As I get into KiCAD more, I’m increasingly confused about the appropriate way to manage libraries. The standard libraries get installed into the Application Support folder (but not all seem to have associated 3d models). But if I need to supplement these, what is the right way to do this? Add them to the Application Support folder? Create a folder for my own added libraries? When I open the manage path options, can I have more than one folder in the path? How are 3d models located when using the standard libraries (what are the search rules)? And in the manage paths dialog, why is there a separate “3d search paths” section? And how does the “add 3d shapes library wizard” do its job?
It’s all very confusing, and I could use some help.
Yes. You should never modify the default libraries for KiCad. Any changes you make there can be overwritten during an update of KiCad.
To get started with library management, I recommend to make a “project specific library” in the project you are working on.
If you find you use self made schematic symbols or footprints in different projects, it’s time to think of a home for all your self-made libraries and organize them in a separate directory.
??? Manage which path where? From which KiCad program?
KiCad does not search for symbols. It just does path substitution from environment variables (from KiCad / Preferences / Configure Paths, and KIPROJMOD which is the path of the current project)
If you open the properties of any footprint, there is a tab for 3D Settings which has the path to the 3D model for the footprint:
Note that not all of KiCad’s footprints have 3D models (as you already discovered), but even if there is no 3D model (yet) the path to a model is probably still there. The reason for this is that in this way 3D models can be added later without having to change or update the footprint library itself.