Comments: Beginner's Guide to KiCad

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  • I'm excited to say that I have a workaround for those wishing to use this tutorial in KiCad 5 (I'm using 5.1.5). Everyone seems to get stuck on loading the component symbols from the library. There appears to be a glitch where KiCad 5 won't automatically load the older tutorial library. Follow these steps to load them manually:

    Note: It may be necessary to remove all the work that you've done in the tutorial before reading these instructions and start over from scratch.

    1. Download and open the tutorial schematic as described in the tutorial.

    2. When the "Remap Symbols" panel pops up, click "Remap Symbols". Then click "Close".

    3. Click Preferences -> Manage Symbol Libraries.

    4. Click the folder icon (Add existing library to table) in the lower left corner

    5. Download the sparkfun library as described in the tutorial.

    6. Back in KiCad, navigate to where you placed the sparkfun library that you downloaded and open the sparkfun library (.lib). Click "OK" in the Symbols Library manager. Note that you still see ??

    7. Right click any symbol that shows ??. Click Properties -> Edit Properties (or you can click the symbol and type "E")

    8. Note that there is a box in the lower left corner that says "Symbol". Take note of the "Library Reference:" field. Click the icon adjacent to the field (looks like a row of books).

    9. In the "Choose Symbol" panel, type a few characters from the "Library Reference:" field in the Filter box. Click the symbol that corresponds to the full "Library Reference:" field. Click "OK". Note that the field in the "Symbol Properties" panel has changed. Click "OK".

    10. Repeat steps 7-10 for all remaining ?? symbols.

    • Note: Some of these symbols are from the default KiCad libraries.

    There may be a quicker, more automatic way to do this but this is what worked for me. This is as far as I've gone through the tutorial. I will add more revisions by editing this comment as I get through it.


    As I go through the tutorial, I find that there are many inconsistencies. I also find that working through these inconsistencies has helped me better understand how KiCad operates. I encourage you to experiment with your best guess as to what is different. If you're stuck, then read through this comment fully. If you're still stuck, then reply to this comment and I'll try to respond with help.


    Adding a Footprint

    You need to download the Sparkfun library from GitHub for this step: https://github.com/sparkfun/SparkFun-KiCad-Libraries

    By now, you should know how to assign library paths. If you don't, then go back through the tutorial. This will be a useful skill when working with KiCad.

    When adding libraries, you can multi-select. You must add the symbol libraries as well as the footprint libraries. When you add the footprint libraries, your path must match the existing footprint paths if you want it to relink the symbols to the footprints in the tutorial. This means that you'll have to add "SparkFun-" before each footprint library. Note that capitalization is important. After adding the footprint libraries properly, you'll be able to continue with the tutorial.


    Running Design Rule Check

    The Design Rules appear to have changed since the tutorial was written. You'll see different errors but do your best to work your way through them. I suggest reading the whole section before making changes. You aren't trying to resolve all the errors at once.

    The "Design Rule" menu is gone in KiCad 5. You'll find the new location under File -> Board Setup or click the "Board Setup" icon on the top menubar.

    I had a "Via drill too small" error after running the DRC for the last time. I resolved this by deleting the issue via and placing a new via. In time, perhaps I'll figure out why this via is different than the others and why placing a new via has different dimensions. If you figure out what's going on here, please leave a reply.

    • Hi, I wonder if you could help me with something? At the stage where we assign PCB footprints to symbols; I have downloaded and added the sparkfun symbol libraries and footprint libraries and edited the footprint library nicknames so they match. I can now assign footprints and when I click "view selected footprint" it successfully finds the SparkFun-Capacitors:0603 footprint. This also works for aesthetics, hardware, resistors etc.

      However...trying to view any SparkX part and the SparkFun_Sensors:ZOPT220x footprint, an error dialog pops up saying fp-lib-table files contain no library with nickname "SparkX"/"SparkFun_Sensors". When I generate the netlist and import it in Pcbnew, the parts are there but I can't see where the footprints are being pulled in from.

      Any advice?

    • I just spent about 2 hours trying to debug the issue and googling for answers, watching videos etc. Came here to report the issue and find it's already known about!

      If only they put a note in the tutorial for new people, unfamiliar with the program, to come check this comment.

      Going to give it another go now.

  • hello guys, I am new to kicad. I have completed the basic tutorials of kicad and I want to learn more about this software and practice so that I can use it for professional purposes. please suggest to me what should I do next.

  • Hey Guys,
    I was really looking forward to diving into KiCad with this tutorial, but as others have already mentioned, I couldn't even get past the first step involving "Preferences>Component LIbraries". Apparently I'm not as literate as the others though, as I can't figure out the solution. Is there any chance SparkFun could provide an update to the tutorial to address this issue for Mac users??? I'm ripping my hair out here trying to figure this out, it would be much appreciated - thanks!!

  • I have the same "my current version of Kicad 5.05 is different from version 4.0" problem that the others are having preventing me from loading the EESCHEMA libraries. See "setting-up-schematic-component-libraries" part of the tutorial

    I tried downloading the “Sparkfun_SchematicComponents.lib” file and save it to a directory on the computer.
    These are found at the link https://cdn.sparkfun.com/assets/learn_tutorials/6/6/0/SparkFun_SchematicComponents.lib

    But when I try to do "Preferences->Component Libraries", I have no good place to go that matches the tutorial. Does anyone have a series of steps to fix this?

  • I am facing an issue in step where the component is inserted into the PCB. There is a lot of errors and it is not possible for the components to load.

  • Also - website issue with a dash of irony... I tried to report my constructive comment via your "send us your feedback!" link... but the Feedback form does not work.

    Press the submit button, and the feedback form just sits there, no error and apparently no submit. my details: (chrome 66.0.3359.139 (Official Build) (64-bit), macOS)

  • (Once I read more closely, my Mac issue was solved. Mac users: do not miss the step, where you click "add" THEN "open" (after previously having staged the SparkFun_SchematicComponents.lib file somewhere in one of the expected paths. If you mess this up like I did, you might Google and find a bunch of OLD information about Kicad on the Mac... which if you follow, you will end up down a rabbit hole...)

  • When I migrated from Eagle to KiCad in 2013 I really missed those Sparkfun libraries - it's good to see them making a comeback for this excellent open-source package. Thanks for the excellent tutorial too!

  • Thanks for spending the time putting together a tutorial for KiCad, however right at the start you mention: "From within EeSchema, click on Preferences -> Component Libraries." Alas there is no such option as "Component Libraries". Do you mean "Manage Symbol Libraries"? I guess there was an update to KiCad. I have tried adding the lib file to the "Project Specific Libraries" however still get the "Remap Symbols" dialogue box open reopening EeSchema. Totally stuck at the first hurdle! Completely lost.

    • I've hit the same roadblock... No 'Component Libraries' option. Tried adding the library to the list of Symbol Libraries, but no luck. I'd really like to complete this tutorial, but I am stuck at the first step.

      • This tutorial is made using KiCAD 4.0 The latest version has a change

        • hi Sparkfun moderators... it might be a good idea to either update this tutorial or put a note at the top that it's for an old version - it still rates VERY highly on many searches for Kicad.

          And to the users, if you haven't upgraded to Kicad 5 yet, give it a go. A lot of the weird counterintuitive clunky stuff is gone. Doing things like importing footprints or making your own is now MUCH easier!

          • It's a fairly long tutorial with a lot of pictures that would need to be updated. I don't anticipate having a break to work on this in the near future, but we will keep it in mind.

            As a note, there already is a highlighted call out at the top of the KiCAD Project Window section, the first section (after the introduction) in the guide. Maybe we need to make it bigger or use more apparent verbiage for users... any opinions?

            • I really don't like this derisive tone, making out that readers are too careless or stupid to understand your call out banner.

              The guide is out of date and people are having difficulty following it, don't just reject the fact and mock those people...

              • My apologies... to clarify, it was not my intention to disregard that the tutorial is out of date. We may possibly update the tutorial in the future, but we currently have other focuses at the moment (mostly on new product releases/documentation)... we are a business after all.

                When this tutorial was written, over 3 years ago, there wasn't a good tutorial on KiCad... so Nate made this tutorial based off of his experience to help other users. Although our tutorial isn't up to date, there seem to be other tutorials online that others have contributed for the public community that can be used with version 5:

                To address your other point, I was not trying to be derisive or mock users. I was noticing that there seemed to be a lot of users that were trying to follow our tutorial with the updated (version 5) software and were providing feedback that they had difficulties using that version. I was just trying to ascertain if users may have missed the call out banner in the beginning of the tutorial or if we should provide additional information like... that users will experience difficulties when using a more up to date version of the software.

                Based on your comment above, it does sound like Member #1569238's information might be beneficial to add in the banner. I initially only "up voted" the comment to the top of the comment's section as I wanted to avoid linking the comment in the tutorial, since it might have set the expectation that we would be updating the tutorial (not guaranteed to happen) or providing assistance with version 5. As most of Member #1569238's comment does relate to using version 5, could you clarify what specifically you found useful so that we can put it under advisement?

                • I think it would be a good idea, your Eagle tutorial was great and the SparkFun libraries saved me time, which is why when I wanted some ESP32 dev boards I chose SparkFun as I'm a fan of the company and trust your work :) so I will try and remain constructive! Also I think the KiCAD guide so far is very good and I like Nate's tone of writing.

                  I don't think people missed the banner, I think we just expected the guide would still be close enough to be relevant. Yes maybe the wording could be changed to explain this is a breaking change or direct people to this comments section for v5 help.

                  The parts I had difficulty with were linking the sparkfun library, getting the schematic symbols to update and viewing the selected footprint when adding a footprint using CvPcb (this causes a crash for me every time).

                  • I added a call out box that will hopefully point others to the comment section as well.

                    Unfortunately, I think Nate might the only engineer could still be using KiCad... however, I'll get this added to the list of updates for the documentation team. I know they have a lot of other projects that do have a higher priority, but we will do our best to update this resource when we get a chance.

            • Maybe also post a couple of links at the top to other, up-to-date tutorials? An update here would be great though, as I've always found Sparkfun's tutorials to be EXCELLENT.

              The new tutorial might not need to be as long either - the new Kicad really is much more straightforward :-)


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