Persistent rulers & better dimension sizing

I’m wondering if there is way to have persistent rulers in my design, at least temporarily? I’m working in a very small area trying to adjust pins into their correct positions, and I want to have the ruler remain in the workspace while I’m dragging & moving components, to ensure they are in the exact correct place. Why would I want the ruler to disappear every time I click away to move something? Additionally it would be great to place multiple rulers at the same time. This seems like a no-brainer, feature-wise.

In a similar vein, if I wanted to have multiple rulers in this current setup, I have to use dimensions, but dimensions are even more of a headache because the default line height/width dimensions are giant compared to the dimensions I’m working with. I don’t want to have to fiddle around trying to get these numbers just right for the size I’m working with every time just to get the measurements I need. The ruler tool does this beautifully, scaling with the screen when I zoom in & out. I would love to have these features married together to get the zoom scaling of the ruler, with the persistence of the dimension function.

For any other folks out there who have IC design experience or have otherwise used Cadence Virtuoso, they have implemented this feature beautifully. The rulers scale with zoom, are persistent, and can be adjusted, dragged, moved, stretched, etc. as if they were just another object. There is a quick hotkey (‘k’) to create a ruler, and another to remove all rulers (‘shift+k’). Just a really elegant and efficient feature that I love using, and wish could be implemented in other design softwares, first and foremost KiCAD.

Apologies for the long post but I would love to know if there’s a more elegant solution already built into KiCAD, or if this feature is something that could/would be worked on in the future to make KiCAD already better than it is. Thanks much.

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An additional screenshot showing the ruler used effectively at a smaller scale.

Hello and welcome @c_bard

Apart from the measuring tool you demonstrate, at the bottom of your screen, under the work space, are some measuring tools.

To the left centre you have “X & Y”. These give the distance from the origin of the worksheet to your cursor. The origin choices are set in Preferences / Preferences / PCB editor / Origins & axes.

To the right of “X & Y” are “dx & dy”. To use dx & dy, place cursor on first location, press “space bar” to zero dx & dy then read distance to new cursor location. This feature is very useful for locating footprints.

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Are you aware of the other alignment features in KiCad?

For example, you can select a few footprints, then press the right mouse button for the popup menu and select one of the functions from the "Align / Distribute sub menu. In the Special Tools section of the popup menu there are also some extra functions which can be used for alignment.

And yet another method is to hover over some footprint, press e for edit, and then either type or paste some number in the X or Y coordinate of that footprint. Especially the Special Tools / Move Relative to can be used for alignment.

You can also set the grid origin to some arbitrary location and enter different values for the X and Y snap distances for the grid.

And yet another feature is the Grouping function. You can use this to fix the relative positions of a bunch of items to each other, and this prevents that an alignment you once made between some parts gets damaged.

And last, KiCad’s file formats are text based S-expressions and therefore human readable. You can use this for example to check if a certain number (such as an X coordinate) is present the expected number of times with a simple search function.

I find neither of these functions “elegant”, but they usually can get the job done. KiCad is quite weak in mechanical CAD functionality, and this is mostly due to the scarcity of KiCad developers and lots of priorities they have to divide their attention over. But hail to them all. I’ve been using KiCad for some years now and I find the progress made in those years quite amazing.


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