Altium Designer Documentation

Browsing Open Content through the Projects Panel in Altium Designer

Created: April 17, 2018 | Updated: July 30, 2019
Now reading version 18.1. For the latest, read: Projects Panel for version 21
Applies to Altium Designer version: 18.1


This panel displays all projects that are currently open. Any open documents that have not been created as part of a project or added to an existing open project also will be listed.

Panel Access

The Projects panel is accessed in the following ways:

  •  Click View » Panels » Projects
  •  Click the Panels tab on the bottom right-hand side of the editor then click Projects.

Panels can be configured to be floating in the editor space or docked to sides of the screen. If the Projects panel is currently in the group of docked panels, use the Projects tab located at the bottom of the panels to bring it to the front.

Project Documents Tree

When you open an existing project or create a new one, its entry will appear in the Projects panel. Any existing documents that are part of a project (and any new ones that have been added) will appear under sub-folders according to their purpose and/or type. For example, the following common folders and content document types can appear under a project:

  • Source Documents - core design documents such as schematics, PCBs, etc.
  • Libraries - local source library documents. Documents are further sub-divided based on library type (e.g., schematic libraries, PCB libraries, etc.).
  • Generated - documents generated as output. Documents are further sub-divided based on type (e.g., BOM documents, text documents, etc.). As project output is generated, the corresponding sub-folders in the main tree will be created and become populated.

Any documents that are independent of a project will appear as Free Documents and will appear under corresponding sub-folders.

Along with allowing multiple documents to be open for editing, the environment also supports multiple projects being open at the same time. These could be related or unrelated projects.

Documents in the Projects panel are automatically arranged in logical groups or 'folders', such as Source Documents (Schematic, PCB, etc.,), Settings documents (Harness, Outjob, etc.,) and, in the case of a hierarchical design, top-level schematic documents. The documents within each folder group are displayed by default in the order they were added but can be dragged and dropped to a new order position within the group.

In the case of a new hierarchical design, the parent-child relationship between documents will be displayed in the panel when the project has been compiled. Note that the connectivity relationships cannot be defined by dragging and dropping schematic documents since the inter-sheet connections and design hierarchy are in fact defined by Sheet Symbols and Port definitions.

Active Versus Focused

In the panel's main tree, the active project is highlighted. When there are no documents open in the design editor window, a project is made active by selecting it from a list of all currently open (loaded) projects in the panel. As soon as a project document is opened (in an editor/viewer), the parent project of that document automatically becomes the active project. The active document in the design editor window will also be highlighted in the panel.

The highlighting of an opened active document and its active parent project.

If no project documents are open in the design editor window, opening an additional project will automatically make it the active project in the panel.

With numerous documents open in the design editor window, changing the active document using editor's document tabs will cause the Projects panel to update accordingly, i.e. to reflect both the active document and the active project (if the document made active does not reside in the same project as the previously active document). Conversely, clicking on the entry for a document that is already open (and that belongs to a non-active project) will make the parent project of that document the active project.

Only one project and document may be active at any given time, however, the panel allows you to focus and perform actions on any project or document. Right-clicking on the entry for a non-active project or a non-active document will bring up an associated menu with commands targeting the focused project or focused document, respectively.

In the case of focusing a document, the document will only become focused if it is closed or hidden, otherwise it will become the active document and its parent project will become the active project. For example, in the image below, the active project is Bluetooth_Sentinel.PrjPcb and the active document is Bluetooth_Sentinel.SchDoc. The focused document is Debug_JTAG.SchDoc (distinguished in the panel by a dotted outline box).

An opened active document (blue) and a selected focused document 
indicated by the dotted outline.

Documents can be hidden in order to prevent clutter in the tabbed area of the design editor window. When a document is hidden, it is still open from the point of view of processes such as compilation/synchronization/annotation. It is just not displayed as a tabbed document in the design editor window.

A project document can be removed from a project. If it is currently open in the design editor window it will be removed from its parent project but remain open in the panel as a free document. If, however, it is not currently open in the design editor window, removal will effectively close it.

Document Display Icons

Document entries in the panel are accompanied by icons that indicate their open/modified/version control status. This provides a quick visual summary of which documents are modified, saved or hidden, and the their version control status. The document icons and meanings are listed below.

A modified document or project that has yet to be saved is distinguished by an asterisk next to its entry in the panel. Modified documents are also indicated by an asterisk inside their tab in the main editor window.

Open/Modified Status Icons

[blank] The document is closed.
  Open – The document is open as a tabbed document in the design editor window.
  Open/Modified – The document is open and has been modified (yet to be saved).
  Open and locked by this instance of Altium Designer.
Open and locked by another instance of Altium Designer.

Version Control Status Icons


[blank]   The file is not under version control in a VCS repository,
  No modification The local copy of the file matches the file in the repository and is up to date.
  Scheduled for Addition A file has been added to version control but not yet Committed (checked in) to the VCS repository.
  Modified The local copy of the file has been modified and saved to the working folder. Commit the file to create a new revision in the repository.
  Out of date The local copy of the file (in the working folder) is older than its counterpart in the repository and is therefore out of date. Use the Version Control Update option to retrieve the latest file from the repository or save the file, which will create a Conflict condition.
  Conflict The file has been committed by another user before you have committed your own edited and saved version of that file. Use the Version Control Update or Resolve command to determine which version of the file will become the latest revision in the repository.
  Scheduled for Deletion The project file has been removed from version control and will be deleted from the VCS repository and database during the Version Control Commit process. This icon also is also when a file is missing from the local working folder (it has been deleted, renamed or moved), which is resolved by re-populating the folder from the repository with the Version Control » Update command.
  Locked The file has been locked by you or another user. A locked file cannot be updated to a new revision in the repository by another user unless it is forced to be unlocked. This state can be associated with other icons, such as those for Modified  or No Modification, when these status conditions also apply.

Right-click Menus

Project File

Right-clicking on a Project file in the panel provides access to additional options and commands in the right-click menu.

Typical right-click menu for a project

Right-click selections include:

  • Compile PCB Project – the compiling process detects electrical and drafting violations and is integral to producing a valid netlist for a project.
  • Recompile PCB Project – the recompiling process forces a refresh of all linking and net information during the compile process.
  • Add New to Project – add a new, blank Schematic, PCB, Draftsman, library, or output job document to the current project.
  • Add Existing to Project – add an existing, locally stored Schematic or PCB document to the current project. Other file types (text, etc.,) are also supported.
  • Save Project – save the current project document to the local design cache. Locally saved documents (if available) are retrieved from the cache when the project is reopened.
  • Open Project Documents – opens all documents contained in the current projects in their respective editors.
  • Hide All In Project – hides all documents in the project so they remain active but are hidden from the design editor window.
  • Close Project Documents – close all active project documents. You will receive prompts to save any documents that have been modified.
  • Close Project – closes the project and any active project documents. You will receive prompts to save any documents that have been modified.
  • Show Differences - detect and resolve the difference between two design files.
  • Variants - opens the Variant Management dialog to define variations of the base design where components can be configured as fitted or not, or fitted with modified component parameters.
  • Version Control – opens a menu of version control options. Refresh, commit, update, or lock your project. You also can resolve conflicts, revert local modifications, or add/remove from version control.
  • Local History – opens the Storage Manager panel or displays the Local History dialog, which allows you to compare an open document with its last saved contents.
  • Project Packager - opens the Project Packager Wizard to package files into a portable ZIP file.
  • Project Releaser - click to open the Project Releaser.
  • Project Options - click to open the Project Options dialog.

Document File

Right-click on a document file in the panel to open a pop-up context menu offering a range of document-specific options and commands.

Typical right-click context menu for a document (Schematic document)

Several right-click options are basically the same as when right-clicking on a Project, outlined above. Others include:

  • Compile Document – check the integrity of a Schematic document. Results are displayed in the Messages panel panel (View » Panels » Messages).
  • Hide/Close - a hidden document is active but not displayed in the design editor window. A closed document will no longer be open in the design editor.
  • Remove from Project – remove the document from the parent project.
  • Save – save the document locally.
  • Save As – save the selected document under another name.
  • Page Setup/Print Preview/Print - manage document printing, replicating the functions available from the main Print options (Outputs » Documentation » Print).
  • Show Differences – detect and resolve the inconsistencies in the design structure or the difference between two design files.
  • Component Links – opens the Edit Component Links dialog.
  • Variants – opens the Variant Management dialog, which allows variations (different physical component assemblies) to be made of the base design.
  • Version Control – opens a menu of version control options. Refresh, commit, update, or lock your project. You also can resolve conflicts, revert local modifications, or add/remove from version control.
  • Local History – opens the Storage Manager panel or displays the Local History dialog, which allows you to compare an open document with its last saved contents.


  • Documents can be transferred between projects in the panel by clicking and dragging. The document does not have to be dragged into the correct sub-folder; it will be placed correctly within the project structure automatically.
  • The keyboard shortcuts Up Arrow, Home, End, and Down Arrow can be used to display the previous, first, last, and next entry in the panel, respectively. Use the Right Arrow and Left Arrow keys to expand and collapse a top-level entry or its sub-folder, respectively.
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