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

Downloads

Download the latest in PCB design and EDA software

  • PCB DESIGN SOFTWARE
  • Altium Designer

    Complete Environment for Schematic + Layout

  • CircuitStudio

    Entry Level, Professional PCB Design Tool

  • CircuitMaker

    Community Based PCB Design Tool

  • NEXUS

    Agile PCB Design For Teams

  • CLOUD PLATFORM
  • Altium 365

    Connecting PCB Design to the Manufacturing Floor

  • COMPONENT MANAGEMENT
  • Altium Concord Pro

    Complete Solution for Library Management

  • Octopart

    Extensive, Easy-to-Use Component Database

  • PRODUCT EXTENSIONS
  • PDN Analyzer

    Natural and Effortless Power Distribution Network Analysis

  • See All Extensions
  • EMBEDDED
  • TASKING

    World-Renowned Technology for Embedded Systems Development

  • TRAININGS
  • Live Courses

    Learn best practices with instructional training available worldwide

  • On-Demand Courses

    Gain comprehensive knowledge without leaving your home or office

  • ONLINE VIEWER
  • 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

    ALTIUMLIVE

    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

    Downloads

    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

    The Implications of Going Fileless

    Chad Jackson
    |  January 29, 2019

    A few weeks ago, we covered the general advantages of switching from a desktop-based environment to the cloud for collaboration. Emails can get lost. Attachments can be deleted or forgotten. Merging multiple changes is difficult. The cloud addresses all of those challenges in collaboration.

    Now, we talked a lot about files and the challenges that come with them in that post. Frankly, the issues in that post are relevant to almost any scenario. They weren’t necessarily specific to circuit board design. However, there are some specific issues specific to design that we haven't discussed yet. Those are issues that can be relieved by moving to the cloud.

    So that’s the topic that we’ll dive into today.

    Vital Information: Locked Away in Files

    First, we need a baseline for this discussion. For that, we need to review how ECAD applications and files work. These tools were initially developed long ago before the internet rose to play a prominent role in product development. Engineers would develop diagrams and layouts with their ECAD application connected to a company standard library, which was full of static information about electronic components. Those diagrams and layouts were saved as individual files.

    The key here is that these files represented different ‘states’ of the design. Create the first diagram and hit save? That represented one state. Make five changes and hit save? That was a second state. Build out the first board layout? That was the first state. Move three components? That was the second state. Sets of changes were bound to a single file.

    So, what if someone wanted to move one component one millimeter? Well, they would have to gain file permissions to the entire file. Once they gained access and made the change, well, that would be another state. That wasn’t very convenient.

    What if, during desperate times, three people needed to explore three different design simultaneously. Sorry. Can’t be done. One person could open one file at one time. That is inconvenient, but we learned to live with it.

    Unfortunately, this one-file-many-changes paradigm has persisted to today.

    Vital Information: Freed in the Cloud

    How do things change when they move to the cloud? Well, it depends on how the software provider makes the switch.

    Some want to get their application in the cloud quickly. In many cases, this means hosting the software in a virtual machine that runs on a remote service. With this approach, it is basically like remotely connecting to a software application running on another computer. It still has files. It hasn’t been architected to take advantage of a cloud infrastructure like expandable compute resources. The file-based issues persist in this kind of setup.

    Some develop the software specifically for the cloud. Here, the individual things that exist in the files are individual objects, each of which can be changed independently of one another. Need to move a component? The location of that component in the layout changes, not the entire layout. Need to swap out one component for another? That is an individual change that affects the assembly of the layout.

    This latter approach allows for granular changes that can be executed individually without locking out anyone else. This is the critical capability that allows many people to make changes simultaneously to different aspects of the same design.

    So What?

    Let’s step back and consider the value of this change. Here are some implications.

    Design Collaboration: Multiple engineers can make design changes in the same diagram or layout at the same time. In some industries, individual boards and board systems are getting quite large. It is increasingly likely that multiple engineers will need to design boards concurrently.

    Exposure of Design Changes: In a file-based world, individual changes were hidden away in the file. Someone looking at the file could tell that a change occurred, but without opening the file, they didn’t know what the change was. Engineers won't need to open the diagram or layout to see those edits. Instead, a dashboard can show what types of changes like a moved component, switching a component out, or a board outline modification occurred. Everyone can see it.

    That, in turn, leads to some of the following.

    Increased Throughput: Sometimes, especially at the end of a development project, there is a crush to meet design release. Engineers will, at times, be in a queue to make the change to a board or relay their requests to the one engineer making changes. With the cloud, they can get those changes completed faster.

    Lower Effort Oversight: There’s no shortage of project management meetings where engineers have to relay the status of their design. In the past, preparing for this meeting took some time. With the cloud, that information can be accessed directly instead, eliminating some of that prep work.

    At first glance, going file-less with a cloud solution might not seem like much. However, some advantages can make a difference. You have to look at some of the details, traditionally hidden away in files, to see them.

    About Author

    About Author

    Chad Jackson is an analyst, researcher and blogger providing insights on technologies used to enable engineers. He has surveyed thousands of engineering organizations.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home