Setting up the PCB Environment in Altium Designer

A logical step after creating and checking the schematic document is creating and designing the PCB. Use the File » New » PCB command to create a new PCB document. It is a good idea to configure the PCB by defining the origin, units, grid size, as well as the color display and visibility of the required layers.

Many aspects of the PCB environment setup are configured through the Properties panel in its Board mode described below. To learn more about other features for the configuration of the PCB environment, refer to the following pages:

  • Working with the Cursor-Snap System – the PCB editor includes a number of snap features, designed to help you accurately position and align design objects. Complementing the snap grid system is a hotspot snap feature, overriding the snap grid and pulling the cursor to an object's hotspot when it is within the user-definable range. This feature makes it easy to work with off-grid objects, for example routing up to the pads of an imperial component on a metric board. Together, these features are referred to as the Unified Cursor-Snap System.
  • Working with Grids & Guides – the PCB editor is a grid-based design environment - design objects are placed on what is referred to as the placement, or snap grid. There are also user-definable snap points and snap guides, as well as object axis alignment guides, all useful for the accurate positioning of objects.
  • Your View of the PCB – modern PCBs are multi-layer entities that require their clear representation in the PCB editor design space. Altium Designer features a comprehensive set of tools facilitating the display of the objects, layers, and nets that you need right now, in both 2D and 3D modes.
  • PCB Panel – the PCB panel allows you to browse the current PCB design using a range of filter modes to determine which object types or design elements are listed, highlighted, or selected.

Properties Panel

The Properties panel in its Board mode (active when no design object is currently selected in the PCB editor design space) contains options and controls for the basic configuration of the current PCB document.

The following collapsible sections contain information about the options and controls available under the panel's General tab:

The following collapsible section contains information about the options and controls available under the panel's Parameter tab:

The panel's Health Check tab provides an interface to the PCB Health Check Monitor. To learn more about this functionality, see PCB Health Check Monitor.

When a design object is selected, the panel will present options specific to that object type. The following table lists the object types available for placement within a PCB document – click a link to access the properties page for that object.

3D Body Accordion
Angular Dimension Arc
Arc Keepout Component
Drill Table Embedded Board Array
Fill Fill Keepout
Layer Stack Table Linear Dimension
OLE Object Ordinate Dimension
Pad Polygon Pour
Radial Dimension Region
Region Keepout Text (String, Text Frame)
Track Track Keepout
Via Comment
Standard Dimension

Design View

Center Dimension Baseline Dimension
Linear Diameter Dimension Radial Diameter Dimension
Graphic Rectangle
Bending Line Board Region
Designator Leader Dimension
Sawtooth Trombone
Although Tracks and Lines are actually the same object, the difference is how the software behaves during their placement, which is why there are different commands.

After launching the Place » Line command, the cursor will change to a cross-hair and the editor will enter line placement mode. Placement is made by performing the following actions:

  1. Click to define the starting position of the line.
  2. Move the cursor to set the length and angle the line then click again to complete placement.
  3. Continue placing further lines, or right-click or press Esc to exit the placement mode.
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