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posted by takyon on Wednesday January 13 2016, @07:50AM   Printer-friendly
from the making-foss-tools-even-easier-to-use dept.

Hackaday reports:

One barrier for those wanting to switch over from EAGLE [software for producing printed circuit boards] to KiCAD has been the lack of a way to convert existing projects from one [file format] to the other. An Eagle to KiCad ULP [User Language Program] exists, but it only converts the schematic--albeit with errors and hence not too helpful. And, for quite some time, KiCad has been able to open Eagle .brd layout files. But without a netlist to read and check for errors, that's not too useful either.

[Lachlan] has written a comprehensive set of Eagle to KiCad ULP scripts to convert schematics, symbols, and footprints. Board conversion is still done using KiCad's built in converter, since it works quite well.

Overall, the process works pretty well, and we were able to successfully convert two projects from Eagle. The entire process took only about 10 to 15 minutes of clean up after running the scripts.

The five scripts and one include file run sequentially once the first one is run. [Lachlan]'s scripts will convert Eagle multi-sheet .sch to KiCad multi-sheets, place global and local net labels for multi sheets, convert multi part symbols, build KiCad footprint modules and symbol libraries from Eagle libraries, create a project directory to store all the converted files, and perform basic error checking.

The Eagle 6.xx PCB files can be directly imported to KiCad. The scripts also convert [Vias] to Pads, which helps with KiCad's flood fill when [Vias] have no connections. This part requires some manual intervention and post processing. There are detailed instructions on [Lachlan]'s GitHub repository and he also walks through the process in the video.

Previous KiCAD-related stories

Original Submission

Related Stories

Cadsoft EAGLE is Now Subscription-Only 34 comments

EAGLE, The Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor is an ECAD (electronic computer-aided design), proprietary software for creating printed circuit boards. Cadsoft, the company that created it, sold EAGLE to Autodesk in June.

Hackaday reports

Autodesk has announced that EAGLE is now only available for purchase as a subscription. [Previously], users purchased EAGLE once and [could use] the software indefinitely (often for years) before deciding to move to a new version with another one-time purchase. Now, they'll be paying Autodesk on a monthly or yearly basis.

Before Autodesk purchased EAGLE from Cadsoft, a Standard license would run you $69, paid once. [...] Standard will [now] cost $15/month or $100/year and gives similar functionality to the old Premium level, but with only 2 signal layers.

[...] The next level up was Premium, at $820, paid once. [...] If you [now] need more [than 2] layers or more than 160 [] of board space, you'll need the new Premium level, at $65/month or $500/year.
New Subscription Pricing Table for Eagle

[...] The [freeware] version still exists, but, for anyone using Eagle for commercial purposes (from Tindie sellers to engineering firms), this is a big change. Even if you agree with the new pricing, a subscription model means you never actually own the software. This model will require licensing software that needs to phone home periodically and can be killed remotely. If you need to look back at a design a few years from now, you better hope that your subscription is valid, that Autodesk is still running the license server, and that you have an active internet connection.

The page has well over 100 comments, with many saying the equivalent of "Goodbye, EAGLE; Hello, KiCAD".
KiCAD is gratis and libre, cross-platform, has been adopted as a software development project by nerds at CERN, and has seen marked improvement in recent years.

CERN is Getting Serious About Development of the KiCAD App for Designing Printed Circuits
Scripts Make the (Proprietary) Cadsoft EAGLE-to-(FOSS) KiCAD Transition Easier

Some time back, anubi and I conversed about how EAGLE has been DRM'd for quite a long while.

Original Submission

What's Coming In KiCAD Version 5 26 comments

KiCAD is a GPL'd Electronics Design Automation (EDA) suite with schematic capture and printed circuit board layout abilities. Its capabilities continue to expand.

Hackaday reports

[...] 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

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by frojack on Wednesday January 13 2016, @09:31AM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 13 2016, @09:31AM (#288993) Journal

    This seems like such a nothing story.

    Are the people who utilize this software such a bunch of "package runners" that writing a data migration program is big news?
    Start by hiring a programmer for crying out loud.

    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 1) by Unixnut on Wednesday January 13 2016, @10:27AM

    by Unixnut (5779) on Wednesday January 13 2016, @10:27AM (#289002)

    I have used so many OSS EDAs in the past, yet they all seemed to either become abandoned, or development slows to a snails pace, even geda/gschem, which I preferred all this time, seems to be stagnating.

    KiCad seems to be the only alive and working project, which I find odd, because I never found it particularly good compared to the rest, nor did I like its interface. When it was started it looked like an exercise in reinventing the wheel, poorly. I thought it was yet another KDE "Not-invented-here-syndrome" project, but it has persisted for a while now, and seems to be doing better than the other projects. What draws people to it? Anyone here who uses it can chime in? Does it do circuit simulation, and is it any good?

    I am thinking of switching to it, just because the others are really falling behind now, most don't even come packaged, so I have to hunt down the libraries and build them myself.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13 2016, @12:06PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13 2016, @12:06PM (#289021)

      I changed from Eagle (free) to Kicad, because i liked it better; Choosing, making and creating packages was easier among other things. It's open source, no restrictions on layers and board size. My use is just hobby use.

      Maybe there are some interface things, that aren't good, but i haven't had problems with it.

      Apparently it does have some sort of simulation support, but i've never used it or even simulated any electronics (

      Kicad is alive and well and will be, but not only because Cern is contributing stuff into it. To me the push'n shove routing feature in Kicad 4 looks really awesome. I haven't used Kicad for a couple of years, because i haven't had the need to, but when i do, i'll use Kicad.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Wednesday January 13 2016, @12:44PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 13 2016, @12:44PM (#289031)

        Ditto your last line AC


        no restrictions on layers and board size

        You can almost hear some pointy hair talking to some market droid about how they'll lure engineers in with some drug dealer "first hit is free" model and this has spread like wildfire on the commercial side. Which is good because you can test if the software works at all for what you're trying to do, and hobbists who can't afford $10K/yr will just pirate it anyway so you're not losing any money.

        The problem is engineers hate arbitrary constraints. "Sure the competitors sell USB cables that are just trustworthy copper wires, but ours catch fire when you draw more than 375 mA and we don't even charge extra for that." F that, even if I know I'll only like a 20 mA LED with it. Just so not interested. Yeah yeah I don't wanna pay for a giant 4 layer board, I really don't, but I even worse don't want to have to scrap ALL my work if I hit an unavoidable design constraint and now have to rm -Rf the whole project and start over with another CAD project because I have "too many layers" or the board is an inch too wide for the free version. What if next month's new release has different "free" criteria and now I gotta scrap the whole project? I'd never use a tool designed to fail if there's a reliable and consistent tool right next to it that looks a little different but doesn't have any arbitrary constraints.

        In summary you can hook people on drugs with "first hit is free" but weird arbitrary constraints are like engineer repellent. May as well tie garlic to the oscilloscope or turn silver bullets into BNC connectors.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13 2016, @07:26PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13 2016, @07:26PM (#289224)

          AC from above. I do agree what you said, but also i think for a free version the Eagle limits are ok. If the board size was somewhat bigger, they'd be great for a hobbiest. Personally i don't care about the layers, 2 is enough for me, but the board size and the fact that i like the way Kicad does things better than Eagle is what keeps me using Kicad. I do thank Cadsoft for reasonable free version though, that's what i started with.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13 2016, @09:46PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13 2016, @09:46PM (#289282)

            That's the 2nd time you used "free".
            The implication is that the app is freeware--the correct term for what you are intimating (EAGLE is definitely -NOT- Free Software).

            What you're actually referring to is the demoware version of Cadsoft EAGLE.
            Another word for that is crippleware.
            80mm x 100mm maximum board size (~3" x ~ 4")
            2 copper layers
            Single-page schematics

            Cadsoft has also DRM'd their product.
            The DRM is, of course, not mentioned anywhere in their license.
            It's possible to get locked out of your work product--and the company has stated that they won't help you recover it.
            This has previously been discussed here in some detail. []

            In the story here about CERN and KiCAD, the experience of Markus Zingg [] was mentioned specifically.
            Cadsoft treats its users like shit (even paid-up customers).

            -- OriginalOwner_ []

            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14 2016, @10:08AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14 2016, @10:08AM (#289434)

              Alright, alright, freeware demo version. Ok, i don't know how cadsoft treats their customers, but compared to many many other freeware/demo version of commercial programs, eagle is atleast usable. That's just what i was saying.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday January 13 2016, @12:32PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 13 2016, @12:32PM (#289027)

      KiCad seems to be the only alive and working project, which I find odd,

      CERN (yeah, that CERN) funds them and also handles the accounting for donations from others. So they have at least a minimal funding pipe that AFAIK none of the FOSS competitors has.

      Also their tutorials are pretty good. They "mesh" with people very well on a social level WRT using shared tools and github and demo videos and whatever.

      EDA is pretty interesting from a UI perspective. There is no natural UI for EDA there's only a circular firing squad of folks with numerous alternative experiences. So there HAS BEEN no convergence unless you step way back and see that for whatever reason, perhaps funding, perhaps there really does exist a correct UI for EDA and kicad is it, perhaps an unknown third factor.

      So in summary there's three theories, money, social technology, and UI.

      Note that its incredibly politically incorrect to even hint that programmers or FOSS in general can have a decent UI. Then you introduce them to the competitors like eagle, and if the bar is low enough... I think what kills the competitors is legacy costs and design by committee.

      • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Wednesday January 13 2016, @11:03PM

        by darkfeline (1030) on Wednesday January 13 2016, @11:03PM (#289307) Homepage

        The UI problem is that FOSS developers naturally develop for themselves (they write the software because they need it) while proprietary developers develop for the layman end user (they are paid to write software for others). What's good UI for the original developer, and for developers in general, is not the same as good UI for non-developers.

        I suspect part of it is a matter of familiarization. If everyone grew up around command lines and FOSS-style GUIs, they would find proprietary GUIs as inconvenient as they find FOSS GUIs now.

        With that said, the common graphical toolkits and environments (KDE/Qt, Gnome/GTK) are getting closer and closer to the "ideal" level of mediocrity of the de facto standard GUI, so most FOSS GUIs are already "good enough".

        On a tangent, I absolutely hate GUIs. Not because I have an irrational attachment to CLIs, but because GUI designers are lazy and incompetent. There are only specific situations where a GUI is better than a CLI, and out of those, there are even fewer situations where a mouse-driven interface, with radio buttons, sliders, dumb text boxes, drop-down menus, etc. is better than a keyboard-driven GUI. As someone once said, if the automobile were invented in this crazy day and age, it would be operated exclusively through a touch screen interface, without regard for how inconvenient that would be.

        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14 2016, @02:51AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14 2016, @02:51AM (#289364)

          I can tell that you have never used EAGLE.
          Its UI was developed back in the DOS days and the app was adapted to Windoze (and, later, to Linux).
          Windoze guys invariably mention how bass-ackwards the EAGLE paradigm is.

          No matter which ECAD you use second, you are going to find a learning curve with it--not so different from what you experienced with your first.
          That industry seems to be founded on incompatibility--or what those folks would have you believe is "competition".

          -- OriginalOwner_ []

        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Friday January 15 2016, @12:56PM

          by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Friday January 15 2016, @12:56PM (#289859)

          while proprietary developers develop for the layman end user

          No no no, never. They develop to the idle whims of marketing and management, which usually have no connection to reality or the end user.

          In the rare event they're free of marketing / mgmt constraints, all development is done by a mixture of peer fads and trying to impress their peers.

          Meanwhile there's a continuous cognitive dissonance observation that all software that's no longer new and socially cool is garbage, because of course it always was garbage but no one culturally can say that about the new stuff.

          Its a miracle, really, that anything works. Of course most software is extremely lame, a skin over CRUD, over a custom calculator, thats about it.

          layman end user

          There is no such thing as layman end user of EDA tools. Its like searching for the layman nuclear reactor operator, or layman neurosurgeon. Its far more important that the programmers involved understand the problem domain and no one gets in their way (mgmt, marketing, etc), than satisfying marketing by hiding the text menus and rounding the corners while making the color scheme light blue.

          We agree that GUIs suck. Like trying to write Shakespeare using crayons and a coloring book. But they sure are "cool and new" so we're stuck with them.

      • (Score: 2) by Unixnut on Sunday January 17 2016, @11:32AM

        by Unixnut (5779) on Sunday January 17 2016, @11:32AM (#290675)

        Aaah, the funding makes the whole situation have a lot more sense now. I know that for OSS, the "free time" to develop and refine the software is inversely proportional to having a job. Since I started working my OSS projects have unfortunately stagnated, so I can't complain really when other OSS meets the same fate. Rare is it that people will pay you to develop your OSS project, so good on the KiCAD team.

        Still, I wonder why CERN decided to fund them, when there were more developed OSS EDAs out there at the time, which just needed polish. My experience with GEDA over the years is some odd bugs when saving or resizing, and a library that is quite messy and out of date. Apart from that it is my tool of choice for hobby work. With regular funding it could have really done well, but I guess it was not to be :-(