Beginner's Guide to KiCad

Contributors: Nate
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KiCad Project Window

Download and Install KiCad

Let’s get started! Head over to KiCad’s download page and download the latest version of the software for your specific platform:

Download KiCad for Your Operating System/Distribution

Run KiCad

Once installed, run KiCad. A main navigation window will display where you will be able to open all the periphery programs like schematic capture and PCB layout.

KiCad main Project Window

Click the image for a closer look

The KiCad project window looks quite empty and sad. Let's open an example!

Setting Up a Project

The ZOPT2201 UV sensor designed originally in SparkX is a great I2C UV Index sensor and will serve as our starting example for this tutorial. Download the ZOPT220x UV Sensor Breakout designs for KiCad and unzip the four files into a local directory:

ZOPT220x UV Sensor Breakout KiCad Board Files

Once the four files are located in a local directory (try looking in your downloads folder for …\ZOPT220x_UV_Sensor_Breakout-Tutorial), click File -> Open Project and open the ZOPT220x UV Sensor file.

Main Project Window

Click the image for a closer look

What are all these files?

  • *.pro - Main project file to keep track of the file structure.
  • *.cmp - Defines which footprints go with which schematic components.
  • *.kicad_pcb - The PCB layout.
  • *.sch - The schematic.

These four files are all you need to share a KiCad design with a fellow collaborator. You may also need to share a footprint file, which will be explained more later on in this tutorial.

You may have had your first critical-judgment-eye-squint. Why is there a file to define which footprints go with which schematic components? This is fundamental to KiCad and is very different from how EAGLE works. It’s not a bad thing, just different.