Notes on KiCad “Getting Started” Guide

To get started learning KiCad, I tried the obvious thing first: Go to the KiCad web site, click on “Documentation”, and click on “Getting Started”. This beginner’s tutorial walked me through drawing the circuit diagram schematic and then turning that abstract design into something that can be fabricated on a circuit board.

Because circuit board design is a fairly esoteric field, a tool like KiCad also has lots of terminology that’s a little tough for a beginner to digest. Thankfully the getting started guide helps put a lot of things in the context of the basic design process, so I could see words and phrases used in context and try to derive their meaning that way.

A lot of areas in KiCad were not covered in the tutorial, but that is to be expected. I just wanted the bare bones to start and I can explore other venues later.

The downside of learning a piece of software in active development is that it is still changing, throwing the tutorial out of date. Some menus were moved, though thankfully the keyboard shortcuts seem to have stayed consistent. Some parts of the software hasn’t only been moved, their icons had been changed. The tutorial occasionally gave instruction as “Click on the button with this icon” so when the icon changed, the beginner is lost.

(Workaround: Keep reading the tutorial to get a feel of what the next step is, what menu might pop up, etc. Then mouse-over each of the icons on the page and look for names that sound like they might be related to the activity.)

There were many of those minor annoyances, and there was one major annoyance. The guide had a section on how to generate a Bill of Materials (BOM)  using a plug-in module. The plug-in module was not installed at the location the guide stated. I went hunting on the KiCad Github repository to find the file, and once I downloaded it, it didn’t work with a bunch of error messages I had no hope of understanding.

Fortunately, BOM generation is not yet a priority for my usage. And I got far enough to draw a simple schematic and turn that into a simple circuit board design.

That’s good enough for a start.

KiCAD Tutorial


Tutorial circuit board

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