Altium Designer Documentation

Managed PCB Footprint Models

Modified by Susan Riege on Feb 28, 2020

Parent page: Managed Domain Models

From a designer's perspective, a managed component (Component Item) gathers together all information needed to represent that component across all design domains, within a single entity. It could therefore be thought of as a container in this respect - a 'bucket' into which all domain models and parametric information is stored. In terms of its representation in the various domains, a managed component doesn't contain the domain models themselves, but rather links to these models. These links are specified when defining the component.

Altium Designer, in conjunction with your managed content server, caters for the ability to create and manage Footprint Items in that server. Such Items are created directly within the server. Once a Footprint Item has been created (and data released into a revision of it), and its lifecycle state set to a level that the organization views as ready for use at the design level, it can be reused in the creation of one or more managed components.

PCB Domain Terminology

Before taking a look at the process of releasing a PCB 2D/3D component model, it is worth taking a moment to become familiar with the related terminology involved. In the past, items within a PCB Library have been generically referred to as Footprints, however this term is no longer strictly correct in the present-day context. Altium Designer includes capabilities that allow designers to model both the footprint (land pattern) of the component as well as its 3D physical shape.

The following terminology is used to distinguish elements within the PCB domain:

  • Model - a generic term that refers to any domain-specific representation of a component that is useful when analyzing or working with the component in a specific context.
  • Footprint - a model that refers to the two-dimensional pattern of copper, masks, and overlays that describe the area on the PCB where the physical component will be mounted.
  • 3D Body - a model that refers to the three-dimensional representation of the physical component to be mounted on the PCB.
  • PCB Component - a complete PCB domain model of the component that includes its Footprint and 3D Body. This can also be more fully referred to as the PCB 2D/3D Component model.

Designers are encouraged to adopt a similar vocabulary to ensure minimal confusion between the different descriptive terms.

When a defined PCB 2D/3D component model is released to the managed content server, it is released into a revision of a Footprint Item. While this naming conjures the picture of 2D footprint only, remember that the Item Revision may well represent the full PCB Component, with 3D Body information defined. In addition, that 3D Body information may make reference to a 3D Model Item, also in the server.

Folder Type

When creating the folder in which to store Footprint Items, you can specify the folder's type. This has no bearing on the content of the folder - releasing a PCB 2D/3D component model will always result in a corresponding Footprint Item. It simply provides a visual 'clue' as to what is stored in a folder and can be beneficial when browsing a server for particular content. To nominate a folder's use as a container for Footprint Items, set its Folder Type as Footprints, when defining the folder properties in the Edit Folder dialog.


Specifying the folder type - its intended use - gives a visual indication of the content of that folder when browsing the server.

Another important aspect of the parent folder is the Item Naming Scheme employed for it. This defines the format of the unique ID for each Item created in that particular folder. Several default example schemes are available, utilizing the short-form code for either the folder type (PCBCL - PCB Component Libraries) or the content type (PCC - PCB Component):

  • $CONTENT_TYPE_CODE-001-{0000} - for example, PCC-001-0001.
  • $CONTENT_TYPE_CODE-001-{A00} - for example, PCC-001-A01.
  • $FOLDER_TYPE_CODE-001-{0000} - for example, PCBCL-001-0001.
  • $FOLDER_TYPE_CODE-001-{A000} - for example, PCBCL-001-A001.

Using a default naming scheme, the software will automatically assign the next available unique ID, based on that scheme, having scanned the entire server and identifiers of existing Items. This can be a great time-saver when manually creating Footprint Items.

A custom scheme can also be defined for a folder by typing it within the field, ensuring that the variable portion is enclosed in curly braces (e.g. PCBMODEL-001-{0000}).


The Item Naming Scheme of the parent folder is applied to the Unique ID for each Item created within that folder.

The Item Naming Scheme employed for the parent folder can be changed at any time. The modified scheme will then be applied to any subsequent newly-created Items within that folder.

Item Type

When creating a target Footprint Item in which to store your PCB 2D/3D component model, ensure that its Content Type is set to Footprint, in the Create New Item dialog. If you are creating the Item in a Footprints type folder, this Item type will be available from the right-click context menu when creating the Item.


Creating a Footprint Item within a Footprints folder - the correct Content Type is available on the context menu.

When defining a Footprint Item, be sure to specify the type of lifecycle management to be used for the Item, and the naming scheme employed for its revisions, respectively.

Control over which Item types can use a particular lifecycle definition or revision naming scheme, can be defined and enabled at a global level from within the Content Types dialog, when defining each schema. The default schemes assigned for use by a Footprint Item are: Generic Lifecycle and 1-Level Revision Scheme, respectively.

Once a PCB 2D/3D component model has been released into the initial revision of a Footprint Item, these schemes cannot be changed for that particular Item.

Specify the required schemes in the Create New Item dialog, using the Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming Scheme fields respectively.

If the option to control use of lifecycle definitions and revision naming schemes per content type is enabled for any definitions/schemes, and the Footprint Item type is not set to use a particular definition/scheme, then that definition/scheme will not be available in the applicable drop-down list.


Selecting the Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming schemes for a manually created Item.

Observing standard revision naming schemes and lifecycle definitions, across the various types of design item in a managed content server ensures smooth, consistent management of those items.
It is a good idea to add a Name and Description as part of the Item's definition. This information is used when searching the server and enables quick identification of what a Footprint Item offers.

Releasing a PCB 2D/3D Component Model

Related page: Creating and Editing Items Directly through a Server

So far, we've discussed the support for a Footprint Item in the server, in terms of related folder and item types. Releasing an actual defined PCB 2D/3D component model into a revision of such an item can be performed in a streamlined way.

A PCB 2D/3D component model can be edited and released into the initial revision of a newly-created Footprint Item, courtesy of the server's support for direct editing. Direct editing frees you from the shackles of separate version-controlled source data. You can simply edit a supported Item type using a temporary editor loaded with the latest source direct from the server itself. And once editing is complete, the entity is released (or re-released) into a subsequent planned revision of its parent Item, and the temporary editor closed. There are no files on your hard drive, no questioning whether you are working with the correct or latest source, and no having to maintain separate version control software. The managed content server handles it all, with great integrity, and in a manner that greatly expedites changes to your data.

When you create a Footprint Item, you have the option to edit and release a PCB 2D/3D component model into the initial revision of that item, after creation. To do so, enable the option Open for editing after creation, at the bottom of the Create New Item dialog (which is enabled by default). The Item will be created and the temporary PCB Library Editor will open, presenting a .PcbLib document as the active document in the main design window. This document will be named according to the Item-Revision, in the format: <Item><Revision>.PcbLib (e.g. PCC-001-0002-1.PcbLib).


Example of editing the initial revision of a Footprint Item, directly from the managed content server - the temporary PCB Library Editor provides the document with which to define your PCB 2D/3D component model.

Use the document to define the PCB 2D/3D component model as required. For more information on doing this, see Creating the PCB Footprint.

There are three relevant controls when direct editing, readily available from the Quick Access Bar (at the top-left of the main application window), or from the PCB Lib Standard toolbar:

  •  - Save Active Document. Use this button to save any changes made to the document. This allows you to save current changes, should you wish to come back at a later stage to make further changes before ultimately releasing to the managed content server.
  •  - Release Document. Use this button to release (effectively save and release) the defined PCB 2D/3D component model to the managed content server, storing it within the initial (planned) revision of the target Footprint Item. The Edit Revision dialog will appear, in which you can change Name, Description, and add release notes as required. The document and editor will close after the release. The library document containing the source PCB 2D/3D component model, *.PcbLib, will be stored in the revision of the Item.
  •  - Cancel Editing. Use this button if you wish to cancel editing. The document and editor will close, and nothing will be released to the target Footprint Item.

These controls are also available as commands - Save (Shortcut: Ctrl+S), Release to Server (Shortcut: Alt+Ctrl+S), and Cancel Edit - from the main File menu.

The released data stored in the server consists of the source PCB 2D/3D component model, saved in a PCB Library file named using the Footprint Item's Name. In the Explorer panel, switch to the Preview aspect view tab to see the model graphics.


Browse the released revision of the Footprint Item, back in the Explorer panel. Switch to the Preview aspect view tab to see the model graphics.

Reusing a Managed Footprint Item

Related page: Managed Components, Controlling Access to Server Content

Once a PCB 2D/3D component model has been released to a managed content server, and its lifecycle state set to a level that the organization views as ready for use at the design level, that model can be reused in the creation of one or more managed components. When directly editing a revision of a Component Item from a managed content server, how a Footprint Item revision is added for use, depends on which mode of editing is being used:

  • Single Component Editing - the Footprint Item revision is added to the component's Models region. Use the drop-down associated to the Add Footprint entry to choose the Existing command. An explorer-like dialog will open, with which to browse to, and choose, the required Footprint Item revision.

Example of referencing a revision of a Footprint Item as a model link, when direct editing a revision of a Component Item (managed component) using the Component Editor in its Single Component Editing mode.

You can edit a Footprint Item revision directly from the Models region by clicking the  button, at the top-right of the model preview.
  • Batch Component Editing - the Footprint Item revision is added to the component's Model Links region. This region can be thought of in terms of a 'bucket' of domain models that can be accessed by any component definition. Assignment is a case of specifying which links are required for each definition. Click the Add control beneath the region and choose the PCBLIB entry. The Choose Models dialog will open (essentially an incarnation of the Explorer panel), with which to browse to, and choose, the required Footprint Item revision.

Example of referencing a revision of a Footprint Item as a model link, when direct editing a revision of a Component Item (managed component) using the Component Editor in its Batch Component Editing mode.

You can edit a Footprint Item revision directly from the Model Links region by right-clicking and choosing the Edit command from the context menu.

Re-Releasing a Footprint Item

At any stage, you can come back to any revision of a Footprint Item in the server, and edit it directly. From the Explorer panel, right-click on the revision and choose the Edit command from the context menu. Once again, the temporary editor will open, with the library (containing the source PCB 2D/3D component model) contained in the revision, opened for editing. Make changes as required, then commit the release of the document into the next revision of the item.

Right-clicking on the top-level entry for an Item itself, will edit the latest revision of that Item.


Accessing the command to launch direct editing of an existing revision of a Footprint Item.

You can also update the revision of a Footprint Item being used by a revision of a Component Item directly on-the-fly, as part of editing that revision of that Component Item. If the Component Editor is in Single Component Editing mode, edit a Footprint Item revision directly from the Models region of the editor by clicking the  button, at the top-right of the model preview. If the Component Editor is in Batch Component Editing mode, edit a Footprint Item revision directly from the Model Links region by right-clicking and choosing the Edit command from the context menu.

When you make a change to a managed domain model - be it a symbol, footprint model, or simulation model - the moment you release that change into a new revision of the model's Item, any Component Item revisions that use that model will become effectively out of date, still using the previous revision. In most cases, you will no doubt want to re-release those components, with the respective model links updated to use the latest revisions available. To streamline this process, a managed content server, in conjunction with Altium Designer, facilitates the ability to update related Component Item revisions - at the point of re-releasing a model Item - after having made any modifications to that model through the direct editing feature.

The option to perform this update to the parent Component Item revisions, can be found in the Create Revision dialog, that appears when releasing the modified model back to the target managed content server. This option - Update items related to <ModelItemRevision> - is enabled by default.

<ModelItemRevision> is the current revision of the model Item, that is, the revision currently being used by any related Component Item revisions. Once the model itself is released, this would naturally be the previous (earlier) revision, and no longer the latest.


Accessing the option to update related Component Item revisions, that are referencing the Footprint Item being re-released.

If you want to keep all related Component Item revisions using the current revision of the Footprint Item, disable this option. Only the model itself will then be released.

Once you click OK in the Create Revision dialog, the modified model is released back to the server, and its associated temporary editor closed. What happens next depends on how many Component Item revisions are involved in the update:

  • Single Component Item Revision - the revision of the component is opened in the Component Editor for direct editing (in Single Component Editing mode), with the latest revision of the just-released Footprint Item loaded (referenced) ready.

Example of pushing a change made to a Footprint Item, through to a single Component Item Revision that references it.

  • Multiple Component Item Revisions - the revisions of the components are opened in the Component Editor for direct editing (in Batch Component Editing mode), presenting the following:
    • Definitions for all components that are associated to (reference) the Footprint Item.
    • The Model Links region shows the latest (just released) revision for that Footprint Item.
    • The entry for the linked model - in the applicable Models field of each component definition - is set to use that latest revision of the just-released Footprint Item.
When multiple Component Items use the Footprint Item, rather than separate instances of a Component Editor being opened, a single Editor presents a merged view of the world, with all parameters and model links - used by the source component definitions - presented.

Example of pushing a change made to a Footprint Item, through to multiple Component Item Revisions that reference it.

Unless you need to make any further adjustments, click the  button (on the Quick Access Bar, or from the Component Library Standard toolbar), to release the modified component(s) into new revision(s) of the corresponding Component Item(s), back in the target server:

  • If only a single Component Item Revision is affected, the Edit Revision dialog will appear. Change Name, Description, and add release notes as required. After clicking OK, the release will proceed, and the temporary Component Editor then closed.
  • If multiple Component Item Revisions are affected, the Release Manager dialog will appear. This lists all component Items that are scheduled to be released - by default all enabled for inclusion in the release. Make any changes - to Name, Description, and inclusion (Enable option) - as required, then click the Release Items button. View the impending release changes in the subsequent Confirm Release dialog, then click OK. Once the release process completes - indicated by Release Succeeded in the applicable Action-Status field(s) - close the dialog. The temporary Component Editor will also then be closed.

Downloading Released Data

Download the data stored in a revision of a Footprint Item by right-clicking on that revision and choosing the Operations » Download command from the context menu. The PCB Library file will be downloaded into a sub-folder under the chosen directory, named using the Item Revision ID. The file can be found in the Released folder therein.

Access the Download command from the top-level entry for a Footprint Item itself, to download the PCB library file stored in the latest revision of that Item.
Click the Explore button in the Download from Server dialog, to quickly explore to the download folder.

Migrating Existing Model Libraries

Main page: Streamlined Migration of Existing Libraries to Your Managed Content Server

Models can also be created in the managed content server as part of migration of existing libraries of components. Altium Designer, in conjunction with your managed content server, provides a streamlined, simple process to quickly migrate your existing libraries to that server. The GUI to this process - the Library Migrator view - presents an intuitive flow that takes initial selected libraries, and migrates them to a target managed content server. Catering for all types of libraries relating to older component management methodologies - SCHLIB, PCBLIB, INTLIB, DBLIB, SVNDBLIB - the Library Migrator is the perfect solution to quickly building your company's set of server-based managed components, and the many benefits that such components enjoy (high-integrity, lifecycle management, centralized storage and management, where-used functionality, ease of design resuse). And while the migration process can be configured - giving you enhanced control over how that migration is performed - at its most simplistic, you can accept the default settings and set the migration in motion within a matter of clicks.

Access the Library Migrator from any editor by choosing the File » Library Migrator command from the main menus.

All information that is present in an original source library is migrated, in order to arrive at a folder of unified components (managed components that have assigned part choices), with all referenced domain models (schematic symbols, PCB footprints, 3D models, simulation models), and parametric information. Component templates can even be created, and used to create those managed components. And if your original components have multiple PCB footprints defined, you can rest assured that the Library Migrator will bring those models across, and keep the current default footprint too.

And if you only work with PCB libraries - your only concern is PCB layout - then the Library Migrator supports migration of just those libraries only.


The Library Migrator view - the user interface to the component migration process.

While migration may seem daunting, the defaults have been defined to enable you to get your collection of managed components without having to change a thing - start the process and design with the fruits of the Migrator's labor. The system conducts and handles a number of validations, for example to ensure no duplicate IDs for the resulting managed components, or to ensure no duplicate models or component templates are created, and that such entities are reused across (linked to) components where needed. And if issues do arise, the system flags them, with suggestions on how to resolve those issues, aiming to get the migration back on track as quickly, and as smoothly as possible.
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