KiCAD 8.0 preview

Here’s a talk from Wayne Stambaugh about new features in KiCAD 8 which is expected to release at the end of January, 2024. The first half of the talk is about version 7, version 8 stuff begins at about 24:30

A quick summary:

  • Lots of QOL improvements - set properties on groups of objects, more property panels, symbol/footprint thumbnails when selecting from a list.

  • Different grids for different types of object - connecting objects like pins and wires can go on a coarse grid, cosmetic stuff like text can automatically go on a fine grid.

  • Imports Eagle, Altium, CADSTAR libraries (symbol and some footprints).

  • Imports LTSpice schematics (must have LTSpice installed).

  • You can now edit power flags without having to make a new one for every voltage.

  • A new DNP flag on the board layout that components.

  • BOM generation can now be done natively, rather than through an external script.

  • Create custom 3D views, turn individual part views on/off.

Nothing earth shattering but nice progress. Near the beginning of the talk he mentioned that several organizations are dedicating full time programmers to the KiCAD project to speed up work in the future.

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The key takeaway that I picked up is KiCad 7 focused on PCB improvements while v8 focuses more on Schematic.

It is also nice to see them holding to their annual cadence while providing reasonably quick minor releases throughout the year.

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@baldengineer Excellent chat I heard with you on a competing podcast yesterday. Lots of good tips and tidbits plus an interesting story.

I think it will be great to eventually have the various editing and graphical operations be the same across all the tools. It’s not quite there yet but getting closer.

There was a brief clip I saw in your video on said project above where I initially thought you were editing a part symbol from inside the schematic. Before I realized it wasn’t the case, I thought, “wow! That ability could save me a lot of time.”

Chris “Not Bald Yet, but Needs a Hat in the Sun / The Stumbler” Lott

Thanks!

I initially thought you were editing a part symbol from inside the schematic

When you edit the symbol from the schematic, you get the choice of editing the one in the library or the schematic. (Starting with KiCad 6 the schematic/pcb gets a copy of the symbol/footprint with a link back to the library.)

If you edit the one “in the schematic” (not in the library), then you could have the symbol editor open side-by-side. So you can see updates in the schematic window whenever you save in the symbol editor.

(I did that recently when figuring out how I wanted the pins to group together on the nRF7002.)

Well that’s cool. I gotta try it.

In my work flow, I really have three tiers of libraries. The main libraries provided by KiCad or perhaps other sources. I don’t usually touch them, treat them as read-only for the most part.

Then I have a project and/or client level library. That could conceivably be one PCB, but usually it’s multiple PCBs on a project.

And finally there’s the PCB level libraries which I never directly use, but it’s great for things like sharing the design with others, migrating to another version / tool. And now I know another for them as you’ve pointed out.

So for schematics, if I’m editing the symbol to make it flow easier with the visual layout of the design, that is almost always a per-PCB type of tailoring. I can see editing the schematic-tier library as a useful option.

On the PCB side of things, most of the time if I’m editing a footprint it’s for the entire project and would be applicable to all associated PCB designs.

Naturally there are cases that break this — the schematics for a major new revision that warrants a new KiCad design would probably flow in a similar manner, so I’d want to just reuse the already modified symbol from the previous board… If one particular PCB has a weird requirement that changes the footprint, that’s unique and changing the PCB-only library is called for. And for symbols and footprints both, if you find an error or other issue that applies to all your work across all clients, projects, and boards, that’s when editing the global libraries makes sense — a situation I can’t recall having encountered in many years.

Might be time to finally convert over from Eagle to KiCAD :frowning:

I think most of my GUI gripes about KiCAD have settings that change the functionality now. The problem I have always had with KiCAD is it treats PCB schematic and Layout like an art program instead of cad software.

What cad-like features are you missing?

typing commands to draw elements is the big one but not “features” more like how it “acts”.

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There’s KiCad Command-Line Interface | 7.0 | English | Documentation | KiCad

And there’s the python scripting console window.

I’m shocked the kind of cool things people can do with basically no code using the python API. I’ve found many interesting snippets on the KiCAD scripting discord channel. We can do all the same things, and more, in Allegro with SKILL code (which is basically TCL), but it’s certainly not as easy.

That’s my primary concern with KiCAD though. It’s starting to get too complex. I always liked that KiCAD kept easy things easy and one could go from no training to making a PCB pretty rapidly. I personally hope they keep the focus there.

And if you wanted to do hard things, well that’s why we have the paid products. The NRE in just salary will dwarf the cost of the software as project complexity goes up.

Anyway, my $0.02.

I briefly played with the console window once and was expecting it to be smooth sailing. First glitch, while it fires up at a Python prompt, it didn’t import my board. That took a while to figure out the syntax. Then once that was solved, I couldn’t figure out any way to loop over the items that o wanted to edit (these were selected group of signal names as I recall). This was about 18 months ago, so maybe it’s improved since then. But I really saw the great potential.

Great point. I wonder when a “co-pilot” like chat window will be coded in like VS code and Pycharm?

KiCad 8.0 release candidate is out, if all goes well it should go live by the end of January:

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Yeah this is what im waiting for to make the jump!

Frankly, I would start with the latest stable version of 7.

There is a larger base of user knowledge on 7, so it will be easier to determine if you’re encountering a personal workflow issue, a bug, or a new feature.

The incremental improvements from 7 to 8 are great, but they do not really fix anything fundamentally broken with 7.

Never! Always gotta jump in :smiley:

Now is the time to install and use KiCAD 8.

Been using for past week so far.