Questions from a newbie

I am a “newbie” who normally used Eagle and am trying Kicad, but I’ve run into some confusion. Any help with the below items would be greatly appreciated.

  1. I normally create board outlines that are for the enclosures that I normally use. I can’t seem to store and retrieve the outlines (stored in kicad board files). what is the best way to do this?

  2. I find it very frustrating to get a trace (or edge cut, etc) to be recognized so the properties and be inspected or modified. Is there an easy way than to just keep stabbing at the line with my mouse clicks? My best solution, so far, has been to "capture the line " with a left moust click drag.

  3. I want to use the digikey-kicad-library but I have questions about how to impliement it. Is there a directory that holds all the global libraries where I can just import additional libraries?

  4. Any tips for storing my own sysmbol and footprint libraries

  5. I usually use a mix of components some of which fit the .1" grid and some that fit various metric grids. That means creating a trace to go from a .1" grid to a metric position and the procedure is frustrating and tedious. There must be some trick I don’t know about (maybe some kind of snap spec) that makes connecting something line a 4x603 chip to a .1" header. Any input?

  6. One of the most annoying points of the kicad system is the drawing sheet red outline. There must be some way to make the border and info fields “go away”.

  7. a prominent Origin bullseye or gunsight at x = 0.00 and y = 0.00 would be nice.

other than the above and some intermittent failures to tie drawn symbols in the schematic to the footprints in the board layouts everything is strange and awkward and will be until I learn the the kicad system and it’s tips and tricks. (yes i used all of the procudures and the 'show" tag).

Any enlightenment would be appreciated. I am going back to the manual now, thanks.

1). There are several ways.
You can have a partial project, which just has the PCB outline, and some connectors, and then use that project as a template.
Template projects can be cloned from in KiCad’s project manager. with:
KiCad / File / New / Project from Template

You can set the location of your custom templates with:
KiCad / Preferences / Configure Paths
and then modify the “KICAD_USER_TEMPLATE_DIR” environment variable.

Another way is to draw your PCB outline in a CAD program and import into Pcbnew.
I think both .dwg and .svg should work.

2). Dragging from left to right needs full encapture to select.
Dragging from right to left also selcts stuff that is partially in the rectangle.
When you zoom in a lot, on for example a corner of the PCB, the lines on Edge.Cuts get fat and can be easily selected by clicking on them, then you also have small rectangles to manipulate the ends.
Ends of lines on Edge.Cuts snap together, or often easier, use a coarse grid, such as for example whole mm.

3), 4). Read Rene’s FAQ articles about footprint management.

4). Be careful where you grab components. If you start moving from a component pad, then the center of the pad is placed on the grid. If you move the whole component, then the center of the component is placed on the grid.
Snapping to grid can be set with Pcbnew / Preferences / Preferences / Pcbnew / Magnetic Points

If you have multiple footprints selected you can also Right click and use the popup menu with “alignment” funtions.

6). You can change (remove stuff from) the page layout with the page layout editor:

7). At the moment KiCad’s coordinate system is a bit limited. (0,0) is in the left top corner of a PCB.
You can use the mouse cursor for measurement. When you hit the spacebar the “relative coordinates” are set to (0,0) and these change when you move the mouse over the screen. It’s “dx” and “dy” and “dist” in the bottom status area of Pcbnew.
There is a red markers for “axillary axis” (which I’ve never used myself) and
there is a grey marker for the grid origin.
Are these big enough for you?

These markers stay the same size on the monitor when you zoom in or out.

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  1. The Edge_Cuts layer is for the Board’s shape (preferred). Can use the two Eco_User layers for other items of the board such as holes… whatever

  2. Yeah, I hate that too. Zoom into an area of the line and you’ll be able to double-click it.

  3. Big subject with many posts on it

  4. Big subject with many posts on it

  5. A 0.1” grid = 2.54mm grid and there are a host others, including a User setting - image below.

  6. The color Red depends on your setting for the layer so, Red can be changed. Can turn off the layer display by checking the box next to layer name (if layer Manager view is turned on).

  7. Click the Auxiliary Axis Icon and place it where you want it.

I recommend playing with every button and menu item to get familiar and look at the tutorials… It won’t take very long to put the misery behind you - perhaps an hour…

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Good answers already.

a prominent Origin bullseye or gunsight at x = 0.00 and y = 0.00 would be nice.

That wouldn’t be very useful in version 5.1 because the origin is outside the “page”. But if you turn off the page visibility and don’t print the layout to paper, pdf etc., you can move the design outside the page.

For version 6.0 there’s coming customizable coordinate system, then you can set the Drill/Place File origin and use that as the zero point, and also set the positive/negative directions for axis. Until then you just have to live with the coordinate system which some people hate.

If you want:

, then one solution is to edit the whole page layout, remove the border, title bock, etc and draw something of whatever size you like on the page layout.

I’d think such a logical origin as reference would be more usefull than the current ( 0, 0) in the top left corner of the PCB sheet.

I’m not sure what happens when you make a pdf of such a PCB, or print it on paper.

I would prefer to delete everything. But if you do that then a default frame is shown. So I left a small cross at 0,0 and if my PCB is symmetrical from any reason I place it around 0,0 point.

I don’t know how with pdf. I use plot to SVG (and then I connect layers using incscape) to get files I can then easily insert into LibreOffice document.

Be aware of two different user interfaces. The Old one selected with F9 key and the New one selected by F11 or F12 key. Just use the New one. In KiCad 4 I had sometimes to get back to Old interface as with New I could’t do someting. In KiCad 5 I think everything can be done with New interface.

I use only my own libraries. I have them not in KiCad installation directory but in my working directory.
Footprint library is a directory and each footprint is a separate file so you can also manipulate them using any file management program. I am using this possibility when I need to copy a footprint from KiCad libraries to one of my libraries (I don’t have KiCad libraries listed in my library list so I can’t copy it in footprint editor). Except this situation I am using functionality of footprint editor. Right click at footprint in list at left of screen (I don’t know why but footprint have to be selected before right clicking it, if not selected then menu you get is such that I have never used it).
I have heard that the symbol libraries will be also organised that way but currently they are not (library is a file and not a directory). So here copying anything from KiCad library is more difficult. I have done it last time I think two years ago so don’t remember how to do it (probably you have to have the KiCad library included in your library list). Normally I start new symbol from copying one of my previous symbols (right click and ‘Save a copy as’).

I make a footprint with the desired outline and holes. Then I mark this footprint as lockded and place all the footprints of my circuit inside it.

I think writing the info like this you should explain how you do it. In ‘my’ KiCad’s footprint editor (5.1.6) I can’t add anything at Edge.Cuts layer.

Thanks to paulvdh, BlackCoffee, eelik, pedro and Piotr to your responses.

I’ll be checking out all of your inputs. Still not sure about deleting eschema sheet borders and blocks… I was never able to find where to do that. Is it just a “layer” that can be hidden or do you “preference” it not to appear.
Thanks again guys.
also, just discovered on YouTube the free KiPart package from xesscorp on how to short cut making symbols for the library. Is there a package like that for creating footprints?

If I understand you well…
In schematic: File - Page Settings… - Page layout description file.
You can edit your .kicad_wks by Page layout editor (last icon in main KiCad window).

OK, namesake.

I draw the outline on a technical layer, let’s say Eco1.User.

Then with a text editor I open the footprint file .kicad_mod and substitute Eco1.User by Edge.Cuts on every segment of the outline.

If the outline is not very difficult, I mean with no curves and a few sides, it can be left on the Eco1.User layer in order to use it as a template. The Edge.Cuts segments can be redrawn upon the Eco1.User on the layout editor.

I have a few different Board sizes/shapes I most often use - this is what I do:

#1) If starting a new project, I use a Custom Template that has the Board shape on the Edge_Cuts layer.

#2) If adding another Board to an existing opened project, I copy and existing shape from another Board or, open the Template file and copy. Then paste it.

Thus, I recommend creating some Templates - image below shows of mine in the User Template panel and one opened with the pre-completed board and other info on layers…
A shortcut approach (similar to #2) is simply to have a dummy project and copy the Board to a new/other project

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Some time ago (about 2 year I think) I tried to find how to save my project as template and failed. I didn’t checked it now.
Where is the ‘Save as template’ menu?

I don’t think this exists.

As I posted before, there is:

And also:
** KiCad / Preferences / Configure Paths**

which has the environmnet variable:

When I look at the templates included with KiCad, then they look like normal KiCad projects, but have an extra sub directory called meta and in that directory is a “info.html”, an “icon.png” and another .png file, which is referenced from the html.

As a quick test I set the variable above to the normal root of all my KiCad projects, and then it starts complaining about the missing meta directories, and “icon.png” files, when trying to open a “user template”. (Tab next to “System Templates”).

So how can you create a template?
I have seen few times at forum information that you can prepare some initial project (like the pcb with size and openings for specific case) and make it being your template to be later used for initiating a new project. But I don’t remember ever (I am reading the forum more than 2 years) seeing the information how you can save such partially prepared project as template.

I posted this in answer to the questions…