Altium Designer Documentation

Browsing the Active PCB Design using the PCB Panel in Altium Designer

Created: January 10, 2018 | Updated: March 9, 2018
All Contents

Parent page: PCB Panels

The PCB panel (shown in Components mode as an example)


The PCB panel allows you to browse the current PCB design using a range of filter modes to determine which object types or design elements are listed, highlighted or selected. The panel also has editing modes for specific object types or design elements that provide dedicated controls for editing procedures. You also can access the properties for any element listed in the panel.

Panel Access

When the PCB Editor is active, click the Panels button at the bottom-right corner of the workspace then select PCB from the context menu. Alternatively, you can access the panel through the View » Panels » PCB command.

Panels can be configured to be floating in the editor space or docked to sides of the screen. If the PCB panel is currently in a group of panels, use the PCB tab located at the bottom of the panels to bring it to the front.

Setting the Visual Filtering

The visual result of the applied filtering on the document in the design editor window is determined by a series of highlighting controls toward the top of the panel. The effect that is imposed in the editor view can be set to Normal, Mask or Dim; in practice, Mask has the most obvious highlighting effect.

The Normal/Mask/Dim dropdown list provides options for visibly contrasting filtered and unfiltered objects within the design editor window.

Select the type of visual filtering applied using the masking mode drop-down list.

The visual highlighting effect for each masking mode:

  • Normal - filtered objects are visible in the design editor window and the appearance of unfiltered objects remains unchanged.
  • Mask - filtered objects are highlighted in the design editor window with all other objects made monochrome.
  • Dim - filtered objects are highlighted in the design editor window with all other objects retaining their colors but shaded. 

Confirm any changed settings by clicking the Apply button.

Click the Clear button to return to the default settings.

Display Control

The Dimming control is accessed on the System - Navigation page of the Preferences dialog.

Filter Options

The panel's three checkboxes apply these filter actions:

  • Select - when enabled, the filtered objects will be selected in the workspace.
  • Zoom - when enabled (default), the filtered objects will be zoomed and centered (where possible) in the design editor window. Use the Zoom Level button to adjust the zoom factor that will be used to close-in on filtered objects.
  • Clear Existing - when enabled (default), any existing filter will be cleared before applying a new one. Disabling this option allows you to extend an existing filter, essentially refining the filter further by applying a new filter in addition to the existing one.

Any combination of these options can be enabled. For example, you might want to have all filtered objects zoomed, centered and selected in the design editor window, while applying masking to take away the clutter of other design objects.

Click the Clear button to disable the currently-applied filter. All objects in the design workspace will become fully visible and available for selection/editing. If you want to reapply the filter, click the Apply button.

Panel Modes

The PCB panel's functionality can change, depending on which mode is used. The different panel modes can be accessed and selected by clicking on the drop-down at the top of the panel.

The various panel mode options available.

Panel Mini-viewer

The bottom section of the PCB panel provides a mini-viewer for the current document with an image of the PCB board central to its window. A white viewing box is imposed on the image to show the area currently displayed in the design editor window. As the editor display automatically pans and zooms in response to the PCB panel filter selections, the box moves and expands accordingly to indicate the board viewing area.

As you manually pan around the document in the design editor window - using the editor's horizontal and vertical scroll bars or the right-click panning hand - the viewing box in the panel will also move accordingly. Conversely, if you click inside the viewing box and drag it around the board image, the document in the design editor window will pan accordingly and at the current zoom level.

As you zoom in or out in the design editor window, the viewing box will be resized accordingly in the panel. Conversely, resizing the viewing box in the panel by clicking and dragging on any of its vertices will cause the zoom level to change in the design editor window. The smaller the size of the viewing box, the more the actual document has been zoomed-in.

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