KiCad 6.0.0 Brings a New Look, New Features, and a Much Improved 3D Viewer for Your PCB Designs

Now celebrating 30 years, the KiCad EDA project makes a move to improve accessibility for newcomers to the software.

Gareth Halfacree
2 years ago β€’ Productivity

KiCad, the open source electronic design automation package created by Jean-Pierre Charras in 1992, has hit a major milestone: the launch of KiCad 6.0.0, 30 years after the software's first release.

"There have been many important changes that make this release a substantial improvement over the 5.x series and a worthwhile upgrade for users on all platforms," the development team wrote of KiCad 6.0.0, launch on Christmas Day as a present for anyone designing electronic devices. "There are hundreds of new features and improvements, as well as hundreds of bugs that have been fixed."

The most obvious change: A new look and feel, designed to ease newcomers into the software and make it more accessible to those switching from rival EDA software β€” including proprietary alternatives. A key improvement comes in the harmonization of the schematic and PCB editor windows - which, the development team promises, now feel more like a single application instead of two related but separate tools.

The new release also brings with it a major overhaul for the schematic editor including the ability to assign and control net classes and create signal groups in buses and a new file format for schematics and symbol libraries. "This new format enables long-desired features such as embedding symbols used in a schematic directly in the schematic file," the team explains, "so that cache libraries are no longer needed."

The PCB editor has been improved too, and the changes aren't just in the refreshed user interface: Users can now hide nets from the ratsnest view, control zone, pad, via, and track opacity independently, and more easily control the selection of objects.

The editor also benefits from support for rounded tracks, hatched copper zones, the removal of unconnected annular rings, while the push-and-shove router and track length tuner have seen improvements β€” as has the 3D board viewer, which now includes raytracing lighting controls, highlighting of objects selected in the PCB editor, and easier access to common controls.

"With the thousands of changes made between KiCad 5 and KiCad 6, it is difficult to capture all the new and improved features in one place," the development team writes. "In addition to these new features, hundreds of bug fixes and performance improvements have been contributed by dozens of volunteers. Thank you to everyone who helped make KiCad 6 our biggest release ever."

The blog post detailing the changes in the new release is available on the KiCad website, with downloads for a range of operating systems including Linux, macOS, and Windows available now; the source code, meanwhile, is published to GitLab under the reciprocal GNU General Public License 3 and a selection of other licenses.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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