PCB designing and EDA (Electronic Design Automation) are fields of engineering that are gaining rapid popularity and although they have always been a vital part of every technological field, there are constant advancements being made to meet the increasing demand in the current scenario.
In such a case, the prospects of a PCB designer are bright, and any designers or beginners who are looking for free PCB design software, can read this guide on the comparison between Fritzing vs KiCAD.
These are two free and powerful PCB design packages, with simplicity and productivity as their focus. To pick one between Fritzing vs KiCAD, you can go through their main differences as given in the section below.
 Major Differences Between Fritzing Vs KiCad
Both Fritzing and KiCAD are capable PCB design platforms, and are used widely. Among the many free PCB design packages, they both have a comparatively better feature set and provide an easy to use experience with fast performance.
Still, to help you choose one from these two, we have compared their main features and other important parameters. The 9 major differences between Fritzing vs KiCAD are given below.
 User Interface
The UI is the main workspace that you will be using for all your design projects. So, it’s important that the UI should be well designed. By well designed, what we mean is, it should not be overly cluttered, should be easy to navigate around, easy to find tools quickly and it should have a decent color scheme and design that does not look absurd.
Starting with the Fritzing user interface, we get three main sections within it: The project view, the palette windows and the part creator.
The project view is the workspace where you build virtual circuits and edit them, in any of the following views: breadboard, schematic or PCB.
The Palette windows include features like part libraries, part inspector, undo history and navigator.
And, the tool Fritzing provides to modify and create new parts is called the part creator.
One of the useful options in Fritzing is the feature that allows you to customize the user interface according to your needs. The various sections can be re-arranged, moved, resized and more; this can improve your work efficiency.
Coming to the KiCAD UI, you get three main modules, which basically work as sub-programs to deal with all PCB design tasks. These are: PCBNew, Eeschema, and the KiCAD project manager. It has a more modern design, and is generally easier to use.
 Operating Systems and Platforms
KiCAD is an open-source and cross platform PCB design program. It can be run on Windows, Mac OS and Linux (through Wine) devices. Since it is open source, it’s main funding and backing is provided by CERN.
KiCAD is designed for a more powerful design experience, and thanks to its endorsement by CERN, it has a wide and active user base. What this means is that you get a better range of forums and online discussion channels, where you can discuss your problems, ideas, or put in requests for features in the future updates.
Fritzing is also an open-source program, but doesn’t have professional backing in the sense that KiCAD does. Fritzing also runs on all major OS platforms like Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Fritzing also has an online community, although it is not as active as KiCAD, and has comparatively lesser number of users.
However, since it is open source as well, the updates roll out pretty quickly, and errors and bugs are also fixed in a short amount of time.
Perhaps the main thing while comparing software is to weigh their work environments and workflow against each other. A well designed and smooth program will feel much better to use, and will prove to be more productive.
With Fritzing, you begin with opening a new doc, and then you get the option to either import parts from the Fritzing libraries or you can use the part creator to create custom parts. Fritzing also contains a feature called Mystery Part, which lets you define new parts and their connectors.
It also allows you to edit the circuit also, and access all the edits you made, with the option to undo and redo the older edits. Using the Palette Windows section, you can modify the properties of existing parts.
You also get manual and auto-routing, as well as documentation and report generation features.
In KiCAD, you get sub-programs that handle specific tasks. It is like using multiple smaller programs in a single package. Eeschema is used for schematic capture which supports multi-sheet schematics and provides a wide range of export formats.
The PCBNew module handles routing and layout, and there are part creators and component management systems included as well.
 Schematic Editing and Capture
The schematic interface of Fritzing is clean and basic, with icon based tools that are easy to find. The number of features available is comparatively limited, but it works fast. You can make basic schematics quickly and export them in a variety of major formats like PDF, Postscript and more.
Fritzing also offers an intuitively designed schematic editor that has a lot of small, but useful features such as drag and drop feasibility, view magnification for part lists and so on. They help you work faster, and more comfortably.
With KiCAD, the feature set is extended and more comprehensive. It even offers some features to deal with complex and large schematics. Designers can use the hierarchical conversion feature, which converts and simplifies large, multi-sheet schematics into a hierarchical format, where you can access individual sheets and work more easily.
Making a layout, and routing the board can affect the design and its performance in a major way. Both Fritzing and KiCAD have both manual and autorouting features.
In Fritzing, once you make the schematic, you have to manually draw and connect wires on the breadboard. You can use the autorouter on the PCB view. The manual routing features are basic, yet functional.
While, routing in KiCAD is a bit more advanced. You get interactive manual routing features, which help you lay traces much more efficiently and quickly. KiCAD offers push and shove routing, obstacle avoidance routing and other such tools. The routing works in compliance with the design and electrical rules.
 Library Content
Libraries that are included with the software work as a quick and easy way to access thousands of components that are pre-built, or templates you can use to build more parts, or even stock components from suppliers in some cases.
Fritzing has its libraries stored on Github, as well as being available in the software when you install it. By making their libraries available on Github, they have made it easier to access for everyone.
Moreover, the library content is updated dynamically, so any changes made, such as new components being added, will be reflected in your software, without having to wait for the next version.
KiCAD has completely integrated libraries, along with the option to import parts and components from external sources as well. The libraries also contain a multitude of components that can be readily used for your design, either directly, or after modifications if required.
 3D Modelling
KiCAD users get a 3D viewer. This can be really helpful to visualise the PCB in 3D and check certain dimensions, clearances and so on. It also provides interactive viewing, and allows you to rotate, orient, pan, zoom and view the model in different views.
You can also view 3D models as 2D drawings, and view them in different planes. KiCAD also gives you the option to export the model or drawing in major CAD compatible formats so that the file can be opened in other software as well.
Fritzing does not yet have 3D capabilities, although it allows you to save drawings in formats that can be opened in other programs.
Performing a simulation is a necessary and crucial way of determining the performance of the circuit and the behaviour of the PCB. It is useful in design validation and allows you to make changes in the design if it is not performing as required, before sending it for production.
KiCAD provides a range of simulation features, based on the ngspice platform. It works using the SPICE simulation engine, and supports analog, digital and mixed-signal circuit simulation.
As of now, Fritzing does not include simulation features. There are discussions on online forums regarding this, but the feature itself has not yet been added to the software.
 Additional and Innovative Features
These features are such that they improve the workflow and give you a better design experience.
KiCAD has a tool known as Bitmap2Component, which works as an image to PCB footprint conversion tool. You can import any image file, and after giving some input parameters and settings, you can convert the image to a PCB footprint and use it in your project.
This saves you the time to create that particular footprint from scratch. Similarly, Fritzing also has some tools and features like this.
You get color coded wires, which is an option to automatically colorize wires according to their length. This helps in easy sorting, selection and understanding of the layout.
The Code View feature allows you to edit and upload your code from within the program itself. This way, the program code and design can be packaged together. Fritzing also provides high-DPI display support for such displays on all platforms.
Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, Fritzing Vs KiCad
To pick a program between Fritzing vs KiCAD, on the basis of features and performance, the answer would be KiCAD. Fritzing is more basic in its functioning, and some beginners might find it easier since it provides a more elementary feature set.
On the other hand, KiCAD has slightly more advanced features, but also comes with a very simple and easy to use workspace with tutorials. So novice users who have little to no experience with PCB designing can also try using KiCAD.
The tools provided in KiCAD can help you work on more complex projects as compared to Fritzing, and hence it is preferred among the two for more advanced designs.
Fritzing Vs KiCad EDA: Who’s the Winner?
Although both Fritzing and KiCAD have a lot of similarities, the factors that make them different are their workflows and the kinds of projects they can be used for.
To decide a winner between Fritzing vs KiCAD, you will have to know what type of designs you want to work on using the software, what the complexity level will be and other such parameters.
Knowing the design objective is (for example, production, research etc.) also helpful in deciding because KiCAD includes certain features for DFM (design for manufacturing), and although Fritzing has some basic tools for this such as BOM (bill of material) generation, its features in this aspect are limited.
So, Which One Should You Pick?
To pick one software package between Fritzing vs KiCAD, as mentioned above, your requirements will be the main deciding factor. KiCAD is the more capable platform, and is used more widely; with the CERN backing it gets, it is easier for the developers to push new versions and stable releases more easily, providing users with improved features.
In the case of Fritzing, a lot of the new versions are beta versions for a while before a stable release is published. Users who want a platform for a quick and easy design method, for basic and casual PCB design tasks can use Fritzing. There are online forums where you can discuss upcoming versions and put in requests to the developers to add certain features.
Both the programs are free to use, and work on all major platforms, so if you still have any doubts regarding which one to select, and cannot decide, you can simply try both of them and see which one works better with respect to the work you need to do.
Hopefully, you have found this Fritzing v KiCAD EDA comparison guide worthwhile and it has helped you to make an informed choice about these two PCB Design Software.