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Author Topic: Free Windows and Linux PCB CAD software  (Read 5016 times)
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Sussex UK / CT USA
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The PCB CAD package, "Eagle" from CADSoft seems to be what a lot of people use. And their offer of the "free for non-commercial use", and "Lite" versions is generous. (And intelligent marketing!)

For years I've used a "big" commercial package for my limited hobbyist needs. (I was lucky, and got in early, while that firm was building a presence.)

Then I tried Eagle for a few things... and, in general, liked it.

But someone told me to try KiCad... and I have to tell you, on limited exploration, I am blown away. Easy to use, "powerful" (and I use that term sparingly!), and FREE... no matter how big your project. (The free Eagle is only for small projects, and you can't sell them.

More (lots more, I fear!) at....

http://www.arunet.co.uk/tkboyd/ele2pcbk.htm

Oh... and yes, you can prepare files for PCB fabricators, e.g. BatchPCB.com.

So, at last, to my question...

Has anyone else used this? Like it? Loath it? Pros? Cons?

If there's a "problem" waiting down the road for me, PLEASE save me spending any more time on this. I'd hate to repeat the mistake (?) of the time I invested in learning Eagle. Don't get me wrong: Eagle is good... but the limit may chafe before long. If KiCad will do all that Eagle does... but for free... I'll learn another package happily... but I really don't want to change AGAIN!!
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Norway
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Im a (very) casual KiCad user and currently its been a few months since I have really used it, so I might not remember everything exactly or have too good advice to give. But yes, I like it very much and its my software of choice. In fact I started using it simply because I needed some PCBs that were 10 cm squared a couple of years ago.

Fortunately there are some good tutorials around, like the one you found. I also like this one from curiousinventor:
http://store.curiousinventor.com/guides/kicad/

That got me started on some things that were baffling at first. Because KiCad can be somewhat quirky to work with, I guess mostly because it is "mode based" as you say (that you are in "move objects" mode, or "connect wire" mode, etc), but also other stuff like making custom library components/symbols and footprints ("modules").

Btw one thing I like about it (KiCad), is that you can mix and match components with custom footprints on a per-project base.


There is even a page with libraries converted from Eagle here: http://library.oshec.org/
I have to say for my modest needs I havent used most of those (I think I used 7400 library, at least for a template for modifying a few of my own).

Probably lots of pages with libraries here and there, here is another one with misc components and their 3D shapes: http://www.kicadlib.org/Fichiers/Ludek_libraries.html

I have also made a couple here: http://raronoff.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/a-few-random-kicad-components-rgb-led-stuff-mostly/


Personally I use more than one computer, and more than one OS (but I favor Ubuntu for working on my stuff), and one thing that annoyed me a bit was the need to manually re-add the libraries used in any given project, if you suddenly find yourself at another computer for a while. Yes, there is a "user defined search path" list or setting, but I havent had much luck with that (newer versions of KiCad might have fixed this?). Anyway I found a solution that worked for me using symbolic links, but it would have restrictions on (probably) one user pr. KiCad innstallation (not disregarding the possibility of installing KiCad more than once, say once pr. user), and possibly not across network drives (not tested).

Anyway, I wrote more about that here (feel free to just disregard it, its not essential for using KiCad): http://raronoff.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/kicad-cross-platform-hassle-free-project-sharing/


If you keep both EEschema and PCBnew open at the same time, and click on a pin, the corresponding pin and track will be highlighted in the other program (well might be a bit hard to see the pointer in EEschema, as its not really highlighted there). Sometimes handy, especially track highlighting.

KiCad can also export the net to an online router http://www.freerouting.net/ As for autorouting I dont know how good that is, but it does have a nifty track pushing that repells other tracks, among other things (based on me trying it once, a while ago). I usually route things myself, but I dont have any complicated projects yet (and still lots to learn).


Heh, while writing this, I have learned that KiCad (build 2011-03-18 BZR 2903), finally have rotate block in both EEschema and PCBnew. And also an export VRML (.wrl) option for 3D shapes for the design. Nice! For windows at least, the Ubuntu repositories is a bit lagging unfortunately.
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You could also try http://www.designspark.com/pcb, but I haven't tried it so I don't know how good it is.
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Sussex UK / CT USA
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DesignSpark is AMAZING!!!

I just installed it, played with it a bit. Would recommend that anyone with a passing interest in PCB CAD do the same. Easy install. Sensible "registration" demands.

It is based on the big commercial PCB CAD I used for years, which is a real Rolls Royce (Number One's Easy-PC)

Two downsides: No Linux version, and a freebie but not open source. Will it still be there years from now, when you have numerous projects built with it, and are moving to a new PC?

But well worth giving a try, even if you are happy with your present PCB CAD, if only to see how the other half live.
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Alas, the MacOS version of KiCAD is unusable...
I suppose that I should try the PC version, but EAGLE has SO spoiled me; their MacOS execution was ... done very well.
(The initial Mac implementation was essentially identical to the linux version; it ran (ugly but functional) using X-Windows.  A native Mac app followed in a subsequent version.)

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I do not know the status of the windows build but gEDA works well
on Linux. I have been using it on Fedora and now ubuntu for many
years.  http://www.gpleda.org/index.html

My EDA automation scripts and the parts library I use for all my boards
are at http://www.luciani.org/geda/geda-index.html

(* jcl *)
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