Working with a Design Repository

Modified by Jason Howie on Jul 15, 2019

Parent page: Version Control and Design Repositories

The best way of working from a known set of source files is to store the design project in a controlled environment, such as a Version Control repository. This is important because the only way of ensuring the outputs come from the correct source files is to:

  1. Confirm that the source fileset is up-to-date.
  2. Take a snapshot of them.
  3. Generate outputs from that snapshot.

In Altium NEXUS, such a repository is referred to as a Design Repository. Owned by the design team, the Design Repository contains a high-resolution view of the history of the design process and is the primary collaboration tool used by the design team.

The Design Repository becomes the central repository from which multiple team members can check data in and out, all the while maintaining a complete revision history of all changes made to the design. A design is therefore stored as a series of versions of its constituent project and source documents, building a progressive picture of the intent of a designer over time. By using a version-controlled Design Repository, you have the integral assurance that no revision of a design is ever lost, allowing for safe collaboration on the same design between members of a team that can be geographically dispersed in their locations. The very nature of the version control system provides an audit trail for the design. Full accountability arises through transparency of whom changed what, in which source document, and when. The system can support multiple version-controlled Design Repositories with the link to a particular repository being established by the version control link within the project folder.

By connecting to a Design Repository you are, in effect, registering that repository with the system - telling Altium NEXUS of its existence as it were. Furthermore, there is no manual specification of paths to unofficial or 'rogue' repositories. Through Altium NEXUS, you can only interact with those VCS-based Design Repositories you have purposefully connected to the system.

Supported Version Control

Related pages: Version Control and Design Repositories, Using Version Control

The version control software - used to implement the repositories themselves - is supported in the following ways:

  • Through Altium NEXUS - using the software's built-in support for Subversion (SVN). Enabled for use by default, Subversion capabilities are delivered through the VCS Provider - SVN extension. This extension is installed by default, and delivers version control functionality, through the use of SharpSVN. This implementation has full support for Unicode (multi-byte) characters in file names. This for example, allows you to add files to your SVN VCS repository that include Russian characters in their names. You are also able to hook up and use an existing Git repository, support for which is delivered through the VCS Provider - Git extension.
  • Through an Altium NEXUS Server - when you are signed into a managed content server, and that Server is an Altium NEXUS Server, you are provided with localized (and centralized) version control, courtesy of the Server's Local Version Control Service. A new installation of the Altium NEXUS Server provides a single Git-based design repository - Versioned Storage - for accommodating all of your managed design projects. If you have upgraded your Server from Altium NEXUS Server 1.0 (or Altium Vault 3.0), then use of SVN repositories will also be enabled, so that you can continue to use your previous (and established) design flow. In this case, you can continue to create repositories through the local Version Control service (SVN-only), or connect to external repositories (SVN or Git).
  • Through a legacy Altium Vault - when you are signed into a managed content server, and that Server is an Altium Vault, you are provided with localized (and centralized) version control, courtesy of the Server's Local Version Control Service. SVN repositories can be created through the local Version Control service, or external repositories (SVN only) can be connected to. A default Design Repository is available, provided by the local Version Control service and named DefaultRepository.

Managing Design Repositories

Design Repositories are managed on the Data Management - Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog. From this page you can perform a number of actions, including:

  • Creating new file-based SVN repositories using version control capabilities built-in to Altium NEXUS.
  • Connecting to existing SVN repositories.
  • Browsing repositories shared for use through the local Version Control service of the managed content server to which you are actively signed in.
  • Controlling the active state of each defined repository.

The Data Management - Design Repositories page - command-central for managing VCS-based Design Repositories within Altium NEXUS. The image
shows connection to a local SVN design repository (Local Repository), as well as the two default repositories available when signed into an Altium
NEXUS Server (DefaultRepository and VersionedStorage).

For each registered, or rather connected repository, the following information is presented:

  • Name - a meaningful name for the repository. This could, for example, reflect the design projects that are stored in the repository. This name is used elsewhere in the software for quick selection of a Design Repository to be used, for example when opening a project from version control.
For the Git repository used for the integrated storage of managed projects - provided by your managed content server - this is named Versioned Storage.
  • Activated - whether the repository is available for use by the system (enabled) or not (disabled). A newly created or connected repository will be activated by default.
  • Type - the type of repository. For a repository defined through Altium NEXUS, this is SVN. For the integrated repository provided through your managed content server for managed projects, this is Git. For a repository defined through your managed content server's local Version Control service, this is SVN or Git.
  • Repository - the URL to the root folder of the repository.
  • Status - whether the connection between Altium NEXUS and the repository is successful () or not (). If connection is unsuccessful a comment will be displayed, indicating the problem.

Creating a New Repository through Altium NEXUS

Creation of new Design Repositories from within Altium NEXUS is performed from the Data Management - Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog. Click the  button and choose SVN from the associated drop-down menu. The Create SVN Design Repository dialog will appear. Use this to give the repository a meaningful name, specify a default checkout path, and specify the location for the repository. If a folder is specified that does not currently exist, it will be created for you.

By default, the repository will be named Repository 1. Change this to a more meaningful name as required. There are no restrictions on naming.
The Repository Location can either be on your hard drive (for your own personal use) or in a network location (for collaborative use by a wider team).

With all settings specified as required, click OK. The repository will be created at the nominated location and a connection to that repository from Altium NEXUS made. An entry will appear for it in the listing of Design Repositories back on the Data Management - Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog.

Example newly created SVN Design Repository, appearing within Altium NEXUS as Local Repository.

Currently, only Design Repositories with the file repository access method can be created directly from within Altium NEXUS. A Design Repository using a different access method (e.g. networked access over http or https) can be set up outside of Altium NEXUS using an external SVN interface tool, provided that tool bundles with it the Apache web server required to facilitate the http access method. Alternatively, get the repository setup by your network administrator, or use one of the many providers of hosted Subversion repositories. You can then connect to that existing repository from within Altium NEXUS.

Creating a Repository through the Altium NEXUS Server

A new installation of the Altium NEXUS Server provides a single Git-based design repository - Versioned Storage - for accommodating all of your managed design projects. If you have upgraded your Server from Altium NEXUS Server 1.0 (or Altium Vault 3.0), then use of SVN repositories will also be enabled, so that you can continue to use your previous (and established) design flow. In this case, you can continue to create repositories through the local Version Control service (SVN-only), or connect to external repositories (SVN or Git).

When using an Altium NEXUS Server as your managed content server, and if applicable, SVN repositories can be created through the Server's local Version Control service, or external repositories (SVN or Git) can be connected to. Together, all repositories are centrally managed through the VCS page (Admin - VCS) of the Server's browser-based interface.

The VCS page can only be accessed by an administrator for the NEXUS Server (a member of the Administrators role).

To add a Design Repository, click the  button, located at the top-right of the page. The Add Repository window will appear, use this to define the repository.

Only SVN-type repositories can be created through the local Version Control service. Existing (external) repositories can be linked to, and these can be either SVN or Git. In addition, a default Git-based repository is provided - the Versioned Storage repository - which is purely for the integrated storage of managed projects, cannot be renamed, shared, or removed.

The properties required depend on whether you are creating a new repository using the local VCS service, or linking to an existing, external repository:

  • New - simply give the repository a name and a description.
  • Existing - in addition to a name and description, you need to supply the URL to the repository, and your credentials (User Name, Password) to access that repository (if required).
For a fresh Altium NEXUS Server installation, a default SVN Design Repository is available, named DefaultRepository. Manage user access to this repository as required.
When creating a repository that is internal to the NEXUS Server, the name should start with, and can contain A-Z, a-z, or 0-9. Underscores, dashes, and spaces are allowed within the middle of the name. You can not use the following words: AUX, COM1-COM9, LPT1-LPT9, CON, NUL, and PRN. There are no naming restrictions for an external repository.

Create a new SVN-based Design Repository through the NEXUS Server's local Version Control service, or link to an existing repository (SVN or Git) that has been created external to the NEXUS Server.

A linked, external Design Repository is distinguished in the list of repositories by its External property being ticked (). The list of repositories is automatically sorted alphabetically by Name, with repositories defined through the Version Control service listed first, and then external repositories thereafter. The Git-based Versioned Storage repository always appears at the top of the list.

Design Repositories defined through the Altium NEXUS Server are populated to the client automatically during sign-in, so users do not have to worry about urls, protocols, passwords etc. A repository is configured once, on the server, and shared with the intended users as required.

You may need to sign out and sign in again for the repository to appear on the Data Management - Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog.

Centrally define access to your organization's Design Repositories. SVN-based repositories can be internal to the Altium NEXUS Server installation, defined using the local Version
Control service, or external through use of Altium Designer's built-in SVN, or third party SVN or Git service. Access control is performed through the VCS page of the Altium NEXUS Server's
browser-based interface. When a user signs in to the Altium NEXUS Server, the Design Repositories available to them will automatically be added to the Data Management -
Design Repositories
page of the Preferences dialog.

Connecting to an Existing SVN Repository through Altium NEXUS

In a collaborative environment, one or more Design Repositories may already have been created in a location accessible by multiple users. In this case, you do not need to create a new repository - re-inventing the wheel as it were - rather you simply need to connect to the required existing repository. This is also the case if you have removed a repository from your list of repositories, and want to add it back in again.

To connect to an existing repository, click on the  button and choose SVN from the associated drop-down menu. The SVN Design Repository dialog will appear. Enter a name by which to refer to the repository from within Altium NEXUS, specify a default checkout path, and specify the repository access method and path to the root folder of the repository. You can also specify a particular sub-folder within the repository.

With all settings specified as required, click OK - a connection will be made and the repository will be ready for use.

Connecting to an existing repository - in this case a local repository on the hard drive.

Connecting to an existing repository - in this case a repository internal to an Altium NEXUS Server installation.

Connecting to an Existing Git Repository through Altium NEXUS

The Data Management - Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog offers no controls for creating a new Git repository, or connecting to an existing one. However, you can effectively connect to an existing repository of this type by other means - means which are the traditional technique favored by the Git usership. To do so:

  1. Create your remote Git repository, or access your company's external repository - in which your Altium NEXUS projects are stored.
  2. Clone the repository to make your local working Git repository.
  3. Open an Altium NEXUS project from the local repository.

Altium NEXUS will recognize that the project is under version control in a Git-based repository, and provide VCS-related statuses, and commands/ functions to work with the files (including Commit (to local working Git repository) and Push (from local Git repository to remote Git repository)).

For more information, see Version Control and Design Repositories.

Editing Repository Properties

You can also edit the properties of a Design Repository at any time. For example, you might want to change the name of the repository, as displayed and referenced within Altium NEXUS. Or you might want to edit the connection, perhaps to link to a different repository. To do this, select the entry for the repository in the listing of repositories, then click on the  button. The SVN Design Repository dialog (or Git Repository dialog) will appear, from where you can make changes as required.

If you are using an Altium NEXUS Server as your managed content server, note that for an SVN Design Repository added through the Server's browser-based interface, only the Default Checkout Path can be modified. Any other required changes must be performed from the VCS page of the browser interface.
If you are signed in to a managed content server, the Git-based Design Repository (Versioned Storage) can also be renamed.

Disconnecting from a Repository

To disconnect from a Design Repository, select its entry in the list and click the  button. The repository is removed from the list of connected Design Repositories. The repository itself is not deleted, it simply becomes disconnected from the system. To use a repository again, connect to it.

To disable use of a Design Repository, without removing it completely from the list, disable its associated Activated option.
If you remove a Design Repository that has been added through signing in to a managed content server, you can connect to it again. Alternatively, and far quicker, close out of the Preferences dialog, then sign out from the Server and sign back in again. When you access the Data Management - Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog again, the applicable repository(ies) will be present once again.

Using Design Repositories

Once defined, the connected nature of a VCS-based Design Repository simplifies the ability to either add a project to that repository, or open an existing project from that repository. Instead of having to remember the path or drill down in a browse menu to select the repository, you simply choose the required repository from a convenient listing of all Design Repositories you are currently connected to, and that are activated for use.

Adding a Regular Project to a Repository

Adding a Regular design project to a Design Repository is a straightforward process. With the project open, use the Add Project Folder To Version Control command from either the Projects panel or Storage Manager panel. The Add to Version Control dialog will appear. The field at the top of this dialog presents a drop-down listing of all connected and activated Design Repositories. Select the repository required.

If you are signed in to a managed content server, the Git-based Versioned Storage repository is only used in relation to managed projects, and so will not be available from the menu.
Click the  button to quickly access the Data Management - Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog - if you need to connect a different SVN repository, or create a new one.

The folder hierarchy within the chosen Design Repository is presented to you in the Folders region of the dialog. Either specify an existing folder into which to add the design files, or create a new folder using the New Folder button. In the latter case, a folder will be added at the specified position within the repository's folder hierarchy, named after the source folder containing the project.

Adding a Regular design project to a local design repository.

Adding a Regular design project to a design repository available through a managed content server.

Creating a New VCS Project

When creating a new VCS project, the Repository field in the New Project dialog presents a drop-down listing of all connected and activated Design Repositories. Select the repository required.

If you are signed in to a managed content server, the Git-based Versioned Storage repository is only used in relation to managed projects, and so will not be available from the menu.

Creating a new VCS design project - all defined Design Repositories are available for use. Shown here is the situation when not signed into a
managed content server.

And shown here is the situation when signed into a managed content server (an Altium NEXUS Server) - all of that server's design repositories
are available, with the exception of the VersionedStorage repository.

Adding a Managed Project to a Design Repository

Related page: The Managed Project

Whether creating a new managed project, or converting an existing design project (Regular or VCS) to a managed project, the resulting project is stored in a Design Repository. As part of the respective interface used to create/convert, the repository can quickly be selected from a list of defined repositories.

To be able to create a managed project - through the New Project dialog - or to convert to one, you must be signed in to your managed content server.
The Git-based VersionedStorage design repository, and any SVN-based or Git-based design repositories added through the Server's local Version Control service, and which have been shared with you to use, will be listed. Note however, that you cannot create a managed project in an external repository that is local, that is, one that is defined with path file:///.

Other Design Repositories that have been created directly through the Data Management - Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog, will not be available for use as target repositories.

Creating a new Managed design project. Only design repositories provided by your managed content server (and that are shared with you
where applicable) will be available for use.

A Regular design project being converted to a Managed project. The target design repository must be of the managed variety - provided by your managed
content server. In the image, the Versioned Storage (Git) repository is available, as well as three further SVN repositories, all provided by an Altium NEXUS Server.

If your managed content server is an Altium NEXUS Server, and you are converting a VCS project that is already stored in a managed repository - one defined through the NEXUS Server's Version Control service - then this will be the repository used for the resulting Managed project. You will not be able to choose a different repository.
The newly-created/converted managed project will subsequently be available from the Projects page of the Server's browser interface.

Opening a VCS Project from a Design Repository

Equally straightforward is the ability to open a VCS design project that resides in a Design Repository. Use the File » Checkout command - the Check Out dialog will appear. Use the Check out from field to choose the required repository from a drop-down listing of all connected and activated Design Repositories.

If you are signed in to a managed content server, the Git-based Versioned Storage repository is only used in relation to managed projects, and so will not be available from the menu.
Click the  button to quickly access the Data Management - Design Repositories page of the Preferences dialog - if you need to connect a different repository.

The folder hierarchy within the chosen Design Repository is presented to you in the Folders region of the dialog. Use this region to specify the exact folder that is to be checked out from the repository.

Use the Check out to field to specify where the nominated folder content is to be checked out to. This is your local sandbox area.

Check out an existing version-controlled design project from a nominated Design Repository with controlled ease!

Opening a Managed Project from a Design Repository

To work on a managed project - essentially checking out as a local working copy - use the File » Open Managed Project command. The Open Managed Project dialog will appear, from where you can choose which managed project to open. Only those Managed Projects that have been shared with you (you have permission to access) will be listed, from the Versioned Storage design repository, and any other SVN or Git design repositories shared with you (when using an Altium NEXUS Server).

Choose which managed project to open, from those currently shared with you.

 

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