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Parent page: Getting Familiar with the Altium Design Environment
Altium Designer is unique in its ability to support all aspects of electronic design, from capture to generation of PCB manufacturing output. It does this in a single software application, through the support of the underlying X2 integration platform. The platform supports all of the standard user-interface elements, such as menus and toolbars (also called resources), with each editor plugging in its own specific set of resources and commands. See the below section for descriptions, access, etc., to Altium Designer's environment elements.
The following sections describe some of the main elements of the design space highlighted in the image above.
Preferences dialogs are a central location in which you can set up global system settings across different functional areas of the software. These preferences apply across projects and relevant documents. The various dialogs are accessed by clicking at the top right of the design space. Use on the left side of the dialog to open the selections for the required area then choose the desired title to open that specific preference page.
The Active Workspace control located at the right of the icon allows you to connect to a Workspace available for you. Depending on whether you are currently signed in to your Altium account and connected to a Workspace, the control might be presented as follows:
The Current User control reflects whether you are signed in to your Altium account and provides access to a menu that allows you to configure some aspects of your Altium Designer installation such as licensing and extensions.
When you are not signed in to your Altium account, Current User control is presented as . To sign in to your Altium account, click on the control, then click the entry on the associated menu. Use the subsequent Sign In dialog that appears to sign in to your Altium account.
Altium Designer provides various license types and each is designed to suit your individual needs. The licensing system enables you to get up and running with Altium Designer software in a timely and efficient manner. To access the License Management page, click next to your sign-in credentials at the top right of the design space then select Licenses from the drop-down menu.
Extensions are add-ons to the software that provide extended features and functionality. You have the ability to install, update or remove additional functionality, which includes a new importer or exporter, a tool for schematic symbol generation, and support for mechanical CAD collaboration.
Updating Altium Designer gives you the most recent release of the core platform software and any extensions you have installed.
To access Updates, click next to your sign-in credentials at the top right of the design space then select Extensions and Updates from the drop-down menu. On the Extensions & Updates page, select the Updates tab as shown in the image below.
The Updates page displays any core platform updates that are available and a listing of System Extensions and Software Extensions for which there is an update available.
The Custom connection entry of the Current User control menu allows you to connect to your Enterprise Server Workspace from within Altium Designer. Select the entry, and Sign in dialog will appear, with which to connect to the target Workspace. Enter the URL for the Workspace and your Workspace access credentials, then click the Sign in button.
If you are using an evaluation (Trial) license, the button will be displayed at the top-right of the design space. Click the button to open a new tab in your browser in which you can select and buy the license you require.
If you are using a license or subscription that will expire soon or is already expired, the icon will be displayed at the top-right of the design space. Click the icon to show a pop-up message where the issue is described and recommendations for its resolution are suggested.
Panels are essential elements of the Altium Designer environment. Whether specific to a particular document editor, or used on a more global, system-wide level, they present information and controls that aid productivity and allow you to design more efficiently. For example, the PCB panel can be used to browse by Components or Nets. When Altium Designer is first started, the Projects panel will already be open and pinned/docked on the left side of the design space. To open other panels, click the Panels button at the bottom right of the design space then select the desired panel. Each editor has panels specific to that editor.
Two panels of interest that are widely used when working in virtually every editor in Altium Designer are the Properties and Messages panel.
The Interactive Properties panel provides universal editing access to the properties of documents and objects available in each design editor. The panel dynamically determines its content (or, in other words, changes its mode) based on the document or object that is currently selected and presents specific properties and settings that relate to that document/object. The Properties panel also supports editing the properties of multiple selected objects.
Whether validating a project, running a design rule check for the active PCB document, performing a mixed-signal simulation, or using any of the other message-enabled features of the software, the Messages panel provides an intelligent way of listing any warnings and/or errors that may be present, as well as any status information. The panel supports cross-probing from the selected message in the panel to the object responsible for the message in the associated document.
The Active Bar gives you quick access to frequently used functions that are also found in the main menus. You can hover over an icon to view a pop-up of the icon's description. To use the icon displayed, click on it. For placement icons, the object will appear on the cursor, allowing you to drag the object to the required location. When a white triangle is displayed at the bottom right of an icon, there is a group of other icons available. Click and hold the cursor over that icon to display a list of additional icons available then select the desired command/icon. The most recently used icon is displayed for that group.
The main menus allow access to commands and functions for the active document. The menus appear across the top left of each editor and each editor has its own set of menus.
To use commands, click the title (e.g., Design) then select the desired command from the drop-down menu.
The Quick Access Bar is located at the top left of the design space and is used to quickly perform frequently used functions.
The Status Bar displays summary information, such as the coordinate position of the cursor, command prompts, shortcut key information, and access to various panels (using the Panels button at the right of the Status Bar). You can toggle the display of the Status Bar by choosing View » Status Bar from the main menus.
The Command Status Bar provides information about the command currently being used. When a command is not currently being used, this will be reflected in the bar through the status Idle state - ready for command. You can toggle the display of the Command Status Bar by choosing the View » Command Status command from the main menus.
When resource consumption gets to a level considered to be high, a resource warning indicator appears at the bottom-right of Altium Designer. Hover the cursor over the indicator for information about which resource(s) are exceeding associated levels of consumption. Note that the color of the indicator changes to highlight the level of resource consumption.
The following resources are monitored:
The resource monitor triggers and displays a warning indicator when any of the above resources reach the following levels:
The Altium Designer Home Page is a standalone web page that can be opened as a tab in Altium Designer. The page gives you access to user-focused content, including new features, webinars, videos, blogs, and tutorials. The information on this page is continuously updated and videos are added to help keep you up-to-date on Altium Designer's functionality.
The Home Page is opened when the application is started. You can close the Home Page tab by right-clicking on the tab then choosing Close Home Page. To access the Home Page after the tab has been closed, click the icon at the top-right corner of the design space.
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