The Altium design environment is a complex and sophisticated set of software tools. Not surprisingly, becoming proficient with these tools will take some time, and you’ll need to practice every step of the design process from beginning to end. So what happens if you get stuck along the way?
The online documentation includes a “Getting Started” tutorial and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list, and Altium also has a customer support system to deal with software issues, but what if you just want to ask a question or get advice about something?
Where can you go for help?
If you are sitting next to an experienced Altium user who doesn't mind answering questions,
take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as you can! But for the rest of us, the next best thing is to join the Altium Community, where we can share our experience with other users.
So, this is your official invitation. If you want to jump in RIGHT NOW, go to forum.live.altium.com and start exploring!
You will need an Altium account to access the Community area of the website, but if you
already have Altium software installed, use the same AltiumLive login credentials that you used to enable your license.
From the Altium Support menu, click “Community” and then “Forum” as shown below:
Community Forums maintain continuing discussions about all aspects of the design environment and related topics. The first thing you will notice is that the forums are split into
several categories to make it easier to find the information you are looking for:
You can also subscribe to the forums you’re interested in, which will notify you by email when new topics or comments are posted.
The most active forum is the one for Altium Designer, which at the time of this writing has over 50,000 topics containing over 250,000 posts! If you subscribe to this forum you will get dozens of emails every day (quite useful when you are first learning, but you can always unsubscribe if the activity in your Inbox becomes overwhelming).
When you enter one of the forums, the topics are sorted according to the latest activity. You can browse through the topic titles to see what people have been talking about recently and
subscribe to the ones that you are interested in following. If you decide to comment on a topic, that topic will immediately move to the top of the list.
Altium employees moderate the Forums and contribute to them as well.
Browsing Topic Names will be tedious if you are looking for specific information, but the forums support a search function to help you locate historical information on the subject you’re interested in. For example, let’s assume I wanted to know something about fiducials. If I type the word “fiducial” in the search box, the system returns 868 results (as of today). There is also an Advanced Search menu to narrow the results by sorting on tags, “by date”, “by author”, etc.
You can learn a lot about Altium simply by reading posts from other users.
A Word of Advice: Before you click the POST NEW TOPIC button, do a brief search to see if
others have already asked a similar question. It’s discouraging to spend time crafting a good
response for someone, only to have someone else ask the same question a few days later.
That happens frequently, but fortunately it is very easy to link one topic to another. For example, if you posted a new topic asking for “Advice for New Users”, someone might add a link to your topic pointing to a discussion where the subject had already been tackled. Here's an example.
Users can keep adding to that topic forever, and it can be added as a link to similar questions
new users ask in the future (until it becomes outdated by software revisions, or a new topic
gathers better responses).
Creating a New Topic
OK, so you can’t seem to find what you’re looking for, and you decide to create a new topic. Don’t panic, it’s fun. As soon as you click the “POST NEW TOPIC” button, a simple editor appears with a “Topic Name” box, a “text entry” area, and a “Tags” box. Try to create a Topic Name that is simple and concise; and try to use words that other users might be searching for later.
In the Text Area, you can add simple formatting, like bold, italic, bullet points, numbering, etc., you can convert a text string to a hyperlink (using the little icon that looks like a chain) and you can even insert images or attach files to help describe the issue. The dialog box to insert images is a bit confusing, but just so you know, you can copy-and-paste images right into the Editor.
Regarding File Attachments: If you are having trouble with a design and are able to share it as a file attachment, there are users who are usually willing to have a look at it, even if you need to cut down the design to just a small section for confidentiality or intellectual property concerns. Keep in mind that no one on the forum is obligated to solve your problem, but in my experience the community is willing to help.
The Tags box allows you to add categories to your topic that will make it easier to find in the
future. For example, if your topic is about a licensing issue, it will help others if you add the
“License” tag to your post.
IMPORTANT: If you are asking a question, it will be helpful to others if you include the version of the software you are using. If you aren’t sure, click Help>About from the Main Menu. When you are happy with the content of your post, click the SUBMIT button at the bottom of the Page.
Think Before You Type!
The way the system is currently configured, once you post something, you can’t delete it. Maybe there is a way to have it removed by a system administrator, but it’s better to take a breath and make sure you know what you want to say before you type it. If you realize that you have made a mistake and want to change it, you have a few minutes to edit the post (but you can’t delete it). If you really want to remove it, click the “Edit” button and replace your text with something like “(comment withdrawn)”. Keep in mind that your original post was sent to all email subscribers, and they won’t see your edit except online.
Posting a Comment
Stick to the subject. It’s not uncommon to be read through a thread of comments on a particular subject and have that discussion trigger more questions on a related topic, and to be tempted to ask those questions in the same thread. Unless the new comment or question is really related to the original topic, Don’t Do It! That’s called hijacking a discussion, and it’s discouraged.
It is better to start a New Topic on the related subject.
The rest of the advice I would give would just be common sense to most people; be friendly and helpful and respectful and professional, no advertising, no copyright infringement or anything else illegal, no profanity or insults or discrimination (even if you think it is “just a joke”), and observe the rules in the next section.
This article would not be complete without pointing out the fact that there are several rules that everyone participating in the community has to abide by. You can read them here.
I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to contribute to the community, and proffer an extra sincere personal “thank you” to everyone who has shared their knowledge and experience with “the new guy”.
About the AuthorMore Content by Jack Olson