Altium's technical documentation is an expansive set of resources that helps you find the information you need for your printed circuit board design needs. This document gives you helpful tools to guide you through our documentation, whether you are looking for a high-level overview of a particular subject or needing precise information regarding how to use a panel, dialog, preference, etc.
Creating learning and reference resources for design software like Altium presents an interesting challenge. On the one hand, the software has a single overriding function - it is a professional PCB design tool used to help you create and implement a printed circuit board. On the other hand, achieving that requires you to work in a number of completely different design spaces or editors, all the while managing a large amount of data and design files.
As the designer, you have to draft the various representations of the components, capture that next great idea as a circuit, design the oddly-shaped folding board to implement the circuit then generate the multitude of outputs needed to feed into the next stage of the process - fabrication, test and assembly.
So, just how do you build a learning and reference resource to help a designer achieve that? Documenting our software is challenging! It is a single design process, however, much of the knowledge content has to mesh with other content to tell the overall story. We have several processes in place to ensure our software documentation is complete, easily accessible, and most of all, correct.
The home for documentation is www.altium.com/documentation. From this page, you can access various documentation areas within Altium.
The reference pages document every command, object, dialog, panel, wizard, design rule, preference, compiler violation, and query language keyword. Press F1 over any of these in the software and you will be presented with a page of reference information.
The higher-level content pages present a deeper look into processes and functions giving examples and step-by-step instructions.
The documentation is written so that relevant content is readily accessible to our users by way of links to other pages that includes further or more detailed information. For example, the Multi-Sheet and Multi-Channel Design article includes over 30 links to other pages, i.e. pages about related design tasks such as creating connectivity and cross probing, pages for the various design objects that are mentioned, and to relevant panel, dialog and preferences pages.
Altium uses a versioning system for documentation so you are sure to see the correct version of documentation for the software you are using.
The documentation starts from a base version and you can manually switch to a particular version of the documentation using the drop-down selector at the top of the navigation tree as shown below.
Gone are the days where every designer sits in front of a desktop computer with a single, 1280x1024 monitor. Today our desktop PCs have multiple monitors, of various sizes and resolutions. We also need to be able to work from our laptop when we’re in the field or at the client’s office. Also, since we’re knowledge geeks, we also like to be able to use our tablet or phone to soak up more information while we’re waiting for that flight or catching the bus to the office.
So how do you present the content so that it works on all of these different devices? The right way to solve this conundrum is to use what is referred to as responsive web design. A responsive website communicates with the target device, adjusting the layout and size of the content to suit that device, screen resolution, and browser size. You can get a taste of this by resizing your browser; as you shrink the width, the page elements rearrange and the fonts and images get smaller. Even on a 5-inch screen the site is functional, for example, the navigation tree is still available on your tablet or phone as a drop-down.
So you’ve opened the site, and have the 2700+ pages worth of content available to you. Now you face the challenge that comes with all online content - how do you find what you want, without it becoming a hair-pulling experience?
There are three main ways into the content:
Within your Altium Design Software, the F1 shortcut is definitely worth getting acquainted with. Hover the mouse over anything inside the software's environment - a button, command, dialog, panel, design object, or Query Language function/keyword - and press F1 to access documentation for it. F1 also works for specific pages in the Preferences dialog, and specific rule constraint pages in the PCB Rules and Constraints Editor dialog. And if you're running a command, say you're placing a component and you're not sure how to rotate it, press Shift+F1 for a list of command-dependent shortcuts.
The site includes a navigation tree on the left; use the tree to browse through the site content. Use the to expand subjects in the navigation tree in order to access additional pages below those subjects. Some pages are there to create the structure of the site; when you click on one of these, the lower-level tree will expand. If you want more screen area, use the control to collapse the pane.
In the navigation tree, you’ll find the high-level content towards the top, with the reference content below it. The detailed content that explains how to design in Altium is in the Exploring Altium Designer section.
Within a page you can browse using the page-level Contents pane that presents at the top of most high-level pages. The Contents pane automatically collapses to the top of the page as you scroll, so it’s always available regardless of where on the page you are currently reading. When it’s collapsed, it also displays the name of the section you’re currently reading.
Many people prefer to search to find what they’re after. Access the Search function via the magnifying glass icon in the left margin of the page.
Search results are presented on a separate browser tab. Use the controls to the left to further refine your search (and then click the Search button). Documentation-related controls allow you to narrow your search to documents for a specific version, within the relevant documentation space.
Even writers can make mistakes and we look to our readers to help us correct those errors. We have a feedback mechanism that can be run from any page that sends an email directly to the writing team. Press Ctrl+Enter on the keyboard to open the Report Document Issue dialog. If there is a particular section of text you want to reference, select it (maximum 200 characters) before pressing Ctrl+Enter. Press Send Feedback to send the document issue to the writing team. Your feedback is important to us and genuinely appreciated.
Some of our content is available in languages other than English. The alternate language versions will be released as they are completed. Use the language selector on the bottom left to select the desired language.
Valid students can get their very own 6-month Altium Designer Student License for FREE! Just fill out the form below to request your Student License today.