I’ve been using KiCAD for some time now and I found some areas where we can improve KiCAD
to be more user friendly and some processes could be just faster. I would like to focus on area of creating
schematic library element.
Possibility to turn on transparency in Pin Properties dialog box.
Use case:When creating new component we need to look into data sheet. Click on the datasheet, check pin description
and name, click back to pin properties, put values and repeat this same time again and again.
If someone is using two monitors this is not an issue but hoovering pin properties dialog which we can see through
could be useful, at least it will be useful for me.
When new pin is places into element it should have next number already typed into “Pin number” box.
Use case: When creating library we go pin by pin (which in most cases are in order), so putting new number
each time is kind of annoying if we already now that this will be the next anyway.
3.New pins should have already typed pin name (same as previous one) with increased number with some kind of template.
I created pin 1 with name “MC1”, I create pin 2, I already have 2 interested into Pin number and pin name have
typed MC2 already. Also pin name should be focused and already pre-selected with caret on the end
so simple typing Backspace or Del button will allow us to put new value very fast.
4.When editing pin and “Pin properties” dialog appears “Pin name” field should be selected with caret on the
Some kind of Pin inspector or manager as additional tool will be useful. Actually I already started to wring some
KiCAD script for that. I would like to have tool which allows to put multiple pins with names and values
by copying it from the datasheet, so pin creation wont be so painful.
Pin creation process is good and easy for schematic symbols which have ~20 pins but when you have around 144 or more it feels that you spending time on things which could be simply kind of automated.
Please feel free to comment, post any other improvements, pros&cons of my ideas. Anyway I will do those changes since KiCAD seems to me as good software
When it comes to laying out a circuit boards (and most other things) two monitors just makes everything easier. It’s rare these days to have a computer or video card, or even laptop, that can’t handle two monitors. A second monitor would probably cost less than your next run of boards.
I usually group pins by function not numerical order so this feature would definitely cause some problems.
This would rarely be of any use and a nuisance the rest of the time.
Yes, creating symbols with a large number of pins can be time consuming but I don’t see how any of the suggestions above would help most of the time. The last one I did has 192 pins and I just had a look at it and it has only 2 groups of 3 pins each that have sequential names.
When creating parts like this the text editor is your friend.
It’s interesting that the early CAD workstations - circa 1980’s - often incorporated two monitors: one to display the drawing, and one for entering program commands, displaying user info, etc. Users found that was an efficient way to work back then, and it still is.
Ok. As I mentioned when having two monitors this is not an issue but when someone have only one or working with laptop this is an issue. This dialog could have checkbox to activate such a function, so it won’t break functionality but add someting.
OK. But when your are getting info from datasheet (which in most cases have pins in numeric order) you search for functions of those pins ? I rather get all of those pin from datasheet into library and group them later.
I cannot agree with that. Most of modern professional design CAD software have such a feature. Some are activated
by default other have special setting or key combination. Ex Altium Designer, Cadence PCB…
Totally agree ! It’s really time consuming and this is not creation process. It’s simple copy paste process from
documentation into software. Designer should rather focus on design rather than focus on moving necessary info
from datasheet into schematic.
I just created part which had 144 pins. Most of them was simple IO pins with names IO0, IO2…IOX. Each data-bus
have also pins numbered from 0 … X bits. So I finished with copying first pin many times and changing name
and pin number. It takes around ~15 minutes. With proper tool it should take around one.
You mentioned that you grouping your pin, so let’s check that situation. For example you have:
USART_RX and TX pin. In most cases those are numbered one after another, so for example
USART_RX have pin number 2, USART_TX have pin number 3. You create first pin, assign name and number.
You copy first pin and again you need to change name and pin number. Why software cannot do it for you ?
Agree it’s always easier. Using more monitors are always easier, you can focus on more staff without clicking and jumping with our attention from one to another thing. But what if just this second monitor is not available ?
Why with modern software we cannot improve that experience ? Ex: Simple text editor such as Notepad ++ have this feature for search. You type and do not need to click back to check for result.
That’s for 5cm x 5cm 2 layer boards, I’ve only ever made a board that small maybe once or twice. A more realistic board, 10cm x 10cm 4 layer: $47. A quick search for a second monitor $68. Although the monitor I would likely purchase (if I didn’t already have three) is around $120.
Edit: Regarding PCB Prototyping, they have a huge price jump (6X) from 4 layers to 6 and don’t even offer 8 layers.
Yes, I was constantly highlighting the existing text so I could type over it.
I do recall, however, being annoyed by KiCad’s pin editor not putting the focus on pin number edit box where you would expect it.
In any case, I would still suggest that I could create a symbol with a large number of pins using a text editor faster than you could create it graphically even with all of your proposals added.
KiPart lets you create families of parts using a spreadsheet (or CSV file). It’s faster and less error-prone than using a text editor. And if you don’t like the part presentation, you can always use the KiCad symbol editor to fix it up after KiPart has done all the tedious work (i.e., setting the pin numbers, names, types, etc.).
Ok. But this kind of workaround of bad UX in software. So why to do not try fix software instead. BTW I have 5 monitors connected and this works but sometimes as I mentioned earlier I work with single screen on laptop. I would like to see improvements here.
So why to do not fix this ? Anyway I will try to push my changes to KiCAD repo.
Additional thing which I do not like in Kicad library editor is that if you have multipart elements there is no simple
way (from graphic UI) do separate those parts. You need to do it one by one.