Xilinx ISE is a complete ECAD (electronic computer-aided design) application. It has the added value of being produced by the world's largest supplier of programmable logic devices and, of course, being free. This application helps you design, test and debug integrated circuits.
If you ever tried to design and implement any kind of electronic circuit, connecting cables, LED’s and chips, you know that pretty soon all you end up with a big and confusing pile of small colored cables. There are some applications available that will help you keep things in perspective, transposing the circuit to your screen. This will be helpful in a lot of ways, namely because you can forget about breadboards malfunctions, or about looking for hours for a burned (and forgotten) chip. Well, Xilinx ISE simply takes this idea to the next level (or several levels above). You will have access to hundreds of industrial standard chips, from the standard AND or NOT gates, all the way to the more complex ones (including multiplexers, counters, etc.). And, if you do not find what you need you will be able to design it and use it just as another chip from the library.
After the design phase, you can test your design, changing input values and checking the results. This will take some time, as each circuit has to be completely compiled before a test can be done.
As you might have already concluded, this is not a program for the beginner. The user interface, although clean and full of nice buttons, cannot hide the complexity of the underlying processes. You will most probably need the user manual. This is a very advanced program to be used by engineers at production level.
One word of advice, however: save your work frequently. Xilinx will crash repeatedly when compiling your work. It will not recognize your saved files and will be unable to read your data. Try to save everything in a simple folder in the root of your disk, no characters besides letters and no spaces, as simple as possible, and maybe you get lucky. I always managed to get my work back, but I surely would not like to have to work with this application on a daily basis.
You will need to register to be able to download the program.
- Very complete libraries of components.
- Multiple testing, designing and debug possibilities.
- Lots of aid tools
- Very unstable