The secret to installing external plugins KiCAD 5.1.6 (Win10)

I’m a newcomer to KiCAD, working on my first two PCBs and ready to being the Pcbnew process. I’ve not yet had the need to install an external plugin, until now.

None, repeat NONE of the forum discussions on this topic or web searches have resulted in any real help or insight to the secret for installing an external KiCAD plugin and have it appear after performing a Refresh Plugins in Pcbnew. Is this because there are so many versions of KiCAD and platforms to run it on?

One plugin mentioned recently interested me (SchematicToPositionsLayout). I download it from github and extracted the zip, created the “/scripting/plugins” folder under %appdata%/Roaming/kicad directory and copied the schematicToPositions extracted contents to it. No joy.

One youtube vid showed the unzipping plugin result from github to be a folder bearing the name of the external plugin function. The folder was copied to the %appdata% kicad plugin location, refresh plugin and there it showed in pcbnew.

Does an environment path variable have to be declaired under Preferences > Configure Paths?

What is the secret for this and 6.x versions?

Many thanks.

I suggest this post of mine, expand the “Show more” to see more text which includes a Link about Plugins.

The vid shows making a simple plugin - that will be a starting point (that avoids plugin problems caused by other’s plugins. In other-words, if you follow the steps for making the plugin and setup the correct File-Paths, all should be ok).

Note: Best to Quit Kicad (ratther than Refresh) then Restart Kicad…

Manual installation is also documented here: Installation · openscopeproject/InteractiveHtmlBom Wiki · GitHub

Keep in mind that the folder that you copy into plugin directory has to contain file. If there are more intermediate folders then get rid of them.

Also update to kicad v6, it has a menu item in tools to open the correct plugin directory. Many other significant improvements too, not related to plugins.

Many thanks for your quick reply and manual installation link (which I have already ready similar instructions from other sources).

The folder I was adding indeed contained the file.

So maybe the issue was due to my using the 5.1.6.

Thank you BlackCoffee for your response.

At this time, I have no interest in creating external plugins, or knowing how they are coded in Python. I only want to take plugins made by others, install and try to use them, but I will take a look at the video to make sure I’m not missing anything.

Also, whether "Quit"ting KiCAD and restarting or doing a Refresh made no difference. The plugin never appeared in the selection list.

Worth Knowing:
• Plugins, no matter how well the Path/link…etc is defined, if something as minor as a Typo, space, tab in important Code line, then the Plugin will NOT get registered (you will not see it in the list). Even if it worked before, it will not work until fixed. That’s why I recommend spending the 15 minutes typing in code from the Vid. It worked in prior versions (5.x.x)

I use a Mac so, can’t help with Windows…

Can you link the plugin? It has to be compatible with your kicad version.

Another thing you can do is open the scripting console and type in this to get some debug information:

import pcbnew

I get your point, thanks.

I’ll compare your vid code to the .py script file of the plugin I’m having issues with.


If you don’t have a Python/other IDE, just use a Text Editor. Be SURE to:
• use UTF-8 font
• use Spaces (not Tabs, both do work but ‘working’ depends… Best to use Spaces (generally, 4-spaces per Indent). Python is Verrrrrrrrry picky!


Here is the plugin I was trying to install into 5.1.6. I did the 6.07 install and tried using the plugin/content mgr > install from file and an error popped up stating ERROR “Archive does not contain a valid metadata.json file”.

Here is the plugin zip file in question. (9.4 KB)

Now that I’ve installed 6.07 I see that my symbol and schematic libraries that I’ve added to 5.1.6 have to be added to 6.07. What fun.

Plugin manager from v6 will not install any random zip file, it will only install kicad packages, which are special kind of zip file.

Looking at the code of the plugin it seems to support both v5 and v6 but it uses some 3rd party libs that likely are not installed in kicad by default.

Get the debug info that I mentioned above, you will likely have to run some pip install commands.

Thanks so much for these v6 insights.

I’ve got my other symbol and footprint libraries added (much easier to do in V6). I’m glad I upgraded.

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Also, since you updated to v6, there is easier way to get the debug info, go to pcbnew preferences, action plugins and click the yellow warning sign button below the table. Copy paste full text here.

Thanks qu1ck, I tried that, but for this failed plugin attempt there is no yellow warning sign button when viewing Actions Plugins.

That means you didn’t copy it into the right folder. On the same preferences page there is a button that opens the correct directory, copy your plugin there.

Soooo, the plugins folder location was changed in 6.0x. When I put the zip file in the 6.0 plugin folder under kicad\6.0\plugins it installed using the plugin manager, no errors.

I preferred having my “local” kicad folder on an external USB drive rather than on the C: Windows partition. Is that still an option by changing the Configure Paths and copying everything Kicad on C: to my USB drive?

You can’t change plugin folder location with configurable paths. There are still multiple paths where kicad looks for plugins. To view full list open scripting console and type in

import pcbnew

Pick the one that works best for you, ideally one that is writeable without admin privileges.

I appreciate it, thanks.

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