Free Trials

Download a free trial to find out which Altium software best suits your needs

How to Buy

Contact your local sales office to get started on improving your design environment


Download the latest in PCB design and EDA software

  • Altium Designer

    Complete Environment for Schematic + Layout

  • CircuitStudio

    Entry Level, Professional PCB Design Tool

  • CircuitMaker

    Community Based PCB Design Tool


    Agile PCB Design For Teams

  • Altium 365

    Connecting PCB Design to the Manufacturing Floor

  • Altium Concord Pro

    Complete Solution for Library Management

  • Octopart

    Extensive, Easy-to-Use Component Database

  • PDN Analyzer

    Natural and Effortless Power Distribution Network Analysis

  • See All Extensions

    World-Renowned Technology for Embedded Systems Development

  • Live Courses

    Learn best practices with instructional training available worldwide

  • On-Demand Courses

    Gain comprehensive knowledge without leaving your home or office

  • Altium 365 Viewer

    View & Share electronic designs in your browser

  • Altium Designer 20

    The most powerful, modern and easy-to-use PCB design tool for professional use


    Annual PCB Design Summit

    • Forum

      Where Altium users and enthusiasts can interact with each other

    • Blog

      Our blog about things that interest us and hopefully you too

    • Ideas

      Submit ideas and vote for new features you want in Altium tools

    • Bug Crunch

      Help make the software better by submitting bugs and voting on what's important

    • Wall

      A stream of events on AltiumLive you follow by participating in or subscribing to

    • Beta Program

      Information about participating in our Beta program and getting early access to Altium tools

    All Resources

    Explore the latest content from blog posts to social media and technical white papers gathered together for your convenience


    Take a look at what download options are available to best suit your needs

    How to Buy

    Contact your local sales office to get started improving your design environment

    • Documentation

      The documentation area is where you can find extensive, versioned information about our software online, for free.

    • Training & Events

      View the schedule and register for training events all around the world and online

    • Design Content

      Browse our vast library of free design content including components, templates and reference designs

    • Webinars

      Attend a live webinar online or get instant access to our on demand series of webinars

    • Support

      Get your questions answered with our variety of direct support and self-service options

    • Technical Papers

      Stay up to date with the latest technology and industry trends with our complete collection of technical white papers.

    • Video Library

      Quick and to-the-point video tutorials to get you started with Altium Designer

    Defining PCB Library Types and Methodologies for Your Design Process

    John Magyar
    |  February 21, 2017


    There are various PCB library types and methodologies out there, and selecting which to implement into your design process depends on a number of factors. But how do you know which library methodology is the best? Read on to find out.

    There are various types of PCB libraries and methodologies out there, and selecting which to implement into your design process depends on a number of factors. While some small business users may require only a bare essential yet the extremely flexible representation of components, enterprise users may require a highly specific read-only representation with links to the supply chain.

    Many different types of users in between may have yet entirely different requirements altogether. Consequently, there are several different PCB library types and methodologies to meet this wide range of requirements. But how do you know which library methodology to implement for your specific design needs?

    Understanding PCB Library Types and Methodologies

    Understanding the various library types and methodologies available allows you to make informed decisions when choosing and defining a library methodology. You may be introduced to many new library terms: integrated libraries, database libraries, and component libraries in addition to somewhat familiar sounding schematic and PCB libraries. But what is the purpose of each one? Which library methodology is best for you?

    It is important to first understand that there are a few different library methodologies to meet different user requirements. With just a brief overview of the various library methodologies and an explanation of each library type, the topic of libraries becomes easy to navigate and understand. From there you can decide which library methodology is best for you or your organization.

    Essential Libraries

    First, we’ll discuss the essential PCB library types regardless of which overall library methodology you choose. Two primary library types, which are absolutely required at a minimum in order to create a PCB regardless of any specific library management scheme, are schematic libraries (*.SchLib) and PCB libraries (*.PcbLib).

    A schematic library contains one or more schematic components that are graphically and electrically represented by a schematic symbol. Specific parametric information (such as part number and component values), are typically added to each component and can be accessed during the generation of the bill of materials (BOM). One or more PCB footprints, as well as optional SPICE simulation (*.MDL or *.CKT files) and signal integrity (SI) (*.IBIS) models, are linked to the schematic component.

    A PCB library contains one or more PCB footprints that represent the physical pad arrangement and other mechanical attributes of the component. Optionally, solid model 3D information in the STEP format (*.STEP files) can be added to the footprint to represent the component’s physical shape in 3D mode.


     Relationship between Schematic and PCB Libraries

    As the most basic methodology, these essential schematic and PCB libraries can be used to manage components. In such a methodology, the schematic component represents the container for all possible views of the device (graphical symbol, electrical connections, solid model, SPICE mixed-signal simulation, and SI model). While this offers great simplicity and ultimate flexibility, this methodology does not really support strict enterprise-level requirements. Managing many separate files can be difficult, and increases the chances for library-related design errors.

    Choosing the Right Library Methodology

    To know which library methodology would be best utilized for your designs, you must first understand the full scope of library types and methodologies available. Want to learn more about the different PCB library types and methodologies at your disposal? Download the free whitepaper New User’s Guide to Defining a Library Methodology today to discover the library methodology best suited for your design process.

    About Author

    About Author

    With an emphasis on microprocessor systems design, John earned his Bachelor of Science degree from SUNY Polytechnic Institute. He initially worked as a design engineer in the Defense industry developing diagnostic test programs for complex PCBs. Subsequently, John has worked as a senior application engineer in the EDA industry supporting a wide range of ASIC, FPGA, and PCB design and verification solutions.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home