Electronics

KiCAD: First Look

Resistor Vs Resistor
Written by John Woolsey

Since I plan to provide schematic diagrams for some of my articles, I researched various schematic capture applications that are both free and can be used for commercial purposes on macOS. I am aware of various paid applications, but at this time, I don’t know how much schematic work I will be doing so I wanted to try some of the free alternatives first.

I decided to try KiCAD which states it is a “A Cross Platform and Open Source Electronics Design Automation Suite”. It provides much more than just schematic capture as it assists the user all the way through designing and submitting a final printed circuit board (PCB) to manufacturing. The application is working well so far except for a bug I came across related to creating a new project from a template (which has been fixed and is slated to be released in a future update of the application). KiCAD is much more capable than I had originally expected for a free application and I find myself pleasantly surprised and enjoying the learning experience.

One humorous thing happened while assessing this application. Since KiCAD’s default resistor uses the block symbol in schematics, I was researching how to create my own alternate resistor using the zigzag symbol and came across a forum post where someone stated that symbol hasn’t been used in 30 years. I don’t believe that is quite true, but it sure did make me feel old.

Please share your thoughts about KiCAD or any other schematic capture programs you enjoy.

About the author

John Woolsey

John is an electrical engineer who loves science, math, and technology and teaching it to others even more.
 
He knew he wanted to work with technology from an early age, building his first robot when he was in 8th grade. His first computer was a Timex/Sinclair 2068 followed by the Tandy 1000 TL (aka really old stuff).
 
He put himself through college (University of Texas at Austin) by working at Motorola where he worked for many years after that in Research and Development.
 
John started developing mobile app software in 2010 for himself and for other companies. He has also taught programming to kids for summer school and enjoyed years of judging kids science projects at the Austin Energy Regional Science Festival.
 
Electronics, software, and teaching all culminate in his new venture to learn, make, and teach others via the Woolsey Workshop website.

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