A Beginners Intro To KiCAD

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KiCAD is an open-source electronic design CAD software package. It runs on Windows, Linux and MacOS.

The KiCAD logo.

The KiCAD logo.

KiCAD organizes work into projects. Each project has a project file ending in .pro. A Project consists of schematics (.sch), a PCB design file (.kicad_pcb), component library files (.lib), and more.

The two main sub-applications bundled with KiCAD are Eeschema, the schematic editing tool, and PcbNew, the PCB editing tool.


Debian-Like Linux (Ubuntu, Debian, …)

You can install the most recent stable release of KiCAD via the command-line with:

sudo add-apt-repository --yes ppa:js-reynaud/kicad-5.1
sudo apt update
sudo apt install --install-recommends kicad

To start KiCAD from the command line you can use:


Configuring The Global Symbol Library Table

The pop-up that occurs when you run KiCAD for the first time.

The pop-up that occurs when you run KiCAD for the first time.


Getting Around

By default, the mouse wheel will zoom in/out on the current schematic.

You can navigate the schematic hierarchy using the Navigate Schematic Hierarchy button as shown:

The 'Navigate Schematic Hierarchy' button in KiCAD.

The 'Navigate Schematic Hierarchy' button in KiCAD.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Mouse Wheel           Zoom in/out
Mouse Wheel + Ctrl    Pan left/right
Mouse Wheel + Shift   Pan up/down
Ctrl-D                Load datasheet for selected component (opens web browser)

M                     Move schematic item
C                     Duplicate symbol or label


.lib     Schematic symbol library (contains multiple schematic symbols)
.pretty  Folder for component footprints

.lib files are text based, so play well with version control systems such as .git.

By default, the symbol libraries are installed to:

  • On Windows: C:\Program Files\KiCad\share\kicad\library
  • On Linux: /usr/share/kicad/library/

Each project can pull schematic symbols and footprints from two “tables” (groups) of libraries, global libraries and project libraries.

DigiKey maintains the digikey-kicad-library, a KiCAD schematic and footprint library of a large number of components that can be supplied by DigiKey. The aim of this library is to provide collection of visually consistent, accurate library parts that have been curated by the DigiKey team. The organization of the library follows the DigiKey familay taxonomy.

Board Routing

Getting Around

Keyboard Shortcuts

D          Start drawing a track
PgUp       Switch to top layer
PgDwn      Switch to bottom layer
Ctrl-B     Hide pours
B          Show pours

KiCAD has a push and shove router.

DRC Rules

As of May 2020, there is no way to add a check for silkscreen over pad in the design rules. The best you can do is select exclude pads from silkscreen when exporting the gerbers, which will remove all silkscreen from pads. This is not as ideal though, as this may remove important information from the silkscreen such as designators, version numbers or polarization marks.

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