PCB Snippets in a Workspace Connected to Altium Designer

Created: 27.01.2023 | Updated: 27.01.2023

Parent page: Workspace Content Types

Altium Designer, in conjunction with your connected Workspace, caters for the ability to create and manage PCB snippets (PCB Snippet Items) in that Workspace. Such snippets are created directly within the Workspace. Once a PCB snippet has been created (and data saved into a revision of it), it can be reused in future board-level design projects.

Folder Type

When creating the folder in which to store PCB snippets, you can specify the folder's type. This has no bearing on the content of the folder – saving a PCB snippet will always result in a corresponding PCB Snippet Item. It simply provides a visual 'clue' as to what is stored in a folder and can be beneficial when browsing a Workspace for particular content. To nominate a folder's use as a container for PCB snippets, set its Folder Type as PCB Snippets, when defining the folder properties in the Edit Folder dialog.

Specifying the folder type – its intended use – gives a visual indication of the content of that folder when browsing the Workspace.
Specifying the folder type – its intended use – gives a visual indication of the content of that folder when browsing the Workspace.

Another important aspect of the parent folder is the Item Naming Scheme employed for it. This defines the format of the unique ID for each Item created in that particular folder. Several default example schemes are available, utilizing the short-form code for either the folder type (PSNC – PCB Snippet Collection) or the content type (PCBS – PCB Snippet):

  • $CONTENT_TYPE_CODE-001-{0000} – for example, PCBS-001-0001.
  • $CONTENT_TYPE_CODE-001-{A00} – for example, PCBS-001-A01.
  • $FOLDER_TYPE_CODE-001-{0000} – for example, PSNC-001-0001.
  • $FOLDER_TYPE_CODE-001-{A000} – for example, PSNC-001-A001.

Using a default naming scheme, the software will automatically assign the next available unique ID, based on that scheme, having scanned the entire Workspace and identifiers of existing content. This can be a great time-saver when manually creating PCB snippets.

A custom scheme can also be defined for a folder by typing it within the field, ensuring that the variable portion is enclosed in curly braces (e.g. PCBSNIPPET-001-{0000}).

The Item Naming Scheme of the parent folder is applied to the Unique ID for each Item created within that folder.
The Item Naming Scheme of the parent folder is applied to the Unique ID for each Item created within that folder.

The Item Naming Scheme employed for the parent folder can be changed at any time. The modified scheme will then be applied to any subsequent newly-created content within that folder.

Content Type

When creating a target PCB Snippet Item in which to store your PCB snippet, ensure that its Content Type is set to PCB Snippet, in the Create New Item dialog. If you are creating the Item in a PCB Snippets type folder, this content type will be available from the right-click context menu when creating the Item.

Creating a PCB snippet within a PCB Snippets folder – the correct Content Type is available on the context menu.
Creating a PCB snippet within a PCB Snippets folder – the correct Content Type is available on the context menu.

Related pages: Defining Revision Naming Schemes for a WorkspaceDefining Lifecycle Definitions for a Workspace

When defining a PCB snippet, be sure to specify the type of lifecycle management to be used for the PCB snippet, and the naming scheme employed for its revisions, respectively.

When connected to an Altium 365 Workspace, note that lifecycle and revision naming management is not supported with the Altium Designer Standard Subscription. As such, this functionality will not be available with this level of access to Altium 365.

Control over which content types can use a particular lifecycle definition or revision naming scheme, can be defined and enabled at a global level from within the Content Types dialog, when defining each schema. The default schemes assigned for use by a PCB snippet are: Generic Lifecycle and 1-Level Revision Scheme, respectively.

Once a PCB snippet has been saved into the initial revision of a PCB Snippet Item, these schemes cannot be changed for that particular Item.

Specify the required schemes in the Create New Item dialog, using the Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming Scheme fields respectively.

If the option to control use of lifecycle definitions and revision naming schemes per content type is enabled for any definitions/schemes, and the PCB Snippet content type is not set to use a particular definition/scheme, then that definition/scheme will not be available in the applicable drop-down list.

Selecting the Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming schemes for a manually created PCB snippet.
Selecting the Lifecycle Definition and Revision Naming schemes for a manually created PCB snippet.

Observing standard revision naming schemes and lifecycle definitions, across the various types of design content in a Workspace ensures smooth, consistent management of this content.
It is a good idea to add a Name and Description as part of the PCB snippet's definition. This information is used when searching the Workspace and enables quick identification of what a PCB snippet offers.

Saving a PCB Snippet

Related page: Creating and Editing Content Directly through a Workspace

So far, we've discussed the support for a PCB snippet in the Workspace, in terms of related folder and content types. Saving an actual defined PCB snippet into a revision of a PCB Snippet Item can be performed in a streamlined way.

Direct Editing

A PCB snippet can be edited and saved into the initial revision of a newly-created PCB Snippet Item, courtesy of the Workspace's support for direct editing. Direct editing frees you from the shackles of separate version-controlled source data. You can simply edit a supported content type using a temporary editor loaded with the latest source direct from the Workspace itself. And once editing is complete, the entity is saved (or re-saved) into a subsequent planned revision of its parent Item, and the temporary editor closed. There are no files on your hard drive, no questioning whether you are working with the correct or latest source, and no having to maintain separate version control software. The Workspace handles it all, with great integrity, and in a manner that greatly expedites changes to your data.

When you create a PCB Snippet Item, you have the option to edit and save the PCB snippet into the initial revision of that Item, after creation. To do so, enable the Open for editing after creation option, at the bottom of the Create New Item dialog (which is enabled by default). The Item will be created and the temporary PCB editor will open, presenting a .PcbDoc document as the active document in the main design window. This document will be named according to the Item-Revision, in the format: <Item><Revision>.SchDoc (e.g. PCBS-0001-1.SchDoc).

Example of editing the initial revision of a PCB snippet, directly from the Workspace – the temporary PCB editor provides the document with which to define your PCB snippet.
Example of editing the initial revision of a PCB snippet, directly from the Workspace – the temporary PCB editor provides the document with which to define your PCB snippet.

Use the document to define the PCB snippet as required. Because PCB snippets are stored in a Workspace, the components on them should also be stored in the Workspace. That way, you get the full benefit of the content system that the Workspace provides.

There are three relevant controls when direct editing, readily available from the Quick Access Bar (at the top-left of the main application window), or from the PCB Standard toolbar:

  • Save Active Document. Use this button to locally save any changes made to the currently open document of the PCB snippet. This allows you to save current changes, should you wish to come back at a later stage to make further changes before ultimately saving to the Workspace.
  • /Save to Workspace. Use this button to save the defined PCB snippet to the Workspace, storing it within the initial (planned) revision of the target PCB Snippet Item. The Edit Revision dialog will appear, in which you can change Name, Description, and add release notes as required. The editor will close after the save. The document containing the source PCB snippet (*.PcbDoc) will be stored in the revision of the Item.

    A Save to Server control is also conveniently provided to the right of the PCB snippet's entry, within the Projects panel itself.
  • /Discard Local Changes. Use this button if you wish to cancel editing and discard any changes made. The editor will close, and nothing will be saved to the target PCB Snippet Item.

These controls are also available as commands – Save (shortcut: Ctrl+S), Save to Server (shortcut: Ctrl+Alt+S), and Discard Local Changes – from the main File menu and from the right-click menu of entries of the PCB snippet's entry in the Projects panel.

The saved data stored in the Workspace consists of the source PCB sheet, defined in the PCB document file (<Item><Revision>.PcbDoc). In the Explorer panel, switch to the Preview aspect view tab to see a graphical representation of the snippet.

Browse the saved revision of the PCB snippet, back in the Explorer panel. Switch to the Preview aspect view tab to see the PCB snippet's graphics.
Browse the saved revision of the PCB snippet, back in the Explorer panel. Switch to the Preview aspect view tab to see the PCB snippet's graphics.

Saving an Existing Local PCB Snippet to the Workspace

While direct editing is the preferred approach for most design content that can be stored in a Workspace, when it comes to existing local PCB snippets, you also have the ability to save a snippet directly to the Workspace. The process is as follows:

  1. Open the Design Reuse panel in Altium Designer and browse to an existing local PCB snippet.

    For access to local snippets from the Design Reuse panel, the Local Snippets option must be enabled in the  button menu.
  2. Click the  button within the snippet's tile (or by right-clicking anywhere on the tile) and selecting the Save to Server command from the menu.
  3. In the New PCB Snippet dialog that appears, edit Name, Description, and the Workspace folder into which the snippet will be saved as required.

Creating a PCB Snippet from Selection

A PCB snippet can also be created based on the required circuitry placed in a PCB document. The process is as follows:

  1. Select the required circuitry on the PCB editor.
  2. Right-click and choose Snippets » Create Snippet from selected objects from the context menu or select the Tools » Convert » Create Snippet from selected objects command from the main menus.
  3. The New PCB Snippet dialog will appear, in which you can define Name and Description of the PCB Snippet Item to be created. Select your connected Workspace in the Save to field and the Workspace folder into which the new snippet will be saved.
  4. After clicking OK, the snippet will be saved.

Reusing a PCB Snippet

Related pages: Controlling Access to Workspace Content

Once a PCB snippet has been saved to a Workspace, and its lifecycle state set to a level that the organization views as ready for use at the design level, that snippet can be reused in future board-level design projects. And keeping to the use of the Workspace as the source of all content in and for a design, it is good practice to reuse your PCB snippet content in Workspace Projects – which themselves are under the Workspace's wing.

Using controlled access to Workspace content, in conjunction with suitable lifecycle schema, authorized personnel (librarians, senior design management) can ratify, and make available, only those PCB snippets that are to be used in designs. This allows the designer to design-away, reassured that they are using only those PCB snippets authorized to be used.

Placement of a PCB snippet is performed from Altium Designer's Explorer panel or Design Reuse panel.

Prior placement of a PCB snippet, ensure that the desired PCB document that is to receive the associated snippet is open in Altium Designer and is the active document.

To place a revision of a PCB snippet from the Explorer panel:

  1. Browse or search for the PCB snippet you wish to place.
  2. Right-click on the specific revision of the PCB snippet required (typically the latest, in which case just right-click directly on the top-level Item entry).
  3. Choose the Place command.

To place the latest revision of a PCB snippet from the Design Reuse panel:

  1. Browse or search for the PCB snippet you wish to place.
  2. Hover the cursor over the PCB snippet's tile (or click the  button within the PCB snippet's tile, or right-click anywhere on the tile).
  3. Choose the Place command.

Re-Saving a PCB Snippet

At any stage, you can come back to any revision of a PCB snippet in the Workspace, and edit it directly. Right-click on the revision in the Explorer panel and choose the Edit command from the context menu. Once again, the temporary editor will open, with the PCB document contained in the revision opened for editing. Make changes as required, then save the document into the next revision of the PCB snippet.

Right-clicking on the top-level entry for a PCB snippet itself will edit the latest revision of that snippet. Also, the latest revision of a PCB snippet can be opened for editing from the Design Reuse panel by clicking the button within the PCB snippet's tile (or right-click anywhere on the tile) and selecting the Edit command.

Accessing the command to launch direct editing of an existing revision of a PCB snippet from the Explorer panel.
Accessing the command to launch direct editing of an existing revision of a PCB snippet from the Explorer panel.

Downloading Saved Data

Download the data stored in a revision of a PCB snippet by right-clicking on that revision and choosing the Operations » Download command from the context menu. The applicable PCB document file will be downloaded into a sub-folder under the chosen directory, named using the Item Revision ID. The file can be found in the Released folder therein.

Access the Download command from the top-level entry for a PCB snippet itself, to download the applicable file stored in the latest revision of that snippet.
Click the Explore button in the Download from Server dialog, to quickly explore to the download folder.

Soft Deletion

When connected to a Workspace, flexible functionality is available for removing a PCB snippet directly from within Altium Designer:

  • From the Explorer panel – right-click on the PCB snippet's entry in the panel and choose the Delete Item command from the context menu.
  • From the Design Reuse panel – click the button within the PCB snippet's tile (or right-click anywhere on the tile) and select the Delete command from the context menu.

The Delete Items dialog will appear, in which to confirm the deletion. The action is actually a 'soft delete', whereby the PCB snippet will be moved into the Trash area of the Workspace. The Trash is essentially a recycle bin into which any content within your Workspace can be moved (through a soft delete action). It is isolated from the rest of the Workspace.

With the soft-delete facility, you are able to delete a PCB snippet that is currently being used.
Multiple PCB snippets can be deleted from within the Explorer panel in a single action. Select all required PCB snippets using standard multi-select controls (Shift+Click, Ctrl+Click), then right-click and choose the Delete Items command from the context menu.

Soft deletion of a PCB snippet from within the Explorer panel. The content will be moved to the Workspace's Trash area.
Soft deletion of a PCB snippet from within the Explorer panel. The content will be moved to the Workspace's Trash area.

To proceed with the deletion, click the button. The content will be removed and a Deletion Summary dialog will confirm successful deletion. If there was an issue with deletion, this will be flagged to you.

The content deleted in this manner can be found on the Trash page of the Workspace's browser interface. Note that you can only view the content that you have personally soft deleted. Administrators will be able to see the full content of the Trash page – so all content that has been soft deleted.

Things to consider in relation to a soft deleted PCB snippet:

  • The PCB snippet will not be available from your design software, or from within the Web interface.
  • Anywhere the PCB snippet was being used will reflect that the PCB snippet has been deleted.
  • A PCB snippet can be restored, or permanently deleted from the Trash page, provided you have editing rights. Permanent deletion is only possible provided it is not being used by a parent Item.
Note that if you have soft deleted a PCB snippet – moving it to the Trash – you can create a new PCB snippet with that same name again. If you were to subsequently restore the original PCB snippet, and the original name is taken, an integer suffix will be used, to keep its name unique within the Workspace.
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