KiCad 6 Guide series
KiCad Paths and Libraries
In this article, you'll learn about the paths and libraries configuration options in the KiCad project window's Preferences menu.
In the KiCad project window, you will find the paths and libraries configurations options under the Preferences menu item.
Let’s look at each one.
Bring up the "Configure Paths" window from the Preferences menu.
This window contains a table to environment variables that contain paths to important collections of files.
As you can see in the figure above, there are five path environment variables:
- KICAD6_3DMODEL_DIR: points to a directory that contains 3D models of components for use by the 3D viewer. Learn more about this in a dedicated section of the course or eBook.
- KICAD6_3RD_PARTY: points to a directory that contains 3rd party plugins, libraries, and other downloadable content.
- KICAD6_FOOTPRINT_DIR: points to a directory that contains footprint files for use by Pcbnew. Learn more about this in a dedicated section of the course or eBook.
- KICAD6_SYMBOL_DIR: points to a directory that contains symbol files for use by Eeschema. Learn more about this in a dedicated section of the course or eBook.
- KICAD6_TEMPLATE_DIR: points to a directory that contains sheet template files for use by Eeschema. Learn more about this in a dedicated section of the course or eBook.
- KICAD_USER_TEMPLATE_DIR: points to a directory that contains project template files created by the user. You can use these template files to start a new project quickly. Learn more about this in a dedicated section of the course or eBook.
When you install KiCad, these variables will inherit default values that point to the KiCad application installation folder. You can use the Configure Paths window to change these values.
For example, my computer has a solid-state drive with a limited amount of available space on it. Because the libraries (especially the 3D models) take several gigabytes of storage, I have opted to use my external RAID drive for those resources. As you can see in Figure 2.4.2 above, the footprint, symbol, and 3D model paths point to my external RAID drive, while the rest point to locations on the internal SSD.
Manage Symbol Libraries
Use the symbol libraries manager to:
- Add new symbol libraries.
- Delete symbol libraries.
- Activate or deactivate symbol libraries.
The Symbol Libraries window contains a list of active or inactive libraries installed in your KiCad instance. Each library may contain one or more schematic symbols. When a library is installed and activated, you can use its symbols in your schematics in Eeschema.
In the figure above, you can see the Symbol Libraries window with several of the libraries installed in my instance of KiCad.
- The table contains two tabs: "Global Libraries" and "Project Specific Libraries." You can manage libraries under each tab to control the library visibility (global or project-specific).
- Each library has a name and a path. The path can use an environment variable, as in the example above. Alternatively, you can set an absolute path to a library; this is often a good option when you want to install a library stored outside the standard environment paths.
- If you forget the environment variable paths, look at the bottom of the window. In the table "Path Substitutions," you can see the actual path stored in the environment variables.
Learn how to use the symbol libraries manager in a dedicated section in the KiCad Like a Pro 3e course or eBook.
Manage Footprint Libraries
Use the footprint libraries manager to:
- Add new footprint libraries.
- Delete footprint libraries.
- Activate or deactivate footprint libraries.
The Footprint Libraries manager window works similarly to the symbol libraries manager.
You can control the context of a library by listing them under the "Global Libraries" or "Project Specific Libraries" tab. Each library has a name and a path, and the path may contain an environment variable or an absolute path.
Learn how to use the footprint libraries manager in a dedicated section in the KiCad Like a Pro 3e course or eBook.
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KiCad 6 Guides
0. Why learn KiCad?
1. What is a PCB?
2. The PCB design process
3. PCB fabrication
4. Get KiCad for your operating system
5. An example KiCad project
6. KiCad Project Manager (main window)
7. Overview of the individual KiCad apps
8. KiCad Paths and Libraries
9. Create a new KiCad project from scratch
10. Create a new KiCad project from a template
11. KiCad 6 on Mac OS, Linux, and Windows
12. Major differences between KiCad 6.0 and 5.0
13. KiCad Schematic symbols
14. PCB key terms