Altium Designer Documentation

Collaborators Visualization and Conflict Prevention

Modified by Jason Howie on Jan 15, 2021
This feature is available when Altium design software is connected to an Altium 365 Workspace. Note also that this feature is currently only available to a beta focus group.

The combination of Altium design software and Altium server technology provides a highly effective data sharing platform that supports design collaboration between team members, based on version-controlled (VCS) managed projects.

A key part of the design collaboration process is managing that shared access and handling the potential for data conflicts, which might typically occur where more than one user is editing the same design document (their 'copy' of that server-based file). Such data conflicts are ultimately dealt with by the Altium server's VCS when the document is committed/pushed to the server (see Using Version Control), but up until that point, you have no real insight into the active shared status of that document.

To fulfill the need for real-time document sharing information and control in the Altium Designer editing environment, a series of updates to both the design and server platforms has introduced a new system for visualizing and reacting to the current status of shared documents. The system is enabled by the free flow of document sharing data between design clients (via the server), and is realized through a series of new status icons, a Collaborators Bar and additional file locking logic.

Prerequisites

Currently, the real-time information and control for shared documents are available under the following conditions:

  • The project to be shared is hosted on an Altium 365 Workspace as a managed project under version control (VCS).
  • The collaborators are members of, and are signed in to, the Altium Workspace server.
  • The managed project has been shared with all collaborators – with editing rights for those users that require full access.

Collaborators Notification Bar

The collaborators notification bar () will appear in the upper right corner of the Altium Designer document editor when the currently active document has been opened by another user. Hover the cursor over the user icons within the bar to see the live sharing status. Note that a 'viewing' status indicates that the user has opened the document in Altium Designer, but not made any changes. The open status of a document is indicated by the icon in the Projects panel.

Editing Status

Along with reporting on who is viewing a document, the system also provides the critical information on who is editing a shared document. A document is considered as in an 'editing' status when it has been changed (edited) by another user. This is indicated by an editing-style user icon in the Collaborators bar ().

The document that is being edited by another user will have a  icon associated with its entry in the Projects panel, or a  icon if that document is currently open in the editor. Note that the hover text will also report when multiple users are editing (or have edited) the shared document.

Conflict Prevention

To manage file editing access and avoid the possibility of data conflicts, the system effectively locks a document to a user that edits it, or has caused it to be modified. This user 'soft-lock' remains associated with the file until the user finishes editing – commits or reverts the changes, or is overruled by another user or an administrator.

If another user attempts to make a change to that locked document, its locked (editing) status will trigger the Edit Document dialog which provides the option to revert that local change (Abort changes), or keep the change (Ignore lock). In the normal course of events the user would abandon the change (Abort) and wait until the other user has completed the current editing session.

However, if the Ignore lock option is selected it now means there will be more than one edited version of the document that could be committed to the server – the user edits are potentially in conflict, as indicated by the document's icon in the Projects panel (for both users).

Note that the Edit document warning/selector dialog can be disabled by unchecking the Enable Conflict Prevention Notifications option in the General tab of the Project Options dialog. In this case the user can continue editing the document unchallenged, as if the Ignore Lock option was selected in the now disabled Edit document dialog, and risk a data conflict.

In this situation, where more than one user is editing a document, its icon will change to if the document is saved. This indicates that the local edits have been completed, but the document state remains in conflict with the copy being edited by another user. The document icon will change to if the document is closed.

And finally, if all users persist in committing their edits to the server – while overruling file locks and version control warnings – the different file versions will invoke a VCS Conflict, as indicated by the file's icon in the Projects and Storage Manager panels. See the related Using Version Control section for more information.

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