Navigating a Project

Now reading version 21. For the latest, read: Navigating a Project for version 22

Design projects can quickly become complicated as they evolve, and frequently contain a large number of design documents of varying complexity and amounts of data. While this can present document navigation challenges, a project and its constituent documents are normally navigated through the Projects panel or Storage panel. These panels also offer direct access to high-level management functions such as document comparison and Version Control.

Altium Designer also provides a visually orientated project navigation aid – Design Insight – that presents selectable previews of a project's contents, available from the Projects panel. The primary advantage of using a preview-based navigation approach is that it avoids the need to open each document to ascertains its contents. This makes the task of finding the right document simple and fast and provides a quick, visual approach to gaining an overview of a project.

The Design insight features are enabled on the System – Design Insight page of the Preferences dialog. Design Insight provides a number of advanced features that assist navigation at the project, document, and even connectivity level, allowing automatic preview without having to physically open multiple sheets.

Project Insight

Accessed in the Projects panel, an intuitive and visual aid to project navigation is available with Project Insight, which is part of Altium Designer's Design Insight feature. Activate the Project Insight overview by checking the Enable Project Insight box on the System – Design Insight page of the Preferences dialog.

Project Insight allows you to preview all of the documents and navigate to a particular document in any project that is open in the Projects panel. Hover over the Project icon ( if managed, if unmanaged) in the panel to gain 'insight' into a project's constituent design documents. Navigate to and open a specific document by clicking on its preview image.

Visually preview the documents in a project by hovering over the Project icon in the Projects panel. Click to open a document.
Visually preview the documents in a project by hovering over the Project icon in the Projects panel. Click to open a document.

If there are a large number of documents in a project, and buttons become active in the preview. Use these to navigate through the project files.

Documents appear in the Project Insight overview in the order they were added to the project. To view the order files were added, enable the Show document position in project option on the System - Projects Panel page of the Preferences dialog. A number will appear next to the document entries in the Projects panel. Refresh the view by closing and reopening the panel.

Document Insight

The Design Insight preview function also applies to individual document entries in the Projects panel – as a Document Insight. Activate the Document Insight preview by checking the Enable Document Insight box on the System – Design Insight page of the Preferences dialog.

As with the Project Insight feature, hover the cursor over a document icon – such as  for a schematic – to view a preview graphic of the document. Click on the image to open the document in its editor.

Connectivity Insight

The Connectivity Insight option provides a preview of the connected Net/Pin relationship between objects and project schematics. Within a schematic, hover over a Component object to preview its sub-parts, a Sheet Symbol to preview its child sheets, and a Net to see its connectivity within the project structure. Enable this Design Insight feature by checking the Enable Connectivity Insight option on the System – Design Insight page of the Preferences dialog.

For the Design Insight views to open when hovering over content, the Mouse Hover option must be enabled in the Connectivity Insight Options section on the System – Design Insight page of the Preferences dialog. The Insight preview also can be opened using the Alt+DoubleClick shortcut on the related icon/object if that option is enabled.

Adding to this capability is a feature that is accessed by hovering over an object that belongs to a signal net then pressing Ctrl+Alt. This opens a selectable tree view. Click the desired sheet in the tree to quickly jump to that document. 

This feature can be enabled/disabled on the System - Design Insight page of the Preferences dialog by checking/unchecking the Mouse Hover option for the Document Tree entry.

Navigation within Projects

Altium Designer also provides an extensive range of features that assist in previewing and navigating through the object relationships within design projects, as outlined below.

Project Data Structure

Navigate through the structure in the panel to find a Component or Net of interest, and then double-click on the object to show the instance(s) of that object in the project's schematic documents. Use the options on the System - Navigation page of the Preferences dialog to specify the object highlighting behavior (Zoom, Dim, Select, etc).

Right-click in the design space and select the Clear Filter option to remove object highlighting/selection in the schematic or PCB editor.

Project object navigation is also available in the Navigator panel, which provides a detailed hierarchical structure of design objects and their associated data. The System-Navigation preference settings determine the object highlighting the behavior of both the Project and Navigator panels.

► See the Navigator panel for more information.

Connection Highlighting

The connectivity navigation option shows the connection relationships of an object selected in the Projects panel. Double-click on an entry, such as Net, in the panel's object hierarchy list to highlight its interconnections in the schematic.

The preview feature is enabled by the Connectivity Graph option in the Highlight Methods section of the System – Navigation page of the Preferences dialog. Select the additional Include Power Parts option to also see the connectivity of power objects that are associated with the selected object.

Cross Select

Schematic-to-PCB crosslinking is supported when navigating within documents, as enabled and configured in the Cross Select Mode section of the System-Navigation preferences. Selecting an object in a schematic will highlight and select that object in the PCB document – as specified by the preferences.

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The features available depend on your Altium product access level. Compare features included in the various levels of Altium Designer Software Subscription and functionality delivered through applications provided by the Altium 365 platform.

If you don’t see a discussed feature in your software, contact Altium Sales to find out more.