Working with Panels

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Workspace panels are essential elements of the Altium Designer environment. Whether specific to a particular document editor or used on a more global, system-wide level, they present information and controls that aid productivity and allow you to design more efficiently.

Accessing Panels

When Altium Designer is first started, a number of panels will already be open. Some panels, including the Files and Projects panels, will appear grouped and docked to the left side of the application window. Others, including the Libraries panel will be in pop-out mode and appear as buttons on the right-hand border of the application window.

At the bottom of the application window there are a number of buttons that provide quick access to the available workspace panels, in context with the document editor you are currently using. Each button is labeled with the name of the category of panels it gives access to. When a button is clicked, a pop-up menu of the constituent panels in that category will appear.

Use the buttons at the lower right of the workspace to access any Panel.

Click on an entry in a menu to open the corresponding panel. A tick symbol is used to indicate that the associated panel is open and visible in the workspace. If a panel is open but not visible, for example it is a non-active panel in a group of docked panels or it is currently in pop-out mode, clicking its entry in a menu will make it visible and it will become the active panel.

All currently available workspace panels can also be accessed from the View»Workspace Panels sub-menus.

Panel Display Modes

Depending on the particular document editor that is currently active, a large number of panels may be accessible or indeed open at any given time. To facilitate the layout and use of multiple panels in the workspace, various panel display modes and management features are provided.

Three different display modes are supported for panels:

  • Docked mode - panels are permanently displayed within the workspace.
  • Pop-out mode - panels are hidden, appearing when their button is hovered over, or clicked on.
  • Floating mode - panels float over the workspace, becoming transparent whenever the cursor approaches.

Docked Panel Mode

In this mode a panel can be docked horizontally or vertically within the main application window. Right-click on a panel's title bar or tab and select Allow Dock from the pop-up menu to configure the docking capability of the panel - horizontally and/or vertically. When docking vertically, a panel will dock to the right or left of the main design window. When docking horizontally, a panel will dock either above the main design window (and below docked toolbars) or below the main design window (and above the status bar).

Dock the panels you use a lot, for easy access.

Pop-out Mode

This mode is essentially an extension of the standard docked mode. A docked panel can be put into this mode by clicking on the pin symbol next to the panel's close cross. The pin symbol will change to indicate the mode:

  • panel in original docked mode
  •   panel now in pop-out mode.

In this mode, the panel will appear as a button on the application border. Moving the cursor over the panel button will result in the panel sliding out from the border. Moving the cursor away from the panel will cause it to slide back again. Clicking on the panel button will expand the panel without sliding. In this case, click away from the panel to slide it back again. The speed at which the panel slides in and out is configured in the System - View page of the Preferences dialog.

Pop-out panels are easily accessed, without taking up valuable workspace. Configure the pop-out speed in the _Preferences_ dialog.

Floating Mode

In this mode a panel can be placed anywhere within, or outside of, the Altium Designer environment. This is the standard opening mode for panels that have not been previously placed in docked or pop-out modes. A floating panel positioned over the editing area of the main design window will be made transparent when carrying out an interactive operation in the main design window, in accordance with options defined on the System - Transparency page of the Preferences dialog (DXP»Preferences).

Floating panels can be configured to become transparent, whenever the cursor approaches, ensuring they do not impede your work. Configure the transparency in the Preferences dialog.

Grouping Panels

Panels may be grouped by simply dragging and dropping one panel on top of another. Two modes of grouping panels are supported:

  • Tabbed grouping - This mode displays a set of panels as a tabbed group, with only one panel in the group visible at any time.
  • Fractal grouping - This mode displays a set of panels as a fractal grouping, with multiple panels in the group visible at the same time.

The resulting display of the group depends on where exactly you drop the panel being added. If you drop it on the center of the target panel they will become a tabbed grouped. If you drop the moving panel onto one of the small arrows that appear on each edge of the target panel, they will become a fractal group.

Tabbed Panel Grouping

To group a panel with other panels, drag the panel you wish to add to the center of the target panel (or existing group) - the entire stationary panel will become shaded blue, indicating that the panels will become a single tabbed group - drop the moving panel now to group them.

Note also that as you drag a panel over another panel, a small yellow positional arrow will also appear to the right of the stationary panels' tabs, indicating that the moving panel will be added to the group as another tab. You can control where the moving panel will appear in the tabbed set by moving the mouse near the existing tabs.

Drag a panel onto a stationary panel to group them, note the small arrow indicating where in the set this panel will sit.

Use the small down-arrow at the top-right of the panel grouping to change the visible/active panel. Alternatively, make another panel in the group the visible/active panel by clicking directly on its tab. The order of the panels in a tabbed group of panels can be changed at any time, click on a panel's tab and drag to the left or right as required. A positional arrow will appear marking the position in the group order at which the panel will be placed when the mouse button is released.

Fractal Panel Grouping

This mode displays a set of panels as a fractal grouping, with multiple panels in the group visible at the same time. Fractal grouping is similar to horizontal/vertical tiling of open windows - you can drag a panel to dock it within another panel effectively tiling them. A fractal grouping can consist of individual panels and/or standard tabbed panels.

To group panels in this fashion, drag the panel you wish to add towards the small icon that appears at the top, left, right or bottom of the target panel, and drop. The area that the original panel occupied will be split, becoming shared with the new panel. The icon you choose determines where, in relation to the target, the new panel will appear. Ensure that no yellow positional arrow is displayed when adding the panel, otherwise it will be added to the target as a tabbed panel.

The schematic List and Inspector panels arranged in a fractal group, with the Filter panel being added, splitting the region occupied by the List panel.

The new fractal arrangement of the schematic List, Filter and Inspector panels.

To make a panel active in a fractal grouping, click on it. If the required panel is part of a tabbed grouping within the overall fractal structure, make it visible/active by clicking on its corresponding tab.

Moving Panels

A single floating or docked panel is moved by clicking within the panel's title bar and dragging it to a new position. For a single panel that has been put in pop-out mode, it can be also moved by clicking on its corresponding button in the application border and dragging the panel to the required position.

When multiple panels have been grouped, clicking within a panel's caption bar and dragging will move all panels in that group. To move a single panel out of a group, click and drag the panel name in the caption bar (or its tab if available).

Moving a panel to an application border that already contains one or more panels will result in the panel being added in the same mode (docked or pop-out) as those already present.

To take a panel out of fractal grouping mode (where it has been tiled) and back into a standard tabbed grouping, drag the tiled panel by its caption bar into free space or to a target panel or existing tabbed group, until a yellow positional arrow appears (target becomes fully shaded) and then release - the panel will be added to the tabbed grouping.

As you move a panel close to another floating panel, the edges will snap together. Similarly, moving a panel towards the extremities of the desktop will snap the panel to the desktop's edge. This 'snap-attraction' feature allows for easier arrangement of floating panel sets within the environment.

To prevent a moving panel from automatically docking, grouping or snapping, hold the CTRL key.

Closing Panels

A panel can be closed by right-clicking in its title bar or on its tab, where available, and choosing the Close entry from the subsequent pop-up menu.
You can also use the close cross at the far right of a panel's caption bar to close it, however if the panel is part of a group, doing this will close all panels in the group.

Maximizing/Restoring Panels

When in floating mode, a panel can be maximized by right-clicking in its caption bar (or on its tab, where available) and choosing the Maximize entry from the subsequent pop-up menu. To restore a maximized panel back to its original size, simply right-click in its caption bar or tab and choose the Restore command from the pop-up menu. Alternatively, double-click in the title bar to toggle between maximized and restored state.

Resetting, Saving and Loading Panel Arrangements

You can save and reload panel arrangements, and also reset them to the installation defaults via the View » Desktop Layouts submenu. For example, to reset all panels back to their default locations and visibility, select View » Desktop Layouts » Default.

See Also

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