Working with Documents

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In Altium Designer, each type of document is opened and edited in an associated editor. For example, a schematic document is opened and edited in the Schematic Editor, a PCB library document in the PCB Library Editor, and so on. As you create a new document or open an existing document, the associated editor for that document type will automatically become the active editor.

Creating a new Document

A new document can be created using one of the following methods:

  • Select the required document type from the File»New sub-menu

    Adding a new document using File»New.
  • Click on the required entry in the New section of the Files panel. If this panel is not open, click on the System button at the bottom right of the main application window and choose Files from the pop-up menu that appears

    Adding a new document using the Files Panel.
  • If one or more projects are currently open in the Projects panel, the new document will be added to the active project. Alternatively, to add a new document directly to an open project, irrespective of whether it is the active project or not, right-click on the project's entry in the Projects panel and choose the document type from the Add New to Project sub-menu. The menu will list the source documents typically added for that project type.

    Right-click on the Project to add a New document to the Project.

Opening and Displaying Documents

When you open a document, it becomes the active document in the application's main design window. Multiple documents may be opened simultaneously. Each open document has its own tab at the top of the design window on the Document Bar. Only one document may be active within the main design window. The figure below shows three documents open, one PCB and two schematics, with the PCB document currently active.

Each open document has a tab on the document bar, note how the active document tab is brighter.

The active document is distinguished by a highlighted appearance to its tab in the document bar. To make another open document the active document, click on its tab. Alternatively, use the CTRL + TAB and CTRL + SHIFT + TAB keyboard shortcuts to cycle forward or backward through all open documents. If you have a large number of documents open, you can choose to group them in the Documents Bar by enabling the Document Bar options in the System - View page of the Preferences dialog. Documents can be grouped by kind or by project. The figure below shows multiple tabbed documents, grouped by project on the Documents Bar.

Document tabs grouped by project.

Document Insight

Main article: Design Insight

Document Insight, which is part of Design Insight, provides an alternative way to preview and open your documents. If it is enabled (System - Design Insight page of Preferences dialog), a small preview of a document is displayed when you hover the cursor over the document icon in the Projects panel. Click on the preview to open the document. Note that the document must have been open at least once for the preview to be created.

Hover over the document icon to display a preview, click on the preview to open the document.

Hiding Documents

Various design tasks, such as compilation, require all source documents to be open. For a large project this could result in a large number of documents open as tabbed documents in the main design window, creating a cluttered workspace. To help with this Altium Designer has the ability to hide documents. The documents are open, but they do not display or present a document tab in the main design window.

Any open document can be placed in this hidden mode by:

  • right-clicking on its tab and selecting the Hide command
  • right-clicking on its entry in the Projects panel and selecting the Hide command.

Hidden documents are listed in a drop-down at the far right of the Document bar, as shown below. Clicking on an entry in the list will restore a hidden document to the open state, it will then reappear as a tabbed document in the main design window.

Accessing documents that are currently open, but hidden.

Displaying the Document Status

As part of the General options for the Projects panel, you can enable the iconic display of the document open/modified status. This provides a quick visual summary, allowing you to see which documents are open, hidden or modified, as shown below.

The icons used are listed below. The entry in brackets shows the textual confirmation that appears when hovering the cursor over the icon.

Icon

Status

Description

Open

The document is open as a tabbed document in the main design window

Hidden

The document is hidden

Open/Modified

The document is open and has been modified (yet to be saved)

Modified

This icon appears next to the main project document only, to show that the project has been modified (yet to be saved)

Use the icons to quickly check the state of each document.

A modified document, project or design workspace that has yet to be saved is also distinguished by an asterisk next to its name in the Projects panel, and its name on its document tab in the main design window.

Document Window Management

With Altium Designer, you are not limited to viewing and working with a single design document at a time. Various commands are provided that allow you to effectively manage the open documents and tailor their display to your preferred working habits.

Right-click on a document tab to access various commands for managing the document. These commands including closing, saving and hiding the document, as well as commands affecting the display of all open documents within the main design window, as shown below. Commands for splitting the main design window horizontally or vertically are invaluable when performing cross-document tasks, such as cross probing between a schematic and its PCB.

Right-click on the document tab to access document management commands.

When split, the regions are treated as though they were individual windows. One document may be active in each region, but only one document, across all regions, can have the focus at any given time. When a new document is added, or an existing document opened, it will be opened as part of the region in which the currently focused document resides. Commands also allow you to tile the documents or merge them back into the single, default design window. It is also possible to drag documents from one split region to another.

Split the main design window when you need to view documents side-by-side.

You can also open a document in its own, separate design window. Right-click on its tab and select Open In New Window from the pop-up menu. Alternatively, click on the document's tab and drag it onto the desktop area, outside of the main application window. Commands are then available from the main Windows menu to arrange the separate windows horizontally (as shown below) or vertically, useful if you are working on a single monitor.

Horizontally arranging Altium Designer windows on the Desktop

Enlarging the Design Canvas - Dual Monitor Support

Altium Designer supports the use of dual monitors with a recommended resolution of 1280x1024. With many documents open concurrently and a plethora of workspace panels, toolbars and support documents, this feature affords you space enough to define a more comfortable working environment. You might, for example, dedicate the use of one monitor solely for design, while arranging various workspace panels and additional documents on the other.

Altium Designer has full support for multiple monitors, which greatly enhances your working efficiency.

Organizing the Environment - Desktop Layouts

As a further aid in setting up the workspace environment, Altium Designer supports the notion of Desktop Layouts. This feature allows you to arrange the application's document windows, workspace panels and toolbars around the desktop as required and then save that layout to file. In this way, multiple users can quickly arrange the workspace to suit their design habits by loading in their preferred layout. Commands for saving and loading layouts, including the default layout shipped with the software, are available from the View»Desktop Layouts sub-menu.

Document Storage

Altium Designer stores all design documents and generated output files on your hard disk as individual files. You can use the Windows Explorer to search for them, and can also locate the containing folder via the Explore command in the Projects panel right-click menu. Design documents will typically be encapsulated into projects, both for management and to access certain design features, such as design verification, comparison and synchronization. A project file contains links to design documents, as well as any other project-level definitions.

See Also

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