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The State of KiCad

Wayne Stambaugh from KiCad joins us to discuss upcoming plans and features for 2018

Friday, January 5, 2018 12:00 pm PST - Friday, January 5, 2018 12:30 pm PST Local time zone:
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Wayne Stambaugh will be co-hosting the Hack Chat this week.

This Hack Chat is at noon PST, Friday, January 5th. 

Time Zones got you down? Here's a handy count down timer

KiCad is an electronic design automation (EDA) software that was developed 25 years ago. KiCad is popular because anyone can contribute to its development, there are many tutorials available to get started with, and KiCad's often utilized Gerber viewer

KiCad's popularity is also driven by the fact that KiCad is free. KiCad tools include schematic capture, PCB layout, BOM export, and 3D viewing.

Wayne Stambaugh is the Project Leader at KiCad. He has a background in designing test systems for the entire hardware/ software product. Among others, he has worked on cancer imaging, analog IO, and  capacitive tilt sensor product test systems. He is currently leading the effort on the KiCad product roadmap and is the author of KiCad's CvPcb Reference Manual.

This chat is about the status on the Kicad project, upcoming features, and is a place to make suggestions, air complaints, and add wish list items. Please leave suggestions and questions in the comments on this project.

Not a KiCad fan? We just spoke with EAGLE, here's the transcript. We'll be speaking with Alltium and others in the coming months.

TL;DR 

  • What new features are on the roadmap for 2018?
  • What new features were developed since we chatted in January 2017?
  • Under the hood- how KiCad development works
  • How can a developer get started helping out?

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Discussions

TheBestJohn wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:56 point

Ok,

Has there been any consideration into consolidating footprints, symbols, and their libraries into the same exploration window? I understand, they're not atomically linked, however trying to figure out which library wizard I need to open, where I'm saving to, Where I CAN save to (e.g local library is read only) is a huge hurdle for newcomers as I've seen this question a few times here today alone.


  Are you sure? yes | no

rene poeschl wrote 01/05/2018 at 21:06 point

The default libs are read only because a lib update would overwrite your changes to it. Personal symbols should really go into personal libs. (If you want to contribute them to the official lib you are of course welcome. Just make a pull request over at the appropriate repo. See: http://kicad-pcb.org/libraries/contribute/)

And regarding the lib, we cleaned them up in preparation for the v5 release (not 100% done yet.) Have a look here: http://kicad-pcb.org/libraries/download/

---

My suggestion would be you make a personal "global lib" for footprints, symbols and 3d models. (place this somewhere where you have write access. Example your home directory.) These should then hold parts that you want to use in multiple projects. (add them to the global sym and fp lib tables.)

In addition you can also have project local libs. These are useful if you want to share your project with others or if you want to have project specific parts. (Sharing is easier because if you use global libs the person you with whom you share your project also needs to add the same libs to their setup.)

---

Have a look at the new component chooser described as option 3 in this FAQ thread:

https://forum.kicad.info/t/how-can-i-assign-a-footprint-to-a-symbol/8901

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Twisted Pair in my Hair wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:39 point

Will the support for hatched copper polygons be ever added? Is it on the roadmap?

  Are you sure? yes | no

W5VO wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:38 point

Question: Deleting traces (or partial segments of traces) in OpenGL is painful since a bunch of little segments get created near pins - Are there plans to improve little things in the manual routing experience like this?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Hari Wiguna wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:37 point

QUESTION: I'm a KiCAD n00b. How do I tell KiCAD to stop asking me what I want to move? 99% of the time I want to move the whole footprint with reference, text, and etc.  Thanks!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Drew Jaworski wrote 01/05/2018 at 22:40 point

Toggle the "mode footprint: manual and automatic movement and placement" button (4th from the right on the top toolbar). When active, it will always move the entire footprint (and all relatively placed adornments).

  Are you sure? yes | no

Gerben wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:21 point

Question: Concerning OpenGL Canvas and Default Canvas in PCBnew. Why are they so different from one another? Some keyboard shortcuts are different. E.g. pressing delete on a trace segment in Default mode will remove the entire trace, while in OpenGL mode it only deletes the segment.

Both of them seem to have features that the other one doesn't. It's like having two distinct EDA. Is there a plan to merge them, or deprecate one of them?

  Are you sure? yes | no

scubabear wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:15 point

I need to move on from the layout package I've been using (it's not Eagle).  What is the best way, best resources, to start learning KiCad?

  Are you sure? yes | no

rene poeschl wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:51 point

There is the getting to blinky video tutorial series: https://contextualelectronics.com/courses/getting-to-blinky/

The forum is a good place to ask questions: https://forum.kicad.info/

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Sophi Kravitz wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:12 point

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zneidi wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:12 point

I was looking into doing a little bit of automation (Placing Components by a list of x-y-coordinates from a CSV-file) - but the python documentation is very little... is there a good getting started guide? (do i need to install Python, how do i start the scripts, ...)

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aloismbutura wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:11 point

Future plans for wx-python since it moved to Phoenix? Was the issue resolved or pending

  Are you sure? yes | no

Carlos wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:08 point

Q: Are there plans to work on the UI?

  Are you sure? yes | no

rene poeschl wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:20 point

You might want to get into a bit more detail here.

  Are you sure? yes | no

NikiSchlifke wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:08 point

Question: Did any of you use @Dave Vandenbout 's skidl, a python tool to programmatically build netlists instead of using the schematic editor? Which other scripting functionality do you want to mention and can KiCad scripting be used as a python library rather than using a built in interpreter?

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Jordi Orlando wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:07 point

Is the version 5 roadmap up-to-date with regard to status of each feature?
http://docs.kicad-pcb.org/doxygen/v5_road_map.html

EDIT: nevermind, found this - http://dpaste.com/3ZHN88E.txt

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dan Weatherill wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:06 point

Question: following the development for the last few years, it seems pcbnew has leaped ahead in terms of usability and features (e.g. pns router, openGL rendering). Is there now going to be more of a focus on eeschema to help it "catch up"?

  Are you sure? yes | no

ceneblock wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:03 point

Are there plans to incorporate an autorouter in or are we still going to be using third party?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Twisted Pair in my Hair wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:00 point

Question: is eeschema format going to be changed to S-expressions similar to kicad_pcb format? Is OpenGL/Cairo render going to be implemented for schematics (similar to pcbnew)? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

slacker wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:00 point

Q1: I love KiCad, but right now managing part libraries in KiCad is painful and unintuitive.  What is the plan to improve library management?

Q2: Are there plans for a part creation wizard?

  Are you sure? yes | no

rene poeschl wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:03 point

Did you look at a recent nightly build?

The sym lib stuff has been merged and there is a new symbol editor.

  Are you sure? yes | no

TheBestJohn wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:00 point

Is there any talk about unifying the footprint/schematic import process? It feels like there's no singular place to collect these things. You need to make sure you're using the library you think you are, you cant save to installed libs, footprint<->schematics are separate library types in different application.

Having just picked up KiCad in the past couple months this was my largest barrier to entry and I'm still not sure I know how it works. Feels user hostile

  Are you sure? yes | no

rene poeschl wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:23 point

Having footprints separated from symbols allows for generic footprints that are linked from any symbol in any lib. (A lot of different parts will use an SOIC-14 footprint.)

You can make fully specified symbols. These are symbols that have their footprint pre assigned.

There is of course the possibility to create atomic parts. (one symbol links to one footprint. Only this one symbol does use that footprint.)

  Are you sure? yes | no

TheBestJohn wrote 01/05/2018 at 20:31 point

I get the linking and the reasoning behind that. The real problem is to see all this information and manage all of it we need to be in 2 or 3 different places, While I'm editing a schematic I need to open eschema, footprint editor, library wizard etc etc. Could there not be a "parts" wizard that brings all of these things together?

Not just that. importing/sharing is a nightmare.

  Are you sure? yes | no

oshpark wrote 01/05/2018 at 17:19 point

Question: What is the best way for individuals and/or organizations to sponsor KiCad development?  Is the CERN donation page still a valid method to donate to KiCad?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Wayne Stambaugh wrote 01/05/2018 at 19:27 point

CERN is still where donations are made for the KiCad project.  I don't see this changing any time soon.  I want to personally thank everyone for their donations to KiCad.

  Are you sure? yes | no

bald engineer wrote 01/05/2018 at 02:37 point

For whatever reason, I feel overwhelemed when thinking about contributing to KiCad. It just seems like this massive project  with zero obvious entry points. It’s open source and that’s great. After studying the code base for a couple of years, I bet I can fix that weird bug I just found. ;) So, this leads me to echo Andrew’s point: where is helped needed? And then to add HOW can mere mortals contribute? And and and, where do we discuss this ideas/issues?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Wayne Stambaugh wrote 01/05/2018 at 19:15 point

You are correct, the KiCad code base is over a million lines of code and is very technical due to the nature of the problem domain.  That being said there are lots of places to contribute to KiCad that do not require you to be an expert C++ programmer who understands what is involved in designing printed circuit boards.  We could always use help with UI consistency which doesn't require you to be a strong C++ programmer.  We could always use help with the documentation which tends to lag the feature additions and changes.

  Are you sure? yes | no

bald engineer wrote 01/05/2018 at 02:34 point

In your opinion, what are 1 to 3 features (or capabilities) of KiCad that you feel most users overlook or don’t appreciate? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Wayne Stambaugh wrote 01/05/2018 at 19:20 point

I think people tend to overlook the power of KiCad and assume that it's for hobbyists and not useful for professional use.  Take a look at the Olimex ANTERES DIY laptop main board if you don't think KiCad isn't capable of professional board development.  I would say spice simulation, step export, and matched length routing are some of the most overlooked tool in KiCad.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Wayne Stambaugh wrote 01/05/2018 at 19:32 point

I should have mentioned the massive amount of work done to the symbol, footprint, and 3D model libraries recently.  If you haven't seen the work, check it out on the KiCad website http://kicad-pcb.org/libraries/download/

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