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In a nutshell, Project Management is focused on securely storing and tracking changes throughout the design process, and ultimately, channeling the resulting design through to the creation of a physical item – such as an assembled PCB to be used in the final product. To meet these needs, Altium Designer provides a range of project management approaches that offer increasing levels of sophistication and capabilities, yet simplify the process from a designer's perspective.
Altium Designer's integration with Version Control systems (VCS) provides the primary mechanism for robust management of design data, while its tightly managed generation of Output files forms the basis for sophisticated design data release mechanisms. In their most advanced form, both the management of design data and generation of output data are centered on the capabilities of the Altium Vault.
The VCS-based project and design document management options that are available can be summarized as follows, ordered by increasing capabilities:
– see Version Control and Design Repositories for more information.
Beyond the selected method used for project and document management, a board design will eventually be 'released' from the design domain to the manufacturing domains for fabrication, testing and assembly.
At its fundamental level, this involves generating a set of output files that correctly provide the information required to manufacture and populate the board design. At its most advanced level, a preconfigured and fully verified set of generated output files (including a snapshot of the design files) are Released to the Altium Vault as a packaged 'item' revision, which is itself under lifecycle-managed version control. See Releasing a Design, below.
In conjunction with the Altium Vault, Altium Designer offers the ability to work with an advanced project construct in the form of a Managed Project. Stored within a Vault-based repository, a Managed Project harnesses the Vault's version control and design collaboration capabilities to provide a refined approach to centralized design for small or large design teams.
Thanks to the intelligence built in to the Vault service, tasks such as VCS operations are simplified and automated, and additional design collaboration features such as user access control (sharing), commenting and notifications are integrated with Altium Designer. The end result is a robust and secure project storage format and location that can become the central point for collaborative project design.
The preliminary steps for managing and working with Managed Projects are:
DefaultRepository), and new repositories may be added in ADMIN » VCS page of the Vault browser interface.
A Managed Project can then be created through the Vault interface or in Altium Designer, or an existing project may be converted to a Managed Project.
A new Managed Project is created in Altium Designer via the standard New Project dialog (File » New » Project), where the Managed Project option is selected and the target Vault/Folder nominated. As with other new VCS projects, the files will be added to version control and must then be Committed to the VCS repository – use the Commit Whole Project or Save Managed Project commands in the Projects panel.
Alternatively, a Managed Project can be directly created through the Projects page in the Vault browser interface. Use the button to open the Add Project dialog, where the Managed Project's name, description, and target repository/folder is nominated. This automatically adds and commits the project structure in the Vaults VCS repository, which can be subsequently opened and added to in Altium Designer.
– See Creating a New Managed Project from the Vault's Browser-Based Interface for more information.
A Vault-based Managed Project can also be created by converting an existing Altium Designer project to a Managed Project. To do so, right click on the project file and select the Convert to Managed Project command.
In this case the opened project is Added then Committed to a nominated Vault repository, while the local version is retained as the working copy. The newly created Managed Project can then be shared with other Vault Users (or user Role groups) to enable a collaborative design environment for that project.
– See Convert a project to a Managed Project for more information.
A Vault based Managed Projects can be individually shared with nominated users by setting its access permissions (including read/write restrictions) in the Vault browser interface. Use the Share button () to access the Manage permissions for project dialog, where Vault Users and group Roles can be granted access to the selected project. Vault Users and user Roles are defined in the Users page of the browser interface.
– See Sharing a Managed Project for more information.
A Vault-based Managed Project can be opened from within Altium Designer (File » Open Managed Project), or from the Projects page of the Vault browser interface (access the Project's page with the button, and select the button). In both cases the Managed Project files are checked out from the Vault repository to a local working folder and opened in Altium Designer.
– See Opening a Managed Project for more information.
Also in conjunction with the Altium Vault, Altium Designer provides an advanced approach to organizing, tracking and storing the design output files required for manufacturing a PCB design project. This employs an automated process that ‘releases’ a specific sets of design output files to the Altium Vault as a read-only ‘Item’ revisions, which collectively corresponds to a physical item that may be built. The Item revisions created by this Project Release process are stored in the Vault’s version controlled repository, are lifecycle managed, and represent a manufacturable snapshot of the PCB design at the time the Release was created.
The Project Releases that follow, as the design progresses, are committed as new revisions of each Item, allowing a sequence of released revisions to be created as the design changes and evolves. Previous revisions are read-only, and may be viewed or downloaded from the Vault at any time.
A board design that is released or 'committed' to the Vault Item (as a set of lifecycle-managed Revisions) generally includes:
The prerequisites for releasing a PCB design to the Vault are:
The essentials of these requirements are outlined below.
The fundamental method of generating design output in Altium Designer is through a range of available design Output Generators that produced the data files and artwork needed to create the real world version of the design – in other words, the Schematic and PCB Prints, Gerber and NC Drill fabrication files, Bill of Materials (BOM), Pick and Place Assembly files etc that are required to fabricate and assemble the PCB design.
The selected Output Generators and the specific Output files they will create for a design are collectively defined using Altium Designer’s Output Job Editor, which saves the generator to output mapping configurations in an Output Job File (
*.OutJob) – created via File » New » Output Job File.
Within the editor, the available Output types are arranged in functional sections (Documentation Outputs, Fabrication Outputs, etc) and are enabled by selecting a sub-type and the design document source. The selected Output is then linked to a target Output Container (such as a PDF, file, or a printer) – as shown above and below.
As the core mechanism for collectively generating manufacturing and assembly files for a board design, Altium Designer Output Jobs offer the following additional capabilities:
– See Preparing Multiple Outputs in an OutputJob for more information on Output Jobs.
When releasing a design to the Altium Vault through the Project Release process (see below), the available OutJobs (such as those for Assembly and Fabrication) can be nominated for use by the Releaser. Additional Output Jobs that are included in the design project may also be added to the release setup through its Options dialog. The Release process uses the selected OutJobs to map specific sets of files and project production data to target Items in the Altium Vault.
With a PCB project’s required Output Jobs created, the design is ready to be released by the Project Releaser as a manufacturable set of design data to a set of Items in the Altium Vault. By using a sequence of checks and file generation processes, this will create a specific collection of board design data that represents a particular physical item (such as a fully assembled PCB) or set of physical items.
– See Releasing a Design with the Project Releaser for more detailed information.
To access and setup the Project Releaser, open its Release view from Altium Designer’s main menu (Project » Project Releaser) or right-click on the project name in the Projects panel and select Project Releaser.
The Project Releaser's Release View offers an initial setup page that corresponds to the first stage of the release process sequence – Configure Vault Release. This includes a range of release data sections that represent the type of outputs that will be generated and released to the Vault, such as the Source data (a snapshot of the project files), Fabrication data and Assembly data.
The automated Releaser will:
ass, fab) of the available project OutJobs.
Additional 'custom' sections can be added (Add Section) to create a separate, nominated collection of output data. The initial configuration for the core data sections (or any added custom sections) can be edited, added to or reconfigured through the the Project Release Options dialog, opened from the button.
The main Release Options include:
- See the Project Release Options dialog for more information.
When the project release has been set up as needed, instigate the Releaser's preparation process with the button. this will trigger a series of pre-release checks such as whether the project files have been saved (and committed to VCS), and ensuring that the target Items/revisions are named and will be accessible. During this part of the process, the Releaser will also create the release target Item Revisions in the Vault. The following processing stage will Validate the project (ERC, DRC etc) if a Validation report is included in the project OutJobs.
The final step of the preparation process will generate the data for all outputs defined by the nominated project OutJobs – this targets a local temporary location, prior to uploading that data to the Vault.
At this stage the generated data can be reviewed in the Release view. To do so, select the Details link option for the data collection of interest, which will open a full report of the files generated for that section. Alternatively, use the View link to open the listed entry in its native editor/viewer.
Assuming all is well with the prepared release, the generated data can be uploaded to the target Item Revisions in the Vault that were created as part of the previous step. Use the button to trigger that process, and confirm the action in the following Confirm Release dialog.
The completed release process will be followed by an Execution Report, which provides a release summary and navigation links to the data collection revisions in the Vault.
Use the Release View's Vault navigation links to view the released data revisions in the Vaults panel, or simply open the Vaults panel and navigate to the release target folder to access the overall release. Subsequent releases of the project will create a new set of revisions (where the revision numbering is incremented) of the those Items.
To see the output files released into each data type revision, select the panel's Preview mode. Where a release was derived from a Managed Project, such as in the example shown here, the Vaults panel provides an additional, specialized Project View.
Under the Project View's Structure tab, the view shows an overall graphic representation of the Managed Project and its Released data, including any released project Variants. Use the other tabs, such as the Releases tab, to review further summary information about the project and its releases.
– For detailed information on managing a released Item in the Altium Vault, see Working with the Detailed Item View.
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