Suggestions for making wiring diagrams vs pcb schematics in Linux?

New user on this forum, but a long term KiCAD user… I am a paraplegic who does a lot of hacking on power chairs and other adaptive equipment.

I seriously love KiCAD for making pcb schematics and boards, but I also find that I often want to create electrical drawings on a larger scale for an entire device - in my case the current project is a power-chair that I’m rebuilding.

When drawing the overall wiring diagram for a power-chair, the electronic modules are essentially “black-boxes” that have wires going to and from them.

I have tried drawing wiring diagrams with eeschema, but it is far from ideal for this use. Aside from the minor pain of needing to create symbols for all the parts, the fact that all the wires are the same size and color makes it hard to follow a single wire, or do color coding in a harness, etc.

I would love to find a program that works like eeschema, but is more suited for drawing wires and cables between parts, instead of PCB traces. However I haven’t found anything that seems to work for me.

I’m a Linux user, so it needs to run under Linux, and my biggest desires are the ability to assign colors to wires so that I can do diagrams that match the wiring color codes. Ideally it would be nice to also have an easy way to indicate the wire gage (fat lines vs skinny?)

I have found - and disliked…

XCircuit - interface is horrible!
Fritzing - seems limited to things that fit on breadboards…
Dia - great for org charts, not so great for wiring…
Electric - looked promising but have had no luck making it work…

Anyone have suggestions for a good KiCad like tool for drawing wiring diagrams?


I also would like to see KiCad become better at this. Currently when specifying harnesses etc I use a mix of KiCad and Inkscape (which is far from ideally suited for this task).

I have recently been considering what it would take to make KiCad better at drawing things like wiring designs.

  • Ability to specify size and color of wires in eeschema
  • Better annotation / callouts
  • Attach callouts to certain objects so that they move together
  • Improve free-form drawing tools

All of this is a lot of work and would have to wait until the eeschema refactor which will mean a great improvement in drawing tools, etc.

So until KiCad becomes a “best open source wiring drawing tool” I also would like to know what other tools are out there.

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For simple stuff (not engineering quality), I use LibreOffice Draw. The ability to add custom snap points is really useful. Otherwise, I use Fritzing, it’s not just for breadboards.

Have you tried FidoCadJ?

Thanks for the suggestions so far - FidoCadJ looks interesting in potential - though at first glance it seemed like a light weight version of eeschema… However it looks like if one changes the layers to assign a different color to each one, plus layer for parts, etc. it might do the job.

Downside is that I can’t seem to get it to work properly, it is very slow, and the mouse clicks don’t seem to do the expected. Not sure why, the FAQ suggests that it might be a problem with the Java version, but FidoCad says it wants at least JRE 6, and I have Open JDK JRE 8 installed, which is supposed to be backwards compatible… As is, FidoCad doesn’t seem reasonable.

SchrodingersGat had a really good feature wish list, I certainly second it… It certainly would be nice to only need one tool for doing electrical AND electronic drawing.


Another advantage of integrating with KiCad is that you could do netlist checking against your cable assemblies :slight_smile:

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+1 from me. Been using LibreOffice/OpenOffice for that task for more than a decade. The feature of adding custom snap points is really handy for that. Once you have them and the wires in place, they move with the component if you rearrange things on the sheet.

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Hi, I know it has been years from the last comment, but I wanted to add WireViz to the list.

Also, it lacks the “PCB” or graphical part, which most commercial software adds in 3D CADs (like FreeCAD), but I couldn’t find a tool for that yet. If anyone has a favourite tool for wiring/harness design, please give me a reply :slight_smile:

And the capabilities of KiCad have increased in the intervening time.

From @SchroedersKater’s original wish list:

Number 1 is doable either at the individual line level or at the netlist level. Actually, the current bus architecture can be useful for multi-wire cables.
There is also progress in number 4, but external program integration (import dxf or svg) is probably still the better option.
Numbers 2 and 3 probably would have some work, but since KiCad is primarily for circuit diagrams not wiring diagrams, I don’t know how if any effort beyond labels getting “stuck” to wires to they move when the wire segment they are attached to is moved or dragged around.

This is an example of why raising dead threads to life again isn’t always the best idea.

For open source program, there is QElectroTech. QElectroTech is a free software to create electric diagrams.

For commercial program, there is EPLAN. EPLAN provides software and service solutions in the fields of electrical, automation and mechatronic engineering.

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May not be exactly what was asked for,
I haven’t used it, just stumbled across it while searching for zenmap.