I have used a variety of CAD packages to design PCBs and was wondering about drawing panel wiring layouts. Autocad is what I am going to be using so I don't get an option to switch to something better(or works at all)
1 - Schematic Capture
2 - Netlist
3 - Place components in PCB layout SW
4 - Import net list
5 - Assign conductor widths and route.
Will designing panel wiring involve a similar path. Or is this going to be a fancy Paint program?
Your subject suggests panels and 'rooms', which suggests basic architectural and/or mechanical drafting. Autocad will work just fine for this. You might want to pick up a good symbol library for the task at hand.
But here, you suggest that the job will involve more schematic and PCB work:
Autocad has an 'Autocad Electrical' add on. I've never looked at it to see if it adds schematic, netlist, component layout functions or not. Check it out, because without this (there are third party vendors that make Autocad add-ons as well), Autocad is basically just a mechanical/architectural drafting tool. It doesn't know if the lines you are drawing are PCB traces, wires or a really weird floor plan for a Frank Gehry building.
As a mechanical drafting tool, Autocad is MUCH more powerful than Paint. If you have 3D component models, you can rotate views, check clearances, etc. There are add-on programs that can generate CAM instructions for cutting custom panels, etc.
Autocad lets you define and place 'objects' (I think that is what Autocad calls them - everything is an object). A defined object could be a panel. A symbol library, which Paul referred to, is a collection of defined objects like panels, receptacles, motors - the same as libraries of parts in PCB design.
In Autocad you place the components, like receptacles, and usually draw lines indicating what circuits the components are on and what panels they come from. There is nothing like autorouting (unless it is in an add-on package).
Autocad has a feature that allows you to assign information to each object (like panel designation, voltage, source catalog number) and extract that information to a text file. I assume an add-on makes this process work well for electrical design - like defining relevant information for a panel and extracting it to a take-off list. I would view drafting as more or less backwards from the process of PCB design.
You could probably use Autocad Lite (if they still sell it) for anything you want to do.
This feature works quite well for counting objects and attaching properties to individual objects. Autocad does not have (without add on programs) any way to associate one object with another. IOW, it doesn't know that a component is connected to a wire or trace, so netlists are beyond its capability.
Autocad Lite differs from Autocad in that its 3D functionality is restricted. Unfortunately, I believe that its scripting capabilities are also limited and this is what you need to run 3rd party Autocad 'applications' of the sort discussed above. Before putting money down on the Lite version, make sure that you won't be needing any of the add-ons that require the full version.