View Full Version : Looking for HDL tools

03-30-2008, 11:27 PM
I have noticed that there are a serious lack of HDL (hardware description language) tools on the internet in free/open-source form. (stuff such as Verilog and VHDL development platforms).

I've used Active-HDL in school before, and it is an amazing development environment, but it also costs a lot of money. Considering the fact that I just like to play around a bit, and I don't actually want to design hardware in a hardcore way, it is not feasible to buy such a product. There are also some other tools that I have seen that cost a ton. In terms of open source software, I have found very little. I find little things here and there, but nothing fully developed and awesome such as the things we have for C++ development (like Code::Blocks for example).

Does anyone know of any freely available HDL tools out there that are mature in their development cycle and work well?

So far I have the following:

GPL Cver 2.12a
Wave VCD Viewer

Cver is not very well documented at all and so I would like to find something else if possible.

Richie T
04-07-2008, 07:10 PM
Hi there (first post here in over a year I think!)

Not sure if it would suit you, but Xilinx have an IDE for developing for their CPLDs & FPGAs, called Integrated Software Environment (ISE) WebPACK. It was until recently available as a free download but the latest version (10.1) appears to only give a 60 day evaluation. However, you can download past versions of the WebPACK from Xilinx if you sign up with them, and they are completely free. The only difference between the free version and the full licenced version is that the free version has support for fewer target devices (typically only the low end or hobbyist FPGAs/CPLDs) - other than that, they're pretty much the same.


You can design modules in VHDL/Verilog/Schematic Entry, and I believe that projects allow a whole mix of source files, at least with regard to HDL. Being an IDE for developing with FPGAs/CPLDs, it has all the main features of implementing a design, from entry, simulation, fitting to the target device and downloading the bitstream. Be careful with project options though, the IDE requires you to specify a target device so it can implement your design - by the sound of it, you seem more interested in pure HDL design and simulation, which the IDE can do, but you'd want to disable/ignore the implementation stage in order to save time.

As for working well, that's another story - Documentation is reasonable for the most part but you can occasionally encounter problems/bugs which are poorly documented and solutions can vary from cleaning the project files to code rewrites (I remember I had a Verilog test bench I was running and I had the simulator clock signal incorrectly defined and the IDE just completely froze when simulation began - no warning as to why), to reinstalls, although I believe the latter is rare. The software has been in development for many years and as mentioned, is the de facto suite for design with Xilinx hardware (of course this doesn't mean it's that great :) )

Overall, the software has everything you need for developing with Xilinx hardware and more, and if you have a little patience when it freaks out for no reason, it can do some impressive work. It might be a case of killing an ant with a sledgehammer by suggesting this IDE (large download), but it's the only suite I've used so there you go. Finally, some of the other large developers such as Altera might have some stuff worth taking a look at.



04-08-2008, 02:34 AM
Awesome that should be exactly what I am looking for! I am downloading it right now.

So the latest release has 4 different links associated with it:

ISE WebPACK 9.1i.03i (Windows) - Released 01/22/07

MXE 6.2c Full Installer
Service Pack 3 - required
Service Pack 3 ReadMe

Should I download all 4 things? The MXE full installer is about 190 MB and the WebPACK thing is 1.4 GB.

04-08-2008, 04:57 AM
A while back there was an interesting article about the Open Graphics Project on kerneltrap.org. http://wiki.opengraphics.org./tiki-index.php?page=Development_Tools But I'm not sure how relevant that is, I just looked at the pictures ;)

Richie T
04-08-2008, 11:36 AM
The MXE package is for the ModelSim simulator, but ISE has its own built in simulator so you won't need that, besides it only comes with a trial licence I believe. The Service Pack 3 package should not be necessary, but I'd recommend it, because as I said, the software can be buggy and I have no doubt that SP3 would run better than the raw download. Unfortunately, the WebPACK is the one you must download - like I said, killing an ant with a sledgehammer!

04-08-2008, 03:47 PM
Thanks heras, that link helps a lot as well. This is all some good stuff.