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Altium Designer 20 vs KiCad EDA: What’s the Difference?

Choosing the finest PCB design software could be difficult given the amount of options available nowadays. This is why we’ve compared Altium Designer 20 vs KiCad EDA in-depth below.

The main difference between the two may be that one comes free while the other requires payment. Since KiCad as well as Altium have always been available for more than ten years, the two have both experienced changes and upgrades that have made them much better.

Altium Designer 20 vs KiCad EDA are two well-liked software packages that provide both schematic capture or layout. Despite the fact that both programs are so different, they also have a lot in common. Please take your time to read this article about the comparison between Altium Designer 20 vs KiCad EDA. This will help you understand the variations as well as key features.

What Does KiCad EDA Offer?


KiCad is one of the most intriguing EDA programs currently available. This software suite is totally free and has top-notch capabilities. The software has been on the market for close to 30 years now since its initial release.

It offers tools for creating circuit designs, PCBs, as well as schematics. In contrary to many free types of software, this provides a number of complex functions, including BOM production, artwork creation, Gerber files, 3D rendering, as well as modeling.

Another great advantage of KiCad is that it serves as a multi-platform tool. On Windows, macOS, as well as Linux, downloading it is free, then set up, and use. These are the package’s five main components:

  • KiCad: Which is mainly for your project management
  • PCBNew: Which offers a good solution for PCB layouts featuring the 3D capabilities and functions
  • Eschema: which is the schematic capture as well as the editor
  • Bitmap2Component: This helps in converting the image into the Circuit board footprint
  • KiCad includes the aforementioned features to provide users with a design environment that is centralized. Let’s now look at the main elements of the whole application.

What Characteristics Define KiCad EDA?


Schematic capturing

KiCad provides a stunning and useful schematic capture, featuring all of the tools available for use as needed. Additionally, its UI is neat and functional, focusing upon the most crucial tools. It also offers hierarchical conversion so as to help with intricate designs that divide large schematics into smaller sheets. Additionally PDF, SVG, HPGL, and Postscript are also supported export formats.

Electrical & design rule checking

Additionally, KiCad offers a powerful DRC as well as ERC system which checks for problems such output pin conflicts, missing drivers, coupled with disconnected pins.

Additionally, it has a netlist export option that enables designers to save all of their netlists in different file formats, including Pspice, XML, Cadstar, and PcbNew.

Planning and Routing Through PCBNew

Routing may be done more quickly and efficiently. Because of its outstanding routing capabilities, this software removes obstacles by advancing traces. The application can also reroute traffic while ignoring obstacles. It complies with the DRC requirements.

3D Viewer

The users of the KiCad EDA can perform dynamic 3D viewing, 3D viewing options, and the option to display 3D models as two-dimensional drawings, which makes it easier to understand part details.

Cross-platform and open source:

KiCad is a well-known example of the open-source software which allows both users and developers to experience some improvements and also debug that platform.

This translates to quicker improvements and greater functionality. This program can run on Windows, macOS, and Linux platforms.

User interface is simple

An intuitive and user-friendly interface provided by this tool makes it easier for the beginners to be able to learn design and hone their skills. The learning curve is easy due to the tutorials’ focus on key tools and working efficiency.

Benefits of KiCad

kicad 4 layer
  • This program’s functionality as well as variety of features seem to be remarkable considering the fact that it comes completely free.
  • Its hotkey feature comes as a terrific tool towards productivity since it lets users build shortcuts for rapid access to frequently used functions.
  • Eeschema’s spice integration offers support for the SPICE simulation,
  • The clipboard’s partial support function enables the movement of the nets as well as other objects.
  • Better navigation as well as preview features. This includes cross probing, as well as the ability for a customized color choice.
  • Also, KiCad features an editor that serves the variable of the environment to help users to manage the environment variables.

Pitfalls of KiCad

  • The library management features of KiCad need development as well as centralization. Working with newer or less prevalent components plays a major role in reducing part availability
  • Some of the versions of KiCad released earlier might have some latency issues for the macOS users
  • Also, KiCad will not allow quick routing as well as autorouting

What Does Altium Designer 20 Offer?

Altium Designer 20’s unified structure guarantees smooth and simple transfer of your design data. Now, this is a transfer from one area of design to another. But initially, the anticipated learning curve might seem like a big roadblock. This addresses the landscape and a large number of its characteristics.

As a result, Altium Designer 20 is the only one with this main place for documentation. This provides all the information needed to enable you to use the software promptly after installation. Additionally, Altium Designer 20 guide provides you with a comprehensive overview of all the resources available through the software’s user-friendly interface, as well as high-level overviews coupled with stepped walkthroughs.

How to Use Altium Designer 20 and Get Started Using PCB Design

How to Panelize in AlTIum Designer
How to Panelize in AlTIum Designer

Are you a novice using board design or Altium Designer 20? Are you trying to figure out where to start? We will teach you everything you should know with the help of our tutorial. Creating the files required for the production of the bare boards to serve the nine-component circuit is one of them.

The astable multivibrator is the design that we’ll be using for both the PCB and capture. Altium Designer 20 program will also be covered in great detail in this session. You might need to comprehend this correctly in your regular design work. You can easily become accustomed to this program by doing this.

What Characteristics Define Altium Designer 20?

There are 8 main features offered by Altium Designer that are described below.

The Schematic Design

It is easier to deal with schematics that include complex designs, multiple sheets, as well as distinct layers thanks to Altium’s revolutionary schematic solutions, which divide and simplify complicated models into different single sheets so as to ensure easy understanding.

Rule Validation

The ERC and DRC functionalities in Altium Designer allow designers to quickly verify their circuits including routing. In order to function, this functionality flags any electrical as well as design rule infractions and even proactively anticipates such violations.

PCB documentation with the draftsperson

Documentation is essential for DFM and production, as well as for institutional or research usage. This PCB documentation includes part drawings, component numbers, details, and other data. Production drawings from Altium can be directly exported to the Draftsman documents.

Working Platform (Cloud-based)

For members handling large projects, the cloud-based working platform Altium has a remote-operating cloud-based facility. These coworkers can consequently work together in real-time online, communicate information, receive work updates, and access project-related data inside a protected environment.

Communication Center

Members of the Communication Center at Altium have access to this wonderful resource for businesses and organizations, which offers instant messaging, file sharing, and coupled with communication tracking. All this is carried out in a secure and useful environment.

Manual Routing Coupled with Interactive Auto-Routing

Regardless of the complexity of the architecture, routing is made significantly easier by its routing engines that can let you construct paths for several node-to-node connections.

You could route around obstacles with the Altium Designer, as well as get more of these capabilities for efficient and speedy routing.

Advantages of Altium Designer

  • High-speed feature design is made noticeably simpler by Altium’s state-of-the-art tuning as well as filtering tools.
  • The UI could be customized to the choices of a designer, providing enhanced navigation but also shortcuts.
  • Through the introduction of MCAD as well as ECAD, it is possible to manage supply chains more effectively and might even instantly provide information regarding production even during the design stage, avoiding problems down the line.
  • Comparing the prices of the other programs, the learning curve seems to be less challenging.

Disadvantages of Altium Designer 20

  • Expensive license fees
  • It can only work when using a PC having 64-bit Windows. You won’t really find macOS and Linux versions
  • The pre-made bundles are utilized for the selling of licenses rather than the custom-based packages.

Preferences of Altium Designer 20

The primary site where you may set up distinct preferences across all of the functional aspects of the software is provided by Altium Designer 20. These settings apply to the entire system and can be found in all pertinent products and documents.

When you are within the preferences dialog, you can configure the preferences. All you must do is select the control located in the top right center of your workspace. Utilize the choices and controls on the loaded page to configure that program section as you see fit.

Additionally, this may be a combination of the corporate policy that you find satisfactory and the type of workplace you desire.

Additionally, your preferences’ dialog includes a variety of options to ensure that these preferences are set up exactly how you need them to be.

What are the Differences Between Altium Designer 20 vs KiCad EDA?

How to Panelize in AlTIum Designer
How to Panelize in AlTIum Designer

We will highlight eight significant differences between Altium Designer 20 vs KiCad EDA in this part.

  • The biggest difference is that KiCad EDA comes at no cost at all, while Altium licenses will cost a fee of about $7,000.
  • While KiCad could run on the majority of major operating systems found on the Windows x64 but also x32 devices, Altium can only work with systems running Windows x64.
  • Altium offers incredibly powerful auto-routing features with in-built interactive elements that assure optimal routing.
  • For people who work remotely, Altium has a center for work updates as well as a hub for communication that aids conversations but also file sharing. All these working features don’t work in KiCad.
  • While KC supports 3D viewing, Altium has superior rendering and MCAD interoperability, fusing ECAD with different mechanical designs.
  • Although KiCad contains a tool for creating BOMs, Altium Designer offers a wide range of DFM and production-related features that KiCad lacks.
  • Design professionals can finish their work sooner than later thanks to Altium’s adaptable user interface owing to a reduction in time spent on navigating. KiCad offers shortcuts however no customizable user interface.
  • Featuring multi-sheet schematics plus high-speed features, Altium features tools for managing challenging projects.

Altium Designer 20 vs KiCad EDA: Which is Superior?

When referring particularly to PCB design, the solution will be Altium Designer. It can help you work on every design thanks to its potent performance coupled with its cutting-edge features.

Its user interface could be customized to your preferences, and Altium Designer 20 has a sizable and user-friendly knowledge base.

If the consumer is looking for the less expensive option, KiCad EDA is a great solution. This suite offers all the basic designing functions in addition to some few added features, leaving it the undisputed winner when combined with the suite’s cross-platform adaptability.

Which One Should You Pick?

Which PCB design software: Altium Designer 20 vs KiCad EDA is best will depend on your unique design requirements, budgetary condition, and other factors.

If you require production, teamwork, advanced, complex designs, as well as other features to handle such projects, Altium Designer would be your best option. Although pricey, the price is justified by its functionality and usability.

KiCad EDA, however, can be the solution you’re looking for if these aforementioned requirements wouldn’t match whatever you want, the work will be moving in a different direction, or you’ll serve as a student or individual working on basic to different intermediate projects.




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