I started tinkering with PCBs a month ago and back then had purchased CircuitStudio for €500. Now recently I wanted to connect a $5 CPU to $2 RAM and I was honestly surprised that CircuitStudio cannot handle the length-matched routing that I should be using. I asked their support about it, and they told me that it’s a professional feature and they quoted me roughly €10000 (incl. taxes) for a permanent license upgrade to Altium Designer.
For a beginner/hobbyist like me, that is of course completely insane.
So here I am, evaluating alternative software options. EAGLE is disqualified for their subscription model. I don’t want to spend time creating files now that I won’t be able to open in 3 years time or - even worse - where I don’t know how much I will have to pay to be able to open them in 3 years.
When I tried out KiCad, I was pleasantly surprised by the PCB editor and its Altium import. I could open a CircuitStudio board and it looked OK, exported just fine and was ready to be modified. The only thing I had to import manually was to set up the clearance design rules.
However, the KiCad schematics editor looks like a deal-breaker to me. Maybe it’s just me, but I really struggle to read that font. Also when printing out the schematics, stuff remains barely legible. And there’s no option to change it. I saw that this has been a feature request since 2018 and it has recently been moved out of v6 to the future roadmap:
I’m a C++ programmer by trade, so I could probably patch in the font support that I need myself. But I don’t have that much time and I’m hoping that designing hardware will turn out to be a relaxing hobby, not more coding work. Plus I really have no understanding of the KiCad codebase (yet) and it’s huge.
But apart from this issue, I’d be happy to switch from Altium to KiCad. The PCB editor is great, schematics editing works well, and it has all the routing functions and plugin support that I’ll ever need - both of which are extremely pricey pro features with Altium.
Of course, I could also do the schematics in Altium, then import to KiCad, do the PCB routing in KiCad and then switch back to Altium. But I’m not sure I want to utilize the free and open KiCad to support their corporate grip on the market.
So I am wondering if maybe there are enough others who are also struggling with the schematics font so that we could do a group fundraiser to get this feature boosted in priority.
From what I understand, some KiCad development is supported by CERN, but they’ll build what they need. And some generic improvements are funded by generic sponsors. And then there’s the KiCad Services Corporation which will directly fix/improve features for their commercial users. So in theory, this should be purely a matter of figuring out how much in bounty to offer to get this done and then raising sufficient funds.
What do others think?