Altium Designer Documentation

Searching for Components using the Explorer Panel in Altium Designer

Created: August 6, 2019 | Updated: August 6, 2019
Now reading version 20.0. For the latest, read: Searching for Components for version 21
Applies to Altium Designer versions: 19.0, 19.1 and 20.0

Altium Designer's Explorer panel, in conjunction with your managed content server, caters for powerful searching functionality, with respect to your managed components. You can either perform generic-level searching, or targeted searching through the use of saved search configurations. The latter allow you to search by a particular component type and also use ranged searching - a nice aspect of searching facilitated through unit-aware component parameter data types (supported through a referenced component template). Additionally, you can add a keyboard shortcut to your saved searches that allows you to quickly perform a search from wherever you are within the Explorer panel.

While the search facility provided through the Explorer panel is powerful, a far more convenient search facility is provided through the Components panel - right where you need it and within the same panel you will typically be using day-in, day-out, as you manage and place components within your design projects. The Components panel allows you to enter a search phrase, and/or use the panel's category and filter selections to narrow the component listing to your specific needs. Filters are supported for managed components only, and like the Manufacturer Part Search panel, the Components panel supports unit-aware (text to number) search filters.

Related pages: Managed Components, Managed Component Templates

To be able to fully appreciate and use all aspects of the component search functionality within the Explorer panel, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Be running Altium Designer and ensure the Component Template Editor and Explorer extensions are installed as part of that installation.
These extensions are installed by default when installing the software, but in case of inadvertent uninstall, can be found back on the Purchased tab of the Extensions & Updates page (click on the current user control (e.g. ) at the top-right of the workspace and choose Extensions and Updates from the menu).
  • Be using a managed content server to store your managed components.
  • If you have not already created your components with referenced component templates - delivering the support for unit-aware component parameter data types - you will need to edit and re-release them. This can be achieved by:
    1. Editing a Component Item, to access its definition in a temporary instance of the Component Editor.
    2. Creating and releasing a component template (CMPT) with:
      • Default revisions of Symbol and primary Footprint Items (as already used for the component).
      • The Default Value for the ComponentType system parameter set accordingly (e.g. Resistors, if editing a generic resistor). A variety of predefined component types are available, with the ability to create new ones where needed.
      • Component parameters defined that match all component parameters currently defined for the component (in this way, the existing values will be kept, while not duplicating any parameters).
      • For relevant parameters (e.g. Value, Tolerance, Power, etc.), set the data type accordingly - thus making those parameters unit-aware. A number of unit-aware component parameter data types are supported.
    3. Assigning this component template to the component being edited (from the Template field under Advanced Settings, when using the Component Editor in its Single Component Editing mode, or from the Add » Templates sub-menu associated to the Required Models/Parameters region, when using the Component Editor in its Batch Component Editing mode.
    4. Tweaking the values of any parameters that are shown in red (i.e. value not valid, or marked as required, but not yet defined).
    5. Commiting the component to the server, into the next revision of the Component Item.

The interface for the search facility - the Search view - is accessed through the Explorer panel by clicking the Search tab at the bottom-left of the panel.

Alternatively, the Search view is accessed when performing a generic search - using the Search field at the top of the panel, or if a keyboard shortcut assigned to a saved search is invoked. The view can also be accessed from the Folders view, by clicking the Search Results entry, within the Server Folders region (available after a search has been performed).

The Search view - a dedicated user interface within the Explorer panel.The Search view - a dedicated user interface within the Explorer panel.

This is standard-type searching. It provides a single search field for entry of search strings. Enter a search string and press Enter.

Accessing the single search field for a Generic search.Accessing the single search field for a Generic search.

To create a new saved search, right-click in the Saved Searches region and choose New from the context menu. The New Search dialog will appear, in which to define the search.

Creating a new saved search.Creating a new saved search.

Use the dialog to:

  • Give the search a meaningful name (e.g. Resistors).
You will be prevented from adding a new search with the same name as that of an existing search.
  • Define an optional keyboard shortcut for quick access to the search (populate the field by clicking inside it, then performing the required shortcut on the keyboard).
  • Choose the specific component types to be targeted in the search. All currently defined types are listed on the Component Types drop-down menu and any number of types can be enabled.
It is very important that the ComponentType has been specified for your managed components prior to release. This is typically set in the referenced component template, but can manually be set in the Component Editor, while editing a component.
  • Use the Parameters region to configure search parameters as required. Only those parameters detected for the enabled component type(s) will be listed. For each parameter, the following three options can be defined:
    • Show Filter - enable to show a corresponding filter field for the parameter, above the search results region of the Search view. It is through such a field that you can fine-tune your searches, based on value criteria stipulated for that parameter.
    • Default Visibility - enable to have a column for the parameter presented by default in the search results region of the Search view. Columns for parametric data can be hidden, or made visible at any stage, directly from the view.
    • Default Value - use this field to constrain use of a parameter to a particular value, or range.
Remember that in order to use range searches, parameters must be defined through an assigned component template and be unit-aware (of a specific data type).
When defining a value, range is depicted using the hyphen character, for example 1kOhm-10kOhm., or 1k-10k.
  • If you want any user of your managed content server to see and use your saved search, leave the Public option enabled. If you want the search private to only yourself, disable this option.

Example defined searchExample defined search

With the search defined as required, click the Add button. The search will be saved as an entry under Generic Search in the Saved Searches region of the view.

A set of saved searches can quickly be generated by right-clicking in the Saved Searches region and choosing the Generate From Component Types command from the context menu. The set covers all currently defined component types.

A saved search can be applied in the following ways:

  • After clicking Add for a newly defined search, or Save after modifications to an existing search, the search will be automatically applied.
  • Select the search in the Saved Searches region, then press Enter.
  • Use the assigned shortcut to switch to the required saved search, then press Enter.
  • Double-click on the entry for the saved search.

Filtering of components will be performed based on the defined search criteria, and the results presented in the corresponding results region.

Example results after application of a defined saved search.Example results after application of a defined saved search.

If any parameters have their option to Show Filter enabled, as part of the applied saved search, dedicated fields for those parameters will be available above the results list.

An example of a focused saved search - Resistors. The search has three parameters that have their Show Filter option enabled, so fields for those parameters are presented as part of the search interface.An example of a focused saved search - Resistors. The search has three parameters that have their Show Filter option enabled, so fields for those parameters are presented as part of the search interface.

For those parameters whose filter fields are shown:

  • If the parameter has a default value specified as part of the search, its field will initially be prefilled with that value, and that value will be applied when the search itself is applied.
  • A new value (specific or ranged) can be specified for the parameter by direct entry in the field.

Make any adjustments as necessary and press Enter to apply the revised filtering.

Use the standard controls available in the search results region to further sort, filter, and group results as required:
  • Click on a header to sort by that entity - once to sort ascending, again to sort descending.
  • Hover over a header to access a filter control with which to filter by that entity.
  • Click & Drag a header to change order of displayed columns.
  • Drag a column header to the region above the headers, to group results by that column.

To modify an existing saved search, select it in the Saved Searches region, right-click and choose Edit from the context menu. The Edit: [<SavedSearchName>] dialog will appear, from where to make any changes to the search as required.

Editing an existing saved search.Editing an existing saved search.

Once changes have been made, click the Save button - the search will be applied in accordance with its new settings.

To remove an existing saved search, select it in the Saved Searches region, right-click and choose Delete from the context menu. Click Yes in the subsequent confirmation dialog - the search will be removed from the listing of saved searches.


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