from the new-and-improved dept.
[...] If you've been using the old "stable" version of KiCad (from May 2013!), you've got a lot of catching-up to do.
The official part footprint libraries changed their format sometime in 2014, and are all now hosted on GitHub in separate ".pretty" folders for modularity and ease of updating. Unfortunately, this means that you'll need to be a little careful with your projects until you've switched all the parts over. The blow is softened by a "component rescue helper" but you're still going to need to be careful if you're still using old schematics with the new version.
The most interesting change, from a basic PCB-layout perspective, is the push-and-shove router. We're looking for a new demo video online, but this one from earlier this year will have to do for now. We've been using various "unstable" builds of KiCad for the last two years just because of this feature, so it's awesome to see it out in an actual release. The push-and-shove router still has some quirks and doesn't have all the functionality of the original routers, though, so we often find ourselves switching back and forth. But when you need the push-and-shove feature, it's awesome.
If you're doing a board where timing is critical, KiCad 4.0 has a bunch of differential trace and trace-length tuning options that are something far beyond the last release. The 3D board rendering has also greatly improved.
Indeed, there are so many improvements that have been made over the last two and a half years, that everybody we know has been using the nightly development builds of KiCad instead of the old stable version. If you've been doing the same, version 4.0 may not have all that much new for you. But if you're new to KiCad, now's a great time to jump in.
KiCAD is a GPL'd Electronics Design Automation (EDA) suite with schematic capture and printed circuit board layout abilities. Its capabilities continue to expand.
[...] five years ago, if you wanted to design a printed circuit board, your best option was [Cadsoft's Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor (EAGLE)]. [These days], EAGLE is an Autodesk property, the licensing model has changed, [...] and the Open Source EDA suite KiCAD is getting better and better. New developers are contributing to the project and, by some measures, KiCAD is now the most popular tool to develop Open [Design] hardware.
At FOSDEM last week, Wayne Stambaugh, project lead of KiCAD laid out what features are due in the upcoming release of version 5 [Video]. KiCAD just keeps improving, and these new features are really killer features that will make everyone [who is] annoyed with EAGLE's new licensing very happy.
Although recent versions of KiCAD have made improvements to the way part and footprint libraries are handled, the big upcoming change is that footprint libraries will be installed locally. The Github plugin for library management--a good idea in theory--is no longer the default.
SPICE [Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis] is also coming to KiCAD. The best demo of the upcoming SPICE integration is this relatively old video demonstrating how KiCAD turns a schematic into graphs of voltage and current.
The biggest news, however, is the new ability to import EAGLE projects. Wayne demoed this live on stage, importing an EAGLE board and schematic of an Arduino Mega and turning it into a KiCAD board and schematic in a matter of seconds. It's not -quite- perfect yet, but it's close and very, very good.
There are, of course, other fancy features that make designing schematics and PCBs easier. Eeschema is getting a better configuration dialog, improved bus and wire dragging, and improved junction handling. Pcbnew is getting rounded rectangle and complex pad shape support, direct export to STEP files, and you'll soon be able to update the board from the schematic without updating the netlist file. Read that last feature again, slowly. It's the best news we've ever heard.
The author is tolerant of subtractive changes to proprietary licenses; other hardware hackers/tool users, in the comments there, not so much.
Previous: A Tool to Export EAGLE Projects for Use With FOSS ECADs
Cadsoft EAGLE is Now Subscription-Only
Scripts Make the (Proprietary) Cadsoft EAGLE-to-(FOSS) KiCAD Transition Easier
FOSS Printed Circuit Software KiCAD 4.0 Released
CERN is Getting Serious About Development of the KiCAD App for Designing Printed Circuits
The computer-aided design software packages (ECADs) available to electronics folks for creating schematics and printed circuit board layouts have long been an aggravation when trying to share data with someone who uses a package produced by a different vendor--due to proprietary file formats that are (apparently, purposely) incompatible.
Many years ago, Cadsoft's EAGLE was available as a demo that would do very limited PCB creation but which had unlimited ability to view/print already-created files. It was also cross-platform. For a short time, EAGLE-compatible files became a quasi-standard for amateurs and pros on a budget.
In 2006, however, Cadsoft got greedy and DRM'd their stuff so that it would lock you out of your work product under certain circumstances, as described by Markus Zingg on October 24. Cadsoft quickly lost what little luster it had in the community. CERN engineers are hoping to produce a package that will do the same job - but better.
More down the page...