Altium Designer Documentation

NFS_AD17_0_AV3_0Support for Non-Native Design Files as Part of Release_AD

Created: August 22, 2016 | Updated: December 14, 2017
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Along with the Fabrication, Assembly and Source information that is generated and packaged by Altium Designer’s Project Release process, there can also be a need to include information files that have not been generated by Altium Designer. Such files are not directly part of the electronic design process, are not necessarily ‘native’ to Altium Designer, but offer value when included in the released project package.

Like all files that are to be included in a Project Release, non-native files need to be referenced by an Output Job (commonly known as an OutJob) that will drive the release process. One of the primary functions of OutJobs is to facilitate this collected release of output data, including a snapshot of the design files, to a specified location such as a local folder or the Altium Vault. A Project Release will generally include all the physical and engineering data required to manufacture the project in its current form, and any information contributed by optional non-native files.

Include Non-native Files in an OutJob

In essence, an Altium Designer OutJob is a highly configurable mechanism for defining the output files that will be generated from PCB projects. Saved as part of a project, an OutJob maps generated outputs to individual ‘Containers’ that relate to the file format and function.

To include non-native files, or in fact any file, OutJobs provide a specific PostProcess Outputs category that maps to Folder Structure type Output Container. A PostProcess Output behaves as a file copy mechanism and can be configured to locate and map files to the Container for eventual inclusion in the Project Release process.

Any file type can be added to an OutJob via the PostProcess Outputs entry.
Any file type can be added to an OutJob via the PostProcess Outputs entry.

Multiple files, or groups of files, are added to the Output in the Copy Files List Setup dialog, which is opened from the Configure option in the Output name’s right click context menu.

Add multiple file/folder references to the Copy Files list using wildcard macro filters.
Add multiple file/folder references to the Copy Files list using wildcard macro filters.

Select the dialog’s Add button to create a file list entry in the Build Macro Path dialog. The dialog's source files location and type field provides options for the source path, a subfolder and a file type filter mask.

Note that any files to be included must be located within the project or its host directory.

Files are added using an assembled macro string.
Files are added using an assembled macro string.

The macro path options are:

  • Source (left)
    • Project – The file source is the Project itself, and will only include documents that have been added to the Altium Designer project.
    • Project Dir – The file source path is the local directory that contains the project.
    • Release Managed – The file source is dynamically determined by the later Project Release process.
  • Subfolder (center)
    • Use base path – The file path is the source location, as defined in the initial Source option (above).
    • Choose subfolder – The file path is a nominated subdirectory within the Source path. Directly enter a subfolder path, or browse to and select a subfolder using the button.
  • Filter (right)
    • Select from a list of predefined file filter masks.
    • Manually enter a custom filter mask.
  • Include Subfolders checkbox – Select for the mask filter to apply (and therefore include) files in any subfolders.
  • Preserve Folder Structure checkbox – Select to ensure that the file source folder structure is retained when the Output generator is run.

Use the options to create a unique mapping path to the desired files, and then dismiss the dialog (OK) to add the path and filter as an entry in the Copy Files List Setup dialog. Any number of Files and Folders entries can be added to the dialog, which will all be gathered under the current PostProcess Outputs entry name in the OutJob – in this case: Test Data.

The multiple file gathering entries added to the Copy Files list can also include files contained in subfolders.
The multiple file gathering entries added to the Copy Files list can also include files contained in subfolders.

To check that the Copy Files type Output generator has included the desired files and folders, ensure that its mapping to the Folder Structure container is Enabled (via its associated checkbox), and then view the container Properties via its right click menu, or by selecting the Change link.

Preview the files that the OutJob entry will collate for the current project using the Container Folder Structure dialog.
Preview the files that the OutJob entry will collate for the current project using the Container Folder Structure dialog.

Include Native Files

Under some circumstances it may be desirable to include a native Altium Designer file in a specific Output job category, for example adding the project PCB file (*.PcbDoc) as a reference to the Fabrication Outputs. The method adding a native file (or multiple files) to the Copy Files list is identical to that when including non-native files, except that the Project source path is selected rather than the Project Dir option.

Files that are native to Altium Designer, such as Schematic and PCB documents, can also be added to the Copy List for any data release category.
Files that are native to Altium Designer, such as Schematic and PCB documents, can also be added to the Copy List for any data release category.

Release Copied Files

OutJob documents drive the Altium Designer Design Release process, and this will include any PostProcess Output files added to an OutJob used by the release process.

The Project Releaser is accessed from the Project » Project Releaser menu command, and will access all OutJobs in the currently active project. It can release the current project to a local target folder as an archived package, or perform an automated release to Item revisions in the Altium Vault.

Open the Project Release Options dialog () to set which OutJobs apply to the release data categories (Source, Fabrication and Assembly) and nominate a Release Target (Folder or Vault) in the Project Release Options dialog.

Set the Project Releaser options to use appropriate OutJob files for each output data type.
Set the Project Releaser options to use appropriate OutJob files for each output data type.

Select the button to instigate the Release process, which will generate and list all files included in the Release within their assigned categories. Note that the Fabrication Data category includes a Copied PCB document file, as added to the Fabrication OutJob document (Fab.OutJob) in the example above. Select associated View link to open the file (in this case in the PCB Editor), and select the Details link in the Category section (Fabrication Data) to see a full list of the included files and status of each.

The Project Release preparation stage will list the files to be included in the release, including any PostProcess copied files.
The Project Release preparation stage will list the files to be included in the release, including any PostProcess copied files.

Select the button to complete the Release process – see Releasing a Design with the Project Releaser for more detail.

Release to an Altium Vault

To release the project to the Vault, select the Altium Vault option from the Release Target drop down menu in the Project Release Options dialog (), and then proceed as described above. A Confirm Release dialog follows the Prepare then Release actions, where the release structure hierarchy is shown and Release Notes can be entered.

When the Project Releaser has completed all stages of the release, a summary page details the target Item Vault Navigation Links and a tree-based list of the released files (Data Reports) – any files released through an OutJob PostProcess inclusion are shown under the Copy Files branch.

The final release summary view shows all files that have been released, arranged in their functional categories.
The final release summary view shows all files that have been released, arranged in their functional categories.

The released project can be viewed in the Vaults panel, which in the Item Preview mode, will show the files included in each released Item Revision – the Source, Fabrication and Assembly Items. Note here that the files released into the Fabrication Item Revision (FAB-EMX26-F) include a Copy Files entry for the PCB document file (EMX_V1.PcbDoc).

A project released to the Altium Vault is arranged under a common folder which contains Item Revision entries for each released file category.
A project released to the Altium Vault is arranged under a common folder which contains Item Revision entries for each released file category.

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