Altium Designer Documentation

Interfacing to Other Design Tools from Altium Designer

Created: June 24, 2022 | Updated: July 26, 2022
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Altium's design software is probably just one of many engineering design environments that you work with, or need to interface to.

Perhaps you need to interface to another design and analysis platform to perform a power simulation, or perhaps you need to import an older design that was developed in another design environment. Whatever the reason, it's likely that one day you'll need to be able to interface to another design tool.

Performing an Import or Export

Interfacing to another design environment is all about transferring design data. That can either be done by reading/writing the design data from/to a different file format, or directly transferring data via software API's.

Import actions are performed via the File » Import command. Also, many of the importers can be accessed via the Import Wizard. Using the Wizard allows related files, such as design files and their libraries, to be batch imported.

Export outputs can be created by adding the required outputs in an Outputjob file (in the Export Outputs section) followed by generating the outputs from the file or as part of the Project Release process. Alternatively, export actions are performed via the File » Export menu, in the appropriate editor.

Interfacing to EDA Design Tools

The table below summarizes EDA design tools and their file formats supported for import to and/or export from Altium Designer.

Name Supported Formats Learn More
Protel® / Altium

Import
All previous Protel/Altium Schematic files/libraries
All previous Protel/Altium PCB files/libraries
CircuitMaker (current - *.CMPcbDoc), CircuitStudio (*.CSPcbDoc), PCBWorks (*.PWPcbDoc, *.SWPcbDoc) PCB files
CircuitMaker 2000 Schematics (*.ckt)
CircuitMaker 2000 User Libraries (*.lib)
CircuitMaker 2000 Device Libraries (*.lib)
Protel 99SE Design Database (*.ddb)
Protel DOS Schematic (*.s??)
Tango PCB ASCII files (*.pcb)
Autorax PCB (*.pcb)

Export
CircuitMaker PCB files (*.CMPcbDoc)
CircuitStudio PCB files (*.CSPcbDoc)
Protel PCB 2.8 ASCII (*.pcb)

Altium Design Software Import-Export Support

P-CAD®

Import
P-CAD V16 or V17 Binary Schematic design files (*.sch)
P-CAD V16 or V17 ASCII Schematic design files (*.sch)
P-CAD V15, V16, or V17 Binary PCB design files (*.pcb)
P-CAD V15, V16, or V17 ASCII PCB design files (*.pcb)
P-CAD V16 or V17 Binary Library files (*.lib)
P-CAD V16 or V17 ASCII Library files (*.lia)
P-CAD PDIF files (*.pdf)

Export
P-CAD V16 Schematic design files (*.sch)
P-CAD V16 Schematic library files (*.lia)
P-CAD ASCII PCB (*.pcb)
P-CAD V16 PCB library files (*.lia)

Altium Design Software Import-Export Support - P-CAD Design Files Import-Export Support

Autodesk® EAGLE™ Import (XML format, up to version 9.4)
EAGLE Schematic (*.sch)
EAGLE PCB (*.brd)
EAGLE Library (*.lbr)

Importing a Design from EAGLE

Cadence® Allegro® Import (requires Allegro, check the Import Prerequisites)
Allegro binary PCB (*.brd)
Allegro ASCII PCB (*.alg)
Allegro Footprint (*.dra)

Importing a Design from Allegro

Cadence® OrCAD®

Import (up to OrCAD version 17.2)
OrCAD Capture Designs (*.dsn)
OrCAD Capture Libraries (*.olb)
OrCAD Layout PCB documents (*.max)

OrCAD PCB Editor (*.brd) (requires the Allegro importer)
OrCAD PCB Libraries (*.llb)
OrCAD CIS Configuration files (*.dbc)
OrCAD SDT (*.sch)
Export
OrCAD SDT Schematic (*.sch)
OrCAD v7 Capture Design (*.sch)

Importing a Design from OrCAD

Importing a Design from OrCAD CIS

Exporting a Design to OrCAD

KiCad®

Import
KiCad pro Files (*.pro)
KiCad kicad_pro Files (*.kicad_pro)
KiCad sch Files (*.sch)
KiCad kicad_sch Files (*.kicad_sch)
KiCad lib Files (*.lib)
KiCad kicad_pcb Files (*.kicad_pcb)

Importing a Design from KiCad

LTSpice® Import
LTSpice ASC Files (*.asc)
LTSpice ASY Files (*.asy)

Importing a Design from LTspice

Mentor Graphics® DxDesigner® Import (up to VX2.x)
DxDesigner Designs and Libraries

Importing a Design from xDX Designer or DxDesigner

Mentor Graphics® Expedition® Import (up to VX2.x)
Expedition files (*.pcb, *.lib)

Importing a Design from Expedition

Mentor Graphics® PADS®

Import (up to VX2.x)
PADS Layout ASCII Design files (*.asc)
PADS Layout ASCII Decal Libraries (*.d)
PADS Logic ASCII Design files (*.txt)
PADS Logic ASCII CAE Decal Libraries (*.c)
PADS Logic ASCII Part Type Libraries (*.p)

Export
PADS Logic 5

Importing a Design from PADS Logic & PADS Layout

Exporting a Design to PADS Logic

Mentor Graphics® xDxDesigner® Import (up to EE7.9.4)
xDxDesigner Designs (*.prj) and Libraries

Importing a Design from xDX Designer or DxDesigner

Zuken® CADSTAR® Import (up to 2018 version)
CADSTAR Schematic Archive (*.csa)
CADSTAR PCB Archive (*.cpa)
CADSTAR Part Library (*.lib)

Importing a Design from CADSTAR

Zuken® CR-5000® Import
Zuken CR-5000 PCF Files (*.pcf)
Zuken CR-5000 FTF Files (*.ftf)
Zuken CR-5000 EDS Files (*.eds)
Zuken CR-5000 EDF Files (*.edf)
Zuken CR-5000 LAF Files (*.laf)
Zuken CR-5000 SMB Files (*.smb)
Zuken CR-5000 PRF Files (*.prf)
Zuken CR-5000 CDFLAF Files (*.cdf)

Importing a Design from CR-5000

Interfacing to Other Design Tools

Altium Designer can also interface to other design tools (MCADs, CAEs, etc.), for example, using neutral file formats. The table below summarizes other file formats supported for import to and/or export from Altium Designer.

ECAD-MCAD CoDesign

Note that for supported MCAD packages, it is also possible to transfer the board and components directly between MCAD and ECAD using CoDesigner, Altium's ECAD-to-MCAD connectivity technology. Working through a connected Workspace, such as an Altium 365 Workspace, CoDesigner can push the board shape and placed components back and forth between your MCAD software and Altium Designer.

The features available in Altium CoDesigner depends on your Altium Subscription Plan. Learn more about the features included in each Subscription Plan.

Learn more about Direct ECAD-MCAD Design with Altium CoDesigner

Name Supported Formats Learn More
Ansoft™ Export (up to version 4.0)
Ansoft™/ANSYS ® Neutral files (*.anf)

Exporting a Design to Ansoft Neutral Format

Ansys® Export
EDB files (*.def)

Interfacing to the ANSYS Simulation Tools

AutoCAD® Import/Export (up to version 2018)
DXF files (*.dxf)
DWG files (*.dwg)

AutoCAD-DXF Import-Export Support

HyperLynx™ Export
HyperLynx files (*.hyp)

Exporting a Design to HyperLynx

IDF Import/Export
IDF Board files (*.brd, *.bdf, *.idb, *.enm, *.idf)

Mechanical Data Import-Export Support - IDF Files Import-Export Support

IDX Import/Export
Incremental Design Exchange format files (*.idx)

Mechanical Data Import-Export Support - IDX Files Import-Export Support

Parasolid

Import
Parasolid Text files (*.x_t)

Export
Parasolid Text files (*.x_t)
Parasolid Binary files (*.x_b)

Mechanical Data Import-Export Support - Parasolid Files Import-Export Support

SiSoft™ Quantum-SI™ Export
Comma-Separated Values files (*.csv)

Exporting a Design to SiSoft Quantum Format

SolidWorks® Import
SolidWorks Part files (*.sldprt)

Mechanical Data Import-Export Support - SolidWorks Part Files Import Support

Specctra®

Import
Specctra Design files (*.dsn)
Specctra Route files (*.rte)

Export
Specctra Design files (*.dsn)

Ensuring PCB Readiness for Specctra-compatible Routers

STEP Import/Export
STEP format files (*.step, *.stp)

Mechanical Data Import-Export Support - STEP Files Import-Export Support

VRML Export
VRML files (*.wrl)

Mechanical Data Import-Export Support - VRML Files Export Support

Most importers and exporters are delivered as Altium Designer extensions, and the command for a specific filetype import/export will only be present if that extension is installed. See a page for a specific importer/exporter to learn more about the required extension.

Learn more about Extending & Updating Your Installation

There is a number of software extensions delivered by Altium itself or developed by third parties for extending Altium Designer's features and functionality in some measurable way. Some of these extensions include:

  • SIMetrix/SIMPLIS Interface – SIMetrix/SIMPLIS is a combination of two independent circuit simulators: SIMetrix, a SPICE-based simulator with custom models for power transistor devices; and SIMPLIS, a fast simulator for switching power supply circuits.
  • JTAG Maps – the free JTAG Maps™ extension helps hardware engineers assess the potential of using Boundary scan testing in their designs and prepares the JTAG test data upfront. Download the extension from the JTAG Live® website.
  • XJTAG DFT Assistant x64 – the free XJTAG® DFT Assistant extension allows the board designer to assess and improve the testability of their PCBs throughout the design process.
  • MTBF and Reliability Toolkit – use BQR fiXtress™ to help you to design reliable electronics systems without expensive re-spins or physical prototypes. Download the extension from the BQR® website.

Learn more about the available design extensions in the Altium Products area.

Getting Help

If you're reading this page because you're new to designing with Altium software, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • If you're moving from another design environment, you can start exploring the software here, or dive straight into the start-to-finish introductory tutorial.
  • Use the resources available in this documentation space (www.altium.com/documentation), where you can either search via the search icon, or browse using the navigation tree on the left.
  • Whatever type of document you are editing, you can press F1 over an object, editor, panel, menu entry or button to access reference information about that item.
  • Press Shift+F1 while running a command, for a list of shortcuts you can use in that command.
  • Explore the Altium Academy Youtube channel, an online experience created to bring modern education to PCB Designers and Engineers globally. Learn directly from professionals and industry experts as they share their knowledge covering basic PCB design principles, advanced engineering topics, and everything in-between.
  • Attend a webinar or another of Altium's learning events.
  • Join a discussion forum, where you can share with and learn from your industry peers.
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