Technical Article

Easier PCB Design: EAGLE CAD Tips and Tricks

May 09, 2016 by Yahya Tawil

Most hobbyists and many professionals use EAGLE CAD as a daily tool in designing schematics and laying out PCB. You're going to learn some tips and tricks for using EAGLE CAD, which will make your work much easier and faster.

Most hobbyists and many professionals use EAGLE CAD as a daily tool in designing schematics and laying out PCB. I’m going to share with you the most important tips and tricks for using EAGLE CAD, which make my work much easier and faster.

Welcome to the EAGLE CAD tips and tricks series! 

Check out our other EAGLE CAD articles here:

Tip #1: Keep One Hand on the Keyboard, One on the Mouse

I see a lot of friends and colleagues use the mouse as their main tool for routing and selecting tools in the sidebar, but it’s much easier and faster to use the command line whenever you can.

By using your keyboard, you will omit the time you spend searching for the desired icon and moving mouse pointer back and forth.

My advice is to keep one hand on the mouse to do wiring, etc. inside the editor workspace and use the other hand on the keyboard to write commands and select tools. My advice of using the keyboard is not only for selecting tools. You will see the other benefits of using the keyboard in EAGLE CAD in the rest of this series.

It can be difficult to remember the spelling and the name of every tool. The good news that the command line only needs the smallest accepted spelling to select the tool for you, so you don’t have to write down the complete word.

Command Line















The table below shows the most-used tools and their corresponding shortest commands. To avoid duplication, the common tools between the schematic and board will not be listed twice:


Schematic Editor

Tool Name Command (All accepted for command editor)
Add element to schematic a,ad,add
Net ne,Net
Move Mov,move
Copy Cop,copy
Name n,na,nam,name
Value v,va,value
Label l,la,lab,labe,label
Text T,tex,text


Board Editor

Tool Name Command (All accepted for command editor)
Route rou,rout,route
Ripup ri,rip,ripu,ripup
Via Vi,via
Ratsnest r,ra,rat,rasts,ratsn,ratsne,ratsnest


Other useful and exclusive uses of the keyboard can be mapped as below (just two examples for now):


1- Text Tool:

When you select the text tool, you write your sentence in the pop-up window and then drop it wherever you want. But what if you want to add more?

In this case, just write down your sentence and hit enter without needing to select the text tool icon again.


Text Tool with Keyboard


2- Show Tool:

This tool is used exclusively with the keyboard. You need to enter the element name using the command line to highlight it. For example:

>Show R1


>Show R1* (to show all elements start with R1)

This applies also for signal names.

Show Tool with Keyboard


Show Tool between schematic and PCB


3- Others:

To keep you excited (and to make things more organized), I will delay talking about other tools that are exclusively used with the command line to their respective tip/trick.

Tip #2: Use Your Mouse Effectively

There are many practical uses of the mouse in EAGLE CAD, more than just using it as a pointer:


1- Changing Layer Using the Scroll Button:

Let's say you are routing your PCB. A lot of people used to change the layer of an object using the layers drop-down menu.

However, by using the mouse, you can change the layer by pressing the scroll button.


Change Layer using scroll button


2- Change Wire Bend Styles:

Changing wire bend styles is one of the most common processes while routing.

The hard way is to change styles by selecting the wire bend style from upper toolbar every time. The easy way is by pressing the right mouse button.

You can see the practice of the past two mouse usages in the gif below:


Change wire bend style using mouse left button

Tip #3: Hit RATSNEST to Know How Many Signals Are Still Unrouted

By pressing RATSNEST, the number of unrouted wires (airwires) is shown in the bottom-left corner of the editor.

This feature is very useful for double-checking that you didn't miss any airwires, especially since sometimes you may not notice them when searching visually.


Show number of airwires

Tip #4: Make the Help Manual Your Friend

Whenever you want to learn more about the tool you're using, press F1 and read about it!

You will find really handy hidden usages of each tool in the manual.


And now for the "tricks"!

Trick #1: Change Wire Width without Moving Your Mouse

You can change the wire width without going to the width menu! Just write the width number and hit enter while you're holding the wire.


change wire width

Trick #2: Hide Any Unrouted Wires You Want

The most annoying signal that contributes to a feeling of incompleteness and complexity is the GND signal.

You could hide it, or any other signal, by using the RATSNEST command in this form:

>ratsnest !

For example:

>ratsnest ! GND

To make it visible again just omit ‘!’:

>ratsnest GND


Hide airewire

Trick #3: Turn Polygons Off

Let's say you've drawn a power polygon, like VCC or GND, and now you need to change some routes. Polygons become very annoying in this case because whenever you hit RATSNEST, a polygon will fill the PCB again.

You can keep working without polygons until you want to enable them again. Without deleting them, you can just turn them on or off as you like.

To turn polygons off, select ripup tool, ripup polygon, then write this command:

>set poly off

To turn them on, type this command:

>set poly on

Turn Polygon On/OFF

Tool Name Command (All accepted for command editor)
Add element to schematica,ad,add
Tool NameCommand (All accepted for command editor)
Ratsnest r,ra,rat,rasts,ratsn,ratsne,ratsnest

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  • Anas Abo Hyleh May 09, 2016

    Great Article!

    Like. Reply