With KiCad you can design the PCB that YOU want!
Welcome to a collection of information and tutorials created to help you quickly become a fluent KiCad user.
(Site navigation tip: As you explore the web, remember that on many systems, e.g. with Firefox under XP, clicking with your mouse's wheel will open a link in a new tab or page. (You may also want to change a setting in your browser, so it jumps directly to any newly opened tab.)
Why I like KiCad…
Free and multi-platform. Open source.
The KiCad tools give you lots of tools for rigorous testing that the PCB design and the schematic exactly correspond.
Good community support… and not new, not a passing fad. (I first wrote that in 2011… and it has Just Got Better.)
An interesting comparative review for KiCad and Eagle is available at "BigMessOWires" (Great site name, don't you think?!)
The tutorials and "encyclopedia" are 95% of the reason for this site.
You can install the program, and have a little "play" with it on it's own, but would you expect much success if you were allowed to try operating a big power plant without any training? KiCad is a bit complex to reward uninformed "poke and hope". Not too complex to use happily with just a little study. And complex enough to be a good tool for you for years to come, for the time when you are designing circuits you couldn't manage today.
However, if you are deteremined to have a go, at least read one more paragraph:
If you just want a quick "play" with KiCad, start by doing a schematic with eSchema. One with a resistor, a diode, and a "wire" connecting one pin of the resistor to one pin of the diode. Then use CvPcb. Generate a netlist. Invoke PcbNew. Read the netlist. Layout the artwork, draw in the tracks.
Don't dismiss KiCad as "rubbish" if you don't succeed in this tiny project without help.
For the other tutorials at this site, see the tutorials menu page.
If you want a taste of KiCad by watching someone using it, I can recommend the videos by Patrick Sébastien (The link takes you to his blog; the video clips are standard YouTube, so should run on most readers' systems.)
My "Encyclopedia of KiCad"
In the course of doing these tutorials, I have become aware of certain terms which are key to your happy use of KiCad. In particular, watch out for the careful… and restricted… use of "component". (That is gradually being replaced by the less confusable "schematic symbol".) I have created the following pages which are just quick definitions of things, clarifying… I hope… how the terms are used in KiCad. There is a comprehensive list of those "definition" pages, and…
Here are links to a few key terms from the "Encyclopedia"…
- Component... How that term is used in KiCad
- Footprint (or "module") Very Important
- Libraries (two sorts… .mod and .lib files)
- Schematic Symbol Very Important
There's a less well organized body of knowledge at http://www.arunet.co.uk/tkboyd/ele2pcbk.htm
(Among other things, there is some information about "setting up" on that page, information you won't find here… but it is dated, coming from 2011)
Answers to FAQsA collection of "little bites" of KiCad help, in question and answer form.
(This section is a Work In Progress. I intend that the section will become mostly links to pages about buttons, rather than mostly just section headings!)
Brief notes on selected buttons…
Buttons present in both eeSchema and PCBnew
Also planned for http://KiCadHowTo.org…
Further essays on the details of schematic and PCB creation.
What you won't find here, for a while… but KiCad can do…
- Creating Gerber Files. (You won't need them if you use OSHPark, or another of the PCB fab houses which happily accept .kicad_pcb files.)
- Creating 3D visualizations of what the PCB, with devices, will look like, for example, for which I thank GeekWhiteNorth…
I know this will be heresy to True Geeks. And I know what the "official" documentation can be like for open source software, but in the case of KiCad, don't be too proud to RTFM.
The main project manager window, eeSchema, and PcbNew (at least, maybe other modules as well) each come with their own excellent manuals. You have but to click on the "Help" item in the menu bar and click on "Manual" in the sub-menu. I particularly like them for the "blow by blow", "what every tick box does" discussions of, it would seem, every toolbar and dialog! And they are nice, sensible .PDFs, already installed on your hard disk, if you used the default install.
They have both "reference" and "tutorial" material.
KiCad will create a PCB design for you. You can print it out, as ink on paper. Here's a guide I did for hobbyists who want to turn that into copper on fiberglass, without the equipment and expense of doing it photographically. Works fine for small boards. There are also notes there on paying someone else to make your basic board for you from the Gerber files KiCad can create… or just use a service that accepts the .kicad_pcb file.
Notes on adding libraries, including links to free Arduino schematic symbols and footprints.
My thanks to forum.kicad.info for pointing me to a link that will open a one page .pdf with a summary for beginners of the whole "make a design" process. It isn't only novices who will benefit. Intermediate- level users are invited to fetch a copy, see if they can learn from it the easy way to do things they are currently doing… but doing a hard way.