Circuit simulation using gEDA and SPICE -- HOWTO

Stuart Brorson

Electroniscript, inc.

Linux will become an increasingly popular engineering platform in the future. Professional-quality CAD applications for circuit design are becoming available from programmers within the free-software community. For electronics, the gEDA suite is the preferred tool set for circuit design. Analog circuit simulation using SPICE is also now available on Linux. This HOWTO describes the design flow employed to perform SPICE simulations using gEDA tools on Linux.[1]

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. The big picture: the design flow in gEDA.
3. Preliminary work: preparing your symbols and SPICE files.
4. Creating your circuit: schematic capture
5. SPICE netlist generation
6. SPICE simulation
7. Native components and their attributes.
8. Valid "type" values

1. Introduction

Modern engineering is a computer-intensive discipline. Like professionals in other engineering disciplines, electrical engineers and electronics designers are heavy users of all kinds of CAD software, including software for circuit design and simulation, as well as PCB and chip production. Electrical engineers have a special name for the CAD software they use: EDA, which stands for “Electronic Design Automation”. Under this rubric fall many different kinds of CAD software. For example, during the front-end stages of a design, an electrical engineer will use a program called a “schematic capture” package to enter his design into the computer. A schematic capture program is basically a specialized drawing program incorporating symbols used in creating a circuit design. After drawing his schematic, the electrical engineer may choose to simulate the behavior of his circuit in order to verify that his design will work as desired. The most popular program for this purpose is SPICE (Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis), which was developed at Berkeley starting in the 1970s, and is widely available in multiple forms today. SPICE is now considered a fundamental engineering tool, and is an essential part of the repertoire of most practicing engineers.

The gEDA project (http:/ is an open-source effort to create a GPL'ed EDA suite running on Linux. GEDA has developed to the point where the power and quality of the tools is quite high; using the gEDA suite, you can now create complex SPICE netlists (files) incorporating vendor model files. You can then use various simulators running on Linux to perform SPICE simulations of your netlists. The purpose of this document is to explain how to use the gEDA tools (typically running on GNU/Linux) to perform SPICE simulations. In particular, this HOWTO documents the usage of spice-sdb, which is an advanced backend for the gEDA netlister (gnetlist) used to create SPICE netlists. spice-sdb is bundled with the gEDA tool suite; if you have installed gEDA, you are ready to create SPICE netlists. This HOWTO also provides advice about using ngspice/tclspice and/or LTSpice to simulate a circuit netlisted with spice-sdb.

1.1. Target audience for this HOWTO

This HOWTO is not a tutorial about circuit design or SPICE simulation. Rather, it is designed to help the practicing engineer begin using gEDA to perform SPICE simulations on the Linux platform. Therefore, I assume that you are already familiar with electronic design, the mechanics of schematic capture using EDA tools, and SPICE simulation in general. I also assume that you are reasonably familiar with the GNU/Linux operating system and its development environment. Finally, I assume that you have already installed gEDA, and know how to use it. If you need to come up to speed on any of these subjects, further information is available at the following websites:

1.2. Acknowledgements

This document does not live in isolation. Several active members of the free EDA community were instrumental in helping me to creat this HOWTO. First and foremost, Paolo Nenzi, the author of ngspice, took my original HOWTO and turned it into a Lyx document which I could then make a DocBook. Thanks, Paolo, for helping with this HOWTO, and more importantly, thanks for all the great work on ngspice! Also at the top of the list stands Ales Hvezda, who is the driving force behind the gEDA project. Without Ales, none of this would have been possible; his contribution of gschem is invaluable. Thanks, Ales, for creating gEDA and distributing it worldwide under the GPL -- you've started a revolution! Stefan Jones deserves a deep thank-you for his work on tclspice, and his graceous support and integration efforts when I submitted patches to the tclspice project. I should also thank W. Kazubski and S. Gieltjes -- they wrote the original SPICE netlisters upon which I based gnet-spice-sdb.scm. I also want to thank Ken Healy for contributing the netlist sorting patch, and Peter Kaiser for pushing me to include some features useful for chip simulation. Peter also deserves thanks for writing some of the device-oriented sections of this document. Finally, I should acknolwedge the contributions and suggestions I receive from readers of the geda-users list. The beauty of free software is that it encourages collaboration, which means that the end product is greater than what one individual could acheive alone.



This HOWTO is released under the GNU Free Documentation License thanks tothe generosity of Electroniscript, inc. The most recent copy can always be found at A french translation can be found on