Kicad Specific PCB Hints

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  • In PCBNew, it works best for routing in the OpenGL mode, but defaults to Legacy.
  • On all your parts, add a document URL so you can right click in EESchema and see the data sheet.
  • Use net labels to keep your schematic uncluttered and to label nets that need wider traces on the PCB. You can set them up in the PCBNew "Design Rules."
  • Put in test points to make debugging your board easier.
  • Sometimes you can put in components that are not populated to give yourself more options after you actually get the board back from manufacturing.
  • Check that the pin numbers on your schematic match the ones on your footprints, and the pin numbers on the data sheet match the pin numbers on the schematic. This is especially important. In the past Kicad changed the convention for pin numbers on diodes, and so even if you have an old design that was right, and you make some modifications to it, this may bite you! It is also a problem that various manufacturers have different numbering conventions on pins for some standard packages, and the footprints you are using may not match the parts in your schematic. You should also check that the schematic pins are correct, because the .lib files may also have these errors.
  • After you have routed a board, and you make changes, it will leave in old routed connections, which may not be what you want. You should go to the Edit-> Cleanup Tracks and Vias, and select that tracks connecting different nets should be deleted. The other options can be helpful sometimes too.
  • Make sure you have the correct package type and footprint for the parts you actually are ordering.
  • Do a design rules check in Kicad. Also do one at before submitting your design for manufacturing. OSHpark also has a nice check.
  • Look at the 3D view to make sure things look as you expect.
  • Make sure the silk screen images look good. They will appear on your board.
  • You end up with nicer ground planes if after you have created your board, you go back and put vias in and rearrange traces to maximize the ground plane area. You have to start those traces from a pad; you can't start from a ground plane.