Porting to PowerLogic to kicad

There was a user here who was interested in PADS format, his idea was to get all suppliers to use it as a “standard” format. Not sure how far he got with that…

In general, the only format that can be directly imported as a project into KiCad is Eagle. There is some partial support for other formats importing into pcbnew. There are various third party tools and other FOSS tools that can do conversions, I have seen people use free versions of popular CAD tools as intermediate steps.

Usually the route is convoluted and the project gets somewhat mangled on the way, so it is rather questionable how useful it is. I think if you have a project that is worth maintaining, it is worth creating fresh in KiCad.

You can probably pay $50 or less to get someone to do a project conversion, that seems like a worthwhile timesaver.

The PADS ASCII format is documented, at least. I don’t know of a similar document for the PowerLogic schematic format.


How well does KiCad import PADS ASCII? (If at all?)

I’ve tried the Altium to KiCad importer and it worked ok for some simple stuff, but dropped the ball on the schematics. Our company is trying to decide whether to move to Atlium18(which they’ve written from scratch apparently and is pretty buggy from what we’ve seen so far) or make the jump to KiCad.

If the Eagle importer is finished, it would be great to see an officially supported Altium importer for KiCad next…

AFAIK it doesn’t yet, but just saying that it could be written since there is some documentation of the format.
For Altium, there is also not much public documentation of the file formats, just some reverse-engineering efforts. We could probably make use of that for KiCad, but it’s likely to be a big job and no conversion process will be 100% accurate. I generally advise people to not think too hard about converting old projects when migrating EDA tools, just use the old tools for the old projects and the new tools for the new projects if at all possible.


If the only thing keeping you from Kicad is an import method perhaps you could spend some of that license fee on getting a converter developed?


It’s not the only thing, but it is a significant barrier to the easy selling of the idea. Hiring developers is definitely part of the plan as the burgeoning python environment would help us automate a few steps saving more time/money and is preferable to the current mixed environment of internally developed tools interfacing with Altium. And the benefits would include open and extensible design and development tools that are future proofed. With the right tax advantages of cost of tools, deductions etc I think it would be mutually beneficial for more businesses to take up a tool like KiCad and donate a good proportion of cost savings to the project.

But it’s also hard to make the case when the cost to transition older designs over, retraining, lost time to transitions, etc is included. I’m the primary internal evangelist of moving to KiCad professionally, but I still understand a business case still needs to be made to my bosses and work. I don’t imagine I am the only one experiencing this. Businesses will be loathe to change tools/processes unless there is a clear benefit. I’m just looking at how to remove the barriers to the adoption of a possibly better tool.

Easy import of old designs through PADS etc is one way to do it. When v5 is released with the Eagle import tool completed for all practical purposes, you will see a huge influx of new users transitioning. Imagine what would happen if you got the Altium users too!

Eagle sent people looking for alternatives so that was a little different. Reading other forums it seems like Altium is some kind of status symbol for some users who are spending someone else’s money.

One selling point for you would be that if Altium doesn’t do something you need, you’re pretty much screwed. The counter point would of course be that there are already things Altium does that Kicad doesn’t and isn’t even on the current road map. You seem to know Kicad capabilities though so I’m guessing the counter point is pretty moot?

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Like the old adage “no one ever got fired for buying IBM”, I think it’s a case of “no one ever got fired for buying Altium”.

A lot of people complaining that KiCad doesn’t do what their $8000 tool does, and demanding support, probably. We can easily predict what those complaints will be.

I think most former Eagle users are going to commercial equivalents like DipTrace, I’m not sure that many people in the hardware area are willing to take the leap to FOSS tools yet. I guess we will see.


FWIW, I currently use Altium and have used various Mentor products in commercial settings, and KiCad is not yet up to the task of replacing them for the higher-end boards that I work on. Part of my motivation to start working on the KiCad codebase was to work towards changing that. I think achieving something like feature parity with Altium is an attainable goal, although it will take years of work to get there.


I did think about writing a PADS to KiCad converter, but I really need a free (as in beer) package that can generate PADS files that I can use for testing, since I don’t have access to commercial packages.


I’ve discovered that Mentor do offer a “free” PADS Maker Edition via Digikey. There is some registration required, also it’s a one year license. It appears this version can import Eagle files. https://www.digikey.co.uk/en/product-highlight/m/mentor-graphics/pads-maker

The hilarious thing is that the Getting Started guide fails to mention how to install libraries… so now I have to dig around trying to work that out. It seems that even professional tools are not “plug and play” when it comes to libraries. :slight_smile:


No, I think the opposite is true – in my experience, professional tools expect you to pay a contractor to come out and set up your library for you because it’s so NOT plug-and-play :slight_smile:


It turned out simpler than I thought, there is a parts window which has a handful of pre-installed parts. I managed to get a gerber output with a lot of of guesswork about the CAM options. The UI is at once slick (dockable windows, mini help videos appear when hovering over a button), frustrating (strange mouse interaction) and almost unusable due to tiny toolbar icons. In a quick test, I didn’t see any reason to prefer it over KiCad. The PartQuest feature looks interesting on the video, but I didn’t try it for real.

However, PADs Maker Edition doesn’t export to any other formats, and the native formats it does use appear to be binary. Of course, they want you to migrate TO Mentor tools, not FROM Mentor. :slight_smile:

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I used PADS extensively at a past job. It’s pretty awful as commercial tools go (in terms of capabilities for advanced PCB layout; the UI is fine I guess). All of the commercial tools make it very hard to migrate out, they all see it as a key competitive advantage.

The PADS Eval mode (no key found) is fully functional up to a small database size.
More than enough to test converters.

I would avoid PADS Maker, as that is a crippled version that lacks ASCII export. Files are closed binary.

That’s sound advice, which leads to…

What is more reasonable/practical, is to do NETLIST checking/porting.
That means you can create a NETLIST from (eg) Altium, and import into KiCad, and you can export from KiCad a netlist to verify the design.

These NET files are simple ASCII, and some part-name mapping tables help Lib-Lib. (someone made a great PDF library printing tool for KiCad )

That level may be enough, and I’d certainly suggest you run both CAD tools in parallel anyway, for some months.

Addit: also in the porting/cross-checking basket is this ability in KiCad’s GerbView
ie with some caveats, you can load a gerber file, from other tools, into PcbNew - enough to extract XY placement info, and confirm footprint-alignments etc,

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Hi, sorry for the delay. I went out for job.
My pcb is an expansion board for Raspberry Pi. It is not so complicated, it hasn’t got microcontrollers for example.
Am I wrong or there is someone that can port the project into kicad using gerbers or the .pcb PowerLogic project file?

Using Gerbers is possible, but has caveats,
I filed a defect report on Gerbview to Kicad decisions and flows some time ago here

  • so you can see some of the manual cleanups that will be required.

You could use Gerbers and a netlist (that needs manual LibraryP to LibraryK name mapping)

I haven’t tried, but this may help to convert gerber to a pcb

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