KiCad - first contact with a new subspecies of EDA

You only have one chance to make a first impression.
I’ll tell you about my first impression of KiCad, be warned,
I suffer from sarcasm and cynism.

For all unwilling to read much or not having the time or with a
very short attention span of a TV commercial, scroll down
to the last paragraph and seek help regarding your condition.

I have some background (or “preliminary damage”) regarding EDA.
First was P-CAD in the late eighties (yea, I am that old…)
followed by Eagle, starting 2005, but just infrequently for
inhouse (and hobby) projects.

Right now, I have time (called summer vacation) and feel like
giving KiCad a chance.

The Download was very fast, >6MB/s, thank you very much.

There is not much to say about the installation, besides of your
“This is still a work in progress… but GPL…”

Hello? Are you too lazy to replace that stub with the GPL file?
Mr. Stallman and his lawyer brigade might react a bit miffed,
so please make him happy.
(Can’t decide which version? Make up your mind, you will have to
do it anyway at some point. Or just throw a coin…)

The program starts as it should. Aww, what a cute little window
on a 2560x1440 desktop… Well, that’s the same as with Eagle…)

My first action: “Help”, “KiCad Manual”.
Result: “Help file ‘KiCad’ could not be found”
My second action: “Help”, “Getting started in KiCad”.
Result: “Html or pdf help file getting_started_in_kicad or
Getting_Started_in_KiCad could not be found”

That’s a bad outcome for someone new to this program.
Is there someone actively acting on making it hard for people
to switch to KiCad?
Under “Preferences”, I’ve seen “Configure Path”. That might help
solve this glitch.

Nope, nothing regarding help files. But 3 of 4 entries pointing
to a location not existing on my hard drive, “C:\msys64…”.
Hey, getting that correct is the job of the installation
program, there should be no need to do it by hand.
At least, the files are installed on the disc. With a sinking
feeling I register the English tutorial version being of 2011,
the German one being of 2006. It’s well known documentation
being the neglected stepchild regarding free software.

As I found a tutorial, why not using it?
The first surprise, new Icons, different ones than used in
the tutorial. Well, that’s to expect after 4 years.

Creating a new project… Where? Another path that should be
changed or be configurable. Defaulting to a directory where
everything has to be done with administrative rights is a
bad idea. OK, basically that’s Microsoft’s error.
But for me, that means uninstalling KiCad.
And reinstalling it again, using a different directory
containing all the programs I like to have under my control
without Microsoft’s paternalism.

Now, the tutorial, second try. A minor glitch in point 11,
where I should first save the schematic project. That menu
point is grayed out. I bet I can save if I change something,
just the age of the tutorial showing.
But, at point 39, the tutorial comes to a grinding halt.
I should insert “PIC12C508A” from the microcontrollers library.
Just, that part doesn’t exist.

I selected some existing part and continued, making a
different schema.
The rest of the tutorial went very well, up to a completely
routed board, even DRC was happy.
The workflow, where so many people gripe about, right now I can
live with it as it is a reasonable sequence of actions.
For THT I don’t expect it to ever be a problem, SMD being
more critical because of the many different footprints
using and abusing the same name.

Next I’ll make a small project, just a sensor with signal
shaping and amplifier, both using KiCad and Eagle.
At least one version will see a prototype made.

So, below the line, I’m content with the EDA part, but
the package as such needs some more work.


Most of the issues you’ve mentioned are known and are being addressed for the upcoming ‘stable’ release. I imagine even after the release there will be issues to work on especially on MSWin. I think we simply don’t have enough developers working with MSWin or else most of those problems would have been ironed out a long time ago.

  1. About the license thing - where do you encounter that message? If it’s in the software itself that’s definitely not acceptable.
  2. Documentation inaccessible from ‘help’: that is being addressed
  3. Outdated documentation: yes, documentation gets left behind; we need more people reviewing/updating/translating and we get very few volunteers for this task. Tutorials and other documentation which are not officially part of the project tend to be even more out of date so they’re generally not a helpful addition to the official documentation.
  4. Creating files in read-only directories: this is being addressed and there is a current temporary fix-of-sorts. If you can describe the problem and its extent much better then we UNIX devs might have some idea of how to fix it in a sensible way.
  5. Missing library stuff: this is a right royal mess at the moment and people are working on it. For over a year now KiCad’s default settings were to look for schematic symbols in a local directory and component footprints on github. Some problems arise from the source code being completely divorced from the symbols and footprints but everyone agrees that such a separation is the only sensible thing to do. Better coordination is required. Anyway, this is largely a packaging issue and people are working on it because it infuriates UNIX package maintainers and is an even bigger problem on MSWin. I think everyone agrees that this is an issue that must be fixed before declaring a ‘stable’ release.

If you can get KiCad set up and get used to working with it I’m sure you’ll be much happier with it than with Eagle. Aside from unrestricted use of its features, KiCad also has some built-in features which Eagle either hasn’t got or must be supplied by a third party ULP. For example KiCad has a native IDF exporter and within a year will also have a native IGES exporter. Developers at CERN continue their outstanding work on adding features required for projects at CERN (or in any commercial setting); among other things this includes the Push/Shove router, length tuning, and differential pair routing.

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I realize that hopefully all of my issues are already known.
That was just a report of my very personal impressions of my
first contact with KiCad. As EDA, I liked it, my issues were
more of the class of “minor annoyances” than of “serious issues”
or even “bugs”.

The license issue, that text is shown by the installer, where
I have to agree to the license conditions. It’s also the content
of the file “COPYRIGHT.txt”, 47 bytes long, in the root
installation directory from KiCad.

Nobody likes to write documentation. Especially programmers
hate it, it keeps them from writing beautiful code that does
something. I know, I’m writing software too (C++, with a
heavy accent of C).

The directory “C:\Program Files” (and “C:\Program Files (x86)”)
is not read-only as such, it is more something along
“managed by Microsoft Windows”.
The data the user generates should be stored under either
“C:\Users<username>\AppData\Local<programname>” or
“C:\Users<username>\AppData\Roaming<programname>” by
default. Details, somewhere Microsoft has some Documentation
about it, I’m sure, but I don’t care myself that much about
it and do as I expect fits the use case.
Best from the point of flexibility would be if the installer
when he asks for the installation path of the program (with
the correct default as it does now) offers a second line preset
with one of the path mentioned above (preferably the first one)
and allows the user to change it. But then this path should be
saved in the configuration and be used as default, even
be changeable from “Preferences”/“Configure Path”. But now I
have to stop, the programmer in me starts talking.

Is there some EDA software without library issues? I don’t
think so.
It would be very nice to have a solution everyone is happy
with. Don’t delay the stable release for too long. Many
managers are afraid to use something that changes almost
daily and see the rolling releases as a roadblock.

I have KiCad set up and will work on getting used to it.
Regarding Eagle, I have my license for a standard edition, so
the only limit I might run into is the PCB size. That’s less
probable as years ago, with higher integration and part density.

Did you mean to say cynicism? Sorry I’m myself is not a stranger to sarcasm :grinning:

That should be fixed as of revision 6047, Aug. 3. If not, please let me know, I’d like to get it corrected.

Perhaps we should check: @Walter which version did you download? It should be shown in the menu bar at the top of the program.

Also, welcome to the community! Thanks for the feedback, the early impressions are often useful because it ensures that people aren’t scared away immediately.

Uh… Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Darn. That’s a perfectly good German word.
(Turns around and yells: “Spell-checker! Go down to the dungeon
immediately, this time, they should give you 25 with a bullwhip.
No, make that 24, I’m in a good mood today.”)
Sorry about that, but English is my 4th language, where I never
had any formal lessons.

Version: (2015-08-01 BZR 6032, Git 6a6a55f)-product release build

phew, my fix isn’t broken :relieved:

What exactly should be fixed?
As of Version: (2015-08-05 BZR 6055, Git fa29c62)-product release build,
“File”, “New Project”, New Project" still offers “C:\ProgramFiles\KiCad”
as default path.
The three entries in “Preferences”, “Configure Path” still point to the
not existing location “C:\msys64\mingw64\share\kicad”

Perhaps I’ll have a look at changing the default path as well. I did stop it from automatically saving things there, which as far as I’m concerned was a much bigger problem. Changing the default path should be rather a no-brainer. :thumbsup:

So you are on windows. :slight_smile: This seciton is purely my fault. But I don’t really think we need to show the GPL license in the installer, right? If so I would just remove that page in the installer and mention the license used in the first page and include a copy of the actual license file in the install directory for good measure.

The help files are actually not included in the installer now. But my focus in the meantime was to get a working installer, which is the case now, and then enable it on the Jenkins server to be able to generate unattended nightlies. This I just got working the other day, so I am working on getting it pushed to the “official” location.

What exact tutorial were you looking at?

Indeed, the text of the GPL explicitly states that acceptance of the license is not required to use the software, only to distribute it, so displaying an “accept” dialog is bad form if you agree with GNU’s philosophy:

In fact, as the GPL explicitly disallows placing additional restrictions and still calling the software “GPL-licensed”, it is actually arguably a violation of the contract of the license (though surely nobody but RMS really cares) to require acceptance to install it.

Disclaimer: IA(very much)NAL

es, I’m mainly working on windows. 4 Raspberry Pi’s and (secretly)
my router and the NAS are running Linux too. I intend to dedicate my
old PC to Linux, when I should have that much time left over.

No problem with just pointing to the license, making me accept
something not shown to me is what I don’t like. (“Would you
please sign those empty sheets? We will fill in the rest ourselves.”)

The tutorials I found were:
“KiCad\share\doc\kicad\help\en\KiCad_Tutorial 2011.pdf” and
“KiCad\share\doc\kicad\help\de\KiCad Tutorial.pdf”

There are a variety of licenses associated with KiCad of course, just to make life more interesting. Many parts of KiCad are GPL2+, libdxf is GPL2+, “wxWindows Library Licence” for wxWidgets etc etc. I thought I might have made the IDF framework GPL3+ but I checked and I used GPL2+ to be the same as the bulk of KiCad.

Your formatting on mobile is obnoxious.


If you are commenting on the way the forum looks on your dumb phone, you are posting in the wrong forum. Don’t hijack an unrelated thread. Start your own thread in the Meta forum. If you are using Kicad on your phone, why?

1 Like

Easy there fellas.@rickb, @cameronbelt, please keep it civil on the forums.

I’m simply pointing out that the formatting of the original poster makes it difficult to read this thread on mobile, everyone else’s comments are fine except his. I’m not sure why this made you so angry. Sorry @ChrisGammell I wasn’t trying to provoke anger.

  1. Replace “obnoxious” with “hard to read”
  2. Replace “dumb phone” with “phone”.
  3. Design a server computer motherboard by running Kicad on an Apple Watch. :slight_smile: