General question from an iconoclast


Not just related to KiCad but also cars, appliances, and anything else which uses controls which are labeled with icons.

I cannot help but be prejudiced because I am one of those monolingual English speakers living in USA. But for so many years I have found (with some exceptions) most icons to be uselessly uninformative. Of course I would prefer to see English, But recognizing that so much of the world does not have English as its first language, I feel also that I would rather have controls labeled with any language (even one of the so many which I do not understand), although probably limited to the Greek alphabet. (Note that even in China and Japan it seems that people learn the Greek alphabet and there are many signs which use it.)

The immediate cause of my observation is being tripped up by two different buttons which have the same icon image but this is more of a general philosophical complaint. If I am completely wrong then perhaps someone for whom Russian or Swahili is their native language might be best positioned to tell me so…


Sorry for quoting out of order… :smiley:

The fun thing about symbols is “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”. Unfortunately, which words is key. :wink: Sometimes symbols stay part of the image lexicon longer than the origin of them is gone. For example, look at a common “Save” icon glyph. It looks like a 3.5" floppy disk. Kids now only think of it as the save button without knowing (or have used) the origin of the symbol. If someone has never used a computer before encounters this icon there will be no immediate understanding of what the glyph represents. They won’t even have a stack of floppy disks on hand to hold one up and think “Hey, that icon kind of looks like this. I wonder if it’s function has something to do with these hard disk thingies that people call ‘floppy disks’ for some reason.”

I think you mean Latin alphabet. (Which is just the base for the alphabet used in English… Letters “J” and “U” have been added, so… Latin+ alphabet? Latin alphabet 3.0?)

To your point, there is localized labeling for the toolbar buttons to help you learn what they do. Hover your pointer over the button and you get a tool tip pop-up telling you what the button does. This tool tip is (should be, I haven’t tested) localized to the language that the user sets for their interface.

Regarding the specific reuse of a glyph that you point out, often it isn’t just the glyph that determines the meaning of an icon, but also the context. Both icons deal with zones, thus the shared glyph. The icon on the right is with all the other drawing icons, so it makes sense that it will allow you to draw a zone. The icon on the left is with all the other viewing icons, so it makes sense that it would have something to do with how zones are visually represented.

So am I. Though not only do I recognize my bias, I try to correct myself so as not to conform to the unfortunate “Ugly American” stereotype. Doesn’t always work, but I do try.


Thank you, SembazuruCDE

Yes there is a “hover over” but…if you see two cans in the supermarket with the same label in front, you will not check the back to see that the labels in back are the same. So same icon means same button; why would I think to question that? I guess I have proven that I speak neither Latin nor Greek, but I do try to use metric liberally, even outside of engineering…

Yes I recently heard of that floppy disk icon issue. Also children do not recognize a dial phone. Many years ago my employer’s IT person was female. With totally straight purpose in conversation with her, I asked to peruse “her floppies” and this prompted a mutual chuckle.


Having two buttons that look exactly the same but do different things is most likely not a good idea. Even if kicad has the left toolbar only for settings and the right one only for calling tools.

So my suggestion is to report this as a bug. I am not sure this will be fixable in the v5 series as it would require changes to the gui and would therefore also require updates to the documentation. It is up to the lead devs to decide if the usability increase is worth the downsides.
But even if it is not fixed in v5 then it can still be valuable to have it reported for v6.


But, they are not exactly the same…

The left side:

The right side:

Methinks that someone thought about this long and hard well before this post by the OP.


You know…I have already spent more time eyeballing those two buttons than they deserve. I am far sighted, but my “close and closer” bifocals which I also use for board assembly work well enough. And for all of this time, I would swear that the two are identical. But, upon the 171st viewing I believe that you are correct; the color of the trace in the right button is more gray while the one in the left button is more green. If Rene and I both thought that the icons were the same, I think that they are not different enough! :frowning:


To be honest with you, the lack of “separation bars” on some items on the left column threw me off a bit.

There should be a visual separation bar under the DDR icon, the grid icon, the polar icon, and the mm icon in the left side toolbar; maybe a few others also.

They are on opposite sides of the screen; they are different enough.

Welcome to KiCad and it’s fun and amazing idiosyncrasies!

Have a great night!


Good and accessible icon design shouldn’t rely expressly on colour. This means that people with poor eyesight, or forms of colour blindness can still determine the difference. I’d also say that the location of an icon shouldn’t dictate it’s function ie the icon could be in any tool bar and should mean the same thing. Hence I would tend to agree that there is not enough differentiation between the two icons…


The user can move around icons in most tools. Not in kicad. Meaning kicad can rely on the icon position a bit more to communicate what it does.

I however agree with the notion that there might be place for improvement here. (I expect it to get low priority but it is still a valid complaint.)

It seems the topic at hand got reported as a bug (and a second such button pair has been found):


To be honest this isn’t an idiosyncrasy. Many applications, especially open source ones, recycle icons.

The most important function of an icon is to make visual navigation possible. It has to be different enough from neighboring icons so that it’s easy to hit with the mouse without thinking. This happens after you have used the program for some time.


Sometimes, yes. Too often I’ve seen two similar products that have such similar labels I don’t notice the minor difference right away. (I’ve seen this with salted vs. unsalted butter, regular vs decaf coffee, etc.) Usually, though, I don’t start looking carefully at the full packaging until after I accidentally bought the wrong one. :unamused:


@Sprig I have never before encountered idiosyncrasies in software. :expressionless:For example when was the last time you encountered anything from Microsoft which was not completely ideal and logical? (Such as having about a half dozen different “insert” “ribbon” items in Excel?)


Are you being ironic or want a list?


And lets compare apples to apples. So CAD programs it is. Shall i start with the list about catia or cadence? (Well scrub the list. There are full on books written that explain to users how to use these tools. I wonder why that is? Could it simply be that CAD programs are simply too complex to be fully self explanatory?)

Edit: Just to make it clear: I strongly believe kicad could be made better. But i have to admit if i need to decide between new features and gui cleanups i would give new features a much higher priority.
And to reitterate: Yes these symbols would need updating but again this will most likely only happen with version 6 (version 5 is now already in string freeze which means no more changes to the gui are allowed.)


Sorry I thought my sarcasm regarding Microsoft (and 95% of other software) would have been more apparent. Case in point; today I spent all day trying to get my keyboard working after (I guess ignorantly) installing an obsolete mouse driver in the hopes of getting my marble mouse to scroll for KiCad. And some of the other dislikeable aspects of Microsoft software came to the forefront, such as “settings” telling me that the keyboard was working when it would not type…

I think I may attempt a hardwire swap of the trackball buttons…although that by itself would not help the scrolling. Replacing two electrolytic capacitors in it a few months ago did cure some click malfunctions.

I find it easy to get frustrated when learning new software. One of the amazing aspects is the huge variation in the user interface. This is why I like analog/hardware; field theory and semiconductor physics cannot change as arbitrarily as software developers differ from each other in their design of the GUI.

BTW I apologize if I seem cranky at times. However I much appreciate the help and attitude of the folks on this forum.


Ok. I was hoping you were being sarcastic. :slight_smile: