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  • EEVblog #254 – KiCAD PCB First Impressions

    Posted on March 6th, 2012 EEVblog 46 comments


    Part 1 HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRXEc7pB0o0
    An unedited hour long video of Dave playing around with the library editor and PCB modules in KiCAD for the first time.

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    • http://sites.google.com/site/funlw65/ funlw65

      Hi Dave,

      For the newcomers, I always recommend them to read the quick tutorial from inside KiCAD directories:

      doc/tutorials/en/

      where are two files, in LibreOffice format, and .pdf format. It is “vital” to read it, otherwise, KiCAD have no chance: the newcomer will give up in no seconds.

      The tutorial have 33 pages but is full of images and the font size is very big. Easy to read it.

      Anyway, a nice way to fully evaluate it, is to make a little project and to produce the board (to New Zealand?). I guess you will not have time for it.

      Vasi

      P.S. Now, I have to watch the entire movie

    • http://sites.google.com/site/funlw65/ funlw65

      About editing a pad, you must right-click on the pad then a “Selection Clarification” menu apears. Clic on “Pad…” option and then, on a second menu, the first option is in fact the Pad submenu, which is exactly what you want.

      In general, “right-click” is what you must use when you “lost orientation”.

      • Zach

        He was stuck in auto-place mode (blasted modes!). The effect of that button (just right of the layer box at the top) seems to just change menu options available on the right-click menu. Also, you can hide layers by unchecking the check box in the layer toolbar.

    • Brian

      I haven’t watched the whole video yet. But…

      The routing at the end…

      Glob and place lets you spread out the modules.

      Double clicking lets you end a trace not on a pin.

      • Jonathan

        Better than glob and place is the hotkey t. It opens a prompt window where you can quickly type the reference of a component. When you hit enter, it brings the component to the cursor and places it on your next mouse click.

        I sit with the schematic open in one window and the pcb editor in the other. That way i can clearly see all of my component references to type in. It makes placing components take very little time, and allows me to pull components by reference straight out of the netlist dump in the upper left hand corner.

        For anyone who wants to use this program, experimenting with the hot keys is invaluable.

    • http://www.knackes.com/ Pixel_K

      Cuivre is copper in French, Composant is Component in French. So I’m guessing your demo project was created by some frenchman.

      • Jonathan

        It should be noted that the layers can be named whatever you want, simply by double clicking the name and typing a new one.

    • http://sites.google.com/site/funlw65/ funlw65

      Under “Preferences/Dimensions” menu inside PCB editor (pcbnew), you will find “Pads Mask CLearance” option.

    • Ondre

      Hi there,
      maybe I’m just spoiled by using eagle for quite some years now, but the the zoom/panning function in KiCad just drives me crazy. I just can’t get used to the fact that KiCad automatically centers the screen at the mouse pointers location, but doesn’t actually move the mouse pointer to the center of the screen. Dave seems to get along with that pretty well. Or is it maybe just a problem with KiCad running inside VirtualBox on my Computer?

      • http://sites.google.com/site/funlw65/ funlw65

        Why do you need a Virtualbox? You use it on a Mac?

        • Ondre

          Yes, I do. And the native Mac Version has some issues with the display. Lot’s of ghosting and stuff.

          • http://sites.google.com/site/funlw65/ funlw65

            So, wxWidgets library still does not work properly. The last time when I tried KiCAD for Mac, was under OS X 10.4 … ended up using gEDA PCB under Fink and X11.

    • bfritz

      I really like your videos but… I find both the KiCad videos you have done to be absolute snoozefests. I just cannot sit through them. I tried, it was just too painful.

      What you are doing, just seems like the worst way possible to “learn” a Schematic Capture and PCB Layout package. Every package has a bit of a preferred work flow, and a need to know a little of their naming convention. I could understand if you had gone through that, and then came and did comments.

      I guess what bothers me, is this feels a little like my Mother and Father using some program (They are the computer age version of “No Child Left Behind), in other words they are computer illeterate), and complaining to me that they’ve never read the manual, and can’t make immediate sense of how to use the program. This just feels like a waste of my time to watch this. I know how other programs work, so why do I want to see you stumble through this one you have no knowledge of?

      So Dave, please no more of these… please start talking about things you know.

      • http://WA0UWH.blogspot.com Eldon Brown

        I disagree with “bfritz”, I like Dave’s approach as a he is a previous CAD user and first time KICAD user. It will only make the product better.

        So please, vote with your back button.

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        So let me get this straight.
        The video is titled and described as a first impression video, and then carefully explained up front to be just that, me just bumming around with the program for the first time, without having read the manual or watched tutorials.
        Yet you not only watch the whole thing, but you proceed to complain about it even though it was exactly as advertised?
        Did you expect it to be something different than I said it was?

        BTW, the first video got >99% thumbs up on Youtube rating, so obviously a lot of people liked it and thought it was worthwhile.
        So not only do I not care whether you liked it or not, 99% or so of people don’t agree with you.

        • bfritz

          Dave,

          Your reply seems more “hurt” than a rebuttal of my comments. My intention is not to hurt or anger you. I really like your videos. They are great for the most part. That is why I keep coming back!

          I just wanted to let you know my opinion. It is opinion, not fact. You and others are free to disagree.

          Regarding your comments…

          I did not watch the whole thing. As I said earlier, “I just cannot sit through them.” In other words, I did not fully watch them.

          As far as being “first impression videos”, it is possible to have a first impression after having done a little homework, and knowing what the terminogy and preferred work flow is. I think that having done that would have made watching more valuable. I started to watch as I wanted to get your impression of KiCad, as like you, I’ve used a great number of packages over my 25 years. I’m sure you will come to perform a valid analysis of KiCad in the end, but I just didn’t see the value in these videos.

          I find great value in the vast majority of what you do. If you don’t want to hear when we don’t care for something, I’m happy to abide. Just one comment that you don’t wish to hear criticism, and I’ll never post anything negative. Is that what you really want? Don’t you hold the companies to a higher standard than that? I thought you’d want to hear the feedback, and might get value.

          • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

            I was responding your your assertion that I should never do this type of video again, because you didn’t like it.
            Do you realise how selfish that sounds? Like every video must be valuable to you personally otherwise it’s not worthwhile doing at all!
            Can’t you appreciate that other people find value in them?
            I am very much aware that a more polished review video would have been better, but I’m producing quick content here for those who want it and might find it valuable, and it seems they did.
            Yes, I like feedback, whether or not you liked a particular video, that’s valuable, but just don’t try and tell me that I shouldn’t do something again because you didn’t like it.
            That is a sure-fire way to gets any content producers heckles up.

            As for your whine about a video “wasting your time”, then the obvious answer is don’t watch it.
            It was very clear up front what the video was going to be about, and you knew what to expect from it. But rather than just not watch it or just give it a thumbs down, or simple feedback of “sorry, I don’t like this style of video” or whatever, you complain about it wasting your time and that I should never do it again. Because, well, if I did, somehow that would waste more of your time??

            • bfritz

              I’m just going to respectfully agree to disagree. It was not what I expected. Take what you want from what I’ve said. In no way did I mean this as negatively as you are taking it. I find great value in your other videos.

            • TooMuch

              Wow, someone’s off his meds today. bf is giving feedback, which you say you like. His comments are relevant, relate to the tools you are showing, and account for your general style and by the way are about half positive. It is entirely possible that he could have been ever so much more careful not to raise your ire, but geeze, this is the net. Let it slide, listen to the message, and handle it like someone older than 13. I agree with him that diving into a CAD tool without cracking the docs is perhaps not the best way to make an evaluation of a tool that’s useful to the rest of us. You may not agree, but discuss the concept, don’t go off like a kid with anger management issues.

              • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

                I do listen to the message, but I will not let the extra comment like that slide. Telling a content producer to never do something again because it wasted their time, is quite frankly, rather insulting and selfish. Especially when a LOT of people liked those videos, and I enjoyed making them.
                If he simply said “Sorry, I didn’t like this style of video, here’s is a way I’d prefer you do it… etc, it would have been fine feedback. But no, he had to add the extra insult by telling me I wasted his time and I should never do it again.
                If you were a content producer, you’d understand this.

    • David

      Nice!

      I remember suggesting KiCAD to you when we met briefly at the Melbourne Electronics Expo thingy last year (while waving a fist at the Altium booth across the row…).

    • Jay Ts

      Dave, diving into an example project is a good way to explore many different aspects of the program, but I found an hour of it a little difficult to swallow.

      I am using Eagle here and I am really not happy with it. I am very open to learning about alternatives, so I hope you will do some more videos of KiCAD. Can you please: (a) start from scratch and work through the complete design of a very simple circuit, and (b) at least glance at the manual when you get confused. You can do that and still complain that the design is unintuitive or brain-damaged. :D

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Yes, that’s called a review or a tutorial, this video was of course neither!

      • Jorge Garcia

        @JayTs

        It’s always good to explore alternatives when you’re not happy with a current tool or process.

        However, if you need any help with an EAGLE issue, feel free to contact support. You can reach them by e-mail support@cadsoftusa.com or phone 954-237-0932.

        @Dave

        This is a very interesting perspective, and I think it gives a lot of exposure to the various PCB tools that are out there. That way users can make better decisions about what tool they’re going to use.

        Keep up the good work.

        Best Regards,

        Jorge Garcia
        Cadsoft Support

    • Oliver

      Dave, having you use KiCAD gave me a happy tingling feeling inside :)

      As pointed out, critisism is good and can only make KiCAD better.

      Having said that, I can’t wait for you to try and review gEDA ;D

      • http://sites.google.com/site/funlw65/ funlw65

        “I can’t wait for you to try and review gEDA”

        That would not be such a good thing. In my opinion, if KiCAD can take even more criticism, gEDA can not. PCB is good, even if it have a veird way in working with it, but integration with gschem (the schematic part) is even worse and need commands from the console.

    • Antonio

      Thank you. Very useful for someone trying to decide on a schematic/pcb program. Getting the first impressions from a professional is invaluable. I found quirks in all the sw I tried but was never sure if it was due to my ignorance or the actual program.
      I for one would love to see more of these.

    • Nightstar

      I thank EEVblog for doing the run through on this! ^_^

    • DC

      Nice one Dave. How about a few more on other packages ? Love to see one on Pulsonix. Personally I’m an AD10 user like yourself, but I’ve heard good things about Pulsonix.

      I tried it briefly a couple of years ago, and found the panning to be totally “wrong”. Where AD treats the mouse like a finger and lets you drag the page around, Pulsonix scrolled in the direction of your move, opposite of the expected physical representation expected.

    • Xener

      This style doesn’t work that well. I’ve never used KiCAD, but I just wanted to scream, “toggle that checkbox, it probably hides the layer!”, “double-click probably ends the trace!” etc.

      Also a few times, “get on with it!”

      You commented that people shouldn’t watch the ones they find boring. The thing is, I find it hard to skip your videos, because I expect them to be worthwhile. You have earned that, so I hope you don’t change such expectations by sacrificing quality for quantity…

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Quality is in the eye of the beholder. Most people found the video very worthwhile. It was not a tutorial or a review, and I made that very clear.

        • oliver

          I must say, they both where excellent reviews. I liked how like a total newbie, you explored the application. You clicked around, well like any of us would.

          I do agree with the above, that at times I wanted to just scream at my screen and go like ‘try clicking that thing!!’.

          Anyway, I hope the devs of KiCAD become aware of these issues and tackle them, or better yet, someone sees this as an oppertunity for sending in some patches, afterall it is opensource and the devs probably are busy enough as it is.

          • Ghydda

            “… at times I wanted to just scream at my screen and go like ‘try clicking that thing!!’”

            I like these type vids. Seeing Dave stumbling around, poking sticks at stuff not knowing what’s gonna happen next. Like seeing drunken midgets exploring the local playground.

            I also really like screaming at Dave doing so.

            I especially like the fact he is such a good sport about it – never once have he turned around and said I was out of line.

            But on the more serious note: If Dave ever did a truly balanced review, objectively weighing pros and cons before giving verdict, the show would end up being boring as batshit.

            And neither me, Dave, nor anybody else wants that.

    • David Briscoe

      Dave,
      I appreciate your video and say thank you for doing it. The more people who get to know KiCAD, the better. I hope you decide to use it for your open hardware designs.

      David.

    • Agent24

      Good to see you had a look at KiCAD! It’s my favourite EDA tool ;)

      As others have said, double-clicking is easier to end a track than hitting the End key, and if you want to edit something it’s easier to right-click on them and choose edit than press the E key. This is needed to edit pads.

      When laying a track it shows two things – the track itself and then an outline which represents your track clearance, so you know how close you can go to other items without violating DRC.

      And yes, it does show an error if you try to violate the online DRC – it appears in the bottom left of the status bar in red text.

      There’s a button on the left-side toolbar to show or hide the ratsnest, and as you might have seen, there is also a checkbox for it in the preferences window.

      You can auto-place modules after loading the netlist, but you must turn auto-place on first. That is done with the button just next to the autorouter button.

      Then, you right click in the layout somewhere, choose “Glob move and place” and you have all your different auto-placement options there.

    • Mike

      I remember doing a database a few years ago. During the prelim I made up a couple interfaces and had the girls in the office look for things without assistance, it was recorded on video. I really does help the programmer (me). I got the contract because of the simple interface. I hope the designers of these packages take notice. It will only make the product better.

      …mike

    • http://www.tezuernet.in Bikash Kumar Sahu

      Dear Sir,
      I would like to design a dc dc boost converter from 12 i/p to 16 V o/p. with o/p current more than 1A using MC34063A chip. Kindly help to me the procedure and the rating of the parameters

      Thank You
      Bikash

    • http://www.island.net/~kdbrown Keith Brown

      As a long-time Eagle user, I have played with KiCad only briefly, however a good tip is to use the GerbView part of the package as an entry, since Eagle does not come with such a feature, and, generally the free versions of the professional viewers are crippled. Since I had had that experience I was one of the probably many viewers trying to tell Dave through my screen to use the tick boxes under the Layer tab to hide/show layers!
      BTW does any experienced KiCad/GerView user know how to remove the default file names that it uses? Every time I import a layer I have to stick an ‘*’ in the file name box to show my files.

    • huh

      I appreciated the “first impressions” approach. Yep, maybe the video was a bit too long but for such a complex software what would one expect?
      Thing is, those first impression videos can be invaluable because they show the writers what users would expect here and what there. Also, it’s not that uncommon for online tutorials made by someone who know the product like their butt to lack some parts they take for granted.

    • John

      Yep, although it was a long video, I enjoyed getting a first hand look at someone else doing exactly what I do. If the software doesn’t do what might be reasonably assumed (from Windoze/Mac/Linux conventions) then I will abandon it.
      So, yep, thx for the video, Dave. Count me in the 99%.

    • http://elco.crsndoo.com/ arhi

      I loved the video, I think it’s one of the best videos about KiCAD ever made :D

      I tried to use KiCAD exactly like this for the first time, and I found the flow to be idiotic.

      Then I went trough more then 20 tutorials on-line and read all documentation that comes with KiCAD. Now I know how to use KiCAD, and I do use it from time to time (when I need board with more then 500pins as that’s what my PROTEUS licence is limited to), and even being fully aware of the flow I still find it idiotic and I find whoever designed the flow brain damaged.

      I don’t mind bugs, every tool has bugs, I go trough them… but KiCAD don’t have problem with bugs it has problem with whoever designed it never design a serious PCB in his life. This type of linear thinking made the tool almost unusable. The only reason one would chose KiCAD over some commercial tool is ’cause it’s free. If the only reason someone uses your app is ’cause it’s free, your app is a piece of crap ..

      In my life I used protel, pcad, orcad, tango, eagle, proteus, designspark, kicad, geda and altium. Apart from KiCAD and gEDA every other package was “usable” before a single line of documentation was read. A simple schematic, with custom element was created, transformed to pcb and routed. In every single one of those apart from KiCAD and gEDA … I’d say these type of first impression video’s show exactly where some serious flow flaws exist in app.. and KiCAD and gEDA are filled with them..

      @Dave, I hope you also try DesignSpark – same thing “first impression”…

      • Jonathan

        Arhi,
        It’s been a while since your post so i don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but it would be polite to not belittle a gift. The software is free, without advertisements, without limitations to get you to buy up to a higher version and it’s even open source. It’s a gift to the world from the people who put in the time to make it.

        I’m not an electrical engineer, i’ve only designed a few pcb’s so far and i’ve barely played around with professional packages (I spent a few hours on altium before deciding not to invest the learning time in something i will never be able to afford). I actually like the workflow in KiCAD, it makes sense to me.

        Even the initially annoying Cvpcb footprint associator has grown to my liking. I had a revision of my board where i changed from 1206 capacitors to 0603. I just opened the footprint associator, clicked the first capacitor in the list and kept double clicking the new 0603 (double click assigns the footprint and selects the next schematic component). Took me less than 30 seconds for 100 capacitors.

        I like initiating every change in the schematic and pushing it through the netlist to the pcb. There’s no fancy automatic changes; i have precise control over what is updated when. It also forces me to update my schematic so that it always matches my pcb.

        Dave figured out the basic functionality in an hour. That’s not bad for any CAD package. Sure there are things that could be better (like the use of the word module, which with the number of languages available it’s not surprising all of the names aren’t the best). I think the design team deserves a round of applause, not to be berrated by an angry user (who actually uses their free product despite insulting it harshly).

    • Chris

      Hmm… I saw this video mentioned on the KiCAD list and dropped by to investigate. However, after reading the rather emotional reaction of the video author to constructive criticisms made, I will not waste my time coming back here.

    • Youcef

      Hi mate
      thx for all your tutorials keep up the good work.
      the word cuivre is french and mean copper Cu
      again thanx for your help
      i have learned so much from your vedios and blog

      Youcef
      software Engineer

    • alwerner

      Hi Dave,

      First impressions matter…

      I have appreciated your recorded intuitive approach to new software and KiCad in peticular.

      THANKING YOU.

    • Dan

      Dave, Thanks for the video. Could you please do another one to take the schematic to the board level.
      Also, you have my permission to remove irrelevant comments by those who failed to understand your original, well stated, purpose.
      Reading time is precious.