KiCad is an EDA software suite for the creation of professional schematics and printed circuit boards. Kicad runs on Windows, Linux and Apple OS X and is released under the open-source GNU GPL v2.
The easiest way to install KiCad and its documentation on Linux is via a PPA apt-get link like the one available from the Adam Wolf page:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:adamwolf/kicad-testing-daily
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install kicad kicad-doc-en
Alternatively, KiCad can easily be downloaded and installed from source or from pre-compiler distributions.
KiCad in Numbers
KiCad is under heavy development. Below you can have an idea of the size of KiCad in both lines of code and equivalent estimated value in US$.
Since the beginning of 2007, KiCad has shown a great level of acceptance among users. In the following plot you can find an indication of how KiCad compares with other open-source and non open-source electronics CADs. Source: Google Trends.
Kicad Software Tool
The KiCad project was started by Jean-Pierre Charras, a researcher at GIPSA-LAB and a teacher in IUT de Saint Martin d'Hères.(France), in the field of electrical engineering.
KiCad is a mature EDA software tool under active development by a team of developers and a user group. KCad team counts three main developers and a dozen of regular contributors.
KiCad is a software which includes a project manager and four tools:
Eeschema, schematic editor.
Pcbnew, board editor.
Gerbview, GERBER viewer.
Cvpcb, footprint selector for components used in the circuit design.
KiCad in Details
With KiCad you can create schematic diagrams and printed circuit board up to 16 layers.
With the KiCad schematic editor, you can create a simple electronic sheet or a group of hierarchical sheets. A Electrical Rules Check tool (ERC) is available. You can as well create netlists for Pcbnew, or for Spice.
Eeschema manages a fast and direct access to component documentation. The Pcbnew board editor can handle up to 16 copper layers plus 12 technical layers (silk screen, solder mask, etc.) and allows for the generation of all the necessary files for building printed boards (GERBER files for photo-plotters, drilling files and component location files).You can plot board layers on Postscript laser printers (for prototypes).
Pcbnew can show a 3-D view of the printed board with its components, using OpenGL.
KiCad Component Libraries
Kicad comes with a large set of open-source library components. A text-based format is used for both schematic and PCB component.
Both Eeschema and Pcbnew have a library manager as well as an editor for components and footprint parts. You can create, edit, delete or exchange easily library items.
Documentation files can be associated to components and footprints, and key words, allowing a fast search by function.
Very large Libraries, created over many years, are available for schematic components and footprints. Most of printed board modules (footprint) are available with their 3D shape model.
The other very exciting aspect pf Kicad is that library components for both PCB and schematic are actually plain text files. As natural consequence, you can generate library components in many ways, for instance by using this great library component generator.
KiCad comes with an extensive set of 7 pdf manuals distributed with the KiCad software tool. All KiCad documentation files are written in LibreOffice and are constantly updated.
KiCad also comes with a detailed pdf tutorial accessible via the Kicad help menu.
KiCad for Developers
The reference website for KiCad developers is https://launchpad.net/~kicad-developers
As version control system KiCad uses the Bazaar system. The most recent KiCad source code can be branched by command:
bzr branch lp:kicad kicad.bzr
The most recent KiCad documentation and translation files can be branched by command:
bzr branch lp:~kicad-developers/kicad/doc
The most recent KiCad library set can be branched by command:
bzr branch lp:~kicad-lib-committers/kicad/library
Of course you must have Bazaar installed. You can do this for Debian or Ubuntu by command:
sudo apt-get install bzr
For a GUI-base solution, you can use Bazaar GUI software bzr-explorer. For the Ubuntu Karmic or newer the bzr-explorer can be installed with the commands:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:bzr-explorer-dev/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install bzr-explorer
For developers with write access they should use the ssh url:
bzr branch bzr+ssh://<username>@bazaar.launchpad.net/~kicad-testing-committers/kicad/testing