Inverted Y-Axis in Part Library Editor

KiCad is “different” in many ways; much of those being good ways.

This one issue is a minor quirk that the vast majority of users can easily deal with.

Negative Y from the top left is surprisingly common in computing and video processing and is a historical consequence of the way television CRT displays scan.
eg the Java 2D origin is top left

The convention of 0,0 being top left and ‘Y’ being positive “down” was indeed established long before computers.

Out of curiosity, have you asked Microsoft to change “Paint” or do you just adjust to it? How about Gimp? Or Photoshop? Shall I continue? I know you’re going to say that these are graphics programs and not “CAD” programs but still you can adjust to using them without any issue so what is the problem? Sure KiCad it is not like Altium, but so what?


The details are quite indefinite in my superannuated cerebrum, but I DO recall considering, for a day or two, in High School math (either advanced algebra, or calculus) the characteristics of alternative coordinate systems - including polar, cylindrical, and the distinctions between “right-hand” and “left-hand” Cartesian systems. Even had some homework problems dealing with coordinate system transformations, though I never figured out how to transform a polar bear into a cartesian bear.

About the same time I became acquainted with the NTSC system for representing an image by a sequence of horizontal scan lines - and the lines were always numbered from top to bottom. It was many years later, in a class on image processing, where the “downward positive” convention for the Y-axis was used almost exclusively in calculations. That practice may be unfamiliar to you but it is just as correct as “upward positive”.

In the interest of “diversity”, please be sensitive to your choice of words! It’s not a “minor quirk”, it’s a “charming idiosyncrasy”. :wink:



b : a peculiar trait : idiosyncrasy

Definition of quirk
1 a : an abrupt twist or curve
b : a peculiar trait : idiosyncrasy

Fairly certain I used the correct wordages, and just used fewer typed letters.

I think this was an attempt in humor by @dchisholm not a correction.


Yes, Jim (@Sprig) and I are poking fun at each other.



Just remember, KiCAD has bigger fish to fry than reworking any and all code that deals with the coordinate system and being an open source project most of us here using it are thankful that we got it how it is.
If enough people feel strongly about it they can set out and change it. Just get your hands dirty, no one is stopping you.
Most everyone else is accepting the status quo for whatever reason and gets on with life/work.
So don’t be too sad that a lot here will not agree with you.

I am extremely grateful that KiCad works as well as it does.

There are to many technical things in electronics (and life) that can end up inverted for whatever reason. Teaching kids to turn right, when their heads turn left, “No, your other right”. Then ~OE or ~OD can make a person question if up really means down.

If something in KiCad goes the wrong way, just “flip the bit”; flip the polarity of the number and all will be right (if the user got the number correct).

Hey, it’s KiCad, and not all even agree how to pronounce it.
Choose Your Side

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The wonderful thing about standards is there are so many of them. Coordinate systems are no exception.

For example, with polar coordinates try translating map angles to CAD angles in your head. For this example I’ll be referring to AutoCAD for CAD angles as that is what I learned. I know DraftSight is the same (I currently use this), and I would imagine many are also the same since AutoCAD was considered a Gold standard for so long.

  • Map angles start with 0 straight up (North) and increment clockwise.
  • CAD angles start with 0 to the right (what would be East on a map) and increment counter clockwise.

Should GIS (geographic information system) professionals be insisting that AutoCAD (with decades of precedence) change, or should maps (with centuries of precedence) change?

Disclaimer: Ok, for all I know there may be a GIS plugin for AutoCAD that does the translating for the user… But the base software tool is what I’m discussing here.

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As far as i know user coordinates are planned for v6. But i think they have a low priority. (compared to getting gtk3 to work, opengl for eeschema and the new file format for eeschema and symbols)

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1: In the PCB-world we ALWAYS use first quadrant. Please check the CNC and GERBER output from KiCad.
2: In the PCB-world there is only TOP-layer, Inner-layers and Bottom-layer. Not Front- and Back-layer. It seems that the programmers initially had NO experience in PCB-manufacturing. Sorry :slight_smile:
All other big PCB-CAD-systems do. Mentor, Cadence etc. I am trying to migrate from CADINT to KiCad because of customers wish but it is really hard. I thought KiCad was more mature today. A built in program for Automatic Translation of old designs and footprints to first quadrant is easy to make. We are a huge number of users and programmers using this program. Why don’t we join together and make it PROFESSIONAL :slight_smile: (Jeppe Gade)

@JEGA48, your attitude doesn’t help anyone in any way. Really, who actually cares for real if it’s Top or Front? If you get stuck into that, I would say you’re not really professional.

KiCad has historical baggage. If you want to help, you can get familiar with the codebase and discuss with the developers about changing the layer names after you know what should be done, how much it requires and what effects it would have for the codebase and for the users. If you’re not ready for that, at least don’t assume anything about KiCad developer’s competency. You could just ask without sounding superior and arrogant.

I write this as a KiCad user who’s somewhat familiar with the development process and developer discussions.


Hi Jeppe,

I really don’t mind, as a user, the way the Y axis grows. In fact it will be posible to choose the quadrant in Version 6 and I’ll keep on stuck to the 4th quandrant.
I can assure that every single pcb I designed got made withouth any complaint from the manufacturers.

I do call them Top and Bottom. In the manual is written front or top and back or bottom.
The original program and manual were written in French. In all translations the layers are called F.Cu and B.Cu.

Anyway, the names of the layers can be customized by the user at File->Board Setup… ->Layers

Sure, you can join the developers mailing list. I’m pretty sure you will be welcome.

Sorry for offending people. Not my intention but I read a lot of reactions about this and got a little irritated. I believe in KiCad because it is a voluntered open product and it seems promising to me. I am not ARROGANT but a humble developer with experience of programming and CAD-systems from the 70’th up to now. I am really trying every day now to migrate to KiCad and I hope that I will soon succeed. This is going to be great I hope. Happy to join if I am welcome. /Best regards / Jeppe Gade


Nice to get a response.

You are very sensitive. Please forgive me.

Sorry for offending you.

I am not in a way arrogant.

I am a real enthusiast :blush:

My experience:

In fact I started with PCB-CAD already in 1978 at Ericsson (running minicomputers like Digital Equipment PDP11/35 and later VAX750 etc)

At Linkoping University 1976 I was a member in a group that developed the first 16 bit home computer in the world

I also modernized all the machineries and installed computer-systems and networks in the biggest PCB-manufacturing Site in Europe (Ericsson Norrköping).

I spent 100 Millions SEK (today 1 billion SEK) in new technology.

Included new CAD-systems.

I have been a consultant (still) and worked for NOKIA and SAAB.

Program development in Fortran, Cobol, Pascal, real Time Pascal (Eripascal), Embedded C, real Time C (QNX) and VHDL a lot, both civil (NOKIA) Base-stations and military (SAAB) radar and (Bofors) missiles.

Now working with flight- and satellite communications.

Used MENTOR CAD-systems a lot.

Now retired (71) in Philippines.

I’m not usually very sensitive about these kind of things. Maybe a bad day. I think I assumed things about you and said too much.

The thing is, we see every now and then people saying things even though they know nothing about the developers or development process or history of KiCad. The developers are a clever bunch of people. I have my own opinions about certain things which I think are wrong in KiCad and disagree in certain things, and there’s much to change. But most of the shortcomings of KiCad are already well known, people can live with them and there are thousands of things which should and could be done but only a handful of people doing them. Changing the layer names or even coordinate system are so small details that there’s no point to even mention them, compared to some other things.

People can actually help by getting familiar with the development process and the codebase. Reading through the issue database can give some perspective. The respect towards the developers and understanding towards their challenges grow when you know more. (Like my respect towards you when you revealed more about yourself in nice tone.)

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Hej Jeppe,

Jag heter Jan-Åke Larsson och är Prefekt på ISY, LiU, kul att höra att du fortfarande är aktiv.

(Translation: I’m the department head of Electrical Engineering at Linköping University, good to hear you are still active.)

If you want to fix this, the best way is probably to start by helping the developers and add the code so that you can have a preference that makes what the user sees is flipped even though the format doesn’t flip it.

This … is … a … lot … of … work.

You will have to touch EVERYTHING that displays coordinates and not break it.

After the users have some time to work with it, you can see if users are happy enough with display coordinates being “normal” Y-axis, or whether that needs to propagate down into the file format.

This is an enormous amount of work. And, personally, if I were the developers, my assessment would be that there are WAY more important fish to fry than this one.

Hi again my friend.

Positive things comes up right now because of our conversation.

I got to know you a little better and also a new friend Jan-Åke Larsson Prefekt on ISY, LiU, department head of Electrical Engineering at Linköping University, Sweden.


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Best Regards / Jeppe Gade

Close to Olongapo, Subic Bay, Philippines

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