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The PCB Editor is a grid-based design environment - design objects are placed on what is referred to as the placement, or snap grid. Multiple snap grids can be defined, and these can be restricted to a specified area if required. Snap grids are prioritized, with the highest priority grid available at the current location, being applied automatically. Snap grids can also be restricted to Components or Non-Components.
As well as the snap grid, the software includes a number of additional snap features, designed to help you accurately position and align design objects. Together, these features are referred to as the Unified Cursor-Snap System. 'Cursor-snap' is the process whereby the physical mouse cursor's pixel position on the screen drives the position of a 'logical cursor' in the coordinate space of a design document such as a PCB. The objective is for the system to be able to place the logical cursor onto sensible and useful coordinates without the user needing to specify these in a high-resolution way. Variable geometry boards - where component pins are often placed on different metric and imperial grids - serve to add greater complexity to this objective.
The system brings together different sub-systems to collectively drive the way that the cursor snaps onto given sets of preferred coordinates:
These features combine to ensure streamlined placement and alignment of objects in the PCB design space.
The current cursor location is shown on the Status Bar relative to the Current Origin. Positions of placed objects are also displayed/defined relative to the current origin. The current origin is user-definable and can be located anywhere in the design space. Use the Edit » Origin » Set command from the main menus to define a location in the design space as the new current origin and set its coordinates to (0,0). After selecting the required location, all objects in the design space will have their locations updated relative to this point.
To set the relative origin to the default Absolute Origin at the extreme lower-left of the 100 x 100 inch design space, use the Edit » Origin » Reset command from the main menus.
The Unified Cursor-Snap System is configured in the Properties panel (accessed when there are no design objects currently selected in the design space). The images below show the regions of the panel that are used to configure the unified cursor-snap system.
The following regions of the panel are used.
The PCB editor design space is a high-precision design environment containing objects that are designed to different scales, sometimes using different units of measurement. The unified cursor-snap system simplifies the process of working in such a complex design space, providing multiple levels of cursor snapping during object placement or movement.
There are three levels of cursor-snapping available, each level overrides the lower level(s):
The strength of the snap is defined by the Snap Distance. When the mouse cursor moves within this distance from an enabled Object for snapping, the editing cursor immediately snaps to that object's hotspot. Reduce this value to weaken the snap strength, increase the value to strengthen the snap effect. Keep in mind that a large value for the Snap Distance may prevent you from positioning the cursor at certain grid locations, whenever a nearby object's hotspot is within the Snap Distance.
As you can see in the video above, a key feature of working with the snap options is being able to reconfigure them as you work. When using this feature, you may choose which objects you'd like to enable for snapping. Click on an object once to enable it (the object button will turn blue), or click again to disable it (the button will turn gray). The Custom button allows you to freely choose the objects for snapping you wish you enable. If at least one object (but not all of them) is enabled, clicking the Custom button will enable the All - On button, which enables all objects. This feature may be disabled by clicking the All - On button, which enables the All - Off button disabling all objects chosen.
At any time you can press Ctrl+E or click the button in the Active Bar to display a palette of snap options.
Snap Options shortcuts:
It is often impossible or impractical to define a grid that all design objects fall on. In that situation, you might need to position a new design object at an off-grid location. The software supports this through a feature called Object Snap, which is essentially a range of attraction around that object's hotspot. Hotspots only exist at meaningful locations, such as the center of a pad or via and the endpoints of track segments.
This is a dual-axis system where the mouse cursor must be within the Snap Distance on both the X and Y axes in order for the object to pull the cursor towards that hotspot. Object hotspot snapping provides an aid to routing electrical objects, especially those that may not fall on the active snap grid. The Snap Distance is configured in the Properties panel when there are no objects selected in the design space.
The Objects for snapping feature has three modes. Use the buttons in the Snapping region of the Properties panel to select the required mode or use the Shift+E keyboard shortcut or the View » Grids » Toggle Object Hotspot Snapping command from the main menus to cycle through the modes as you work.
A common design task is to align a new object with an existing object. This can be achieved by enabling the Axes feature. When this feature is enabled, a dynamic alignment guide line is displayed from the current cursor location to the X or Y aligned object's hotspot whenever the editing cursor is within the Axis Snap Range. This allows an object hotspot that is close to the mouse cursor on one axis but distant on the other axis to drive the cursor position.
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