A modern electronics product is actually the confluence of a number of designs – the circuit diagram that captures the connectivity of the physical components, source and program files for programmable devices such as FPGAs and source and executable code for the embedded software that brings intelligence to the product. The term 'front-end design' effectively describes the capture phase of a design – getting that idea or concept from your imagination into Altium Designer as a living, breathing project. Once captured, the design can be managed and processed all (and entirely) from within Altium Designer's unique unified design environment.
How the design is captured, and the type of Altium Designer project used, depends on the ultimate 'end-point' for that design. For example, a design which is to result in a single printed circuit board will be captured as a set of schematic sheets in a PCB project. A design that is to be programmed into a physical FPGA device on the other hand, might be captured as a set of schematic sheets only, or as a mixture of schematic sheet(s), OpenBus System and/or HDL, in an FPGA project.
When considering a schematic sheet or OpenBus System, design capture is similar to the traditional drafting process, where graphical symbols for circuit elements are rendered in drawings, which become a record of the design. Using computer-aided design provides many benefits, by automating the drafting process and allowing easy editing of the design layout.
When designing the front-end using schematic sheets alone, it is the capture part of the process that provides the main benefit – creating an integral link between conceptual design of a circuit and its physical expression. By capturing the "logic" of a circuit, this approach allows the integration of simulation and physical layout into the design process. The schematic design process then becomes the design entry point – or front-end – for a number of technologies, from IC design to FPGA programming, circuit simulation, to PCB design.
This area of the Altium Designer info space provides information on the following areas related to front-end design: