Post-Installation Management of your Altium Designer Install

Frozen Content

Parent article: Installing and Licensing the Software

Altium Designer's Installation Management System allows you to essentially handcraft your installation of the software at any time after initial install. This covers not only updates to the software platform itself – seen as incremental revisions – but also the ability to install, update, or remove functionality within the software. The latter is made possible through the provision of optional plugins. This could be a new importer or exporter, a new outputter or netlister, or maybe support for a new FPGA device family. In short, some technology that is used on or by data within Altium Designer. Think customization of the software, but on a whole new level!

In this article, we will take a look at how you manage your installation of Altium Designer. Tutorial-like, but not rigidly so, think of this article as more of a conversational 'walk through' of the installation management process.

Pre-Requisite

Main article: Installing Altium Designer with the Altium Platform Installer

This article assumes that you already have Altium Designer installed on your computer. If not, you will need to do so using the Altium Platform Installer.

Use the Altium Platform Installer to install Altium Designer on your computer.

To access the Installer, you need to first download and run a small (less than 10MB) executable – AltiumInstaller.exe. This executable is downloaded from AltiumLive and can be saved anywhere on your hard disk.

Installation Management Interface

New revisions to the core Altium Designer platform, as well as the optional plugins that provide extended software functionality, are available from Altium's cloud-based installation repository – http://installation.altium.com. From within Altium Designer, the interface to this repository is provided through the Plugins view. Access this view by clicking the Plugins and Updates entry in the software's pop-out resources pane – accessed by clicking the button.

The Plugins view -- command central for managing your installation of Altium Designer.

It is from here that you can see at a glance whether a new revision of the platform – itself a plugin – is available, or if there are updates to other currently installed plugins, or even if other new plugin functionality is available. You can then make the decision as to whether or not to update the platform and/or existing plugins, or add that additional functionality to your own installation. And you are not constrained in any way. You can freely add, update or remove functionality at any time as your needs change, including the ability to roll-back to a previous revision of a plugin.

Related Preferences

Preferences related to installation management can be found on the System – Installation Manager page of the Preferences dialog (DXP»Preferences). Access this page quickly using the Preferences command available from the menu associated to the Tools link, at the top-right of the view.

System preferences specific to managing the installation of your Altium Designer solution.

The repository used to initially install Altium Designer from, will be set as the repository to be used when managing that installation moving forward. However, you can change the repository location at any stage if needed, from the Remote Repository Location field.

This would be the case for machines that are prevented from, or simply cannot connect to, the internet. You would need to connect to the cloud-based Altium repository to get ongoing updates, but these updates can be managed for distribution internally. This would involve the ability to obtain a snapshot of the repository from the cloud – from a dedicated computer that is allowed to connect to the internet – then migration of that snapshot to a dedicated 'internal' (LAN-based) repository, for shared access by those computers that are not allowed internet access. Altium Designer on those computers would be set so that the Installation Manager uses that dedicated local repository. You can even create your own installation DVD. For more information on setting up your own localized repository, see the section Creating a Local Installation Repository.

The Local Cache Location field specifies a location for the local cache. This is the location that will receive downloaded files – via the Altium Download Manager – needed to effect associated installation changes.

When making changes to the installation, you have the option to receive a prompt, if the files to be downloaded as a result of the requested changes exceed a specified size. This option is enabled by default, with a file size of 20MB.

The local cache continues to store the downloaded files used in each and every installation change – whether that be application of updates, or installation of new plugins. The amount of disk space taken by these files can become quite considerable over time. An indication of the current size of this downloaded data is presented in the Cached Build Files region of the page. You can safely remove these files by clicking the Clear button.

Plugins Explained

Before looking at the workings of the interface provided by the Plugins view, it's a good idea to take a step back and consider what it is that allows the functionality of the software to be tailor-made – the Plugin.

The plugin is a key concept of the system to understand. A plugin itself is simply a set of files and/or folders to be installed. A core set of plugins are installed and handled transparently as part of the initial install, referred to as System Plugins. In addition, a wide range of Optional Plugins are available – cloud-sourced packets of functionality that are optionally installed or removed by the user as required. It is the plugin concept that enables the installation to be handcrafted in accordance with design needs.

Functionality is added to, or removed from Altium Designer, through installation or removal of optional plugins.

Customization of an Altium Designer installation then, essentially boils down to management of the available plugins.

Working with the Plugins View

The following sections take a closer look at working with the Plugins view to fine-tune your installation of Altium Designer.

Surveying the Installation Landscape

The Plugins view, at the top level, provides at-a-glance information about your current installation. At the top of the view is a textual summary of this.

A summary of your installation and related controls to manage installation changes on a more global level.

This summary tells you:

  • The revision of the Altium Designer platform currently installed, and when that revision was released.
  • How many plugins are currently installed, and how many more are available for installation.
  • Whether any updates to installed plugins are available. If there is an update to the platform itself – i.e. a new revision of the platform is available – this will also be indicated (including revision number).

Controls at the right-hand side of the view enable you to perform global actions on plugins. Either:

  • Update All – update all currently installed optional plugins (including platform) where updates are available. Update will be to the latest revision available.
  • Install All – install all additional optional plugins that are currently not installed.
  • Remove All – remove all currently installed optional plugins from your installation of Altium Designer. This will remove all optional plugins only. System plugins, including the Altium Designer Base plugin will not be removed.

Below this textual summary is a summary of the plugins themselves, gathered into logical categories in accordance with the area of functionality they provide.

A graphical summary of the plugins for your installation, broken down into categories of functionality.

For each category, the total number of plugins available is displayed, along with how many of those are still available to be installed. If you have already installed all plugins in a category, the text All Installed will be displayed. Conversely, if you have not installed any, the text None Installed will be displayed.

During initial installation, you decided what areas of design functionality to include in your installation. Not all plugins for each area will be installed however. Those that are not include functionality that is more legacy in nature – for example 8-bit processor support in the Embedded Design domain – and also plugins that offer functionality such as importers and exporters, where it makes more sense to leave selection to you, the user, rather than second-guess what might be needed.

Exploring a Plugin Category

Clicking on the name of a plugin category enables you to drill-down to see the individual constituent plugins therein, as illustrated for the PCB Design Tools category in the following image.

Explore the plugin content for a category.

Again, a textual summary shows you how many plugins there are in total, how many of these you currently have installed in your installation, and how many are still available for installation. If one or more plugins have an update available, this will also be flagged. Once again, controls are provided to perform global actions on all applicable plugins.

Beneath this summary, each plugin in the category is displayed graphically. For a plugin that is installed, it will have an associated icon to indicate its current state:

--- up-to-date (you have the latest revision installed).

--- an update is available (you currently do not have the latest revision installed).

In addition, hovering over a plugin graphic will reveal controls to manage that specific plugin. The control(s) that appear will depend on what action can be validly performed on that plugin. The following examples illustrate the various combinations available:

The plugin is not installed. Click the Add button to install it, adding its functionality to your installation of Altium Designer.

The plugin is installed but is not the latest revision. Click the Update button to upgrade to the very latest revision available.
The plugin cannot be removed as it is not an optional plugin, but rather a system plugin.

The plugin is installed but is not the latest revision. Click the Update button to upgrade to the very latest revision available.
Alternatively, click the Remove button to remove it, and its functionality, from your installation of Altium Designer.

The plugin is installed and is the very latest revision available. Click the Remove button to remove it, and its functionality,
from your installation of Altium Designer.

Examining an Individual Plugin

Clicking on the name of a plugin enables you to drill-down further still, to examine just that plugin, as illustrated for the Atmel QTouch plugin in the following image.

Examine and manage your installation at the individual plugin level.

A textual summary gives an indication of the functionality provided by the plugin. The status of the plugin is also displayed – whether or not it is installed. If it is installed, revision information will be displayed. If an update is available, this will also be flagged.

Controls are provided to the right of this summary to manage the plugin as required – either to install it, update it (to the very latest revision available), or remove it from your installation.

Beneath this summary is a full listing of all available revisions of the plugin. If the plugin is installed, the revision currently installed is flagged using the icon.

As you move over the various revisions, an associated control will appear. The type of control depends on what action can be validly performed in respect of that particular revision. The following examples illustrate the possibilities:

The plugin is not installed. Click the Add button to install the indicated revision of it.


 

This is a later revision than that currently installed. Click the Update button to upgrade
to the indicated revision.


 

This is an earlier revision than that currently installed. Click the Revert button to downgrade
to the indicated revision.


 

This is the currently installed revision. Click the Remove button to remove the plugin, and
its functionality, from your installation of Altium Designer.

Examining a Specific Revision

Clicking on a specific revision entry – away from the management control that appears – enables you to drill-down to the lowest level of the interface, to examine just that revision, as illustrated for Revision 10.365.22049 of the Atmel QTouch plugin in the following image.

Examine and manage your installation at the specific revision level.

Summary information regarding the revision will be displayed as well as its state, in relation to the revision currently installed. A single control is provided allowing you to:

  • Update – if it is a later revision than the one you currently have installed.
  • Revert – if it is an earlier revision than the one you currently have installed.
  • Remove – if it is the revision you currently have installed, and the plugin can be validly removed (it is an optional plugin and not a system plugin).

Effecting Plugin Changes

When you make a decision to change a plugin and new files are required to implement that change (addition, update), those files will first be downloaded to local cache using the Altium Download Manager. At the top of the view, the download progress for the changes will be displayed. If you have elected to receive a prompt based on a particular download size, as part of the preferences for the Installation Manager, then a dialog will appear prior to the download, to inform you of the changes selected and the size of the download involved.

Example of how using the Update All command causes a "large download" dialog to appear (provided the prompt is enabled as part of preferences).
Once accepted, the progress of the change is displayed at the top of the view.

The number of changes simply reflect the number of individual plugin-related commands you have 'launched'. For example, using the Update All command at the top-level is considered a single change, even though it typically will affect a lot of plugins. Individually cherry-picking three importers and three exporters by clicking their respective Add buttons will result in six changes, and so on.

At the plugin level, the state of the change is reflected using two icons:

– changes are being prepared (the required files are still being downloaded).

– changes are ready.

The following image illustrates the readiness of various plugins that are to be updated in the PCB Design Tools category, as a download progresses.

As a download progresses, the state of affected plugins will change from 'downloading' to 'ready'.

At the revision level for a plugin, the action of the change is reflected using two icons:

– the existing revision that will be effectively removed by the change.

– the revision that will be installed as a result of this change.

The following image illustrates this change action for the Atmel QTouch plugin.

At the revision level, indication of the action taken by the change is presented.

When all files necessary for the change(s) have been downloaded, they will be unpacked ready for install. The status at the top of the view will change to reflect this. If change(s) can be effected without having to restart Altium Designer, the text displayed will be n change(s) ready. Click to apply. When updating or reverting a currently installed plugin, the changes cannot typically be performed live – and certainly not when the platform itself is being changed! In this case, the view will display a message of the form n change(s) ready. Click to apply (will restart Altium Designer).

You can review the change(s) by clicking the Review Outstanding Changes link to the right. This will access the Review Installation Changes dialog, which lists the change(s) and the associated actions on affected plugins to implement that change (those changes).

When implementing changes to plugins, the system may need to apply changes to other plugins as well, if they are affected by those changes.

Two examples of changes ready to be applied, complete with a review of those changes courtesy of the Review Installation Changes dialog.

If you're happy to proceed with the changes, simply click the Click to apply link. The changes will be applied. If the changes warrant a restart of Altium Designer, it will be automatically closed, the file changes performed, then reopened again. If you want to abort, and not apply any changes, simply click the Cancel All button in the Review Installation Changes dialog – the changes will be cleared and the installation will remain as it is.

You can review changes while files are still downloading using the Review Installation Changes dialog, and can also cancel the changes at that stage.

Specifically Changing the Altium Designer Platform Revision

A new build of the Altium Designer platform is flagged as a 'Platform Update', on the top-level page of the Plugins view. This means that in comparison to your current installation, there is at least one later revision of the core software available. The base platform is itself a plugin – Altium Designer Base. Both it and all currently installed plugins that have updates can be updated in a 'single sweep', simply by clicking the global-level Update All button.

Update to the latest revision of all currently installed plugins, including the platform, by clicking Update All.

However, should you wish, you can view all available revisions of the Altium Designer Base plugin, and update (or revert) the platform to a specific revision. To do so involves the following steps:

  • Click the name on the graphic for the System Components category of plugins.
     

     
  • Click the name on the graphic for the Altium Designer Base plugin.
     

     
  • Peruse the list of platform revisions. Update to the latest by clicking the Update button. Update (upgrade) or revert (downgrade) to a specific revision by clicking the Update or Revert button provided for that revision.
     

Files necessary to implement the requested platform revision change, and any changes to additional plugins that are dependent on and affected by that platform change, will be downloaded. Once the change is ready, click the 1 change ready. Click to apply (will restart Altium Designer) link. Altium Designer will be closed, the file changes will be performed, and then Altium Designer will be reopened.

Note: The Altium Designer Base plugin (i.e. the platform) cannot be removed. This is a system plugin that must always be present, and not an optional plugin whose functionality can be installed or removed as desired.

Automatic Checking For Updates

While you initially signed-in to your Altium Account through the Altium Portal, the software will check Altium's cloud-based installation repository for any updates to existing plugins, any new plugins, and any later revisions of the Altium Designer Platform. While remaining signed-in to your account, the software will perform a periodic check for updates, currently hardwired to be every couple of hours.

You will be alerted to any updates through a bouncing orange bubble at the bottom right of the main design window. Hover over the bubble to expand it, then click on it to be taken directly to the Plugins view, from where you can see what is available and make changes as required.

When the bouncing bubble appears, it signals that there are updates available, either to existing plugins
(including possible platform updates) and/or possible new plugins.

To perform a manual check for updates, simply click the Refresh link, at the top-right of the Plugins view.

Creating a Local Installation Repository

As part of installation management, Altium Designer provides the ability to create your own installation repository. This provides an elegant local install solution for computers that are prevented from, or simply cannot connect to the internet, and therefore cannot access Altium's cloud-based installation service directly.

You simply install Altium Designer from Altium's cloud-based installation repository – onto a dedicated computer that is allowed connection to the internet – then customize that installation to be suitable for use by others within your company. You then essentially copy that installation snapshot to a dedicated 'internal' (LAN-based) location, thereby providing an installation solution to those computers that are not allowed internet access. Altium Designer on those computers would be set so that the Installation Manager uses that dedicated local repository.

And because you are creating a standalone repository, it can be moved and copied wherever it is needed in terms of a shared folder on a company network, or large USB drive. For a more 'mobile' solution, you can even create a compressed installation repository that can be subsequently burnt to DVD or copied to a smaller-sized USB stick!

In fact, you could even create a number of installation repositories to effectively provide different install solutions depending on the feature-set required by a client machine (and team member using that machine). For example, you might have a couple of guys working solely in the PCB design domain, with others requiring just FPGA functionality, and others still using only the embedded software environment.

To get started with creating your own installation repository (and assuming that you have already installed and tailored your current installation of Altium Designer just the way you need it), simply click the Create Installation Repository command – available from the Tools drop-down menu at the top-right of the Plugins view. The Create Installation Repository dialog will appear.

Create a tailor-made local installation repository with only the features and functionality you require.
This repository can then be used to install that hand-crafted installation of Altium Designer on each client
machine within your company as required.

First choose the type of installation repository you wish to create:

  • Uncompressed – recommended for use on a network or large USB drive.
  • Compressed – required if you want to burn the repository to a DVD or a smaller-sized USB drive. Note that a compressed repository is slower to use than an uncompressed one.

Next, enter a path and folder in which the repository is to be created. Either type the path and folder directly in the Destination Path field, or click the icon to browse to, or create a particular folder.

To prevent overwriting a previously created repository, the software will create a sub-folder in your nominated destination path, called Altium Repository. If you subsequently release to the same destination path, a sub-folder Altium Repository (1) will be created, and so on.

With the type of repository and destination path specified, simply click the Create button.

The process will proceed with progress and details displayed within the dialog. As part of the creation process, the executables for installing and uninstalling the software (AltiumInstaller.exe and AltiumUninstaller.exe) are downloaded and added to the specified repository folder. The original installation of Altium Designer is then checked, to assess the plugins used and content copied across to the specified repository folder accordingly.

A target local installation repository is created based on your original installation of Altium Designer.

Once the repository is created, click the Close button.

To install on a target computer, you can either:

  • Move the repository folder to a dedicated PC on your LAN (if not already). Copy and make AltiumInstaller.exe available for each client computer – to store anywhere on a hard disk thereon. Run the Altium Platform Installer. On the Platform Repository and Version page use the drop-down associated to the Repository Location field to choose Other. Then, on the Installation Repository Location pop-up window, enter the folder path or URL to the repository and click OK. Back on the Platform Repository and Version page the version and platform revision will be set to the exact same build from which the repository was created.
     

    Specify the location of the local repository.
  • Copy the repository folder to a USB drive or burn to a DVD, and run the AltiumInstaller.exe directly from its location in the root folder in-situ on that medium.
  • Copy the repository folder to that computer and run AltiumInstaller.exe directly from its location in the root of the folder.

When run in-situ, the Altium Platform Installer will, on its Platform Repository and Version page, be set ready pointing to the root folder in which the AltiumInstaller.exe is stored, and therefore also the root folder for the repository itself. In this case, you skip having to explicitly specify the location of the repository.

 

The Right to Use Altium Designer Updates

Since AD10 (Update 11) the user will be required to be licensed with a valid subscription in order to install the plugins and updates relitive to their installation. When Altium Designer updates are installed but not supported by a valid subscription on the license, the user will be prompted to renew their subscription (or) to roll-back their updates. If an update is available, but not supported by the subscription on the license, warnings will be provided to prevent users from installing the update. Just to be clear the user can install at a later date the updates which were available to them during the time their subscription was valid, they just can't install new updates which become avaialble after the subscription expire date.

The user now has visibility on the subscription status of a license when selecting a license to use from the My Account page. This is done through the the Subscription Status column in the license details. See below image.


When a license is in use, the Available Licenses title indicates the license status including the subscription status. See below images - first one shows a license with valid subscription, second one shows a license with expired subscription.


When the user selects a license to use, Altium Designer will check to make sure the installed updates are supported by the subscription on the selected license. This is done by comparing the release date of installed updates against the Right To Upgrade Expiry Date on the license in use.


If the current installation is not supported by the license’s subscription, Altium Designer is considered to be unlicensed. The user will see a warning on the My Account page (see image) that says “This installation of Altium Designer includes updates that are not supported by the subscription on this license”.


Below the warning will be a link to show more information. Clicking on this link pops up the following dialog:


To continue, the user has three options:

1. Continue using the license which will require the unsupported updates to be rolled back (done from the Plug-ins and Updates page)

2. Renew their subscription

3. Select another license that has valid subscription.


We have added a link to the My Account page that allows the user to go directly to the “Plug-ins and updates” page. AD10 Plug-ins and Updates page As the license (and the subscription on it) determines whether the update is supported, we now require the user to be licensed before being able to update from the Plug-ins and Updates page.


When a user initiates an Add or Update action while Altium Designer is unlicensed, the following dialog will be raised.

 

There are a couple of scenarios that are addressed from the Plug-ins and Updates page:

 

1. User has updates installed that are not supported by the license


On the Plug-ins and Updates page, a message appears in red text inviting the user to click for information. Also note that the Update All and Install All buttons are disabled. Until the updates have been rolled back, the user won’t be able to add further modules to their installation.


Clicking the warning message will present the following dialog where the user can automatically rollback their installed updates.


Following image shows the view of a category (in this case System Components), where we see the state of each plugin.


When viewing each individual plugin we clearly see the releases that are supported by the current license. Clicking the Rollback button will revert to the latest supported update.

2. Updates are available, some supported and some not supported


When a subscription expires, users will continue to have access to updates that they were eligible for, and they will be prevented from installing updates that aren’t supported.


On the Plug-ins and Updates page, a message appears in blue text inviting the user to click for information. The Update All and Install All buttons are not disabled in this case. If the user’s installation is valid and there are supported updates available, they are able to click Update All to install the supported updates, or Install All to install new modules up to the supported version.


Clicking the warning message will present the following dialog where the user can look at which updates are supported (and install them) and which ones are not supported.

3. Updates are available, but none supported

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