Altium Designer Documentation

Working with a Designator Object on a PCB in Altium Designer

Created: October 6, 2021 | Updated: October 6, 2021
All Contents

Parent page: PCB Design Objects

A placed Designator object
A placed Designator object

Summary

The designator field is a child parameter object of a PCB component (part). It is used to uniquely identify each placed part to distinguish it from all other parts placed in all the PCB documents in the project.

Availability

The designator is configured after the parent component part object is placed. It is not a design object that you can directly place.

Graphical Editing

This method of editing allows you to select a placed designator object directly in the design space and change its location, rotation, orientation, and size.

When a designator object is selected, the following editing handles are available:

A selected Designator
A selected Designator

  • Click and drag B to rotate the designator about its reference point A (denoted by the small x).
  • Click and drag C to resize the designator's bounding box in the vertical and horizontal directions simultaneously.
  • Click and drag D to resize the designator's bounding box in the vertical and horizontal directions separately.
  • Click anywhere on the designator away from editing handles and drag to reposition it. While dragging, the comment can be rotated or mirrored:
    • Press the Spacebar to rotate the comment counterclockwise or Shift+Spacebar for clockwise rotation. Rotation is in accordance with the value for the Rotation Step defined on the PCB Editor – General page of the Preferences dialog.
    • Press the X or Y keys to mirror the comment along the X-axis or Y-axis.
If attempting to graphically modify an object that has its Locked property enabled, a dialog will appear asking for confirmation to proceed with the edit. If the Protect Locked Objects option is enabled on the PCB Editor – General page of the Preferences dialog and the Locked option for that design object is enabled as well, that object cannot be graphically edited. Double-click the locked object to select it then disable the Locked property in the Properties or List panel or disable the Protect Locked Objects option to graphically edit the object.

Non-Graphical Editing

The following methods of non-graphical editing are available.

Editing via the Parameter Dialog or Properties Panel

Properties page: Designator Properties

This method of editing uses the associated Parameter dialog and Properties panel mode to modify the properties of a Designator object.

The Parameter dialog (the first image) and the Parameter mode of the Properties panel (the second image) The Parameter dialog (the first image) and the Parameter mode of the Properties panel (the second image)
The Parameter dialog (the first image) and the Parameter mode of the Properties panel (the second image)

After placement of the parent component part object, the Parameter dialog of the visible Designator object can be accessed by:

  • Double-clicking on the placed Designator object.
  • Placing the cursor over the Designator object, right-clicking then choosing Properties from the context menu.

After placement of the parent component part object, the Parameter mode of the Properties panel can be accessed in one of the following ways:

  • If the Properties panel is already active, select the Designator object.
  • After selecting the Designator object, select the Properties panel from the Panels button in the bottom right section of the design space or select View » Panels » Properties from the main menus.
  • If the Properties panel is active and the parent component part object is selected, click the Designator link in the Properties section of the Properties panel in the Component mode.
Note that if the Designator is not visible, it can be made visible by selecting the Component and toggling on the  icon next to the Designator field from the Properties panel.
If the Double Click Runs Interactive Properties option is disabled (default) on the PCB Editor – General page of the Preferences dialog, when the primitive is double-clicked or you right-click on a selected primitive then choose Properties, the dialog will open. When the Double Click Runs Interactive Properties option is enabled, the Properties panel will open.
While the options are the same in the dialog and the panel, the order and placement of the options may differ slightly.
Press Ctrl+Q to toggle the units of measurement currently used in the dialog/panel between metric (mm) and imperial (mil). This only affects the display of measurements in the dialog/panel; it does not change the measurement unit specified for the board, which is configured in the Units setting in the Properties panel when there are no objects selected in the design space.
The Designator properties can be accessed prior to entering component placement mode, from the PCB Editor – Defaults page of the Preferences dialog. This allows the default properties for the Designator object to be changed, which will be applied when placing subsequent Designators.

Editing Multiple Objects

The Properties panel supports editing multiple objects, where the property settings that are identical in all currently selected objects may be modified. When multiples of the same object type are selected manually, via the Find Similar Objects dialog or through a Filter or List panel, a Properties panel field entry can be edited for all selected objects. If values of a property are different for objects in the selection, the appropriate field will be shown as an asterisk (*) – a new property value will be applied to all selected objects.

Editing via a List Panel

Panel pages: PCB List, PCB Filter

A List panel allows you to display design objects from one or more documents in tabular format, enabling quick inspection and modification of object attributes. Used in conjunction with appropriate filtering – by using the applicable Filter panel, or the Find Similar Objects dialog – it enables the display of just those objects falling under the scope of the active filter – allowing you to target and edit multiple design objects with greater accuracy and efficiency.

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