Altium Designer Documentation

Interfacing to Other Design Tools from Altium Designer

Created: May 26, 2020 | Updated: January 13, 2022
Now reading version 21. For the latest, read: Interfacing to Other Design Tools for version 23
Applies to Altium Designer versions: 20.1, 20.2 and 21

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.

Interfacing to Another Design Tool

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.

Transferring design data, either into a file or directly into another design tool, is done via an Extension. All extensions are installed via the Extensions and Updates command, as shown in the image. This command opens the Extensions & Updates view, which, as well as being used to add/remove/update the software and the available extensions, is also the home of license management.

The following types of extensions are supported:

  • Platform extension - smaller extensions, such as loading older format files, are delivered through the standard software installer, click  on the Extensions & Updates page to access them.
  • Software extension - larger and more sophisticated extensions, including those developed by 3rd parties. New extensions are accessed via the Purchased tab of the page.
  • System extensions - this type of extension bring new design capabilities into the environment, such as circuit simulation or signal integrity analysis.

Performing an Import or Export

Import actions are performed via the File » Import command, or the File » Open command. Alternatively, 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 actions are performed via the File » Export menu, in the appropriate editor.

Note that the command for a specific filetype import/export will only be present in the menu if that extension is installed.

Extensions to Expand the Design Capabilities

These extensions add functionality to the software.

Name Comments
AutoCAD® DWG/DXF # Import & export DXF and DWG format files, up to AutoCAD 2013.
Specctra® Autorouter # Import & export Specctra DSN & RTE format design files.
BQR fiXtress™ * 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.
SIMetrix/SIMPLIS Simulators ^ 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 * The free XJTAG DFT Assistant extension allows the board designer to assess and improve the testability of their PCBs throughout the design process.
KiCad® Importer * Transfer of ASCII format designs captured using KiCad, to Altium Designer.

# Platform extension * Software extension ^ System extension

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

Extensions to Interface to Other EDA Design Tools

The following interfaces are delivered either as a platform extension or a software extension. These extensions add the following file import/export functionality:

Name Comments
Protel / Altium Import
All previous Protel/Altium Schematic files/libraries
All previous Protel/Altium PCB files/libraries
Protel 99SE Design Database (*.ddb)
CircuitMaker 2000 Schematics (*.ckt)
CircuitMaker 2000 User Libraries (*.lib)
CircuitMaker 2000 Device Libraries (*.lib)
CircuitMaker (current), CircuitStudio, PCBWorks PCB files
Protel 2.8 ASCII
P-CAD® Import
Tango PCB ASCII files (*.pcb)
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 file (*.pdf)
Autodesk® EAGLE ™ Import (XML format, up to version 9.4)
EAGLE Schematic (*.sch)
EAGLE PCB (*.brd)
EAGLE Library (*.lbr)
KiCad® Import
KiCad pro Files (*.pro)
KiCad sch Files (*.sch)
KiCad lib Files (*.lib)
KiCad kicad_pcb Files (*.kicad_pcb)
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 file (*.dbc)
OrCAD SDT (*.sch)
OrCAD SDT Schematic (*.sch)
OrCAD v7 Capture Design (*.sch)

Cadence® Allegro® Import (requires Allegro, check the Import Prerequisites)
Allegro binary PCB (*.brd)
Allegro ASCII PCB (*.alg)
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)
PADS Logic 5
Mentor Graphics® DxDesigner® Import (up to VX2.x)
DxDesigner Designs and Libraries
Mentor Graphics® Expedition® Import (up to VX2.x)
Expedition files (*.pcb, *.lib)
Zuken® CADSTAR® Import (up to 2018 version)
CADSTAR Schematic Archive (*.csa)
CADSTAR PCB Archive (*.cpa)
CADSTAR Part Library (*.lib)

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 (, 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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