Magic – free VLSI layout tool

Magic is an open source, interactive, very-large-scale integration (VLSI) layout tool, written in the 1980’s at Berkeley by John Ousterhout, the creator of the popular scripting interpreter language Tcl. VLSI design and simulation is the process of capturing circuits on a computer workstation with the intention of having them placed into an Integrated Circuit (IC).

Magic is a popular application with some universities and smaller companies. The open source license has allowed VLSI engineers to implement clever ideas and help magic stay abreast of fabrication technology. However, it is the well thought-out core algorithms which lend to magic the greatest part of its popularity.

Magic is widely cited as being the easiest tool to use for circuit layout, even for people who ultimately rely on commercial tools for their product design flow. It contains knowledge about geometrical design rules, transistors, connectivity, and routing.

Magic uses two windows: one for text and a separate window for displaying layouts.

Features include:

  • Uses simplified design rules and circuit structures.
  • “Corner-stitched” geometry, in which all layout is represented as a stack of planes, and each plane consists entirely of “tiles” (rectangles). This provides an efficient implementation of these operations.
  • Split tile which allows true representation of non-Manhattan geometry.
  • Real-time design rule checking to maintain an up-to-date picture of violations.
  • Plowing – permits interactive stretching and compaction.
  • Routing tools.
  • Cell manager.
  • Tech manager.
  • Read: CIF, GDS.
  • Write: CIF, GDS.

Support: Documentation, User Guide, FAQ
Developer: Gordon Hamachi, Robert Mayo, John Ousterhout, Walter Scott, George Taylor (original authors)
License: BSD license


Magic is written in C. Learn C with our recommended free books and free tutorials.

Return to Electronic Design Automation Home Page

Ongoing series
Linux for StartersNew to Linux? Read our Linux for Starters series.
Free and Open Source SoftwareThe largest compilation of the best free and open source software in the universe. Supplied with our legendary ratings charts.
Linux ReviewsHundreds of in-depth reviews offering our unbiased and expert opinion on software.
Alternatives to GoogleAlternatives to Google's Products and Services examines your options to migrate from the Google ecosystem with open source Linux alternatives.
MicrosoftAlternatives to Microsoft's Products and Services recommends open source Linux software.
Linux System ToolsEssential Linux system tools looks at small, indispensable utilities, useful for system administrators as well as regular users.
Linux ProductivityLinux utilities to maximise your productivity. Small, indispensable tools, useful for anyone running a Linux machine.
Home Computer EmulatorsHome computers became commonplace in the 1980s. Emulate home computers including the Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, ZX81, Amstrad CPC, and ZX Spectrum.
Now and ThenNow and Then examines how promising open source software fared over the years.
Linux at HomeLinux at Home looks at a range of home activities where Linux can play its part, making the most of our time at home, keeping active and engaged.
Linux CandyLinux Candy opens up to the lighter side of Linux. Have some fun!
Best Free Android AppsBest Free Android Apps. There's a strict eligibility criteria for inclusion in this series
Programming BooksThese best free books accelerate your learning of every programming language
Programming TutorialsThese free tutorials offer the perfect tonic to the free programming books series
Stars and StripesStars and Stripes is an occasional series looking at the impact of Linux in the USA
Share this article

Share your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.