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The Value of Atomic Libraries in EDA

There has been a heated debate over atomic vs. loosely coupled libraries in EDA tools that has spanned generations. I am not willing to take one side or the other, but I am willing to give my two cents on what value I find in using atomic libraries. Before I do, let me define atomic and loosely coupled libraries. Atomic libraries are those that have symbols and footprints already linked and the associated data, such as part number, is associated. Loosely coupled libraries are those that the symbol and the footprint are not pre-assigned, and there is little to no specific part data that exists.

Atomic libraries allow me to do a lot up front while I’m putting together my schematic. Not only am I selecting a fully orderable part that can be placed in a BOM, I am selecting the footprint to be placed on my board. Fully atomic libraries generally include data about the part itself, or at least a fast link to the data that allows the design to flow easier as I look up pinouts and pertinent specs about the part.

I also find myself re-using certain parts from one design to another because they are convenient. With the atomic library, they are even more convenient.

Of course, I must disclose my slight bias; I was one of many that worked on and helped create the Digi-Key KiCad Library. I encourage you to try it, you might find more value in it than you think.

If this blog caught your eye, check out KiCon (coming up soon – April 26th - 27th, 2019) where I will be giving a brief talk on how the Digi-Key KiCad library came to be.

About this author

Image of Reid Landsrud

Reid Landsrud, Senior Applications Engineering Technician, has been with Digi-Key since 2007. He has an Associates of Applied Science in Electronics Technology and Automated Systems from Northland Community and Technical College. Reid is a KiCad fanatic and specializes in PIC microcontrollers. In his spare time, he tinkers with miscellaneous electronics projects and odd mechanical jobs.

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