Using Project Templates for PCB Design Development

Created: June 29, 2018
Updated: January 4, 2021

If you've ever had the opportunity to use a bush ax to clear out an overgrown plot of land, then you have glimpsed the hardship and difficulties that early pioneers experienced as they carved paths across North America. The efforts of these pioneers were an exhibition of the best aspects of the human spirit. Although being a member of that group is no longer possible, you do have the means to be a trailblazer for the fellow PCB designer.

When designing a PCB layout, you have many opportunities to reinvent the wheel. Although the module or circuit you’re creating may have been previously designed by someone else, you are unable to incorporate their schematic into your work. Therefore, you have to invest time in the PCB layout selecting components, drawing traces, determining and setting board parameters, and sometimes writing script and debugging code.

This investment, which amounts to an unnecessary waste of resources, equates to lost productivity and costs for your circuit board, team, or organization. With Altium Designer®, you can recoup these losses, while being a trailblazer for your team. Let’s take a look at how you can access and use project templates for PCB design development in Altium Designer, thereby minimizing the waste of valuable resources like time and funding.

Accessing Project Templates for PCB Design

Before a project template can be used, it must exist and be accessible. In Altium Designer, creating project templates is simple and direct, and PCB templates can be created for the original component, sheets (sub-circuits), and full designs. Project templates, just like design files, may be maintained anywhere (locally, on a network server, etc.) and accessed directly, as shown in Fig. 1.  

Direct Access

Direct project template access

Fig. 1 Project template direct access

Server Access

The flexibility of storing and accessing design files from virtually any location is great; however, when accessing design templates for a PCB project, utilizing a structured server is a better option. Servers are typically equipped with security protocols and administrative control, which are necessary to limit data and information access. Additionally, servers can provide a known directory and file format architecture for uniformity and consistency and server software can usually be upgraded without disturbing the architecture of data and information it houses. An excellent server for hosting your PCB templates for PCB design development is the Altium Vault®, shown in Fig. 2.

Server project template access

Fig. 2 Project template server access from panels tab

The PCB layout templates on the server can be accessed by pressing the Panels tab in the bottom right of the main window, then clicking on Explorer, as shown above. From here, a right click on the row of the revision (in the upper pane) you want to access will allow you to View, Download All Files or Download Design Snapshot. As with most capabilities in Altium Designer, you have a great deal of flexibility in terms of utilizing the functionality. This is also true for structuring your project templates on the server. For example, you may want to organize your project templates by Components and Design Content, with Managed Sheets and Template Designs under the design content folder, as shown in Fig. 3.

Accessing project template elements

Fig. 3 Project template directory structure

Accessing History of Project Templates for PCB Design

With a listing of project template revisions in the upper pane of the Explorer window, the history of each project template component, sheet, or design is available from the row of tabs (encircled) along the lower left corner of the lower pane, as shown in Fig. 4.

Project template history access

Fig. 4 Project template history access

You can also quickly get the status of each project template item under the Revision State column in the top pane.

Using Project Templates for PCB Design Development

In Altium Designer, you can create the initial design item, save it as a project template and release it for your colleagues to use later or access a previously created project template that has been released. Let’s take a deeper look at the latter. In the previous section, accessing electronic components, sheets (or sub-sections of a design), and complete design templates were discussed. As long as a project template Revision State is set to Released, the item can be accessed for your PCB design development. This can be done by direct editing or by downloading a revision of the project template item.

Direct Editing

From Altium Designer

When you create or open your project, all layout templates available (released) to you are accessible through the New Project dialog window. If no edits are performed, simply release the project template item for future use when done. If the project template item is edited, then the revision must be released with the changes added.  

From Managed Server

If you are logged into your managed server, then you can simply edit the desired project template item. When you’re done, the project template revision will be updated with the file renamed and the item released. You can also access the project template item from the server’s browser-based interface (if this capability is set up).


You can also download design template files and add them to your project. In this case, if edits are made, the revised item must be uploaded and released. Creating circuits in your PCB layout editor can be as easy as updating electronic components.

By using layout templates for printed circuit board design development, you can help your team or organization avoid costly productivity losses. Project templates are easy to create, can be hosted in various locations, and access can be controlled. This functionality, along with the ability to make revisions available in real-time, is integrated into Altium Designer’s unified design environment

Ready to get your feet wet? Then get your free trial to start exploring the advanced functionality and capabilities of Altium Designer. Or If you want more information on using design templates for PCB layout services, talk with an Altium Designer PCB design expert.

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