By Ahmad Saghafi | October 29, 2022

fpga software tools

October 29


As you dive into the world of FPGA design, you'll encounter a variety of software tools and FPGA types.

However, as time passes and your experience grows, you'll generally work with a limited and specific set of software tools, depending on the FPGA brand you've chosen.

So, what's the reason for this diversity in software tools, and which ones will we actually be using for crucial designs?


Software Tools for FPGA Design

In the previous part of this article, we discussed the various steps involved in digital design with FPGA, such as design entry, functional simulation, design synthesis, timing simulation, placement and routing, creating the configuration file, and finally, configuring the FPGA.

And several companies have developed specialized software tools for these stages.

For instance, Aldec's Active-HDL software is popular for design entry and conducting various simulations, especially in academic environments.

For different types of simulation, ModelSim, developed by Mentor Graphics, is a powerful and widely-used software among professional digital designers.

Moreover, Synopsys and Mentor Graphics provide their own professional tools (Synplify and Leonardo Spectrum software tools, respectively) for design synthesis.

FPGA chip manufacturers also offer comprehensive tools that handle all design steps from design entry to FPGA configuration.

However, it's worth noting that the final stages of implementation, like creating the configuration file and programming the FPGA, can only be done using the manufacturer's unique software.

Professional designers typically prefer using the software developed by the FPGA chip manufacturer but may resort to other companies' software for specific stages of the design process.

For example, those working with Xilinx FPGAs use ISE Design Suite or Vivado software but might also use Mentor Graphics ModelSim for simulations.

Designers using Intel FPGA (formerly Altera) employ their Intel Quartus Prime Design software.

However, they may also utilize other software tools for certain steps, such as simulation or synthesis.

Major FPGA Manufacturers

Numerous companies worldwide produce FPGA chips. While their products are similar in nature, they strive to remain competitive by offering products with more desirable electronic specifications.

Another way to stay ahead is by providing robust software and support services, which significantly attract customers.

Prominent FPGA chip manufacturers include AMD Xilinx (formerly Xilinx), Intel FPGA (formerly Altera), Lattice Semiconductor, Microsemi, and QuickLogic. Among these, Xilinx and Intel FPGA boast the highest global sales.

The statistics from 2012 show that about half of digital designers use Xilinx's FPGAs, with Intel FPGA coming in second at 40%. All other companies account for roughly 11% of the total market.

Sales share of the largest FPGA manufacturing companies

Sales share of the largest FPGA manufacturing companies.

If you become familiar with one of these top products and later decide to work with another company's offerings, you'll need to learn two things.

Fortunately, this is usually not too difficult or time-consuming for designers experienced with one company's products.

First, you must familiarize yourself with the new FPGA's architecture and hardware resources.

Then, you need to acquaint yourself with the software programs specific to the new company to perform various design tasks with them.

Each FPGA chip manufacturer offers a wide array of products tailored to different user and designer needs.

For example, Table 1 displays the main products of Xilinx and Intel FPGA, each with different versions that primarily differ in the number of digital resources available.

 Table 1. Main products of Xilinx and Intel FPGA companies.











Did you find the tutorial "Introduction to FPGA – Software Tools and FPGA Types" helpful?

If you have any questions about this post, please feel free to ask in the comments section below. And if you enjoyed the content, don't forget to share it with your friends!

About the author 

Ahmad Saghafi

Hi, I’m Ahmad, founder of FPGATEK and creator of the FPGA Design Blueprint training. With over 15 years of hands-on experience and a wealth of knowledge from successfully implementing numerous industrial projects, I am thrilled to share my insights and expertise with you on this website.

Enjoyed this article?

You may also like:

Leave a Comment

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Get Started With FPGA In 20 Minutes