File-less Editing in an Altium Vault

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Vaults provide a flexible and secure method of centralizing the storage and management of all types of design data used in Altium Designer. From the schematic model to the component, from managed sheets through to completed PCB designs, an Altium Vault delivers an ideal method of storing and managing your electronic design data.

When the Vault concept was initially developed, the idea was that the Vault would act as a repository for released data — that is, for electronic design content that has been developed, checked and released for use. The thinking was, designers already have systems for storing and managing their source, such as Subversion — what they need now is a simple way of storing and managing the released content, that allows that content to be easily managed and used from within Altium Designer.

Once designers started to use Vaults to store and serve their data, such as their completed models and components, it was not long before they started saying, "hey these Vaults are great for storing my released components, how about letting me use the Vault to store the source data too! Especially since I have already released a copy of the component source — the schematic and PCB models — into my Vault".

This ability is delivered with the introduction of file-less editing in an Altium Vault. Just what does that mean, file-less editing?, it means you can right-click on a model or a component, or even a managed sheet in the Vault, and select Edit. Sure, a file opens in Altium Designer ready for you to edit (so there is a temporary file involved), but now when you are finished you simply save, then release it back to the Vault. As for the file you just edited, well you don't have to worry about it, it is no longer needed since your edits are securely stored back in the Vault.

An Overview of File-less Item Editing

Other than the basic schematic symbol and PCB footprint models, all other Vault Items are made up of child Items. For example, a component Item has child symbol and footprint Items. A managed sheet has child component Items, which in turn have grandchild symbol and footprint Items.

One of the great strengths of Vaults is the fact that these parent-child relationships and managed and maintained — if you modify a managed sheet's grandchild footprint model, then you will not only need to update the model, you will also need to update the component Item that uses it, and the managed sheet Item as well. Rather than you having to deal with each of these independently (now did I remember to update the component to the latest revision of the footprint model...?), using the new File-less editing approach you simply drill down to the model, perform the edit, and Release your way back to the parent (or grandparent for a managed sheet).

Confused? read on...

Vault Items that Support File-less Editing

File-less editing is supported for the following types of Vault Items:

  • Schematic symbols
  • PCB component footprints
  • Circuit simulation models
  • Components
  • Output job files
  • Schematic templates
  • Managed sheets

Example - Editing a Component's Footprint

A simple example will demonstrate the approach to file-less editing of a Vault Item. If you need to edit an Item, then the most efficient way is to start at the top-most Item that will be impacted by that change. Let's see how that process works for a component that requires a change to its footprint's silkscreen.

  1. Locate the component in the Vault, right-click and select Edit.
  2. A temporary Cmplib will open in Altium Designer, ready for editing.
  3. Locate the footprint in the Model Links region of the CmpLib editor, right-click and select Edit, to edit that footprint.
  4. The footprint will open in the PCB library editor, perform the required edits, then Save the file.
  5. This updated footprint can be released back into the Vault, to do this select File » Release to Vault (shortcut Ctrl+Alt+S) from the PCB library editor menus.
  6. The Create Revision dialog will appear, enter a description of the changes you made in the Release Notes field.
  7. Click OK to close the dialog, when you do the updated footprint will be released into the Vault, and you will return to the CmpLib editor.
  8. You will notice that both the Model Links reference and the Models reference to the footprint have automatically updated to the new footprint revision, as shown in the image below.
  9. The component level edits are already complete, so Save the file.
  10. Release the updated component into the Vault by selecting File » Release to Vault.
  11. The Create Revision dialog will appear again, include a suitable description in the Release Notes field, and click OK.
  12. The temporary CmpLib file will automatically close, indicating that the update process is complete.
  13. Confirm that the new revision of the component is in the Vault, using the new revision of the updated footprint.

The revised component, showing the revised footprint (compare it to the first image on this page).

The Behavior of the Temporary Files

To be able to edit Vault data, something must be created for you to edit in Altium Designer. What happens is that temporary files are created, for example when you right-click on a component Item and select Edit, a temporary CmpLib file is created and opened in Altium Designer. When you finish and perform a Release to Vault, this file is destroyed as soon as the Vault data is updated.

However, if you do not release but instead Save and Close the file, it will remain in the Projects panel. This is done so that you do not have to complete the updating process in a single editing session, you can save your work and close the file if you wish, Altium Designer understands that this is a special file so it retains it in the Free Documents folder in the Projects panel, so that you can re-open it when you are ready, and complete the updating and re-releasing process.

The temporary CmpLib remains accessible as a Free Document,
so that you do not have to complete your changes in a single editing session.

If you change your mind at some point and no longer want to perform the edits, select File » Cancel Edits to close the temporary file.


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