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, 13, and 14.0-14.2, 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 14.3

             09 July 2014 - Version: 14.3.13
             01 July 2014 - Version: 14.3.12
             13 June 2014 - Version: 14.3.11
             04 June 2014 - Version: 14.3.10
29 May 2014 - Version: 14.3.9

This update to Altium Designer delivers a powerful array of new features and enhancements to the core technologies, while also addressing many issues raised by customers through the AltiumLive Community's BugCrunch system. In total, 35 new features and 150 fixes and enhancements across the software as a whole. Another sound release that reinforces Altium's ongoing commitment to providing you with a world class design solution.

Altium Designer 14.3 is a major update. It is not possible to update from Altium Designer 14.2 to 14.3, a new installation is required. You have the choice to continue with your current version or to install Altium Designer 14.3 to access the latest features. Alternatively, have both installed side-by-side, and use the version that best suits your needs.
This release sees the removal of support for GDI (Graphics Design Interface) in the PCB Editor. To be able to effectively use the PCB Editor, your PC must have a Graphics Card that supports DirectX 9c and Shader model 3 (at a minimum).

Via Shielding Tool

Complementing its via-stitching capabilities, this release sees the arrival of support for Via Shielding. A via shield is used to create a vertical copper barrier through the PCB, to help reduce crosstalk and electromagnetic interference in a route that is carrying an RF signal. Also known as a via fence or a picket fence, a via shield is created by placing one or more rows of vias alongside a signal route.

Enhanced Teardrop Control

This release sees the arrival of a new tool for adding and defining teardrops in your design. This tool brings a fresh approach to teardrops, creating them from Region objects instead of Track or Arc objects. This allows each teardrop shape to be created from a single region object, which can then have straight or curved edges. Teardrops can also be added to the junction of two tracks, at both a T-junction and a neck-down junction.

Unused Pad Shape Removal

Helping to reduce the impact of pads and vias on copper areas, this release includes an Unused Pad Shapes Removal tool. The tool scans all pads or vias in the design and removes the pad shape from each layer that the pad or via is not used on (meaning it has no other objects touching it on that layer). Polygons that surround that pad or via then only need to create the specified clearance to the pad or via hole, instead of to the edge of the unused pad shape. In some situations, such as under a BGA, this can recover a substantial amount of copper lost in polygons.

Length Tuning Enhancements

Accordion style length tuning, also known as serpentine routing, is a standard design technique for high-speed nets with critical timing requirements. This release sees an accordion, which is added to an existing route using the Interactive Length Tuning tool, now treated as a smart union. This means it can be selected, reshaped and deleted as a single object. The tuning gauge has also been enhanced, with the slider now displaying the distance routed + estimated remaining.

Interactive Routing Improvements

This release sees a focused effort on improving Altium Designer's interactive routing capabilities. These improvements include: Single click to drag and reshape routing; Enhanced via dragging; Automatic neck-down; A new SMD Entry design rule, giving control over how a track can enter or leave an SMD pad; and adherence to additional rules while interactively routing (SMD To Corner, Vias Under SMD, Routing Layers).

Controlling the Routing to an SMD Pad

This release includes a new design rule, SMD Entry. This rule controls how the routing is allowed to enter or exit an SMD pad. Along with the default entry point of the end of the pad, the designer can also choose to allow the following entry points: Corner, Side, Any Angle. The rule works in harmony with the SMD to Corner rule, ensuring that the routing to SMD pads meets your design requirements.

Automatic Neck-Down

A large part of the time spent designing a board is for interactive routing. Helping to make this phase more efficient, Altium Designer 14.3 combines automatic rule switching with intelligent track segment creation. By defining Room-based routing width design rules, tracks can automatically neck and expand as a room is entered or exited.

Chamfered Routing

This release introduces the ability to chamfer 90 degree routing corners. This is a technique used to reduce reflections caused by the corner in a microwave frequency route. Because Altium Designer's track objects have rounded ends, they cannot be used to create a chamfered corner. Instead, the chamfered corner is created by converting the selected track segments to region objects.

Enhanced Polygon Editing and Management

Most board designs today incorporate areas of copper, which are easily created in Altium Designer by placing polygon pours. Altium Designer 14.3 brings a number of polygon editing enhancements, which simplify and streamline working with polygons. These include the introduction of the Unpoured mode, where the polygon is represented by its outline, and the enhanced editing behavior, providing greatly improved re-shaping capabilities. The appearance of Unpoured mode sees the disappearance of Shelving.

Enhanced PCB Filter Panel

The PCB Filter and PCBLIB Filter panels have been given a complete overhaul in Altium Designer 14.3, streamlining your ability to locate objects in a design or library, and to select those objects ready for editing. The panels now provide a quick means of building simple filters based on object type selection, as well as the more traditional use of free-hand construction of expressions, for more advanced filtering. The result is that you can pinpoint the required objects with the same great accuracy and efficiency you've come to rely on through each panel, but doing so with a fresh, more intuitive interface.

PCB Fixed Single Selection Order

Perhaps the most common task in board design is selection. Selecting a single object in a multi-layered, multiple object design space is not trivial, just which object does the designer want when they click? This release brings greatly improved behavior to the way in which single objects are selected, fixed selection ordering has been implemented that allows cycling through overlapping objects without utilizing a selection pop-up window. Extending this, you can also cycle through to higher-level objects (in terms of logical hierarchy), irrespective of whether or not the initial object selected is part of a set of overlapping objects.

Refactored Clearance Design Rule

While an expression-based rule scoping system is flexible and powerful, it does not easily support object type-to-object type clearance specification. With this in mind, Altium Designer 14.3 sees welcome refactoring applied to the Electrical Clearance rule, in the form of a 'minimum clearance matrix'. Use the matrix to fine tune clearances between any objects in the design. In combination with rule-scoping, you have all the flexibility you need to build a concise and targeted set of rules to meet even the most stringent of clearance needs.

Automatic Component Rotation on Polar Grid

Altium Designer 14.3 brings a beneficial enhancement to the use of Polar Grids for component placement in the PCB Editor, in the form of automatic placement rotation. As you move a component over a polar grid, it will automatically rotate to the origin of the grid, as you move the component around the grid. Use this feature, in combination with standard object rotation – Spacebar (anti-clockwise), Shift+Spacebar (clockwise) – to align your components exactly as you need them.

Enhanced Jumper Support

Altium Designer 14.3 sees the introduction of a new component type, the Jumper. Jumpers, which are also referred to as wire links, allow the designer to replace routing with a Jumper component, often an essential ingredient to successfully designing a single-sided board.

Extended use of 'Flipped On Layer' Property

When embedding a discrete component within an internal copper layer of a circuit board, the direction that the embedded component orients (up or down) can be overridden at the individual component level, by enabling the Flipped on Layer option. In Altium Designer 14.3, access to this property has been extended, it is now available in the PCB Inspector panel, PCB List panel, and Find Similar Objects dialog. In addition, the Boolean ComponentFlippedOnLayer keyword has been added for use in logical filter queries, while the Boolean FlippedOnLayer property has been added to the Component interface (IPCB_Component.FlippedOnLayer), for use in scripting.

Support for Generating Folded STEP Models of a Board

Extending the STEP export capabilities, this release now supports the STEP export of a folded right-flex design. The STEP Export Options dialog includes a slider which allows the designer to define the amount of fold required, from flat (fold 0%), right through to fully folded (fold 100%).

Improved Diagonal Thermal Connections

In previous versions of the software, 45 degree thermal connections between a rectangular SMD pad and a polygon pour, would enter such that the thermal tracks would go to the pad's center. In Altium Designer 14.3 this has been improved, so that the 45 degree connections now enter at the pad's corners.

PADS Importer Enhancements

The PADS® PCB importer has undergone a substantial review and update for the Altium Designer 14.3 release. Supporting PADS 9.5 ASCII and below, the update has focused on two main areas: streamlining the import of design rules, to reduce and rationalize the number of rules while improving how they target the required objects; and to provide broader support for PADS design objects.

xDx Designer Importer

This extension is still in Beta. Contact your local sales and support office to request it.

Support for the transfer of binary format designs captured using Mentor Graphics® Xpedition® xDX Designer® (formerly DxDesigner®), to Altium Designer, is available courtesy of the xDX Designer Importer extension. Not only has the binary importer interface been upgraded to support data transfer from the latest version of xDX Designer (version 7.9.4 (Expedition Enterprise 7.9.4, or simply EE7.9.4)), a wider range of object types are also now supported.

IPC-7351B Compliance

Altium Designer 14.3 incorporates a number of additions and enhancements to both the IPC®-Compliant Footprint Wizard, and the IPC®-Compliant Footprints Batch Generator. These changes are aimed at making both truly compliant with Revision B of the IPC standard 7351 - Generic Requirements for Surface Mount Design and Land Pattern Standard. There is now support for the following additional packages: CAPAE, CHIP ARRAY, DFN, LGA, PQFN, PSON, SODFL, SON, and SOTFL.

ActiveBOM Enhancements

ActiveBOM receives some key enhancements in Altium Designer 14.3. The first is the arrival of support for variants, enabling you to truly track the costing and availability not only of the core base product, but of the various assembly variants of that product. The second enhancement is the support for the old-style approach to passive components, where the same library item is used, with different parametric values to define uniqueness (e.g. a single resistor component placed three times, but with 100Ohm, 1K, and 10K values parametrically used to distinguish three 'different' design items). Also, it is now possible to define a generic BOM document for use with report outputs generated through an Output Job file.

True Variants

With the release of Altium Designer 14.3, variant capabilities have been enhanced, delivering not only a fresher, more intuitive user interface, but also the ability to replace a component with a completely different component - facilitating True Variant support. Output generation of variant-level parameters is now fully supported, through logical parameter inheritance.

Supplier Enhancements

Altium Designer 14.3 sees the Suppliers - used as part of design data management to access and integrate supply chain intelligence - taken out as individual, predefined Software Extensions. In addition, two new Suppliers join the fold - RS Components, a trading brand of Electrocomponents plc, and Future Electronics.

Schematic Wire Drag Improvements

Schematic wire dragging has been greatly improved in Altium Designer 14.3, with development focusing on the prevention of loss of connectivity. These improvements include: When dragging objects connected by parallel wiring, stairs are created to minimize the inadvertent creation of auto-junctions; Dragging of net labels along with wires has been improved, so that a net label is kept attached to its wire; While dragging, hotspots are used to provide visual indication of where auto-junctions are going to be created; and providing visual feedback if dragging causes a connectivity change.

Ability to Delete a Selected Wire Segment in Schematic

Treatment of wire segments has been greatly enhanced in Altium Designer 14.3. Not only can you now perform surgeon-like removal of selected wire segments with the tap of the Delete key, auto-junctions are also accounted for - allowing you to remove a segment of a wire up to that junction only (and including that junction if only two other wire segments would otherwise remain connected to it).

Schematic Font Improvements

Altium Designer 14.3 sees improvements to font support in the Schematic Editor. First is the upgrading of power ports to deliver font editing at the object level, delivering the same functionality as enjoyed by other text-based objects (introduced in Altium Designer 13.0). In addition, the SCH Inspector panel now supports the ability to not only edit the current font applied for selected object(s), but also to copy and paste that font setting within the panel.

Ability to Specify Text Margins for Text Frames and Notes

Extending the functionality of the Schematic Text Frame and Note objects, Altium Designer 14.3 brings the ability to define text margins. Specify a single value to apply equally to Left, Top, Right and Bottom margins for the current frame or note, using the Text margin property in the Text Frame or Note dialog respectively.

Verilog Include Paths and Defines

Altium Designer 14.3 sees enhanced support for Verilog, with improvements to the way in which include paths are defined at the project-level. In addition, the ability to specify global macro definitions (Defines) is also facilitated through project options.

Dialog-based New Project Creation

The New Project dialog improves the project creation process. Not only does it deliver the ability to display templates, it also delivers an easy to use interface into your version control system, allowing the creation of both the VCS project folder and the working folder. A new project can be added to a connected Design Repository and checked out as part of its creation. The dialog also facilitates the creation of a new Managed Project, which is stored safely in a Design Repository that is created through the Altium Vault's local version control (SVN) service.

Smart PDF Enhancements

The ever-popular Smart PDF Generator has been enhanced in response to user feedback. The print quality is now user-definable, select from 4 settings between 75 and 600 dpi. Also, the paper sizes available to the PDF Generator are no longer 'acquired' from your computer's current Windows Default Printer. Instead, a fixed set of paper sizes are available, and if the chosen size is not available on the target device a warning is given and the output is not generated. Extending this further, you can also create your own customized paper sizes, for use with generation of output into PDF format.

System & Performance Enhancements

Altium Designer 14.3 delivers a broad range of system and performance-related enhancements, including: The project compiler has been updated such that it can persist information from previous compiles. This results in greatly reduced memory requirements and improved speed; 3D model meshing has been improved. 3D model information is cached between sessions, providing faster load and switching times during sessions; To increase performance within the PCB Editor, a number of design rule types have been disabled by default, with respect to online rule checking; and the application startup speed has been improved.

Design Data 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 - Altium Vault 2.0 - brings a number of new features and enhancements 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.

To spark your interest, here are the key features delivered in this release:

  • Streamlined Installation - a single installer delivers the full complement of vault technologies, while licensing determines the features and technologies that can be accessed and used, giving way to three distinct vault 'bundles': Component, Workgroup, or Enterprise.
  • Managed Projects - providing centralized storage under the control of the Altium Vault, this feature targets the development stage of the project lifecycle, simplifying the creation and ongoing workflow for version controlled projects, while providing a solid foundation for additional collaborative services. Related to this, is an elegant markup system that allows users to add server-stored comments to a Managed Project's shematic and PCB documents.
  • File-less Editing - allowing you to edit a supported Item type using a temporary editor loaded with the latest source direct from the vault itself. 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.
  • Enhanced CmpLib Editor - offering improved model management, hierarchy-less component editing, and simplified release.
  • Vaults Panel Enhancements - including folder content paging, recursive folder deletion, batch state change of Item Revisions, drag and drop of multiple Items between folders, intelligent presentation of ComponentLink parameters, and support for opening non-Altium Designer documents.
  • Network Installation Service - allowing an organization to perform installations and updates to Altium Designer over their local network, by acquiring installation packages into their local Altium Vault, then deploying the required packages to their designers.

Follow the link below for detailed information on what's included in the latest release of Altium's Vault Technologies.