an aperture is too small, it can't be manufactured. In copper, small widths are lost to etching, and in silk screening, narrow lines either don't appear, or tend to break up. The exact minimum figure will depend on the manufacturing process used, but is typically 2-3 thousandths of an inch.
- 'Format' - This determines the format of the Gerber file. The number of integers determines the maximum size. '2' is adequate for Easy-PC when using imperial output, but if metric is preferred, beware! - 100 mm cannot be expressed with only 2 figures, so it's safer to set it to 3. The number of decimals determines the resolution, so in imperial '3' gives a resolution of one thousandth of an inch. This is normally adequate unless small footprint surface mount devices are in use. The adjacent button toggles the output unist from [inches] to [mm].
- 'RS-274-X (Extended Gerber' - 'Include Aperture Table' should normally be selected, as modern Gerber photoplotters can use these embedded apertures to avoid manual entry. 'Hardware Arcs' and 'Hardware Fill' use advanced Gerber commands which will reduce the size of Gerber files if ticked, but not all photoplotters support these commands, so unless you know that your manufacturer understands them, it is safer to leave them unticked.
- 'Options' - 'Include Format Commands (FS,MO)' is the only option which normally needs to be ticked. The other two, 'Include D02 (Move) before D03 (Flash)', and 'Rotate Aperture Macros Clockwise' are for compatibility with some older models of photoplotter. You should only tick these if requested by your manufacturer.
- 'Filename' - The default file extension of '.gbr' is probably the most common extension used for Gerber files, but may be changed if required for compatibility with other equipment or software.
The Pen Plot specific commands are:
- 'Serial Port Setup' - Many pen plotters use the serialport for communication. This gives the option of either using the operating system defaults, or configuring the communication speed and protocol as appropriate, overriding the defaults.
- 'Hardware Arcs' - All except a few very old plotters support hardware arcs. If this is not ticked, Easy-PC will convert curves into a series of short straight lines. If it is ticked, the pen plotter is expected to do the same. The commonest arc resolution is 5 degrees.
- 'Pen' - Pen plotters support different numbers of pens, with the commonest number being 8. Some will hold them in a carousel, allowing more than the usual number - but at the price of having to manually change the carousel part way through the plot. The [Widths] button allows each pen to be independently specified. This has its own [inches]/[mm] button, as it is quite common for pen widths to be specified in metric dimensions even though the plot may be in inches. The pen speed is critical, as different pen types perform best at different speeds. Too slow a speed is rarely a problem, except for extended plot times.
- 'Filename' - The default file extension of '.pen' is a common extension used for HPGL files, but '.hpg' and '.hpl' are also common. This may be changed if required for compatibility.
The NC Drill specific commands are:
- 'Settings' - The 'Drill Table Text' box allows a table of drill sizes to be embedded automatically back into your design. Exact details of how to use this feature are in the manual, but it does not need to be ticked for normal output. 'Remove Duplicate Drill Holes' should always be ticked, as re-drilling an existing hole is a very rapid way to break tungsten carbide production drills! As in the case of Gerber output, 'Include Tool Sizes In Output File' should normally be ticked, as equipment unable to accept embedded tool sizes is rare nowadays.
- 'Unit' - This has been covered in the general section above except to note that there is an extra control here to force metric output.
- 'Filename' - The default file extension of '.drl' is probably the one most commonly used for Excellon files. This may be changed if required for compatibility with other systems.
The Windows device specific commands are:
- 'True Type Font Correction' - It is an unfortunate fact of life that in graphical files there is no universal standard for how printer drivers treat rotated true type fonts. This is complicated by most designs being landscape, whilst most printers are portrait, so it is usual for text to be rotated. If there is a problem, this tick box forces reversal of the text rotation to adapt to the printer driver's behaviour.
- 'Plot Margin' - All the available printing area will be used for the output unless a plot margin is specified. The margin figure is taken off all edges.
- 'Printer' - This is a reminder of the current Windows printer. The [Setup] button is a shortcut to the printer driver to allow adjustments to be made conveniently.