Altium Designer Documentation

NFS_AD17_0_AV3_0Item Manager Enhancements_AD

Created: August 22, 2016 | Updated: December 14, 2017
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Altium Designer, in conjunction with the Altium Vault, offers the ability to update components in an existing board design to use components that reside in an Altium Vault. The ‘unmanaged’ components can be individually updated to Vault-hosted ‘managed’ component Items, or with Altium Designer 17 (and the Altium Vault 3.0, or later), batch updated using automated Parameter matching through the Item Manager.

Using a highly configurable Rule system to target suitable Component Item Revisions in the Vault, Altium Designer's Item Manager provides a fast and effective way to convert the current PCB project to one that uses fully managed components from a centralized Altium Vault.

Updating to Managed Components

To update an individual component in the current board design, simply open its Properties dialog in the Schematic Editor (double click, or select Properties from its right-click context menu), check the Use Vault Component option and browse to a suitable Vault Component Item via the Choose button. The selected Component will replace the existing component and models, and update the component Parameters – the link to the Vault Component is persistent.

Since this method would be untenable for updating all components in even a small scale board design, the purpose of the Item Manager is to simplify and automate that process by using advanced Parameter matching (Automatching) and a bulk update approach. A typical application of the Item Manager would be to update an existing board design to use Managed Components that have been migrated to the Vault from company Component Libraries.

To instigate the process of updating a design to use Managed Components, open the Item Manager dialog (Tools » Item Manager) and select the lower Unmanaged or Components tab to populate the list of component in the current design. In essence, the left section of the dialog shows component settings of the active project (Current Settings), while the right section lists how they will change (New Settings) when suitable Managed Components in the Vault have been assigned.

You need to be signed in to an Altium Vault and have a Schematic Document open from the active project to access and use the Item Manager.


The key to the automatic Parameter matching capabilities of the Item Manager are the update Rules and Options available in the Item Manager Options dialog, accessed from the Item manager dialog button. The configurable Rules determine which component Parameters in the active (local) design are matched to the Parameters of all Managed Components in the selected Source Vault.

How effective these Rules are in achieving a local-to-vault component match is dependent upon the available component Parameters. In the simplest, but perhaps unlikely, scenario the Comment parameter entries may match between the local and equivalent Vault components. In the ideal case however, both the local and Vault the components will share a company reference or manufacturer part number parameter.

To create such as Rule, select and modify an existing Rule (which can also be renamed) or use the button create a new Rule – a Rule must be selected (checked) to be edited. Note that the Local and Vault Parameter selection drop-down lists are independent, which allows differently named parameters to be nominated – in the below example, the local Library Part parameter and the Vault LibRef parameter represent a company part reference number.


Running a part/reference number matching Rule such as above is likely to create a near complete match between the local and Vault components. With the Rule established, the matching process is initiated by the button in the Item Manager dialog.

To instigate the automatch process for an individual component, right click on the component entry in the Item Manager dialog and select Automatch from the context menu. Use the Manually Choose option to browse and specific a Vault component as a match.

The subsequent Automatching Items dialog will indicate successful matches in green text and include a reference to the name of the successful Rule.

When a match cannot be found, the entry will be in red text and a reference included indicating the reason for the error or matching failure – a different or additional Rule will need to be created to achieve a successful match for those components. Also note that any error will be shown in red text, including when a Rule detects more than one Vault Item (component) match. This conflict is regarded as an 'ambiguous' result, and can be resolved in the Item Manager dialog – see below.

When the automatch process is complete, close the Automatching Items dialog (OK) to populate the Items Manager dialog with the proposed new component settings.

To resolve any ambiguous Items, generally caused by multiple matches, select the Ambiguous Items (or Footprints) tab and make a suitable choice from the Not selected menu in the dialog’s New Settings section – note that multiple matches, and therefore the available choices, can be referencing different Revisions of the same Component Item. When the issue is resolved (no longer classed as ambiguous) the component Item will move to the Managed/Components tab lists.

ECO and results

The Item Manager's proposed changes are applied to the current board design by generating and executing an Engineering Change Order (ECO). Select the range of listed components you wish to change, and then the Generate ECO option from the button menu – or choose the Apply ECO option to automatically generate and apply the ECO.

The executed ECO process will update the project components accordingly, which will then be listed in the Item Manager dialog as currently up-to-date Managed Components. In the Schematic Editor, the updated components are linked to their matched Managed Components in the Vault – the active link information will detect a change in the Managed Component's Revision state when/if it is subsequently updated.

Advanced Rules

Item Manager Rules, created and applied in the Item Manager Options dialog, establish Parameter matches between the local project Components and Managed Components in the Vault. Any number of Rules can be created, and these work on descending priority basis. If the first (top) Rules fails, then the next Rule is applied – effectively a sequential Boolean OR relationship.

When the Automatching process is run, the State Notes column in the Automatching Options dialog indicates which Rules have failed in finding a match. In this case a different or new Rule is required to more precisely match the available Parameters.

Use the Item Manager Options dialog’s button to create a new Rule, and the associated button to apply multiple Parameter matching conditions. As each Parameter condition is added the Rule becomes increasingly specific, and all conditions need to be satisfied before the Rule match succeeds – effectively a Boolean AND condition.

Taking the example shown here, where (say) the components cannot be matched by part/reference number Parameters, a new Rule can be created to match suitable specifications for the listed unmatched capacitors shown above.

When a Rule succeeds in finding a match, the automatching process immediately moves on to the next Component Item in the list. It will only try the next available Rule if the previous one has failed.

Matching Options

The Item Manager Options dialog provides a range of Item updating options that can be used to further refine the how automatched Managed Components are applied to the current board design.

The options are transferred to the current design via the ECO process, and behave as follows:

  • Update ‘Lock Designator’ field – When checked, the local component’s Locked state for the Designator field will be overwritten by its state in the linked Managed Component – see the Schematic Component Properties dialog for more information.
  • Update ‘Lock Part-ID’ field – When checked, the local component’s multi-part device ID selector’s Locked state will adopt that of the linked Managed Component.
  • Update Parameters – Check to allow a component’s Parameters to be updated by those in the linked Managed Component. Enables the below options.
    • button – Open the Library Update Settings dialog – see below.
    • Preserve parameter location – When checked, the position of a visible Parameter in the workspace remains unchanged, rather than reset to the default position of the linked Managed Component.
    • Preserve parameter visibility – When checked, the Visible status of a Parameter remains unchanged, rather than adopting that of the linked Managed Component.

The Library Update Settings dialog includes a list of all available Parameters, for all Components, in the current board project. Those Parameters checked in the list will be updated when a local component is updated to a Vault Managed Component – the behavior of that update is determined by the options outlined below.

The Parameter replacement (or addition) behavior is determined by the lower two options in the dialog:

  • Library parameters not in sheet – Sets the update behavior when a Managed Component (Library) Parameter does not exist in the local (sheet) unmanaged Component.
    • Add – The Parameter is added to the component during the update.
    • Do not add – The Parameter is not added to the component during the update.
    • Add if not blank – The Parameter is only added to the component during the update if it has valid data (its Value entry is not blank).
  • Sheet parameters not in library – Sets the update behavior when a local (sheet) unmanaged Component Parameter does not exist in the linked Managed Component (library).
    • Remove – The existing (local) Parameter is deleted from the component during the update.
    • Do not remove – The existing Parameter is not deleted from the component during the update.
    • Remove if blank – The existing Parameter is deleted from the component during the update if it does not have valid data (its Value entry is blank).
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