Managed Projects

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Altium Designer 14.3, in conjunction with the latest Altium Vault, brings support for Managed Projects. In the past, the traditional use of an Altium Vault was to handle the release management stage of projects, with high integrity and security. Managed Projects target the development stage of the project lifecycle, simplifying the creation and ongoing workflow for version controlled projects. Centralized storage under the control of the Altium Vault also enables this feature to be a foundation for other collaborative services.

Some key benefits to using Managed Projects are:

  • Simplified storage. No need to make decisions about storage locations. Backup and other basic services are taken care of.
  • Foundation for collaborative features.
  • Enforced version control.
  • Beneficiary of a dedicated commenting system.
  • Notifications and status. Document status including local modifications is visible to entire design teams.
  • Concurrent PCB design works without any complex setup.

Technically a Managed Project is the combination of meta information stored on the server, along with tight integration with SVN. The typical work flow is as follows:

  1. A user creates a new managed project (via the New Project dialog, from the vault's browser-based interface, or by converting an existing project). During creation, that user defines the project's name, description and svn repository.
  2. In the browser-based interface, access to the project is defined and managed.
  3. All collaborators use the File » Open Managed Project command, and select the required project, after which it is automatically checked out.
The beauty of Managed Projects is that they are version controlled by default, and can be collaboratively worked upon without having to worry about shared drives, servers, agreements etc.
Prior to creating a new Managed Project, or converting an existing non-managed project, ensure that a Design Repository exists in which to store that project, and all future projects. Design Repositories are centrally managed as part of the Altium Vault. Such repositories can be created through the local SVN Service - part of your Altium Vault installation. Alternatively, you can connect to an external repository. Irrespective of how it is created, centralized management of your organization's design repositories ensures that all of your projects are stored exactly where they are supposed to be stored, and not in hap-hazard fashion across designer's hard drives!

Creating a new Managed Project through Altium Designer

From within Altium Designer, a new Managed Project can be created using the New Project dialog (File » New » Project):

  1. Select the project type, choosing from the applicable templates available as required.
  2. Give the project the desired name.
  3. Use the Location field to determine where, on your local drive, to initially store the project, prior to its commital to the centralized Design Repository.
  4. Enable the Managed Project option.
  5. The Repository field will list all Design Repositories managed through the Altium Vault's local SVN service, and which have been shared with you to use. Choose the repository in which to store the new project.
  6. Specify the name of the folder within the repository in which to accommodate the project and its associated files. By default, this will take the project's name.

Setting up to create a new Managed Project from within Altium Designer, courtesy of the New Project dialog. Note that only those central Design Repositories that are shared with you will be available for selection from the Repository field.

After clicking OK, the new project will be created locally, in accordance with the defined Location. The project will be opened in the Projects panel, which will show the project and files as being Scheduled for addition, denoted by a blue cross icon (). Right-click on the project in the Projects panel and choose Version Control » Commit Whole Project, or Save Managed Project. You will be presented with the Commit to Version Control dialog. Simply select the files you wish to commit to the Design Repository and click OK. Once added, the Projects panel will reflect the fully synchronized state that exists between the files in the repository and the local working copy.

Commit the newly created Managed Project to the target Design Repository.

In addition, an entry for the project will appear on the Projects page of the Altium Vault's browser-based interface.

The project will initially only be available to the designer who created it, and all Administrators for the Altium Vault. To make it accessible to others simply share it, by configuring its permissions. See Sharing a Managed Project for more information.

The newly-created Managed Project, evident on the Projects page of the vault's browser interface.

Creating a New Managed Project from the Vault's Browser-Based Interface

A Managed Project can be created directly through the Altium Vault's browser interface. Simply sign in and access the Projects page of this interface. Any previously created projects will be listed here. To create a new project, click the Add Project button at the top-right of the page. The Add Project pop-up window will appear.

Add a new Managed Project directly through the vault's browser interface.

Use this pop-up to define the following properties for the project:

  • Name - a meaningful name to reflect the purpose of the project.
  • Description - an optional entry offering additional information about the project.
  • Project Type - the type of project, from a list of all project types supported by Altium Designer.
  • Repository - the target Design Repository in which the project and its files are to be stored. Only those repositories defined on the VCS page of the interface will appear here.
  • Directory Name - a specific directory folder within the Design Repository, in which to store the project and its files. By default, this field will mimic the entry for Name.

Additional Managed Project, added to the list of centrally-managed projects.

The project will initially only be available to the designer who created it, and all Administrators for the Altium Vault. To make it accessible to others simply share it, by configuring its permissions. See Sharing a Managed Project for more information.

Converting an Existing Non-Managed Project to a Managed Project

You can also create a Managed Project from an existing non-managed one, simply by converting the latter to the former. To do this, open the existing non-managed project as normal, then right-click on its entry in the Projects panel, and use the Convert to Managed Project command from the context menu.

If the Convert to Managed Project option is not available from the menu, it means that the project is currently under Version Control (in a local or network VCS Design Repository), or has been so in the past.

This can be resolved by creating a 'clean' copy of the project (one not associated with VCS) in another local folder and converting that version to a Managed Project.

The Convert to Managed Project command instigates the Convert to Managed Project dialog, which operates in two modes - Simple and Advanced. Click the button at the bottom-left to switch between these two modes accordingly.

  • Simple Mode - requires the user to determine the project's name, and a description. By default, the name will be that of the original project.
  • Advanced Mode - provides access to the managed Design Repository. Choose from all managed repositories shared with the current user signed in to the Altium Vault, as defined on the VCS page of the vault's browser interface. The repository path and directory therein are shown, the latter of which can be modified as required (by default a folder of the same name as the project will be created within the repository). The path to the local working copy of the project is also reflected.

Convert an existing project to a Managed Project.

With the properties for the Managed Project defined as required, click OK. The Add to Version Control dialog will subsequently open with all pertinent files selected for addition. Check all is as required and click OK. The project and files will be identified in the Projects panel as being Scheduled for addition, denoted by a blue cross icon (). Right-click on the project in the Projects panel and choose Version Control » Commit Whole Project. You will be presented with the Commit to Version Control dialog. Simply select the files you wish to commit to the Design Repository and click OK. Once added, the Projects panel will reflect the fully synchronized state that exists between the files in the repository and the local working copy.

Adding and commiting the project to the target managed Design Repository, reulting in the project becoming a true Managed Project.

The newly-converted Managed Project will subsequently be available from the Projects page of the vault's browser interface.

The converted project is added to the list of centrally-managed projects.

The project will initially only be available to the designer who converted it, and all Administrators for the Altium Vault. To make it accessible to others simply share it, by configuring its permissions. See Sharing a Managed Project for more information.

Sharing a Managed Project

Once a project is managed, you'll want to determine which users can actually access that project. This is done by sharing the project, or rather, by configuring its access permissions.

A newly created (or converted) Managed Project is initially only accessible by the designer who created/converted it, and all Administrators for the Altium Vault.

To share a Managed Project, click on the  icon, associated to the project you wish to share. The Manage Permissions for Project pop-up window will appear. Use this to define specific users or roles with whom the project can be freely accessed.

As you type in the New Users, or New Roles fields respectively, a drop-down of all currently defined Users or Roles will appear from which to choose. Users and Roles are defined on the Users page of the vault's browser interface. Multiple users or roles can be added, simply select one entity, then start typing to search for the next, prior to clicking OK to effect the addition.

Define permissions for the project - with whom the project can be shared.

Remove access for a user or role by unchecking its associated Access check box. That user or role will be removed from the list after clicking OK.

Once shared, a user will be able to 'see' the project when they sign in to the browser interface and access the Projects page. They will also be able to open and work on that Managed Project, from within Altium Designer.

Opening a Managed Project

To work on a Managed Project - essentially checking out as a local working copy - use the File » Open Managed Project command. The Open Managed Project dialog will appear, from where you can choose which Managed Project to open. Only those Managed Projects that have been shared with you (you have permission to access) will be listed. The dialog operates in two modes - Simple and Advanced. Click the button at the bottom-left to switch between these two modes accordingly.

  • Simple Mode - requires the user to simply choose the required project.
  • Advanced Mode - the user can switch source Managed Design Repository, if multiple repositories are available to them. They can also change where the local working copy is checked out to.

Choose which Managed Project to open, from those currently shared with you. With the dialog in Advanced Mode, you can change Design Repository, and also working directory.

The default Working Copy Path is taken from the Document Path field, on the System - Default Locations page of the Preferences dialog.

 

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