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 (File » 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 (from the Edit » Add Export Outputs sub-menus or from the menus associated with the [Add New Export Output] control, at the bottom of the Export Outputs region, in the main job configuration window) 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.
Altium Designer supports creation of a netlist, in the indicated format, from all relevant source documents in the active project or from the active source document. The related indexed commands are accessed from the schematic editor, from the Design » Netlist For Project or Design » Netlist For Document sub-menu, respectively.
A Netlist Output, with the indicated Data Source, can also be added to the active Output Job Configuration file by choosing a command from the Edit » Add Netlist Outputs sub-menus or from the menus associated with the [Add New Netlist Output] control, at the bottom of the Netlist Outputs region, in the main job configuration window. Each sub-menu relates to a specific format of netlist, n, while each entry on a netlist format sub-menu relates to a specific Data Source, m.
The following netlist formats are supported:
EDIF for PCB
Pcad for PCB
The majority of command entries to generate netlist formats are only available in the menus, provided the associated functionality is installed as part of your Altium Designer installation. To view and change functionality available to your installation, access the Extensions & Updates view (accessed by clicking on the control at the top-right of the design space and choosing the Extensions and Updates command from the menu). From the Installed page, click the Configure control at the top-right to access the Configure Platform page. For those netlisters listed in red above, ensure that the Netlisters entry in the Importers\Exporters region is enabled. For the PADS netlister, ensure that the PADS entry in this region is enabled. For the XSpice netlister, ensure that the Mixed Simulation entry, in the Platform Extensions region, is enabled. Once the required functionality is enabled, click Apply. You will need to restart Altium Designer for the changes to take effect.
Depending on the format of netlist you have chosen to create, launching the command will either generate the netlist directly, or an intermediate dialog will appear, allowing you to define specific format-related options. The generated file(s) will initially be closed.
All output files will be written to the output folder specified in the Output Path field, on the Options tab of the Options for Project dialog. By default, the output path is set to a sub-folder of the folder that contains the project file and has the name Project Outputs for <ProjectName>. The output path can be changed as required. In the Projects panel, the netlist file (<ActiveDocumentName>.NET) will be presented under the Generated\Netlist Files sub-folder. Bear in mind, that if a different format netlist is generated from the same active document, the previously generated netlist file will be overwritten.
If the option to Use separate folder for each output type is enabled (also on the Options tab), output will be written into a further sub-folder, named in accordance with the format of netlist you have chosen to create (e.g. Project Outputs for <ProjectName>\<NetlistFormat> Output). In the Projects panel, output will appear under the Generated (<NetlistFormat> Output) sub-folder. This allows you to generate multiple netlists from the same active document for the project, without any files being overwritten.
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.
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 Designer Subscription. Learn more about the features included in each Subscription Plan.
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.
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.
If you're reading this page because you're new to designing with Altium software, here are some tips to help you get started:
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.
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