Electronics > KiCad

Best practices for libraries for KiCad 8

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I'm getting back into circuit design after a couple of years away from it and decided to start fresh with KiCad 8 today.  It works fine, but I'm a little unsure what today's best practices are for component libraries beyond what is already included.

- The downloadable libraries from Digi-Key date from KiCad 5.  They work but are no longer supported and not all that comprehensive.

- Mouser gives us a symbol downloader utility that doesn't seem to interoperate with KiCad 8 (it complains that KiCad isn't installed).

- Even from manufacturers, I get what I would describe as poor quality schematic symbols.  Or is it a thing nowadays to depict op-amps as blocks rather than triangles?

- Should I be using contributed libraries from Github?

- What else do I need to know?  Right now I'm using KiCad for schematic capture -- have not progressed to making PCBs.

Why don't you just use the built-in libraries to start with? Weren't they installed?

They were.  They don't have everything.  My question is how to get more (especially semiconductors).

Depends on what semiconductors. I'd been using generic transistor symbols and changing the value to the model number before I discovered there are symbols for specific models (probably because I used jellybean transistors out of a bottle). Those specific symbols may get you a datasheet link and some other stuff I don't fuss about.

If ICs then it's good to get a specific symbol but many of those available for download are of poor quality and need checking, that you'd be better off making your own.

For me, KiCad's own libraries are always the first place to check. I very much appreciate their quality and coherent style. I had a very short peek at the Digikey library when it was new, but I saw a lot of duplicates and poorly drawn schematic symbols.

Websites like Samacsys and PCBlibraries have huge libraries (over a million of parts) and there are at least around 10 similar sites to that. I have never done much with those sites, partly because I simply prefer to make my own symbols and footprints, partly because I do not make many PCB's. Such sites can be a time saver. I also prefer the way of just getting the parts you are interested in from such sites, instead of downloading a huge database which mostly just takes up disk space and is all too easy to get lost in.

I quite like the way the symbol and footprint editors work in KiCad. Library management itself is not very comprehensive nor intuitive, but once you know how to create libraries and move parts between them, it's usable. If you've created a part (symbol / footprint) yourself you can also contribute it to KiCad (although KiCad's own librarians are few and have a huge backlog). I'm not sure about copyrights for parts created from sites like Samacsys and PCBlibaries.

KiCad is also able to work with libraries from Eagle, Altium, Cadstar, EasyEDA. I have imported some projects form both Eagle and Altium into KiCad, but only as short tests, and this works quite good (and it's easy to create a library from parts used in any KiCad project with a handful of mouse clicks.) Apparently it's also possible these days to directly add libraries from those programs to KiCad and just use them without applying a conversion first. I have not verified this myself though. (Sometimes it's hard to keep up with the speed new features are added to KiCad).

And of course you should check & verify any symbol and footprint used in your project, no matter what the source is. You are the only one responsible for your project.


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