Cross-Probing & Selecting

Now reading version 17.0. For the latest, read: Cross-Probing & Selecting for version 24

Altium Designer provides various powerful cross-probing and cross-selecting capabilities enabling fast, efficient navigation between schematic and PCB design domains. The Cross-Probing and Cross Selecting features are powerful search tools to help locate objects in other editors by selecting the object in the current editor.

Cross-probing is used to point to a chosen object on the current document then "jump to" its corresponding counterpart in the target document. Between the PCB and schematic editors, full cross-probing support is provided for documents, components, buses, nets, and pins/pads(s). Literally, with a single click, you can select a supported object in either domain and see it highlighted in both. 

Cross selecting enables you to select an object(s) on the source document and, by enabling the cross select command, the same object(s) will be selected on the target document. 

Compilation and the Unified Data Model

When an Altium Designer project is compiled, a Unified Data Model (UDM) is created in the computer’s memory. The UDM models every aspect of the design, including the components, the connectivity, the component footprints, the relationships between the PCB project and a connected FPGA project, etc. It is this Unified Data Model that enables cross-probing functionality between different design domains. Many of the cross-probing features use auto-compilation, ensuring the very latest model of the data is being used. Compilation also can be performed manually at any time by clicking Project » Compile PCB Project.

Document Setup

Many of the features of Cross-Probing and Cross Selecting either require, or are more easily utilized, viewing both the schematic and PCB documents at the same time. You can view both documents at the same time by performing one of the following:

  • Right-click on the document tab then select Split Vertical or Split Horizontal depending on your viewing preference.
To close the split screen view, right-click on the document tab then select Merge All.
  • If you are using more than one screen, you can drag the document tab onto another monitor. 


The cross-probing feature is accessed from either the schematic or PCB editor using the Tools » Cross Probe command or by clicking the  button from the toolbar. 

The cross-probed objects on the target document will be displayed in accordance with the Highlight Methods options defined on the System - Navigation page of the Preferences dialog. Highlighting will not be applied to the originating document.
In order to perform cross-probing, ensure that the source schematic and PCB documents for the project are open as tabbed documents in the main design window. 

There are two cross-probing modes, Continuous Mode and Jump-To Mode, which are both described in the following sections.

Continuous Cross-Probing Mode

The Continuous Mode allows you to stay in the source document while cross-probing to different objects on the target document. For this mode, ensure that the schematic and PCB documents are open side-by-side in the main design window.

After launching the cross-probe command by clicking Tools » Cross Probe, the cursor will change to a cross-hair and you will be prompted to choose the object that you wish to navigate. Position the cursor over the required object within the workspace and click or press Enter. The corresponding object will be highlighted on the target document.

Cross-probing from the source (e.g., schematic) with corresponding object highlighted on the PCB.Cross-probing from the source (e.g., schematic) with corresponding object highlighted on the PCB.

You can continue to cross-probe additional objects, or right-click or press Esc to exit.

When using Continuous Mode, if you have not opened the schematic and PCB documents side-by-side, you will have to make the PCB document active to view the results of the cross-probe.
When using Continuous Mode repeatedly, the last object you choose is the one displayed/highlighted. Cross-probe filtering is not cumulative.

Jump To Cross-Probing Mode

The Jump To Mode allows you to cross-probe to a single object and make the target document the active document. 

After launching the cross-probe command by clicking Tools » Cross Probe,  the cursor will change to a cross-hair and you will be prompted to choose the object that you wish to navigate. Position the cursor over the required object within the workspace and Ctrl+click or press Ctrl+Enter. The corresponding object will be highlighted on the target document, which will be made the active document.

Cross-Probing from Additional Locations in the Software

Cross-Probing also can be accomplished in various additional places in the software. These additional locations enable you to use the cross-probe function even as you are building your design without the need to use the Tools » Cross Probe command.

Probing Within the Engineering Change Order Dialog

You can cross probe from the Engineering Change Order dialog by right-clicking to access cross probe commands to locate the Reference component in the schematic or the target component in the PCB as shown in the image below:

Probing Within the Differences Between Dialog

The Differences between dialog can be used to cross-probe to a selected component on the schematic or PCB. Use the Project » Show Differences command to open the Differences between dialog then double-click on an entry to cross probe to that component on the schematic or PCB.  

Cross-Probing From the Variant Management Dialog

You can use the Variant Management dialog to cross probe to a chosen component on the schematic or the PCB. Double-click on the component in the Variant Management dialog or right-click then select Cross Probe from the menu.

Probing Within the Differences Panel

To cross probe to the schematic or PCB from the Differences panel (click the Explore Differences button in the Differences between dialog to access this panel), double-click on an entry in the panel.

Probing Within the BomDoc

Cross-Probing also can be done within the BomDoc. On the BOM Components tab of the BomDoc, right-click then choose Navigate to and select to which item you wish to navigate: the schematic component, the BOM Catalog entry, or The Vault component.

Probing the PCB from the Navigator Panel

The Navigator panel is populated and refreshed each time the design is compiled. It provides a structured view of all documents, sheets, components, nets, parameters, and component pins in the currently focused project. In the context of editing, this panel provides a helpful means for navigating across the entire design and locating objects of interest.

You can use the Navigator panel to probe between schematic and PCB documents. With both the PCB and schematic documents open, click on a component in the Navigator panel to highlight it on both the schematic and PCB.

Probing using the Navigator panel only selects in both the schematic and PCB if you have clicked on a component in the Navigator panel. All other types of entries selected in the panel will highlight that entry on the schematic only.
Highlighting settings are applied to both source schematic and target PCB document in accordance with settings specified on the System - Navigation page page of the Preferences dialog.

Objects highlighted on the PCB and schematic using cross-probing feature in the Navigator panel.Objects highlighted on the PCB and schematic using cross-probing feature in the Navigator panel.

In order for the cross-probing feature of the Navigator panel to highlight correctly in both the schematic and PCB, ensure that the Cross Select Mode in the Tools menu is enabled and the Cross Selection option is enabled on the System - Navigation page of the Preferences dialog as shown in the following images. On the Preferences dialog, you also can enable the objects you want to use for cross selection in the Objects for cross selection region. Choices include: Components, Nets, and Pins and you can choose none, one, all, or any combination.

The Tools » Cross Select Mode command is enabled.

The Tools » Cross Select Mode command is enabled.

Cross Selection option enabled on the System - Navigation page of the Preferences dialog.
Cross Selection option enabled on the System - Navigation page of the Preferences dialog.

The current document remains the active document so in order to see the selection on the PCB, it is advisable to have both schematic and PCB open side-by-side – either using a split view, or opening multiple Altium Designer windows.

Cross Selecting

This feature facilitates dynamic, bi-directional component cross-selection. It is used to select corresponding objects between PCB and schematic documents. In other words, when you select an object on the PCB document, the same object on the source schematic document is also selected, and vice-versa.

This feature is accessed by:

  • Clicking Tools » Cross Select Mode from the main menus. This command toggles the feature on and off and the status of the command is displayed in the Tools menu. Cross Select Mode is enabled when a blue box appears around the Cross Select Mode icon in the Tools menu as shown in the image below.

Cross Select Mode in the Tools menu shown disabled (left) and enabled (right).Cross Select Mode in the Tools menu shown disabled (left) and enabled (right).

  • Checking or unchecking the Cross Selection option in the System - Navigation page of the Preferences dialog.
  • Clicking Shift+Ctrl+X

To use the Cross Select Mode, the command must be enabled in both editors. 

With Cross Select Mode enabled, click to select one or more objects within the workspace. Those same objects will become selected on the corresponding document.

The target document will not be made the active document and it is therefore highly recommended to have both source and target documents open side-by-side.
Cross Select Mode behavior is controlled using the Cross Select Mode controls on the System - Navigation page of the Preferences dialog.
If a document is closed and then reopened, the project must be re-compiled before the Cross Select Mode feature will work correctly for objects on that document.

Selecting PCB Components from the Schematic

It is possible to cross-select between selected parts on one or more schematic source documents and the corresponding component footprints on the PCB document for the active project. As an example, this can be useful when selecting a set of parts on the source documents to create a new component class quickly on the PCB document.

To use this feature:

  • Ensure the target PCB document is open.
  • Select the required part(s) on the source schematic(s).
  • Choose the Tools » Select PCB Components command.
This feature can also be accessed by clicking Part Actions » Select PCB Components from the right-click menu when the cursor is over the selected part (or one part in a selection of parts). If cross-selecting a single part using this method, the part need not be selected.

After launching the command, all schematic source documents will be automatically compiled and the PCB document for the project will then be made the active document. All corresponding component footprints for the selection will become selected and zoomed (but not masked) in the workspace.

Since the target PCB will become the active document, it is highly recommended to have the source schematic(s) and PCB document open side-by-side.

To create the new component class once the part or set of parts has been selected on the PCB using the Select PCB Components command:

  1. Click Design » Classes to open the Object Class Explorer dialog.
  2. Right-click Component Classes then select Add Class. Enter the desired name of the new class.
  3. Click the button between the Non-Members and Members region of the dialog to add the part(s) to the right-hand column.
  4. Click Close to close the Object Class Explorer dialog and return to the workspace.

You can see the resulting new component class in the PCB - Components panel.  The following video illustrates this process.

Creating a new component classCreating a new component class

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The features available depend on your Altium product access level. Compare features included in the various levels of Altium Designer Software Subscription and functionality delivered through applications provided by the Altium 365 platform.

If you don’t see a discussed feature in your software, contact Altium Sales to find out more.