New User's first impressions

From the lofty position of a day and a bit as a Fritzing user and one whole very simple

board created, my thoughts on Fritzing. Mostly Wow! awesome! It does what I want, some things
(selection against rotation and creating lines for instance) I’d like to be easier but I don’t
see a way to do it. I don’t really qualify as a new user as I have been using EDA software in
the form of Circuit Maker 2000 since the late 1980s. Circuit Maker was a commercial product
and luckily for me, I upgraded to the professional version (which can create new parts) about
a year before they were bought out by Atrium and discontinued in the early 90s. While I can
and do make my own new parts, there is no one to share them with and thus the quest for an open
source solution. I’ve looked at gEDA (which looks to me to be dying slowly), kicad (more of a
future but still a mainstream EDA type design with all its complexity) and now Fritzing.
Fritzings big advantage (at least for me) is the breadboard view which doesn’t exist in kicad.
As I’m mostly making one offs for my own use rather than production, being able to easily
(less than a day of work) document a perf board project is ideal. While I went through to
create a PCB just to see how it works, in future I’m likely to stop at the breadboard and
schematic stage as a PCB isn’t economical usually for just one. As well Fritzing will allow
documenting Arduino / Arm Cortex (bought off Ebay for $2.62 US, can’t even buy the board let
alone the parts for that to build one!) and other types of SBCs attaching to the various
Arduino interface cards for SD cards, RTCs and sensor modules of all kinds. I may have to
learn how to create my own Fritzing parts, but I’d probably have to do that for any such
solution and here there is the possibility to share the results and probably reuse or adapt
parts provided from other people. In short, I’m in!
I’m old and getting forgetful so I tend to document what I’m doing so when I have to
redo it after screwing up, I don’t have to re invent the wheel (I do unfortunatly have to figure
out what I wrote which isn’t always easy!) so below are the high points of the log of installing
and configuring Fritzing in case it is of any use to anyone else. There ae also some potential
bugs and a bunch of improvement suggestions for the developers (who undoubtably have enough of
their own to work on). At this point I’m probably going to begin beating my head against the
parts creation monster. I’ve downloaded Inkscape since Old_Grey and steelgoose in the forums
were good enough to help me move the default diode part from needing 4 .1 holes in the
breadboard view to the 3 .1 holes used by the PCB footprint and that somehow (that I haven’t
figured out yet) was most easily done in Inkscape or a similar product. I expect hsving the
original to big file and the new correct file should help in figuring out how to make the one
from the other. I’ll also try muddling through the online tutorials and likely bothering folks
in here some more I’ll be able to figure out how to make custom parts and become really

Peter Van Epp

Tips (mostly my solution to things that bit me, that I don’t see in Fritzing Tips and Tricks
in help. If you like them, feel free to add them to the help):

(probably not this one though, not likely of wide interest)

  1. If you are on Windows (as I am) and would rather have your Fritzing data files on a partition
    other than the system partition (since I sometimes need to restore the system partition to
    clear installed but no longer wanted driver files) and have open source tools to do that,
    you can create a hard link to another partition on the system drive or to another drive
    with this procedure (at least on Win 7 Pro):

    First open explorer and click organize->folder and search options->view
    and click Show hidden files and folders (I usually leave it like this and just be
    careful not to delete system files) as some of the paths we need to deal with are

    In my case the data partition on the system disk is drive f: so

    in explorer select f: -> new folder

    change its name to Fritzing (or whatever you like!)

    enter it and Fritzing->new folder and rename it


    and Fritzing->new folder and rename it

    My Documents

    enter it and My Documents->new folder and rename it


    You should now have a directory f:\Fritzing\My Documents\Fritzing

    which is where your sketch and parts files will live.

    now go back to f:\Fritzing\AppData

    enter it and AppData->new folder and rename it


    enter it and Roaming->new folder and rename it


    so you should now have a directory f:\Fritzing\AppData\Roaming\Fritzing

    where temp files will live (and probably need to be cleaned off from time to time).

    Then from a command prompt do:

    mklink /J “c:\Users\Owner\My Documents\Fritzing” “f:\Fritzing\My Documents\Fritzing”

    mklink /J “c:\Users\Owner\AppData\Roaming\Fritzing” “f:\Fritzing\AppData\Roaming\Fritzing”

    (note that “Owner” in the above needs to be replaced with your Windows user name!)

    This creates a hard link from where Fritzing expects to put its data and temp files to
    the alternate place on the different partition that you want.

    Now unzip the latest Fritzing release on to your machine and proceed as normal.
    Your data and temp files from Fritzing should be appearing on the f: directories, if not
    correct it before proceeding. Starting Fritzing for the first time should create some
    directories on the f: drive.

    (optionally) open explorer and click organize->folder and search options->view
    and click Don’t show hidden files and folders to restore Windows to its usual ignorant

  2. Spend some time trying Fritzing out (I did an entire simple board for about a day to get
    a feel for it) and then buy the “Fritzing for inventors” book by Simon Monk if you think
    you like Fritzing. I found the book Well worth it. Some of the tips below and the title
    block part I learned from the book.

  3. Breadboard: Intending to move a single pin connector, but hit the center (red) connection
    instead of the outer select ring which creates a wire out from the pin. Cntrl-Z (undo)
    will clear this rather than my first thought of select right click delete wire which is
    too many clicks for the lazy.

  4. Schematic: getting the connections right is hard! If you don’t get a large dot on the
    junction of two wires you don’t have a connection. You can not connect to a wire, only a
    terminal or a bend point. So pulling a wire out to create a bend point, then connecting
    to that then straightening the wire again usually works (but not always!). Check that
    view-> align to grid is ticked (that appears to be the default) as well.

  5. Schematic: to change orientation of parts use flip (h and v) rather than rotate as flip
    leaves the labels readable and rotate doesn’t! The same function in the other 2 views is
    in the wish list below as rotate messes up the component labels requiring them to be
    rotated as well, again too many clicks for the lazy.

  6. PCB: select the board (PCB1 in my case) and in inspector tick “sticky” then if you
    accidentally select and move the board (as I often do), the components will move with it.

  7. PCB: Since the grid is basically invisible on my system, select ruler from tools and use
    the 1/10 scale on that to check placement. the ruler is invisible as well with default
    black background so view->set background color ->custom color and set the background to
    white which makes the ruler readable. In inspector change from cm to inches (to get the
    1/10 scale in the middle of the ruler rather than an edge, I can feel a new custom part
    coming on to correct this …). Drag another ruler in, rotate it 90 and change to inches
    to get both axis at once. Move the rulers around as needed to check spacing then delete
    them both when you are finished.

  8. PCB: Setting the board to sticky creates a little green blob on the top left of the board. I
    thought I had created an accidental line or pad and tried to remove it without success
    until I though of sticky …

  9. PCB: select the board and in inspector in placement location was 0.884 (in inches) it
    would go up or down in .1 increments but neither dragging nor incrementing would get it
    even (although the other one was on 0.200 and incremented by .1 as I expected. I found I
    could highlight the 0.884 and replace it with 0.100 to give me the desired sensible board
    coordinates. I don’t know how I managed to get the original odd values in there but this is
    a cure.

  10. When you get the routing complete in PCB view go to routing -> Design Rules Check and run
    the DRC to make sure all the paths are ok (this likely isn’t sufficient, you also need to
    use a gerber viewer to manually check the layout in the gerber file before sending it to
    the fab shop but its a good start!).

For the developers a potential bug, and some suggestions for improvements:

fritzing.0.9.3b.64.pc on Windows 7 Pro

bug? all three views: drag parts -> core -> tools -> note in to the view. Select it and delete
is greyed out so you can’t delete it once added. This is why I moved my first attempt
at this board and started again from scratch. I had added a note as version control
not knowing about the title block part and couldn’t delete it. I don’t see it in the
bug tracker and will add it if you wish (unless I’m just doing something wrong of

Improvements I’d like to see:

wishlist parts: Allow setting color of connectors as we now have colors for .1 connectors both
male and female from a variety of sources! My board has a 2pin female black, red,
blue, and yellow connectors to mark +/- 5V in (red / black) and +/- 9V isolated out
(yellow, blue). It would be nice to capture that in the breadboard view.

wishlist: Schematic: separate all the symbols (they are currently all on top of one another
and spread widely in the workspace. Group them together in the middle of the schematic
view (at the very least not overlapping!) when they are created. Better yet position
as they are on the breadboard if that is where they are created.

wishlist schematic: On title block Inspector strips the leading blanks in the desc field:
" Valcor dc-dc converter to breadboard adapter" which would have centered the
description, appears in desc as:

"Valcor dc-dc converter to breadboard adapter" (right justified)

either autocenter (selectable option in inspector perhaps?) or don't strip the blanks. 
An author name field would be useful to although a new custom part would be the easy 
way to achieve that.
     Option for the title block on both breadboard and PCB views as well may be 
desirable. The part in core says schematic view and it won't let me drag it in to 
breadboard or PCB. This would help keep straight printed copies of the data.

wishlist printing: Native print on to 3 hole 8.5 * 11 paper The right border is interrupted
by the 3 holes (an offset from the left margin some how would be desirable!). The
left side border is missing completely, I suspect this is an off by one type bug where
the last pixels don’t get printed. The image doesn’t fill the page scaling would be
nice. The grey scale (on a black and white laser printer) makes the image hard to
read. An option for no grey scale (everything either black or white) would probably
be desirable for readability. Tried exporting to image .pdf and the left border prints
on that, but otherwise same problems (although with a pdf scaling and print processing
may be more possible, and I just don’t know how to do it yet)…

wishlist PCB: Grid is basically invisible (at least on my machine). setting to change grid
color and/or contrast is very desirable to make it more visible. Even changing from
black background to white (which is needed to make any use of the ruler tool by the
way as the black background wipes out the ruler markings!) doesn’t help much the
grid pixels need to be either wider or darker to show up better. I suspect adjustable
in some manner would be best to allow for different screens (I’m on a 27" LED LCD at
the moment).

wishlist PCB: select board in view in Inspector the shape has width in mm, The breadboard view
is in .1 inch increments. Either a conversion or an option to use .1 inch units for
the board size would make life easier here (had to get out the calculator to convert,
and then round the result because it only accepts one digit after the decimal in
inspector). Defaulting to the size of a perfboard in Breadboard view (if there is a
perfboard selected there) would be fabulous.
As well the Placement settings are odd. They appear to be on a grid (perhaps
.1, but the origin is (in my current case 0.884 inches by 0.200 inches. I can’t get
the first one to come to a sensible (i.e. even number such as 0.200 inches) either

wish list Parts: move the 1/10 inch scale to the edge on one side or the other as that
is more useful the 1/16 for component placement (I’d prefer 1/10 on both edges with
1/16 in the middle myself). I guess in fact I could do this my self by making a custom
part which may be the appropriate solution. This (assuming the color can be changed in
the part) could also fix the wishlist item above for at least the ruler part. I’d still
like to see a darker or at least more visible grid though.

Thank you for your abbreviated first impression…:relaxed: