Altium Designer has many shortcuts and features to increase your productivity during the schematic creation process. By understanding and utilizing the features described here, you’ll expedite the schematic creation process and hopefully have fun doing it. Here are 5 key productivity enhancers you should know for schematic capture.
Disconnect and Move Symbol: CTR + Click & Move. Move a part without connected wires. By default when you move a connected symbol in the schematic the wires will follow, which is helpful most of the time, but sometimes I just want to pick up and move a symbol elsewhere without altering the wiring. By holding the control key while you click and drag your symbol you can do just that.
Duplicate Symbols: Shift + Click & Drag. Quickly duplicate symbols on a sheet by using SHIFT + CLICK + DRAG. Not only will this duplicate the component but it will automatically increase the designator number. This is essentially the copy and paste command but I find it much faster and easier to use. It may not seem like a big deal when you’re reading about it, but try it out and you’ll know what I'm talking about. Using this command just smoothens the copy paste process.
Net Color Synchronization: View >> Set Net Colors. I find this feature to be especially helpful when reviewing my schematics. By being able to highlight my nets with different colors I can easily follow signals and keep my schematics in order. And what is really nice is that i can propagate these colors to the layout as well via an ECO, so as I'm working with the layout I can see the same color nets that I have grown accustomed to when working in the schematic. The consistency of colors between the two environments makes designing easier. If at any time you’d like to turn off net coloring, you can toggle it on or off by using the F5 key.
Find similar objects: Right click object >> Find Similar Objects. The Find Similar Objects dialog provides controls to set up search criteria for the Find Similar Objects (FSO) process. This process uses the attributes of a target object as a reference for finding several other objects with similar characteristics. Filtering, searching, and selecting objects can all be done in one swoop with find similar objects. When coupling the FSO process with the properties panel you can start to edit many items at once, and not just on the sheet that's being worked on but across all sheets in your design.
Ports: Place >> Port. A port is used to make an electrical connection between one schematic sheet and another sheet, or sheet symbol (through a corresponding sheet entry) in a design using multiple sheets (both flat and hierarchical designs). The name of the port defines the connection (i.e. a port on a schematic sheet connects to ports or sheet entries with the same name on other sheets in the project). Organization is key when designing, especially when you have a larger design. Ports give you the ability to have seperate sheets so you can logically arrange the different parts of your design. I think it's best to use multiple schematic sheets but I have also seen designers use a single, very large sheet for the whole design. I wouldn’t recommend that, use ports. Additional Tip: CTRL + Double Click on a port to take you to where the signal is going or where it came from.
You’ll be spending a lot of time creating schematics for your design, so it's best to feel comfortable and know your way around the software you’re using. Altium Designer has many features to help aid in your productivity and the above are just a few. There are more features and shortcuts available that are not shown above but I think that discovering new features when designing is part of the joy of using Altium Designer. Don’t just read about it, do it! Test drive Altium Designer now with our virtual eval.
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