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.

Website: opencircuitdesign.com/magic
Support: Documentation, User Guide
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

Popular series
Free and Open Source SoftwareThe largest compilation of the best free and open source software in the universe. Each article is supplied with a legendary ratings chart helping you to make informed decisions.
ReviewsHundreds of in-depth reviews offering our unbiased and expert opinion on software. We offer helpful and impartial information.
Alternatives to Proprietary SoftwareReplace proprietary software with open source alternatives: Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Autodesk, Oracle, Atlassian, Corel, Cisco, Intuit, and SAS.
GamesAwesome Free Linux Games Tools showcases a series of tools that making gaming on Linux a more pleasurable experience. This is a new series.
Artificial intelligence iconMachine Learning explores practical applications of machine learning and deep learning from a Linux perspective. We've written reviews of more than 40 self-hosted apps. All are free and open source.
Guide to LinuxNew to Linux? Read our Linux for Starters series. We start right at the basics and teach you everything you need to know to get started with Linux.
Alternatives to popular CLI tools showcases essential tools that are modern replacements for core Linux utilities.
System ToolsEssential Linux system tools focuses on small, indispensable utilities, useful for system administrators as well as regular users.
ProductivityLinux utilities to maximise your productivity. Small, indispensable tools, useful for anyone running a Linux machine.
AudioSurveys popular streaming services from a Linux perspective: Amazon Music Unlimited, Myuzi, Spotify, Deezer, Tidal.
Saving Money with LinuxSaving Money with Linux looks at how you can reduce your energy bills running Linux.
Home ComputersHome 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. It can be a bumpy ride.
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 reveals the lighter side of Linux. Have some fun and escape from the daily drudgery.
DockerGetting Started with Docker helps you master Docker, a set of platform as a service products that delivers software in packages called containers.
Android AppsBest Free Android Apps. We showcase free Android apps that are definitely worth downloading. There's a strict eligibility criteria for inclusion in this series.
Programming BooksThese best free books accelerate your learning of every programming language. Learn a new language today!
Programming TutorialsThese free tutorials offer the perfect tonic to our free programming books series.
Linux Around The WorldLinux Around The World showcases usergroups that are relevant to Linux enthusiasts. Great ways to meet up with fellow enthusiasts.
Stars and StripesStars and Stripes is an occasional series looking at the impact of Linux in the USA.
Notify of

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

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments