Altium Designer Documentation

Explorer

Modified by Susan Riege on Mar 21, 2018

Parent page: System & Environment Panels


The Explorer panel gives access to data stored in a server.

Summary

The Explorer panel is the primary interface between Altium Designer and a connected managed content server, making it an integral part of the Design Data Management System. A managed content server stores your valuable company design data, including components, managed sheets and templates, and completed designs. From the Explorer panel, you create and manage the organizational structure used in the managed content server and also create any number of Items, each representative of a design-side object. From the panel you also can access detailed Item information and manage the revision and lifecycle settings for the Items well as where-used and supply chain detail.

For information about working with managed components, click here.

Panel Access

To display the Explorer panel, click the Panels button on the bottom-right of the workspace then select Explorer. Alternatively, you can access the panel through the View » Panels » Explorer.

A variation of the Explorer panel that is essentially a 'trimmed-down' version and titled Choose Item is opened in some instances, for example, when you need to choose a model or template. A few examples include: from an ActiveBOM document (*.BomDoc) when adding a new server item and from the Properties panel in Component mode after clicking  in the Design Item ID field. 
If the Vault Explorer extension needs to be installed, go to the Purchased tab under the Extensions & Updates tab and find the Vault Explorer icon. Hover the cursor over the extension icon then click  to install. Altium Designer must be restarted to complete the installation process.
 
You will not have access to the Explorer panel unless the Vault Explorer extension is installed.
You also will come across various places that offer the ability to access the Explorer panel directly for a given Item through an associated Show in Explorer command.

Choosing the Working Server

The Explorer panel can only interface to one server at a time. The field at the top-left of the panel indicates the currently open server – the server whose content you will be able to browse and modify. To refresh the content display for the active server, click the  icon at the end of the Address Bar or right-click in the Server Folders region then select Refresh Server.

Use the drop-down arrow to the right of the server name or click on the server name itself to select a different server.

Organizing a Server

Maintain order within a server by creating a tree of folders for the various Items stored in the server. A number of folder types are available. Use these folders to categorize the server content. Right-click in the Server Folders region of the panel to add folders and define a storage structure of folders and sub-folders that suits your organization.


The right-click menu includes commands for defining a folder hierarchy. Note that the options change depending where you click.

Server Folder Types

You have full control over the folder type and it can be changed at any time by right-clicking on a folder then selecting Properties to open the Edit Folder dialog. For more information on the different folder types available for use in a server, click here.

Server Folder Properties

When you add or edit a folder a dialog will appear in which you can define the properties of the folder. The content of the dialog is the same whether a top-level or sub-folder is being added.

The dialog presents the following folder-related properties:

  • Folder Name – enter a meaningful name for the folder, perhaps an umbrella term that reflects the relationship of the Items that will be stored within it. The name can be a maximum of 160 characters.
  • Folder Type – this is already set to the folder type selected on adding the folder, either through a menu entry or through the Choose Folder Type dialog. If you need to change the type, click the arrow at the far right of the field then choose the required type from the drop-down list.
  • Description – enter any description for the folder, perhaps describing the content it is to hold. This field has a maximum of 255 characters.
  • Item Naming Scheme – this field provides a set of default naming schemes that can be used to quickly define the unique ID for any item subsequently created within the folder. Using a default naming scheme, the software will automatically assign the next available unique ID based on that scheme, having scanned the entire server and identifiers of existing items. You can create your own scheme for a folder by typing it within the field, ensuring that the variable portion is enclosed in curly braces (e.g., SYMBOL-001-{J000}). See the Defining Naming Schemes for Item Revisions page for more information.

  • Folder Permissions – click this link to access the Permissions For Folder dialog in which you can specify the visibility of the folder in terms of who can 'see' and access it.
When releasing source domain models or component definitions to create model and component Items in the server, an Item Naming Scheme is set as part of the release preparation and options. This is especially the case when items are being created automatically 'on-the-fly' rather than releasing to existing items that have been manually created directly within the target server.

Navigating a Server

You can navigate the content in a server in several ways:

  • Click on a folder whose contents you want to peruse.
  • Use the Address Bar at the top of the panel. The Address Bar reflects the current folder being browsed along with the hierarchical path to that folder. 
  • Use a server's search feature. Enter a keyword based on a comment or description then press Enter or click the magnifying glass icon. As you type, a predictive list of possible entries will appear – click on an entry to use it as the foundation for the search. The entire server will be scanned and results of the search listed in terms of matching Items.
The entire folder structure can be expanded or collapsed using corresponding commands (Expand All and Collapse All) available on the panel's right-click menu. To expand fully a particular folder and all its descendant sub-folders, right-click on that folder and use the Expand Subtree command.

Moving a Server Folder

Server folders can be moved to a different location within a server's folder structure in the following ways:

  • Click and drag the folder entry to the desired position within the overall folder hierarchy.
  • Right-click on the folder entry then choose Move Folder. The Move Folder dialog will appear. Select which of the existing folders your chosen folder should be moved under. You also can move the folder to be a top-level folder in the server.  

Deleting a Folder

A folder can only be deleted if it is empty, i.e. it contains no sub-folders or items. To delete a folder, right-click then select Delete Folder.

Server Items

Each entity that is stored in the server is called an Item. To support the need to be able to update an Item over time, what is actually stored in the server is a series of Item Revisions that are specific revisions of that Item whose name is based on the chosen Revision Naming Scheme. Each new Item is created in a folder and once you have defined the required folders within a server, you can create new Items in the selected folder in the Item region of the panel.

Refer to the Server Items page to learn more about server items.

Viewing Revisions

You can configure the revisions that are displayed in the panel by clicking the  to access a drop-down of revision choices. 

  • Load all pages - select to load all revisions.
  • Show Hidden Revisions - select to show any hidden revisions.
  • Show only latest - select to only show the latest revisions.

Browsing Items

For each Item revision in a server, the Explorer panel allows you to browse different aspects of that revision, where applicable. This is done using one or more views for that revision by using the tabs at the bottom of the panel.

The top-level view is the Preview. Click additional tabs to view more information (the available tabs will depend upon the type of Item that is currently selected):

  • Lifecycle - explore its current state.
  • Supply chain - view supply chain information.
  • Where-used - view where that revision of that Item is used. 
  • Children - view its child Items.
  • Parameters - view the Item's parameters.
  • Data Sheet - view its data sheet.
  • Origin - view from where the item originated.


Browse different aspects of an Item revision using its associated views.

Right-click Menus

Various commands are available from right-click menus in the panel. The exact listing of commands will depend on the region of the panel in which you right-click and the object currently in focus within that region. The following sections cover the commands available.

Commands for the Server Folders Region

  • Add Top Level Folder – use to add a new top-level folder into the server folder structure. A sub-menu offers folder types Components, Generic Folder, and Other Folder Type. To browse and choose a different folder type, click Other Folder Type. The Add Folder dialog will appear in which you can define the new folder properties.
  • Operations - use to Copy Folder Structure or Paste Folder Structure to another location.
  • Move Folder – use this command to access the Move Folder dialog, which can be used to change the currently selected folder's location within the overall server folder structure.
  • Delete Folder – use this command to delete the currently selected folder. Deletion can only be made provided the folder is empty (contains no sub-folders or Items).
  • Add To Content Cart - use to add the selected item to the Content Cart.
  • Expand Subtree – use this command to fully expand the currently selected folder and all of its sub-folders.
  • Expand All – use this command to fully expand all folders in the server folder structure.
  • Collapse All – use this command to fully collapse all folders in the server folder structure.
  • Refresh server – use this command to refresh the connection with the server currently being browsed.
  • Properties – use this command to access the Edit Folder dialog in which related properties for the currently selected folder can be view and modified.

Commands for the Items Region

  • Place – use to place an instance of the currently selected Item-Revision where such placement is supported, for example, placement of a revision of a Component Item or Managed Sheet Item onto an active schematic sheet. The symbol for the component or the managed sheet symbol will appear floating on the cursor ready for placement.
  • Add to Content Cart - use to add the current selected Item to your Content Cart using the Content Cart dialog.
  • Operations - use to access a sub-menu of commands including:
    • Download - use to download the currently selected Item and save to another location using the Browse for Folder dialog.
    • Change state - use to open the Batch state change dialog to change the state of the currently selected Item Revision.
    • Clone - use to clone the currently selected Item-Revision.
    • Export Data - use to open the Select columns for data export dialog to chose the information to be exported.
  • Create Item – use to create a new Item within the currently selected folder. A sub-menu offers those content types most applicable, based on the type of folder in which the Item is being created. To browse and choose a different Item type, click on the Other Item Type entry. The Create Item dialog will appear and provides all controls necessary to fully define the Item.
  • Move Item – use to access the Move Item dialog, which can be used to change the folder of residence for the currently selected Item.
  • Delete Item – use to delete the currently selected Item. An Item can only be deleted if you are an Administrator of the server in which that Item resides. In addition, you must delete Items from the 'top-down'. That is, you cannot delete a child Item which is used by a parent Item; the parent Item must be deleted first.
  • Full Item History – use to access a detailed view for the currently selected Item, opened as a new tabbed view within Altium Designer. The Item View provides a highly detailed view of the Revision and Lifecycle history of a specific Item, as well as showing all of the elements that make up that Item. The view also includes a Timeline. Use the Timeline to examine the exact time and date of any change made to the Revision level or Lifecycle State of that Item and who made the change.
  • Properties – use to access the View Item dialog in which you can view the properties for the currently selected Item. If no revisions for that Item have yet been released, the properties can be modified.

Commands for the Lifecycle View

  • Place <Revision> – use this command to place an instance of the currently selected Item Revision, where such placement is supported. For example, placement of a revision of a Component Item or Managed Sheet Item onto an active schematic sheet. The symbol for the component, or the managed sheet symbol, will appear floating on the cursor, ready for placement.
  • View Revision Properties – use this command to access the Properties for Item Revision dialog, which provides a listing of properties associated to the parent Item, the selected Revision. Other properties are also listed, such as parameters for a component Item, or the parent design and configuration for a released board design Item.
  • Edit Revision – use this command to access the Edit Revision dialog, from where the properties for the selected Item Revision can be modified. This command is available only when the Item Revision is in the Planned state.
  • Delete Revision – use this command to delete the selected Item Revision. The Item Revision can only be deleted if you are an Administrator of the server in which that Item resides. In addition, you must delete Items from the 'top-down'. That is, you cannot delete a child Item Revision that is used by a parent Item; you first need to delete the parent Item.
  • Lifecycle State Transition commands – the menu will change to reflect the different state transitions that can be made with respect to the Item Revision's lifecycle, and dependent on the current state reached within that lifecycle and the lifecycle definition in-force for that Item. For example, for a newly-released board design in the New From Design state and adhering to the default Structured Lifecycle With Approvals lifecycle definition, two commands will appear: Set Ready for Prototype Approval and Abandon Design.
  • Establish Planned Revision – use this command to establish the next planned revision for the Item, corresponding to a change at the lowest level in a 3-level revision naming scheme (e.g., if 01.A.1 is the current Item Revision, then the next Item Revision to be established using this command will be 01.A.2).
  • Establish Planned Prototype – use this command to establish the next planned prototype for the Item, corresponding to a change at the second level in a 3-level revision naming scheme (e.g., if 01.A.1 is the current Item Revision, then the next Item Revision to be established using this command will be 01.B.1).
  • Establish Planned Model – use this command to establish the next planned model for the Item, corresponding to a change at the highest level in a 3-level revision naming scheme (e.g., if 01.A.1 is the current Item Revision, then the next Item Revision to be established using this command will be 02.A.1).
  • Establish Planned Item – use this command to create a new Item within the same folder as the currently selected Item Revision. The Create Item dialog will open that provides all controls necessary to fully define the Item.

Tips

  • The Explorer panel may be docked horizontally and/or vertically. Right-click on the panel's name and configure docking as required from the Allow Dock sub-menu.
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