CircuitMaker Documentation

Created: July 13, 2020 | Updated: February 10, 2022

CircuitMaker delivers a powerful design solution for electronics makers, hobbyists, and members of academia, who enjoy, and indeed excel, at creating cool and innovative new designs. With a streamlined interface built atop a powerful PCB Design engine, CircuitMaker gives you all you'll ever need to turn your creative ideas into physical reality.

CircuitMaker gives you all the tools to think big and make cool stuff, with features and functionality to facilitate creation of diverse and challenging designs. And while it's a desktop application, a standout attraction of CircuitMaker is that it facilitates the philosophy of community-based design. In the true spirit of open source, components and designs can be freely shared amongst other users.

Armed with a powerful component search facility, along with access to resusable design elements built up over time by a legion of other circuit makers, you can quickly build your own designs, and release new versions of existing components – satisfying your own need to design, while contributing to a communal design repository, for the benefit of all others in the community.

CircuitMaker is a free design solution. All that is needed to start using CircuitMaker is registration with Altium which can be done on the CircuitMaker Sign Up page.

Getting Started

To get up-and-running with CircuitMaker as quickly as possible, use the following five QuickStart guides. These guides are intentionally light, aimed at focusing your attention on where to get at specific functionality, and the UI elements involved, as you journey from idea to manufactured design reality.

Integration with Altium 365

Experience collaboration on a whole new scale, courtesy of CircuitMaker's seamless integration with Altium 365®. Altium 365 is a cloud-based infrastructure platform that works together with CircuitMaker. True to the community-based principles of CircuitMaker, your design projects and those of the other CircuitMaker designers are collectively accessible and stored on the Altium 365® platform. The platform delivers a robust storage repository for your designs, with the benefit of inherent version-controlled capabilities happening behind the scenes. And since it is cloud-based, there is nothing to install and nothing to configure. It’s just there with CircuitMaker or from a browser.

From your perspective, design projects are accessed and managed from within CircuitMaker and through the browser interface of your Altium 365 Personal Space, which is completely free and accessible by you (and only by you) as a registered user of Altium 365. This is the place where any project you create in CircuitMaker is stored. You can work on projects privately within your Personal Space and when you fancy a little more collaboration you can share with other, specified people, for collaboration - editing (through CircuitMaker only) or viewing only. Comments enable you to quickly create a focus group - with participants able to review a design with or without CircuitMaker.

Ultimately, once your design is ready for flight publicly, you can publish it to the wider CircuitMaker Community - all from within your Personal Space on Altium 365!

If others have shared their design projects with you, you'll be able to access these from a dedicated Shared with Me area of the Altium 365 Platform Interface - again, both from within CircuitMaker and through a Web Browser.

With CircuitMaker and Altium 365, everyone can enjoy a true 21st century design experience, free from the chains of isolation. Work from Anywhere. Connect with Anyone.

Some community project and component management operations are performed through the website. Also, in addition to being the 'base' for all your CircuitMaker design projects, your Personal Space can accommodate the persistent storage of various types of uploaded static data, including design 'snapshots' (from various ECAD platforms) and Gerber manufacturing data, with the ability to share with anyone for comments and redlining. For more information, head across to the Altium 365 Personal Space page of the Altium 365 documentation.

Design Components

CircuitMaker employs online management of design components, facilited through the integration of the Octopart electronic parts database. Containing millions of unique parts across various manufacturers and distributors, you can get pricing, stock information, datasheets, and more.

Hundreds of thousands of the components in the Octopart database have a CircuitMaker component bound to them. These components reside in the secure, cloud-based community library. And for those parts in the database that don't have an associated component, you can create one – with schematic symbol and PCB footprint, as required. You can even create custom components that don't exist anywhere in the Octopart database!

And while the original version of a component – the base version as it were – is always available for use and, for the most part will be sufficient, the community has the option of revising it. Any CircuitMaker user is able to build a new version of an existing component.

A user can simply search for a part directly from within CircuitMaker's Libraries panel. No more libraries stored locally on a hard drive – rather an impressive catalog of components built-upon, and ratified by, the design collective. You can even save frequently used versions of components to your own Favorites library!

User Interface

CircuitMaker's unified design environment consists of various user interface elements plugged into a core platform. Together with the core platform itself, these elements provide the interface of the software – its features and functionality. These are delivered in the form of commands, dialogs, panels, etc. These elements are documented and collated by editor. Use the following methods to locate information on a particular element:

  • Within the software, hover over a ribbon button, menu command, dialog, panel, or design object then press F1.
  • Within the documentation, use the navigation tree to the left of this page to browse for the documentation required across the various editors.
Within CircuitMaker, the F1 shortcut can be extremely helpful. Hover the mouse over anything inside CircuitMaker – a button, command, dialog, panel, or design object – then press F1 to access documentation for it. Also, if you are running a command, for example, placing a component and you are not sure how to rotate it, press Shift+F1 during placement for a list of command-dependent shortcuts.

Use the following set of links to quickly access specific areas of the resources-level documentation, which documents all elements of CircuitMaker's User Interface for the various editors that you'll be designing with:

PCB Design Rules

CircuitMaker's PCB editor uses the concept of Design Rules to define the requirements of a design. These rules collectively form an 'instruction set' for the PCB editor to follow. They cover every aspect of the design – from routing widths, clearances, plane connection styles, routing via styles, etc., and many of the rules can be monitored in real-time by the online Design Rule Checker (DRC).

Design rules target specific objects and are applied in a hierarchical fashion. Multiple rules of the same type can be set up. It may arise that a design object is covered by more than one rule with the same scope. In this instance, a contention exists. All contentions are resolved by a priority setting. The system goes through the rules from highest to lowest priority and picks the first one whose scope(s) match the object(s) being checked.

With a well-defined set of design rules, you can successfully complete board designs with varying and often stringent design requirements. Additionally, since the PCB editor is rules-driven, taking the time to set up the rules at the onset of the design will enable you to effectively get on with the job of designing, safe in the knowledge that the rules system is working hard to ensure that success.

Press F1 over a specific design rule in the PCB Rules and Constraints Editor dialog to access documentation for that rule.

Project Violations

The process of validating is integral to producing a valid netlist for a project. Connectivity awareness in your schematic diagram can be verified during validation according to rules defined as part of the options for the design project on the Error Reporting and Connection Matrix tabs of the Project Options dialog.

The Electrical Rules Check page of the CircuitMaker documentation provides a comprehensive description of each of the possible violations that can exist in documents when validating a project. The categories of violations are:

Project violations are reported in the Messages panel.
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