Ideas to make it more clear how to export a (searchable) PDF

This is feedback from a first-time user, so it might be irrelevant… or it might be interesting to improve usability.
So i thought the forum here is more appropriate than opening an issue. I hope that’s the case. Let me know.

I had to create a searchable PDF from a schematic, so i looked at file>export first. No luck there.
Next i just printed to pdf and found out text is not preserved there.
Now i googled for the issue and found references that it should work in my version6 (in fact that was referring to the PLOT function, but i did not realize that initially.)
After some more reading i found a Post here advising to use the PLOT option.

Why did i not get that faster?
I had ignored the plot menuentry because of it’s name and plotter icon. I expected plotter-specific things there, not export.
Maybe it’s completely industry-standard to have pdf creation there?
I don’t know, but it looks to me as if PLOT would fit very well to EXPORT…

If moving it would be too dirsuptive, could it be linked? A double menuentry could create some confusion too i guess…
Or, what about a message on the PRINT Dialogue?

For a searchable PDF, use the PLOT option


I would guess that printing to PDF causes KiCad to create some kind of general graphics output that an external PDF-printer driver in the system then puts into a PDF-file. That is, KiCad itself just creates data for a printer.

When plotting, on the other hand, I guess KiCad knows that the target is a PDF-file, and the PDF-file data is generated “in house” specifically for the PDF file, not as generic printer output.

I could well be wrong of course, but if this is the case, it would explain why in the plot case the text is searchable and in the print to pdf-case it is not.

Yes, this is 100% normal in basically any application including CAD.

Printing to a PDF printer is a generic graphical output, no OS supports feeding detailed information in that flow.
Plotting is a KiCad independent routine where we create PDFs ourselves.


There is actually some logic behind it.
“Print” is for bitmap images, “Plot” is for vector images, and “export” is for other file types, from exporting the netlist from the Schematic Editor to a bunch of unusual formats from the PCB editor I’ve never used.

It’s a bit unusual that SVG export is supported both from PCB Editor / File Export and from PCB Editor / File / Plot. I have not checked whether there are differences between those, or if it’s just a doubled up menu item.

But there is always some compromise. Just putting every possible function in the menu’s will make them very big and crowded.

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