KiCad open source PCB layout package reviewed

in software by Ian | 16 comments

T Boyd wrote a review of the open source schematic and PCB layout program KiCad:

That makes the third PCB CAD package I’ve spent hours getting to know a bit about. And I like it, at 8/11. Looks like the hours I spent trying to learn the other two were partly wasted.It is early days yet… maybe I will find something in KiCad that I can’t live with… but I suspect I won’t.

Via the comments.

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Comments

  1. Zizzle says:

    I would love to see the Open Hardware and hacker/maker types move to free software for electronics design.

    Seems kinda silly to design open hardware and then lock it behind a proprietary software paywall.

    Same with using Microchip products I guess.

    I’m been trying to find the time to put my money where my mouth is by contributing to KiCad. Looking at the open enhancements I think a distributed component DB backed by git would be a neat feature.

    • Aaron says:

      I’m confused about the Microchip comment. Are you advocating moving to open source processors, fab’d and manufactured by the open source community?

      • He probably meant the paid compiler for PICs (didn’t really used them – just stuff i read)
        http://www.ladyada.net/library/picvsavr.html

      • Aaron says:

        Curious. Microchip has free compilers for their 18, 24, 30 and 32 lines. If you don’t like the stock distro with some optimizations turned off, you can also compile the GCC source from scratch and run it freely. The PIC32 line actually has a totally free GCC compiler for it as part of the Microchip Arduino also.

        Microchip also has the only cross-platform vendor IDE… MPLAB X.

  2. stoo says:

    Kicad is nice, but unpolished.
    It can evolve to a good cad, but much work is needed. Programmers wanted !

  3. J. Peterson says:

    I’ve made a painful discovery about CAD packages – there’s a large amount of lock-in when you choose one and seriously develop projects with it. Once you’ve invested time learning it, building custom component layouts for parts you often use, organizing part libraries, creating templates etc. it’s hard to switch.

    Reviews like this are important contribution. Choosing a CAD package is a big decision, and we need all the information we can get.

    • Zizzle says:

      Network effects must be important too.

      If a newbie comes along and all the open hw guys are talking about and posting Eagle files, then what makes the most sense to use?

  4. TheFallen says:

    I was lead to believe that Eagle CAD were going to be shifting the .sch/.brd formats they use to open sourced (i.e. their design, but spec open) XML based ones with the next major edition of Eagle. I think it saw this on the adafruit forums.

    I love this idea of having open sourced formats because then the open source community can get behind them and hopefully push them onto the closed source developers.

  5. Brian says:

    I know this will probably be little seen, but as this is effectively another link to my tutorial on KiCAD and as that page remains my most popular, how interested are people in having my part library for KiCAD? (It needs clean up for people other than myself to use it honestly).

    Also the bounce rate from the KiCAD tutorial is very high. That is they look at that page and then leave without checking out anything else on teho Labs. If you have suggestions to motivate further exploration I am all ears.

    • TheFallen says:

      Try more larger prominent links to your tasty looking dev boards. Also consider carrying more accessories, I’d rather pay 1 lot of P&P than 2 lots which kills any savings I’d make.

    • TheFallen says:

      Also, contact details would be awesome, if people want to email you suggestions/ideas/questions etc… I’ve only found one via the paypal link.

    • someonecool says:

      If I may make a suggestion, make the center column of your website wider. I also realized that when you view the specific page for your tutorial, there are no links specifically to “boards” but instead to just “products”, “knowledge”, and “docs”. Maybe make a side tab on the right which would link to your boards?

      Sorry if this was angering or anything of the like, I know that some people get very very angry when others comment on their web design, and angering was not the intention.
      It is a very simplistic and clean website, which is fantastic, and I like the boards, especially Eridani board with a black PCB. :)

      • Brian says:

        Don’t worry about it I have thought about making the website wider! I also want to make the docs uniform with the main site in look.

        It would be silly for me to ask for advice then be offended if people have differing opinions. Just realize I might not agree with you!

        I may change to a while background also.

        Maybe I should put a footer on the page with project links like Ian does. As people will in principle read to the end and then be at the bottom to click.

  6. Brian says:

    I made it 960 px, I think Dangerous is 1000 px as is Sparkfun, but Adafruit is 960 px.

    I also added some sidebar menus for more links to things people can buy. For the moment these won’t appear on the pages like KiCAD though.

  7. Tried to approach KiCAD two times but can’t really say its intuitive (i’m an Eagle user).
    Like Steve “I have just one major complaint with KiCad, and that’s the method of footprint selection.”
    http://www.bigmessowires.com/2010/05/03/eagle-vs-kicad/

    I have to design a 20x5cm board so i will give it another go soon..

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