V6 application usage ergonomics

With advent of V6 there has been some changes to how the program works. I feel that the changes have not been entirely polished. Yes the focus on selection based actions is a step in the right direction. But the old system while weird, was at least sufficiently self consistent and different that people could accept it separately from normal conventions. Now the UI is close enough to mainstream applications but not enough.

At least my students who are a mix of engineering and art students. seem to now have a harder time to get into KiCad than before.

  • Suggestion 1: Make add symbols, and add power port an action not a tool.

    One of the observations that i have is that it does not make sense that the add symbols, and add power port is a tool. Since you have made selection higher priority it would be better if these tools made into actions that don’t take the focus away from selection tool when used. This may need to necessitate rethinking of the toolbars, but going for a tool action separation for a lot of things in KiCad might be a good thing.

  • Suggestion 2: Make objects click drag movable. Now they are click, click drag movable.

    Second is that most new users want to be able to click drag objects directly instead of click then click and drag that happens now. Personally im a bit ambivalent to this change, but certainly this is the way most programs work like.

When you are placing components, you may place dozens of them in one go, i.e. a whole set of resistors. You are saying to now make that a clickfest…

Also you are saying that needs to be an action and a tool, there is probably no reason why a new tool cannot keep the selection active from the tool under it :wink:

This is 100% personal preference. I believe in fact it’s also a broken setting we have. I think it’s supposed to behave the way you describe if you check the “Mouse drag starts a move operation” checkbox under editing options in preferences. It appears to not work at the moment hmm.
It does have a direct conflict with the “start wires on unconnect pins” function last I remember.

6.0.1 is click move/drag not click click move/drag.

A confusing comment.
Adding symbols and power ports ranks equally with everything else placed on a schematic. ie. junctions, texts, buses, images.
These are all “place” items.

“Tools” are processes to the schematic.

@joojaa Please clarify your argument.

Hold the mouse button down for half a second. The item below it is selected and can be dragged. Starting dragging immediately activates box selection.

I don’t like the tool, either. It’s even possible to add a symbol, press M to move it, place it somewhere, then… the Add tool is still active. It’s even more confusing.

This depends on the workflow: whether you have an idea about the needed components and want to add them all first, or you want to add one at a time, move it, edit the properties, add another component, draw wires, add another…

EDIT: the workflow may depend also on the library setup. If you have fully atomic libraries, it’s more probable that you can add many components without editing them. But with generic symbols you would want to edit each placed symbol immediately.

I had never equated the two! :astonished: Drawing a box and highlighting a symbol to move are almost mutually exclusive events for me. :slightly_smiling_face:

Left click and hold 'till symbol incurs a blue outline then move is still click drag, not click click drag as @joojaa suggests.

6.0.1 is click move/drag not click click move/drag.

oh ok.

Adding symbols and power ports ranks equally with everything else placed on a schematic

  • A tool is a something that you trigger and its stays active.
  • A action is something that does something. And goes away.

Now the tools work incosistently: Some tools launch a window on click some do not.

Making symbols, and add power port an action does not detract form their value or use much. Instead they would consistently work by adding a component onto your scene and activating a place same way a drag would.

Having a user learn and subsequently hit “A” or “P” on keyboard is a better thing than the benefit of clicking then pressing esc to go back to move mode wich drag implements. In fact ist much better since it keeps focus on keyboard wich you need when adding items anyway.

Now this is far form the only consistently problem. Add hierarchical sheet asked you to draw then type and labels work the way adding symbols or ports work. These tools should work preferably same way. These could also be actions.

There is a second benefit of making many of the tools actions. When you script something it is likely going to be an action. so by moving window launch to actions makes scripts work not unlike other things.

I don’t think you mean I should first add a symbol and only afterwards choose which symbol it is? :open_mouth:

I like how the hierachical sheet adding works. In the PCB editor, on the other hand, I have to define zone properties first before drawing it, and I don’t like that. It’s inconsistent with schematic sheet drawing.

Holding down for a long time is again a bit mysterious user interface convention but not necceserily unheard of. Thats fair does not seem to work on my version but as i said need to wait a bit before i can ask for a new verison.

But if you think about a new user it might probably be better if it worked the other way around. Or if there was a modifer key for forcing selection.

NOTE: I am not disputing here that it does not work im just saying the usage ergonomics of the software are a bit on the side. Which is admittedly typical for open source. Because better feeling is not a feature you can easily implement. Instead it needs user testing to verify so its not an a oppinion.

I am willing to do user testing, i have a university full of students i can use my time on.

I don’t think you mean I should first add a symbol and only afterwards choose which symbol it is?

No that i am not. I am just saying it should after that window and place revert to selection mode (or never exit it)

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Thankyou for the clarification.

I see your point.
I can’t really comment as I adapted very quickly to that tool. Whenever I place symbols, my left hand automatically hovers over the Esc. key.

I can’t really comment as I adapted very quickly to that tool.

Yes me too. But there are different kinds of people some who can analytically introspect what they are doing and what happens. Usually these people have a lot of experience with very weird conventions.

But some do not have this kind of ability. They just feel that its off and move on with their life. Things like this makes it hard to advocate for software’s ease of use. Since its not likely that you or I would care one way or another its probably best to do what most assume as long as there’s no super deep motivation the other way.

KiCad is very good at taking care of ergonomics, although it’s not perfect of course. Usability is taken very seriously by all developers. Jeff, an active developer, has worked long time for Adobe, which is not an insignificant commendation, and has done quite much for the KiCad UI.

There’s so much functionality that it’s very difficult to make decisions about how each thing should be initiated. For example, there’s not only this selecting one item vs. box selection. There’s also choosing which item to select if there are several overlapping. Long press does that, too.

And whatever style you choose, it’s good for some, bad for some users. Hotkeys are invisible and the downside is that you have to know them beforehand. A newcomer vs. long time user… and even for newcomers there are different backgrounds, somebody is new to EDA world but has used MCAD, somebody has used several commercial EDAs, somebody something else.

Believe me, these things have been thought out many times, and still there’s no one optimal solution. You can give well reasoned suggestions, or even just opinions, but from experience I know it’s very difficult to consider every possible consequence if you want to change something.

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Jeff, an active developer, has worked long time for Adobe

Yeah i can see the gui getting better. Its not there yet. I was more trying to figure out if i missed something obvious before I start even thinking of a making a usage study.

Believe me, these things have been thought out many times, and still there’s no one optimal solution.

No offcourse not optimal. But this can actually be scientifically tested as to which alternate idea is better.


This is why I have backed right off. I would be absolute rubbish at testing ergonomics: I just use what is there.


After completing three of four designs in the last two days. My view is I wish the place tool just keep placing the same component until you hit A again

The other long term thing is to add more “ affect everything “ modifiers. Even as menu items. For example in Inkscape a group select properties brings up the common properties etc. This is great when you realise you need to mod a lot of components at once.


There is a checkbox for this in the Choose Symbol dialog.

A property editor or “object inspector” is under work. Some item type specific dialogs have been added because there haven’t been a universal property editor. WIP: Object Inspector (!143) · Merge requests · KiCad / KiCad Source Code / kicad · GitLab


There also could be a placement conveyor feature where you can select many things to place in one go.

You will probably want to upvote this issue in bug tracker: eeschema: Add symbol -> Hitting ESC should bring back "Add symbol" window (#7698) · Issues · KiCad / KiCad Source Code / kicad · GitLab

I usually just hover and m for move or g for drag.

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