Kicad vs Eagle – Which one is best? [2018 comparison]

A common decision to make for hobbyists and inventors is Kicad vs Eagle.

Both of them are decent programs for designing your own Printed Circuit Boards (PCB).

And both are very popular.

But if you’re just starting out, which one should you choose?

After six months of testing, I am finally ready to give you the result.

Kicad vs Eagle

Background: Why I wanted to compare Eagle and Kicad

I’ve been using Eagle for many years, and not really given much thought to Kicad. Eagle worked for me.

But last summer I was hired to do some work on the electronics for the coffee roaster RØST.

In this project, my friend Jensa, an avid Kicad user, had developed the first version of the circuit in Kicad.

Schematics view of Kicad
Schematics view of Kicad

So I had no choice but to try out Kicad.

And I realized – going from Eagle to Kicad wasn’t really a big problem.

After finishing that project, I was hired for another project where they also used Kicad.

Now I have worked with Kicad for six months, and I decided I had a good background for writing a Kicad vs Eagle guide to help beginners make a decision.

Kicad vs Eagle – Price

First, let’s get price out of the way.

Kicad is free and open-source. Volunteers have created it.

You can download Kicad and use it in any way you want, without ever paying. You can even download its source code and modify it to your likings (if you have some coding skills).

Eagle is owned by Autodesk.

Eagle has both a free version and a paid version. You can download Eagle for free, with these restrictions:

  • 2 schematic sheets
  • 2 signal or plane layers
  • 80 cm2 (12.4 in2) board area

…but many hobby projects will be well within the limits of these restrictions.

If you need a more powerful version, it starts at $15/month, which I think is a fair price.

User interface comparison

I think both Eagle and Kicad are similar when it comes to the “look and feel”. None of them are going to win a design award, but they both look okay.

Schematics view in Eagle
Schematics view in Eagle

Kicad has a set of keyboard shortcuts for doing standard tasks like rotating a component or drawing a wire.

Eagle does not. And I find that disappointing. You can add your own keyboard shortcuts though, so it’s not a big problem. But as a first-time user, you just want something that works out of the box.

Worth noticing is that Eagle has a command line tool where you can type in commands. I tried it a few years ago and you can read about it here: My Experience With Using the Eagle Command Line

Eagle Quirks

Eagle used to have a really weird quirk with two tools called Wire and Net tools. But they’ve finally fixed that. Well done Autodesk!

One quirk in Eagle that is not intuitive is Moving a group of components.

When it comes to user interface, I must declare Kicad the winner.

Eagle lost here mainly because of the “Move group” quirk, and the fact that it doesn’t have any default keyboard shortcuts for standard things like rotating and drawing wires.

Organizing components – simple vs complicated

A component library is a library of components that you can use to design your circuit.

Footprint in Kicad
A footprint for an integrated circuit

A component must have a symbol that you can use when designing the schematics. And it needs to have a footprint with pads and holes that will be created on the PCB for soldering the component.

Both Eagle and Kicad come with libraries that have the most popular components included.

And both let you design your own components and libraries.

Eagle’s handling of component libraries is pretty straight-forward. A library file includes everything. The symbol for the component and the footprint alternatives you have for this component.

Eagle add component with footprint
When adding a component in Eagle you choose the footprint then and there.

Kicad, on the other hand, is a bit more confusing.

There you have one library for symbols. And another one for the footprints. And it’s a little bit confusing how to choose which libraries you want to use. This is a bit of a hurdle in the beginning if you are learning Kicad.

When it comes to component libraries, I must declare Eagle as the winner.

The design process: One MAJOR plus

In Eagle, here’s how you design a PCB from scratch:

  1. You create a schematics
  2. You choose components (and which footprint to use for the component)
  3. You place the components and connects the circuit like you want
  4. You click on the “Generate Board” button
  5. Now you have all the footprints for your board in a pile, and you can start placing and connecting them.
  6. If you have to change something in the schematics, you do that, and the changes will also happen on your board.

It’s pretty straight-forward.

The Eagle board editor
The Eagle board editor

In Kicad, there are a few more steps.

First, instead of choosing which footprint you want to use when you choose the component, you choose footprints for all the components at the end.

Second, the components do not get a proper name until you run the “Annotate Schematics” command.

Third, you have to run a “Create Netlist” command, then load this netlist into the board designer for creating the board.

These steps make Kicad seem more complicated when starting out. But after you’ve done them a few times, it’s not really something you think about. But Eagle definitely gets more “beginner-friendly” points here.

Kicad’s Secret Weapon

One major plus of the design-process of Kicad is its built-in 3D viewer.

When you have designed your board, you can press Alt-3 and your design pops up as a 3D model.

3D Viewer in Kicad
3D Viewer in Kicad

I’ve found this to be extremely useful. When you look at your design in the board designer, it’s hard to get a good understanding of size and space. Looking at the board in 3D makes it much easier to realize that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to place the connector there…

Eagle does not have a 3D-viewer. But they are planning to add integration with Fusion 360 in the future. I have never used Fusion 360, so I prefer the Kicad-way where it is just integrated into Kicad.

Despite a few extra steps in the design process of Kicad, I have to declare Kicad as the winner because of the integrated 3D view function.

A note if you’re a Mac user:

When I tried Kicad on my new MacBook Pro in the summer of 2017, it was extremely slow in the Schematics view. For example, zooming in took 2-3 seconds for each level. So it was totally useless.

I googled it, and it seemed to be that Kicad was not optimized for the high-resolution retina displays.

Now, this seems to have been fixed/improved though. It’s not as smooth as Eagle on the Mac. But it’s good enough so that I don’t think of it as a problem anymore.

Conclusion: Should you choose Kicad or Eagle?


Kicad vs Eagle, which one is best?

Well, Eagle and Kicad are pretty similar in many ways.

You can design simple circuits on both. And you can design advanced circuits on both.

When I started using Kicad about six months ago, I never thought this would happen. But right now, in all my projects I am using…


Mainly because of the default keyboard shortcuts and the 3D viewer in Kicad. This might change in the future again, but right now I am very happy in Kicad.

If you are a hobbyist, an inventor or a professional user, both Eagle and Kicad will work very well for you.

I can’t really say that one is “better” than the other. Eagle might be a little bit more intuitive to start out with, but I find myself being more effective in Kicad.

What do YOU think?

I started on this “Kicad vs Eagle”-guide several months ago. But I realized I needed more time to get a good foundation for a Kicad vs Eagle comparison. Now it’s 2018, and with 6 months of testing, I was ready.

But now I want to hear from you: What are you using? Eagle or Kicad? And why?

Let me know in the comments below.

More KiCad Tutorials

99 thoughts on “Kicad vs Eagle – Which one is best? [2018 comparison]”

  1. I like Eagle in that there are many components that are not in the library you can import from other places and you don’t have to build them from scratch. Building from scratch is tedious and time consuming, been there done that, don’t like it.

    • Hey Dennis,

      Yeah, that was one of the reasons I used Eagle before also. But now it seems that I can find most parts for Kicad too..


  2. I tried KiCad and hated it. But, I’m a long term, licensed, Eagle user that doesn’t feel the need to learn a new piece of software. The 3D model doesn’t mean anything to me. I have a 3D version of the real board when I’m done with it (I have a board mill). The only reason I tried KiCad was to avoid switching to the Autodesk ransomware model. I simply didn’t upgrade and accomplished that so I’ll stick with Eagle for now.

    • Hey Michael,

      Yes, Eagle is good. I would probably not have made the switch if I wasn’t forced to try out Kicad. If you don’t need the 3D model feature, then no need to switch.


      • Ransomware, in this case, refers to the fact that one has to pay a monthly licensing fee to keep the software operational, as opposed to paying once for a user license.

    • The 3D viewer also includes models of the components, not only the pcb (don’t know why they are not shown in the screenshot), and you can export them to design a case

      • Hi mate
        Can it export a acis”.sat” or step file
        That way I could bring it in to ironcad
        And model the frame and structure the circuit board will be fixed to.

    • There is an easy to to export a eagle BRD to FreeCad and there you have a nice 3D with all the step files…

  3. Hi,
    I’m a hobbyist having been using Eagle for 4 years now. Although the learning curve was quite steep, I like it a lot. Last year when it was bought by Autodesk, I reluctantly made the switch to their ransomeware system. One thing that annoys me now , is that you need to install the program from scratch for each update ! This means all your personal libraries, drc, gerbers and so on need to be copied !! That’s not user friendly at all !

    Mostly because of this I tried out kicad (on Mac). I’m still at the beginning of the learning curve. Right now I can design a schema without errors, create the netlist, and assign footprints.

    BUT when I switch to the pcb layout and read netlist, they’re errors coming telling me footprints are missing. Until now I haven’t found out why. I’m searching but a bit at loss.
    Maybe someone can chime in.
    Vincent, aka V1nce69 on fsb

  4. How do you back annotate in kicad? For example, you design a schematic, go through the 6 steps to get to board layout, and then your idiot manager wants one more stupid LED on the board. In Eagle, I simply add the LED to the schematic, and hook it up. I go to the board, and the LED is in the corner , waiting for me to rout the air wires. Ecactly how is this accomplished in Kicad? Do I have to rip up all of the work that I have done routing the original board?

    • In Kicad you can go back to the schematics and fix the things you need to fix. Then generate a new Netlist, and read this netlist into the pcb editor. No need to rip up your work.


      • In v5 you can skip the netlist export stuff. Now the netlist import/export is mainly left in for communicting with external tools. The kicad internal way is by going via the “update pcb from schematic tool” (found in the tool menu and for v5.1 which will come out soon there will also be a button in the top toolbar.)

  5. Thanks for your work. I am using kicad for 8 months and i am a newbie in electronics. I dont know anything about Eagle because I always prefer open-source solutions. So I chose kicad. I can draw circuit, generate gerber files, make custom components or schematics, see designs on 3d viewer. It is enough for me. Any licensing issue make me felt uncomfortable. Downside of open source solutions having longer learning curves but i believe that it makes user more competent and qualified. So i am using kicad and never mind licensing issues and happy with it.

  6. I disagree with the beginning of the article. The 80cm^3 limit for free eagle PCB is a HUGE constraint. Will switch to Eagle for this reason. (I’m a hobbyist).

    • > Will switch to Eagle for this reason.

      I don’t understand — perhaps you mean you’ll switch to KiCad for this reason?

  7. I was an Eagle user, but switched directly to KiCad version 5.0 and am happy to have made the switch. Version 5.0 is not the official release yet, but it appears to have fixed many of the issues in Version 4.x. Among other things, schematic redraws on my MacBook Pro are very peppy.

  8. Hi and thanks for your article which I found very interesting.
    I am a long time Eagle user and was actually going to buy the first level non free version of Eagle a couple of years ago to overcome its board size restrictions……but I didn’t and now it is too late……..ransomware rules and that is not good for a old Yorkshireman !!
    So, I am about to venture into Kicad to see what it can do. I intend to convert my latest design which uses every square mm that Eagle allows and see what happens……….I have given myself 4 weeks to get up the learning curve so will let you know how I find it.
    Thanks again for your input.

  9. hello admin, just few days back i started pcb designing in eagle crack version , i want to be a perfect designer in pcb so which is better or best for pcb designing ??

      • I tried both. KiCad 3d view stuff is truly integrated in the software. (And there is a very powerful plugin for freecad to get even more powerful options.)
        Eagle relies on fusion 360 (unless i did miss something) which is only free if you are either a hobbyist or a very small company. Otherwise you need yet another license.

        Similarly with simulation. Here eagle again relies on something not fully free (ltspice right now owned by analog circuits as they bought linear technology. If you work for example for another IC devolper then you are not allowed to use LTspice. Nothing says that there is not some change in the future that restricts access even further)
        Here KiCad again is superior from the license side as it uses ngspice another open source project.

  10. In Eagle one can put the Schematic and Layout windows together (if you have a large monitor) and by selecting a net in the schematic one can illuminate the corresponding trace in the layout (and vise versa). Can that be done with Kicad?

  11. I will try certainly try Kicad. I’ve been using eagle, and it’s definitely usable after writing down our own tips/help sheet to remind ourselves of how to access particular functions — such as ‘ripup;’ and ‘name;’ and how to group and move blocks of components, and lots of other things. Once we have a self-made reminder sheet, then everything becomes workable. The online help videos and tutorial documents are pretty much essential – as users are unlikely to be able to figure out how to use Eagle properly unless they get a good rundown of icons and features. I guess it’ll be the same for Kicad. I’ll be interested to see if Kicad has g-code conversion features for cnc pcb milling.

  12. The process from design to PCB is not complicated in kicad. Maybe a bit weird but just repeat the steps.
    It becomes annoying with things like moving things. You shaped a rectangular board, it is not a rectangle object you can drag. It is four segments. Say you attach a zone to a plane, no resizing if reshaping.
    Footprints/symbols are only files in directories but they managed to do something incredibly cumbersome to use. Nothing intuitive like open/save files.
    We have thousands of AliExpress modules (attiny, power supplies, wifi, … ) ready to be embedded in a bigger design. But it is not easy to create a footprint+symbol+3d of it and then add it to kicad.
    Fine placement of items is annoying. No grouping to say this transistor and resistors are ‘one’ thing. Pain in the ass when you have 16 identical sub circuits.
    But it is kicad and it is usable.

    • Some of your points will be addressed with v5.1 which will come out within a few weeks.

      Library editors now have a save and save as option. (gone are the times where you needed to select an active lib and remember to hit the save to file button after update my thing in the lib button.)

      The editors now also have a treeview of the available symbols and footprints on the left. (The symbol editor already had this with 5.0.x) You can interact with the treeview using the right mouse button as one would expect from similar views in other tools. (copy/paste, duplicate, rename, delete, add new, … for libs and single entities)


      If you have many similar components to create then scripting is a good idea. Either within kicad or as standalone python programms. The kicad-library-utils of the KiCad github organization and kicad-footprint-generator by the github user pointhi might be a good way to start out.

  13. I’ve been using Eagle for very small projects (<200) and generating a BOM is a question.

    Let’s say I have five 10K resistors. I need the BOM to have one entry showing the number of resistors, the reference designator for each, value, package size, manufacturers part number, and source’s part number if different (DigiKey). From what I can tell, Eagle dumps the reference designator, value and number of parts into a CSV file, and leaves the rest as an exercise for the engineer. I understand that I have to enter the data for the first 10K resistor, but it appears that in Eagle I have to open the CSV file and manually enter the data for all five resistors.
    1) is that true for Eagle, or is there a better way?
    2) How does KiCad do it?

    Thanks for your time.

    • I’ve never gotten the component list just the way I want it without any manual work afterward with either Kicad or Eagle. But I know it’s possible to do some work to customize the BOM output. I have a friend who’s done it, but I haven’t bothered so far.


  14. In my company we are not allowed to use free version software. I have been using Eagle for 8 years now and I have trained more than 50 engineers on Eagle. For me Eagle works fine. But I will definitely give a thought to Kicad.

  15. A long time ago i gave KiCad a try but i didnt like it, then i just used Eagle.
    But I will try KiCad again in a few moments.
    It looks like it has improved a lot, lets give the underdog another chance.
    The fact that it is opensource also helps ;)

  16. Tried Kicad maybe five years ago, could not get along with it, and worked with the free version of Eagle for a couple of years. Got irritated by the steady pressure to spend stupid money on software that as a hobbyist is completely unreasonable, tried Kicad again and the improvement was immense (version 4.0.3, I think). Preferred Kicad to Eagle pretty much instantly, without consideration of the price. Can’t comment on the commercial version of Eagle, but Kicad 4.0.3 was worlds better than any version of Eagle I’ve ever used. The work CERN put into improving Kicad has paid off stunningly. Kicad has continued to improve and version 5 is another huge step forward. Some of the new features are still rather flaky in places, I’ve managed to crash it several times, and its library management is odd, being charitable, but I very much like its workflow, once I understood it properly. Continuity, easy exchange of data with friends, no way I would go back to Eagle.

  17. From from v5 release of Kicad, it has got a number of compelling features and fixed many annoyances. Some killer features:
    – push-and-shove routing
    – 3D view *and* STEP export (board and components)
    – built-in spice integration (including graphing results)
    – python scriptable
    – hierarchical schematics
    – component grid-view (for editing BOM data)

    You no longer need to do “export netlist” in schematic view and import netlist in layout-editor. This is automated to a single button (and a back-import button to bring changes in the layout back to the schematic).

    I used to quite anti-Kicad (pre v4) as it’s UI used to be batshit crazy. With v4 they brought it to a reasonable level of usability. Now with v5 they’ve eclipsed basic tools like Eagle and have advanced features previously only found in high-end tools.

    • The more I’m using KiCad, the more I’m falling in love with it. And version 5 added some really useful features – like the possibility of changing a value of several components at the same time in the schematics.

      Now I just wish they’d spent a few bucks on a designer to create some nice-looking icons for the buttons – just to make it less scary for new audiences.

  18. I am just starting out with KICAD. Have been a PCB design since Puppets & Crepe Tape. Probably used 1/2 packages that ever exists. I have some “simple” questions. First one, How do I copy a page so same circuit can appear twice (or more) times in schematic. And second, related, How do I create additional pages in a Flat Schematic ?

  19. I thought I’d use KiCad, because I’d read about all the people complaining about Eagle’s pricing. I agree with the author that KiCad’s keyboard shortcuts (a for add, g for drag, etc.) are very nice, but IMHO its libraries, where symbols and footprints are managed separately were just a *mess*.

    Finally, Eagle’s documentation seems more thorough and up-to-date. KiCad 5.0’s getting started tutorial, the first thing you want when learning a new package, is written for 4.0

    • I disagree with the library management comment. i think eagles way is a mess. Especially the restriction that symbol and footprint need to be in the same library.

      Most components come in standardized (JEDEC) packages. It would then make sense to have a centralized footprint lib with standardized (IPC) footprints and have symbols pointing to them.

      In eagle i would either need to have one huge library where all symbols using similar footprints are placed or i need to duplicate the same footprint in many libraries. This creates a mess for even moderately sized libraries.

      You can even emulate the same behavior as eagle uses with the kicad system. Simply make a footprint and symbol library of the same name and assign only footprints to the symbols such that they use only ones from that lib.

      This might be a good read for you:

  20. Hi,

    I use eagle since many years on a professional level and worked with versions 4 to 7. I have to strongly disagree with you when it comes to the user interface. In Eagle, it is very easy to set shortcuts, and there exist default shortcuts for all important commands. What you write is just wrong. For example, rotating something is done by clicking the right mouse button. Mirroring a component is done by clicking the middle mouse button. How can it be more accessible?

    Additionally, I have Route on F5, Ripup on F6, Move on F7, and Group on F8. That way you can toggle the tools that you need for 95% of what your doing without even moving your your left hand.

    I don’t know what you mean by this “Move group” quirk. You group the components that you want to move, then you move them. How else is that supposed to work? Do you know about
    Option.ToggleCtrlForGroupSelectionAndContextMenu = “1”
    ? You can set that in your .eaglerc. If you do that, you don’t have to press Ctrl for moving components. Instead you have to press Ctrl, if you want the menu to pop up. If I remember it correctly, that has been the default behavior until Eagle 4, then they made it the other way round. Stupid decision, yes, but still revertible by simply setting a configuration flag.

    I think especially in terms of the user interface Eagle is superior to KiCAD in so many aspects.

    Moreover, the greatest disadvantage that KiCAD offered (the reason, why I switched back to eagle after trying it out for the 5th time or so), is the library management in general. Because of their stupid decision to connect nets with different names non-verbosely (!) by joining them over hidden pins (!!!) (even, if you unhide them (!!!!!)), I wrote a script that took the original libraries and recreated them without hidden supply pins. Consequently, I had the same part twice in my library. How does KiCAD manage this? The answer is again non-verbosely and not at all: it just shows one of the parts in the library manager. Which one? The one that is alphabetically first :D That was what finally made me switch back to eagle.

    • You know you do not need to use hidden power pins don’t you? Yes some symbols in the official lib still use this way of doing things (generally the logic family libs.) But for these symbols simply make a personal version if you do not like the way they are in the lib.

      In fact at least one of the logic family libs has already been converted to using a separate unit for the power pins.

  21. Hello,
    I have just graduated and am working on various projects which involve designing pcb and generating gerbers. I have recently bought a macbook pro. I just wanted to know that which software would be more efficient on this platform ? Eagle or KiCad ?

    • Probably, both will run just fine. I had some problems with kicad on a macbook pro a year ago. But an update made it better. I haven’t tried it since (I switched to Windows) – so I recommend you download kicad and try – and let us know.


  22. I think a few of your KiCad downsides are down to a lack of knowledge to be honest.
    For example it is not entirely true that one has to use the workflow where you assign footprints at the end of the design process. In fact most official kicad symbols have their footprint already assigned in the library.

    One of the main benefits of kicads way of doing things is that you really can share the same SOIC footprint for all parts that use it. In eagle you can only share footprints within their library. Just wrap your head around the fact that symbols and footprints are separate independed entities in kicad that can be connected as you wish.

    Oh and before i forget it: Version 5.1 (assumed to be released very soon) will bring major gui cleanups. (Kicad got a retired adobe gui programmer as a new dev. He used last year to completely overhaul the gui and get a common look and feel up and running.)

    • Thanks for your comment!

      I think the parts having footprints already assigned is something that has come this last year or so. Because I’m seeing it a lot now. But did not see it a lot a couple of years ago.

      And now after having used Kicad for a long time and I’m used to this way of doing things, I love it =)

      And I can’t wait to see what changes in GUI to come!


      • KiCad had the option to assign the footprint in the library for quite some time. (possibly since day one but i never used kicad before the 2013 version.)

        Regarding its use in the official lib:
        Even v4 had a lot of such symbols in the library. But these libs where not included in new projects by default. (I would guess that a vast number of users never discovered that kicad ships with more then the 20 or so libs that where added to the project by default. For reference at the end of the v4 cycle we had over 100 libs.)

    • I “grew up” using ORCAD in my engineering career where the footprint is added as needed as an attribute of a part symbol in the schematic editor. It was fast, easy and convenient.
      I have also used both high end (Mentor Graphics, Cadence) as well as “free” PCB vendor tools where the parts placed in the schematic (from the library) had to be complete with pre-assigned footprint like in Eagle. It was much less efficient when I needed to create custom schematic symbols.
      At the big sophisticated company that used Mentor Graphics, the justification for this was to avoid the circuit design engineer from making mistakes in assigning footprints. Instead, when I needed a new part, the component librarian over in the next building would make the mistake!
      Note that the design engineer has a greater vested interest in producing a manufacturable design that works than some anonymous librarian. And it is much faster and more efficient for the creator of the schematic to close the loop and fix a footprint error.

  23. I gave KiCad a try.. Worked for hour and a half. Crashed after one hour of work, schematic lost. I know, I know. I should press regularly, and backup everything. This NEVER happened in Eagle. Also, when reconnecting wires and moving wires in schematics i got frequent bug reports, suggesting to me to stop the program ?! I quess I will stick to Eagle.

    • It might have been a good idea to ask over at the forum for help before giving up. If you are prepared to give it another go and still find problems then either ask for help on the forum or report your problems on the bugtracker.

      in both cases please include the version info of kicad (help->about->copy version info) and your operating system.

      Both the devs over at the bugtracker and users on the forum are quite fast to respond if the report (or question) is made well.

  24. I have tried to use Kicad instead of Eagle (Im pretty happy with it) but its much slower and it crashes sometimes so thats a no-no for me.

    • The next larger release for kicad will come within a few days from now. So you could give it another go with the new version. If you still expirience problems then ask over at the forum for advice or report your problem directly to the devs via the bugtracker.

      In any case please include your version info (help->about->copy version info) and information about your operating system if you want to report something that smells like a bug.

  25. I was still using Protel 98 (cracked) until recently.
    After reading a couple of reviews I was ready to give Kicad a go.
    Kicad 5.0.2 is everything I need (and more – I will get to that…).
    I did the schem then the board (2 layer) with a Processor, LCD, I/O…..
    No problem all quite intuitive or easy to find info.
    Then I read about FreeRounting – mate I tell you – what a ripper.
    You use FreeRouting after you have done the schem and placed the components in a ‘sensible’ manner on the pcb.
    I’m an engineer and I would have never thought that I would be able to use an Autorouter and are able to get it to do a board that will be fine from an EMC point of view.
    If you are a hobbyist 2 layers will work fine with the Autorouter but don’t expect to clear the EMC hurdle.
    If you have to design for EM compatibility go straight to 4 layers.
    Here are MY facts:
    2 Layer Board hand routing about 2 days of work.
    4 Layer Board using FreeRouting 15 minutes – I’m not joking!
    It took me maybe 1/2 day to work out exactly what I wanted but the result was amazing and amazingly fast – I would be happy to show anyone the Kicad/FreeRouting result.

  26. Thanks for your comparison page and commenters for the feedback which is very helpful. I saw some tutorials and documentation, but this is the first place to see different user opinions (even with multiple backgrounds) that relate to something I know.

    I am using Target as licensed version since a few years. I liked the good usability and intuitiveness over earlier Eagle version I have used, however today both solutions should be quite similar. Two years ago Microsoft managed to raise my frustration level about their Windows8-10 strategy enough to make us switch to Linux for good. It was hard but we successfully made it for for most applications. Its not been regretted yet, because more and more open source apps are on the verge of growing into professional usability. Interesting times. PCB design was one of the few areas we are still stuck in Windows. Running Target in Wine is too exotic so I started looking for native apps. I am stunned by Kicad and that I have overlooked it so long. Its usability and process guidance is really exceptional for an open source tool. I had been looking to Geda before: a heap of most powerful tools but a nightmare to understand and to use. Sadly I did not continue to check out the list item “Kicad”, because the name reminded me of “Kid’s CAD”. A big mistake, as I see today :-).
    From what I read what you and others tell here I feel that Kicad is exactly what I was looking for.

    One thing not mentioned yet it the great chance for a sync between Kicad and FreeCAD. As our PCBs are always part of some custom mechanical enclosure or have mechanical constraints this has been a weak point of all solutions I have seen so far. I am surprised that this is not a big issue for all: every pcb ends up in some housing and interfaces with plugs, fasteners and user elements, some critical in alignment. Additionally part clearance, heat flows etc. Why not switch between PCB and 3D CAD like we switch today between Layout and PCB. I someone doing that with Kicad already?

    Only 2 issues are on the negative list
    a) PCB Prototyping with a CNC mill. Target is really good here. A simple 4-5 page wizard and then you can start up the CNC mill. To do this seem to require a lot of file and tool juggling outside Kicad. I read about a FreeCAD PCB plugin, but I did not see that it would to that. Is anyone doing prototyping with Kicad and a CNC mill?
    b) Offline
    Our product development is done offline. Typically that works pretty well and has other positive side effects, too.
    I am confused by the way how Kicad is handling its libraries. I read about it “collecting data from many repositories”. Would I have to mirror loads of repositories get the libraries working normally? The all-in-one database approach of Eagle and Target is much easier, obviously.

    • The “collecting data from many repositories” stuff is a thing of the past. (Version 4 issue) And even there it only affected how the official library was distributed by default. (one could always opt to switch to a local library setup)

      Now with version 5 it was decided to drop this for the official libs (the plugin is still there for users who used it for their personal libs) The default setup uses local libs now and the same github plugin stuff does no longer work for the official libs (because all footprints are now in a single repo making maintainence a lot easier and also allowing users more options for a local setup.)

      You might be interested in my guide regarding library management:

      Regarding KiCad to FreeCad sync:

      There is a tool called kicad-stepup (an optional workbench for freecad)
      It is developed by an active kicad forum member and most announcements for new features are made over there. Search the kicad info forum for “stepup footprint” and “stepup integration” you should see posts by the user maui in the result list. (For some reason i can not post links here. Which is extremely annoying to say the least.)

    • Are you sure the eagle library system really is easier? Or have you simply learned how to use that particular system and are no longer prepared to learn a new one? (Switching tools might require the same learning effort as learning the first one did.)

      I for one find it extremely hard to setup a large library well with the eagle restriction of needing the footprint in the same lib as the symbol. This simply makes it impossible to have a central IPC aligned footprint lib with all manner of symbols pointing to it. (Especially if you want

      Also be aware that library management got a lot easier in v5. So if you have the v4 way of doing things in your head then this might explain why you did not like it. For a detailed guide on v5 library management checkout

        • Did you read the linked tutorial? (I kind of understand that it might be hard to grasp without help. But with all the info out there it should really not be that difficult to understand it well enough to work with kicad.)

          If you still have questions i suggest to ask them over at the forum. The community is generally very helpful.

        • My last comment might be a bit too harsh to be honest. Sorry about that.

          The more i think about the topic of library management the more i become convinced you (and others) mean something different to me when talking about **managing** libraries. (And yes part of my realization is because i am forced to use eagle right now. Meaning i get a better insight into how these tools compare.)

          I am now convinced that you mean “downloading and installing existing assets” when talking about management whereas i mean creating a well organized library that has a logical organization for both symbols and footprints. (There is a tradeoff here. Making one of them easier will make the other harder.)

          The former might indeed be easier in eagle. (As you simply copy the files into some directory and eagle does the rest.)

          In kicad you just need to wrap your head around the fact that there is no special directory where library assets need to be placed. (It is still suggested to place them somewhere logical to make your live easier in the long run.)
          You just need to add them to the list of libraries with the library managers. (Meaning there is at least one user action required after downloading the asset.)

          This might mean that Kicad makes it harder to simply add libraries just anywhere willy nilly without thinking about a library organization. (As the separate interaction after adding it is the same amount of work as importing the asset into an existing lib. -> Meaning there is no difference in effort to having a bad lib setup compared to a good one as far as importing assets is concerned.)

          In eagle it is however much harder to import assets directly into a lib compared to simply copying the asset into your directory as a new library. This results in many users having full directories with single component libraries (Most manufacturer downloads are for a library containing one symbol with one footprint.)

          Another reason why kicad might be harder is because there are not yet the same number of manufacturers out there that offer kicad library assets when compared to the ones offering eagle assets. (This will get better with increased user-base.)

    • Hi Jan – I had none of the issues you describe using KiCad 5.0.2
      You can even use FreeRouting to have you board done by an autorouter.

  27. I have been using Eagle since back in the 90’s, so yes, this is certainly one of those “learn an old dog to sit” moments :P
    However, the new v5 has improved drastically over my previous KiCAD experiences. There is this still this fw/bk-annotation thing, that – as I understand it – has improved immensely with the F8 tool, but still has a bit to go to reach Eagle’s level of integration.
    I often do projects with parts that use GPIO type of pins, meaning I have the liberty to assign functions freely to whatever pin that will give me the easiest routing at the PCB. In Eagle I open the schematic and PCB on one monitor each, next to each other, and then do a kind of trial-n-error coupling at the schematic side, to see that I get a result with as few crossed air-wires as possible on the PCB. (Hope that made sense). This is of course most apparent when I work with schematic symbols that are “logically structured”, or just very different to their physical counterparts.
    But to this date I just have to accept the slower, and more interruptive, “F8 Update” method of KiCAD. Actually, if there was an option to just auto-approve those pop-up windows, that would be a great improvement. :)

  28. Hi to both Kicad and Eagle users. I’ve been using Altium for the last 30 years professionally. I’m retiring soon and considering doing some contract design work. As Altium is mega expensive for “home” use can anyone advice on which package would be the easiest for me to migrate to from Altium i.e. which one is the most alike in workflow, UI etc. I do simple 2 layer up to 8 layer with BGA’s. Any advice on pros and cons greatly appreciated.

    • I haven’t used Altium. But with your experience in PCB design, I’m pretty sure you’d get used to either one of them in a day or two.

      Since you might design 8-layer boards, you’d have to go for the Premium version of Eagle which is $510 per year (as of March 2019).

      Kicad has become really good in the last few years – and it’s getting better, so I would choose Kicad.

  29. Hi both Kicad and eagle are good but in the freeware eagle is given only 80cm2 area i think this is very small pcb size. Kicad is free and also have a 3D viewer option this is great and Kicad is winner. I was design a PCB in diptrace when i reached its max pin count limit of freeware i broke my keyboard. So i decided to use kicad.

  30. Nice write up. I definitely will give KiCAD a try since Autodesk doesn’t support folks who bought a perpetual license with Eagle shortly before they bought out Cadsoft. Really, it seems a class action suit is in order, since when a company buys another company, they presumably buy its liabilities (like my perpetual license). I will never do business with Autodesk since I am stuck without support or upgrade revisions that I bought with my perpetual license from Cadsoft.

  31. Hi.
    I like KiCAD because i can use it even on Raspberry PI. I worked on the same project in Windows, Ubuntu and Raspberry PI. I think is a very good program (free and open source).

  32. I tried KiCad5 for briefly a couple minutes. Am I the only one who doesn’t like the “move mouse over a symbol, hit ‘m’ to move” design? Since i’m already using mouse, why can’t I click instead of press a key for moving? Also, in pcb design, it’s so easy to accidentally moving a label of component when I actually want to move the component itself.

    • right click -> move or right click -> drag (i miss the pure move command in eagle. it is useful from time to time.) And in development version you can click and drag so it will be in version 6 eventually.

  33. I was using free version of Eagle for years now. Decided to move to a 15$/month subscription just to find out that is not an option anymore. Standard now became a part of 60$/month Fusion 360 bundle. Decided to invest my time instead of money: moving to KiCad for good.

    • Yep, they just boosted KiCAD and will end up killing Eagle because of their greed. I’m a hobbyist but long term software engineer. I could stomach some cost but not $60/month. I’ll work with KiCAD and perhaps help out with development. Plus, I’m getting tired of corporate greed and I’m a business owner, see the same stuff happening in our business, time to move on and contribute back to society.

  34. Thanks for the review. It’s quite helpful.
    I have Eagle but I am downloading Kicad right now because it’s free and quite attractive.

  35. I like that Eagle uses xml file format. Between that and the script language, I can accomplish things with tools I’m really familiar with. For example, to create a library device for a part with hundreds of pins, I write a Perl program to generate an Eagle script which replaces hundreds of mouse clicks etc.

    KiCad wasn’t ready for prime-time back when I chose Eagle. I think it’s time to have another look.

  36. Thanks for this fair and detailed review. One little nitpick, “KiCad was created by volunteers.” As far as I know, KiCad was developed at CERN for in house use, and then open sourced to ensure its ongoing maintenance and freedom. So you could say it’s *maintained* mostly by volunteers, but give CERN some credit. The folks that found (evidence of) the Higgs Boson and invented the World Wide Web.

    • Hi Cameron, I’d love to update and give credit where credit’s due. Looking at KiCad’s about page it says only:

      “The first release date was in 1992 by its original author, Jean-Pierre Charras, but is now currently under development by the KiCad Developers Team.”

      Do you have a link to any more info about this?

  37. It really depends on your needs, for which is better. I haven’t used KiCad yet, but if I am not mistaken it doesn’t have ulp scripting like eagle and this is a very powerful tool. You also have autorouter and can upload designs to Fusion 360 for 3D designs. I don’t think KiCad has these features. For me Eagle is my pick because there is so much support and libraries available. If your a hobbyist then its hard to beat free with KiCad. If you are thinking about doing this professionally then I think Eagle wins because most companies will use Eagle over KiCad due to Eagle providing support. Also, Eagle is now owned by Autodesk which will probably make it an industry standard taking over Altium and Orcad as the current standard. I think I will give KiCad a try though, since I am hearing so many good things about it.

    • KiCAD has a Python interface and you can use Python libraries to modify KiCAD files. I prefer Python over ULP since Python is very well known which avoids learning something new or learning something that can only be used with one product. Python is easy and has a better syntax IMOH.
      The Support of KiCAD is hard to beat. The Forum is very active and there are many open source tools available for special tasks with KiCAD. This include things like generating visual git diff outputs. I do not think this exist for Eagle.
      You can buy payed support from the maintainers of KiCAD, have a look at KiPro-PCB.

      For a company the most important thing is long time support and being able to work with the same files in the future. There where many professional closed source tools of a companies that are now bankrupt. This can mean that a company has to use a old PC, with a no longer supported OS, to edit the old files. In our company there are still PCs with Windows 7, Windows XP and even Windows ME. This is annoying and problematic.
      With open source software there is a much lower chance for this problem.

  38. I learned pcb layout with Eagle about 10 years ago (employer paid for Eagle license) and am now retired so I’m looking for something similar and suitable for personal use. Although there is a “free” version of Eagle through Autodesk, I get the feeling that there is a “heavy hand” there and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the free version either go away or have some additional restrictions added (just my feeling – no evidence that is going to happen). I don’t do a lot of designs so paying is hard to justify. I don’t really want a cloud based tool either. I did a lot of research on many design tools and KiCAD has emerged as the best alternative to Eagle. There seem to be a lot of support, available libraries, and momentum with KiCAD so I’m going to give it a try.

  39. Hi.
    Thank you for the comparaison. I’d would like to know if you have some articles about how to use kicad, specifically the simulation part.
    When I try to make an simulation, it seems I need a model. But my problem is I don’t where to find the model. The only thing I know in kicad is where can I find the eeschema library

  40. Nice comparison article and thread of comments…good insights from some expert voices here. Has anyone – Oyvind or otherwise – tried the free Altium Circuitmaker software? It’s apparently been out a few years, and looks great from the webpage overview although that admittedly doesn’t mean much. At least, it certainly seems like a better free alternative than the hatchet job that Autodesk did to Eagle now. Anyway it would be nice to hear from any veteran EDA users that have tried it.


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