Altium Designer Documentation

PCB Text String Improvements

Modified by Phil Loughhead on Dec 4, 2019
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In this release, a number of improvements have been made to PCB Text objects, which allows you more precise control with defining text strings.

Text Justification

The reference and justification origin of a selected string is denoted by a small x. This is the Location value displayed in the Properties panel.

Both standard and inverted text strings now support justification and margins. Hover the cursor over the image to show the justification reference point for the inverted string.

Text behavior has been changed to make the justification options predictable. In earlier versions, the string Location was the left end of the string baseline (excluding descenders), which changed to the bottom left corner of the string bounding box if the bounding box was interactively enlarged.

With this update the Justification and string origin now uses the same reference point (denoted by the small x). The location of the string origin changes as the Justification is changed, to be the appropriate handle of the string bounding box (or the center point of the bounding box if the justification is Center, Center). When the Justification is changed the Location X/Y values are recalculated and updated, maintaining the string position on the board. The same point is now also used for text dragging and rotation.

Although the new text justification feature uses a different string origin from earlier versions, when a PCB is opened in an older or newer version the position of strings on the board will not change.

Why are the Justification Options Sometimes Not Enabled?

When you open a PCB created in an earlier version of the software, the justification options are not enabled because a different string origin is now used. In earlier versions, the origin of a PCB string was always the left end of the string baseline (ignoring descenders on glyphs), as shown below. While text supported justification (once the bounding box was resized), the origin always remained at the bottom left and the string was justified within the bounding box defined by the Size settings.

Strings selected in Altium Designer 19; note the location of the origin.

With this update to string justification, strings loaded in an older PCB file will continue to show the Location as the left end of the string baseline. This is no longer a valid Justification reference point, so the justification options will not be enabled. When a Justification is enabled, the string will remain in the same position on the board but the Location values will be recalculated to suit.

String Size

The default Size of a string is the smallest rectangle (bounding box) that can fully enclose the string, shown as the Width and Height settings in the Properties panel. The software automatically calculates the Width and Height based on the chosen Font properties and Text Height.

The size of the string can be seen when it is selected. Hover the cursor over the image to show the same string with a different size.

Text Offset and Margin Border Options

It is now possible to define the Text Offset and Margin Border for all types of PCB text strings (except BarCode) in the Border Mode region of the Properties panel.

When a string is selected, a handle is displayed at each corner and the center of each edge. You can click and drag on a handle to change the Size settings of the string. This will change the size of the String's bounding box, not the size of the characters in the string. If the bounding box is larger than the string, when the Justification options are changed the string will move within the bounding box to meet those justification settings and update the Location value(s) to suit. The appropriate bounding box handle will become the string origin for that justification.

The string is justified within its bounding box, and the string Location values are updated to suit.

As well as interactively resizing the string's bounding box, you can also enter a value into the Margin Border field to extend the bounding box by that amount.

Entering a value for the Margin Border will change the Width and Height values by that amount. Hover the cursor over the image to show the difference.

  • Entering a smaller value for the Margin Border will not reduce the size of the bounding box. To do this, either drag the handles or edit the Width and Height (enter "0" (zero) to reset the size to the minimum).
  • Use the Text Offset field to offset the string within the bounding box.

New PCB Modified_Date and Modified_Time Special Strings

Two special strings have been added for a modified PCB document. The .Modified_Date and .Modified_Time special strings are used to show the date and time the PCB document was last modified.

Modified_Date and Modified_Time Special Strings

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