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.

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