What's New in Altium Designer

Each release of Altium Designer continues the process of keeping you plugged into a continuous stream of new features, technologies and enhancements, designed to make it easier for you to create your next generation electronics designs. This page introduces new features as they are released so have a browse through – you may just find a feature or enhancement you have missed or overlooked. A design gem that may well prove an invaluable productivity-booster!

We're excited about the new features and functionality included in each and every update to Altium Designer, in addition to a host of other enhancements, crunched bugs and implemented ideas, and we're sure that you'll be excited too! And remember, keeping current with your Altium Subscription gives you access to new cool features and enhancements in future updates, as soon as they are released from development.

For each Altium Designer update, its release date and version is presented, along with a link to the associated page of release notes. Its key features are highlighted with links to more detailed pages where available. For information on which features were introduced in previous versions of the software, including Altium Designer 10, 12 and 13, refer to the page Altium Designer What's New - Previous Releases. In addition, a complete list of all Altium Designer updates is available, in PDF format, accessible using the links in the Further Information box to the right.

For information on updating your installation of the software, see System Installation, Licensing & Management.

Altium Designer 14.2

Released: 5 March 2014 - Version: 14.2.4
            19 February 2014 - Version: 14.2.3

This update to Altium Designer continues the focus on fixes, enhancements and performance to our core technologies. Approaching 100 fixes/enhancements in total, and addressing 30 popular issues raised by our customers through the AltiumLive Community's BugCrunch system, this release packs a targeted punch, while continuing to emphasize our commitment to providing you with a world class design solution.

Enhancements to the PCB Drill Table

The Drill Table is a key element in the PCB fabrication documentation. To simplify and enhance the use and presentation of the Drill Table, the designer can now control the text alignment for each column, and can also set the width of each column.

 

Enhanced Indication of Disabled PCB Design Rules

In the rules-driven environment of Altium Designer's PCB Editor, it is not uncommon to build up a rather impressive and comprehensive array of rules with which to successfully constrain your boards. For whatever reason along the way, some rules may become disabled - perhaps not applicable to the board in question, or perhaps temporarily disabled to ease the load on the Design Rule Checker. This release brings a visual tweak to the display of rules that have been disabled, giving them a 'greyed-out' appearance.

 

Polygon Pour Enhancements

This update delivers an optimization to polygon pours, resulting in increased repour speed. Depending on the number and complexity of the polygon pours in a design, the repour speed increase can be anywhere from 2x to potentially 20x (or more)! In addition, quality has been improved when using hatched-style polygon pours, and polygon pour cutouts.

Schematic Support for Vector Graphics

Altium Designer's Schematic Editor has long supported the ability to add graphical images in a variety of popular formats. However these formats - including bmp, png, jpg, and tiff - are all Raster-based. And while all of these image formats render adequately, their attraction diminishes when the image is scaled. This release sees the Schematic Editor boosted with the arrival of support for vector-based graphics in the form of WMF (Windows Meta File) and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) formats.

 

Schematic Enhancements in Support of GOST

This release adds further schematic support for designers needing to comply with the regional standards (GOST) maintained by the Euro-Asian Council for Standardization, Metrology and Certification (EASC). These standards are adhered to by designers throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Support comes in the guise of a dash-dotted line style, and control over the pin symbol line width.

 

Support for Global Bookmarks in Smart PDF

Emphasising the 'Smart' in Smart PDF, this release provides the ability to include global bookmarks for the components and nets in your design.

 

Support for Subversion 1.8

In this release, the in-built SVN client has been upgraded to support SVN 1.8.

 

Extension Support for TI Stellaris and NXP LPC2000 Device Families

This update sees the arrival of support for two families of discrete microcontrollers. The Cortex-M3-based Stellaris Support extension enables programming and debugging for the Texas Instruments Stellaris family of microcontrollers, while the ARM7-based LPC2000 Support extension adds programming and debugging for NXP LPC2000 series discrete microcontrollers. The Embedded extension has also been updated to support these two families accordingly.

Altium Designer 14.1

Released: 5 December 2013
Version: 14.1.5

As well as a number of new features and enhancements, including the new Team Configuration Center and Data Acquisition for the Altium Vaults, this update brings numerous improvements that deliver improved stability and performance.

Design Data and Environment Management

Altium Vaults provide an excellent solution for the management and maintenance of your valuable design data, from the smallest component right through to your most complex product. As part of Altium's commitment to broadening and expanding the capabilities of Altium Vaults, this release brings a number of new and exciting features for the storage and management of design data, as well as new capabilities for the management of the design environment that your team operates in.

These improvements include:

  • Vault Data Acquisition - delivering configurable copying of content between Altium Vaults, with links back to the source. These features lay the foundations for the concept of eData sources - where suppliers, manufacturers and other designers can deliver content out into the design community via their own Altium Vault.
  • Team Configuration Center - the Team Configuration Center gives your organization centralized control over the environment its designers operate in, through the definition and management of Environment Configurations.
  • Enhanced Design Content Management - Output Jobs and Schematic Templates can now be released into your Altium Vault, and if required can be included in an Environment Configuration.
  • Improved Tracability and Access Management - maintain the audit trail of Items in an Altium Vault by including notes on the changes, and control who has access to release data, such as Gerbers, by managing the access rights.

Altium Designer Offline Installer

Do you need to install and run Altium Designer on a secure, offline PC? As part of this release, Altium can now supply you with an Offline Installer, ideal for installing Altium Designer on an offline PC. The Offline Installer runs without attempting to connect to the internet. The Offline Installation of Altium Designer can then be licensed using a Standalone or Private Server license, allowing the PC to remain offline.

Altium Designer 14.0

Released: 21 October 2013
Version: 14.0.9

Support for Flex and Rigid-Flex Design

This release sees the ability to handle the challenges of flex and rigid-flex designs using Altium Designer. A flexible printed circuit is a pattern of conductors printed onto a flexible insulating film. Rigid-flex is the name given to a printed circuit that is a combination of both flexible circuit(s) and rigid circuit(s). This combination is ideal for exploiting the benefits of both flexible and rigid circuits - the rigid circuits can carry all or the bulk of the components, with the flexible sections acting as interconnections between the rigid sections.

Enhanced Layer Stack Management

To support the need to define a different set of layers in different areas of the board design, Altium Designer supports the concept of multiple layer stacks. This is achieved by having an overall master layer stack that defines the total set of layers available to the board designer in this design. From this master layer stack, any number of sub-stacks can be defined, using any of the layers available in the master stack. Each sub-stack is defined and named, ready for use in a rigid-flex design. Altium Designer 14.0 brings with it a totally refurbished and enhanced Layer Stack Manager, from which primary and sub-stacks can be defined intuitively, and with expedited ease.

Support for Embedded Components

The ever-increasing demand for smaller and more integrated electronic products, combined with the higher frequencies of the signals within these devices, drives the ongoing research into better ways to fabricate and assemble a circuit. One technique that delivers both higher density and improved support for higher signal frequencies, is to embed components within the layers of the circuit structure. For example, embedding discrete components directly under an integrated circuit can result in: shorter signal lengths; reduced resistance and parasitic inductance, leading to lower noise and EMI; and improved integrity of the circuit signals. These improvements deliver smaller and more reliable products, supporting faster signal speeds and higher bandwidths. Combined with the on-going improvements being achieved in fabrication processes and technologies, they can also lead to a reduction in the product size, and lower fabrication and board level assembly costs. This release of Altium Designer brings support for embedded discrete components – components that are manufactured as discrete entities and then placed on an inner layer of the circuit board during fabrication / assembly.

Differential Pair Routing Improvements

This release sees enhancements to the Differential Pair routing arena, including: A more simplified Differential Pair Routing design rule, interactive and automated switching of differential pair width-gap settings, and the Differential Pair router now obeying/honoring the routing layers rule.

Via Stitching within a User-Defined Area

The PCB Editor's via-stitching capabilities have been enhanced in Altium Designer 14.0, with the ability to constrain the via stitching pattern to a user-defined area. The process of defining a via stitching area is the same as defining a solid region or a polygon.

AutoCAD Importer/Exporter Enhancements

Altium Designer 14.0 brings up-to-date support for transfer of designs to and from one of the AutoCAD formats – *.DWG and *.DXF. Not only have the importer/exporter interfaces been upgraded to support data transfer from the latest versions of AutoCAD, a wider range of object types are also now supported.

CadSoft EAGLE Importer

Not all design work is done in Altium Designer. If you are new to Altium Designer, you will undoubtedly have designs in some other file format – either from an older Altium design solution, or some other EDA vendor tool. Even if you are an existing user of Altium Designer day-in, day-out, there may be times where you are presented with a design created outside of Altium Designer. Supporting your need to work with design files in other formats and from other tools, Altium Designer 14.0 heralds the arrival of an importer for CadSoft® EAGLE™ (Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor) design files and libraries (*.sch, *.brd, *.lbr).

Ibis Model Implementation Editor

Altium Designer has long had the ability to use Ibis models for enhanced modeling of IC pins when performing Signal Integrity analysis. However, their use has always required importing them into Altium Designer's own Signal Integrity model format, when defining an SI implementation for a IC component on a schematic. To support third party tools that require dedicated Ibis models for their Signal Integrity simulations, and cannot use Altium Designer's own model format, Altium Designer 14.0 sees the arrival of a dedicated Ibis model implementation editor.

 

Supplier Support for TME

Altium Designer 14.0 see the addition of another Supplier to the list of available Suppliers with which to source supply chain intelligence for parts used in your designs – TME (Transfer Multisort Elektronik). Located in Poland, TME is one of the largest distributors of electronic components in Central and Eastern Europe. Through direct connection to supplier web services, you are able to search across TME's entire product catalog. This 'live' data can then be integrated within your design process using Altium Designer's Live Links to Supplier Data feature – allowing you to search supplier databases from within Altium Designer, and link your design components to matching Supplier Items. And if your organization uses an Altium Vault Server, an administrator for that vault can configure TME as part of a list of Approved Suppliers– used to facilitate centralized supply chain management, with designers across the entire organization using the same approved list of Vendors.

New Installation System

This release sees the arrival of a new installation system. Installation of Altium Designer has been made even more intuitive and expedient, courtesy of the self-contained Altium Designer Installer. This wizard-based installer streamlines the initial installation process, while letting you choose the initial 'flavor' of the installation, in terms of installed functionality. Installation files are now sourced from a secure cloud-based Altium Vault. In addition, modification of the core installation, and the ability to uninstall, have been moved to operations performed through the standard Programs and Features page (accessed from the Control panel) in Windows 7.

 

Altium Designer Extensions

Facilitating the ability to enhance your Altium Designer instance, this release sees support for customization of the software through the concept of Extensions. An extension is effectively an add-on to the software, providing extended features and functionality. A core set of features and functions are installed and handled transparently as part of the initial install, referred to as System Resources. In addition, a range of Optional Extensions are available – packets of functionality that are optionally installed or removed by the user as required. It is the extension concept that enables the installation to be handcrafted in accordance with design needs. Customization of an Altium Designer installation essentially boils down to management of the available extensions. Install, update, or remove available extensions as and when you need to, through the dedicated Extensions and Updates dialog. A range of extensions are available from Altium for use with Altium Designer. Extensions can also be developed and published by third parties, using the Altium Designer SDK and Application Software Publisher, available with the Altium Designer Developer Edition.

 

Preferences-based Control over Vendor Tool Usage

In previous versions of Altium Designer, the software automatically assumed the latest vendor tool was to be used during the Build phase for an FPGA design targeting a physical device from that vendor. Now in Altium Designer 14.0, you get to choose, for each vendor, which toolchain is to be used. This puts full control in the hands of the designer and caters perfectly for machines that have numerous versions of vendor tools installed, and which are often required to be used across different designs.

 

Support for Xilinx Vivado Toolchain

This release sees support for using Xilinx Vivado 14.3 as the tool of choice when performing Place & Route during the Build phase of programming a target physical device with an FPGA design. Xilinx Vivado is the successor to Xilinx ISE and targets the series-7 generation of Xilinx devices.

Browser-based F1 Resource Documentation

Altium Designer 14.0 sees the commencement of a long-awaited refurbishment to the software's documentation. Part of this is the availability of documentation for Altium Designer resources in one convenient space of the Altium Documentation site – the Altium Designer Resource Reference. Primarily, this involves documentation for the software's dialogs and commands, but also extends to include all reference-type material.